Blu-ray Highlights: Week of April 17th, 2016 – Grin and Bear It

What’s a fella gotta do to win an Oscar? That’s the question Leo DiCaprio asks in this week’s biggest new Blu-ray title. The answer ain’t pretty, but it worked for him. Also available this week… honestly, not a whole lot.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (4/19/16)?

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New Releases

The Revenant‘ – Alejandro Iñárritu joins the rarified ranks of filmmakers who have won back-to-back Best Director Oscars. Whether he actually deserved either trophy is a matter of much debate. Leonardo DiCaprio also finally took home an acting Oscar for his part grunting, screaming, and letting himself get mauled by a digital bear in a series of 15-minute-long unbroken takes. A number of critics I generally trust complained that the 2.5-hour torture porn Western felt more like an endurance test than a story worth watching, but Iñárritu’s bravura showmanship ultimately won over the Academy. Almost right up until the final award was announced, the movie was the front-runner to claim the Best Picture prize as well. (In a surprise upset, it lost to ‘Spotlight’.) In addition to the standard Blu-ray, Fox also offers the film in 4k Ultra HD, but has neglected to include the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack on either disc.

The Lady in the Van‘ – Director Nicholas Hytner and playwright/screenwriter Alan Bennett once upon a time had an art house hit with ‘The Madness of King George’, but failed to replicate that success with ‘The History Boys’. Their latest teaming is an autobiographical tale of Bennett’s own encounters with a feisty homeless woman (played by Maggie Smith). The plot description sounds a bit twee, like far too many formulaic British tear-jerkers. However, Bennett is a pretty smart writer and I’d like to give him enough credit to hope that he can find a way around the usual clichés of the genre.

Fifty Shades of Black‘ – Marlon Wayans spoofs ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by essentially just remaking the movie, but with black people in the leads. Is this a clever commentary about how laughable the ‘Fifty Shades’ material was in the first place that it doesn’t need much exaggeration, or is it just another lazy parody from a comedian who puts the least amount of effort possible into his work? From the word-of-mouth, it appears to be the latter.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon‘ – In the vein of the countless puff piece documentaries about the history of ‘Saturday Night Live’ (see: ‘Live from New York!‘) comes a new doc that does the same thing for the National Lampoon – superficially celebrating the institution’s heyday while glossing over its later downturn and dissolution. If this isn’t already on Netflix streaming, expect to find it there soon enough.

Ip Man 3‘ – Donnie Yen returns to cap off the trilogy of martial arts epics about the kung-fu master who trained Bruce Lee. How much of this series is based on fact and how much on myth, I’m not qualified to say. In addition to the latest chapter, studio Well Go USA will bundle all three movies in a trilogy SteelBook exclusive to Best Buy.

Norm of the North‘ – The fact that Rob Schneider was the best talent the studio could convince to voice the lead in this animated comedy probably offers a hint about the lameness of the final product. From all accounts, it’s one of the worst animated features of the current millennium.

Catalog Titles

Whit Stillman’s alleged comedy ‘Barcelona‘ was one of the worst dates I ever had with the future Mrs. Z. We both found the movie insufferably pretentious and dull. Its 100 minutes felt like 100 hours. One of our biggest problems with it is that the characters were written so indistinguishably from one another that we couldn’t tell them apart or follow the plot. However, a number of the cast members (Mira Sorvino, Thomas Gibson, Chris Eigeman) have since gone on to have successful acting careers. Part of me wonders if I’d enjoy the movie more with a second viewing now, simply by virtue of recognizing the actors. I’m not sure I want to attempt it. Someone at Criterion is clearly a Stillman fan, though. In addition to a standalone copy of ‘Barcelona’, the label has also bundled it into a ‘Whit Stillman Trilogy‘ box set with copies of the previously-released Criterion discs for ‘Metropolitan’ and ‘The Last Days of Disco’.

Described as a “feminist fairy tale,” the Dutch multi-generational dramedy ‘Antonia’s Line‘ won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996, but has largely been forgotten in the meantime. The label Film Movement hopes that someone will remember it now.

From Kino, actor Ray Milland directs himself in the nuclear apocalypse drama ‘Panic in Year Zero!‘, while Michael Caine stars in John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of the pulpy Robert Ludlum thriller ‘The Holcroft Covenant‘.

In cult horror news, Arrow Video dishes out Larry Cohen’s gross-out comedy ‘The Stuff‘, while Scream Factory revs up a Collector’s Edition of Tobe Hooper’s ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2‘.


I stuck with Syfy’s ‘Haven‘ all the way through to its disappointing end. Although I’m glad that the show attempted to provide genuine closure and didn’t leave off on a cheap cliffhanger, the final season was pretty dull and nonsensical, which is a big disappointment for a series that used to be a lot of fun in its early years.

Little House on the Prairie‘ fans will be relieved that Lionsgate has followed through with releasing the entire series on Blu-ray, despite threatening to quit a couple seasons short.

Also available are the second season and fourth season respectively of the HBO comedies ‘Silicon Valley‘ and ‘Veep‘.

My $.02

I suppose I’ll have to rent ‘The Revenant’ eventually to see what the fuss is about, though I’m not particularly a fan of any of Alejandro Iñárritu’s other movies and am not in a great hurry to see this one. Beyond that, I think I’ll just save my money this week. You?


  1. Bolo

    Man, I was absolutely loving ‘The Revenant’ up until about the final five minutes. I have a hard time thinking of a movie that just totally lost me this badly in its final moments. It’s 99% perfect, but one bad apple just spoils the whole bunch.

    When they put a review of the disc up here, I’ll get into more spoilerish discussion. But I felt the violence at the end went way over the top (for a movie that was already pretty far-fetched in terms of what damage the human body can sustain) and its attempt at some moral high ground message was just lost on me. Plus, some cheesy stuff that reminded me of ‘Gladiator’.

    I’ve never seen any of Iñárritu’s other films.

  2. I saw The Revenant in the theatre and while I liked the movie it became so repetitive towards the end I joked to some friends of mine it should have been called the redundant. I’ll probably pick it up down the road once the price drops as I would like to own it and will probably make for some phenomenal widescreen demo material.

    I already own the original blu of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and still haven’t found time to watch it. No need for an upgrade on that one at the moment.

    Like you said Josh, I’ll probably save my
    money this week as well. I picked up 5 titles from the TT sale that’s happening right now so I’m a little tapped out at the moment. I wanted to mention though, for anyone considering purchasing The Remains of the Day from TT, the British import disc is only a 3rd of the price and region free. I almost bought the limited edition here in North American until I stumbled on the alternative. It pays to shop around as they say. 😉

  3. William Henley

    Little House on the Prairie for sure.

    I should have Uptown Girls tomorrow. I have been waiting for a Blu-Ray release of this for years. I really am hoping for a new transfer – the HD versions I have seen on television and on VOD services had horrible DNR and really bad black crush and macroblocking, textures and detail levels were low (probably hidden behind all of that DNR and mosquito noise), and of course, were limited to Dolby Digital audio tracks. So, I am awaiting this disc eagerly – I want to say that anything has to be better than what there was before, but as its a catalogue release, I am really afraid that they are just going to recycle the old transfer.

  4. Csm101

    Picking up The Revenant for sure. I’m debating about getting the UHD version (just in case) but then again, my instincts tell me there could be a double dip with an Atmos track in the not too distant future which I’m hoping to be Atmos and Dts:X enabled by years end or very early next year. I wasn’t very interested in double dipping the Texas Chainsaw sequel, but I kind of am now. It looks like a very decent package. Still on the fence…
    I’ve always wanted to see Fatal Beauty, so maybe after I find a review on the disc quality and a decent price, I may order this one.

  5. I really enjoyed ‘The Revenant’, but it’s not something I foresee myself watching multiple times, so I’ll probably skip the Blu-ray for now…even though it’s pretty impressive in terms of cinematography.

  6. As much as I am happy to see Little House on the Prairie coming to a close, I am pissed that they no longer include slip covers, uv codes and still have the sticker that says better picture, better sound. False advertising – the last couple have had Dolby Digital audio!

      • William Henley

        Well, the DVDs had old SD tape sources, so I would assume these are much better. At least in the earlier seasons (I am still watching 2) they were all new transfers from film negatives. My mom has watched up through season 8, and says the video quality in 8 still amazed her as much as it did in 1.

    • Les

      Vudu, a couple of months ago, had the last (3) seasons of LHOTP available in HDX for a total of $20 as a bundle. I remember blinking a few times and double checking to make sure that what I was seeing was true. I had been purchasing the Blu-rays as they came out. 60+ episodes for $20 and I said to heck with the Blu-rays as I would be streaming it anyways. Guess I am glad I did now that the last few seasons had no Ultraviolet codes.

      • William Henley

        Right now, I have a love/hate relationship with Vudu. About a month after they rolled out Vudu on the Tivo, I had a lightning strike. The Tivo was fried, but the Harddrive was still good, so bought another Tivo and popped the harddrive in there. All my recordings worked, Hulu, Amazon and Netflix worked without any issue, but Vudu keeps giving me authorization errors. Apparently something in the Vudu app ties that harddrive to that Tivo unit. I called both Tivo and Vudu trying to sort it out, and never could get anywhere. Vudu blamed it on Tivo, Tivo blamed it on Vudu, both tried giving some simple, bogus troubleshooting steps, and I gave up.

        The downside to this is the Tivo that is hooked up to the Projector won’t do Vudu, just the Tivo in the bedroom. My XBox 360 is one of the older ones, and can’t handle Vudu HDX streams – the audio and video gradually get more and more out of sync as the XBox struggles to process 10-20fps. My PS3 works just fine with Vudu, and that is usually what I use, but its now 10 years old, and the screws on the harddrive tray are stripped, and I am not sure how much longer the drive is going to last, already starting to show early symptoms of a harddrive on its last leg.

        I got a Chromecast, but Vudu and the Chromecast are a weird combination.

        Thought of buying the Vudu dongle from WalMart, but I am out of HDMI ports – I would have to buy a HDMI Switcher.

        I will probably pick up a PS4 sometime this year, Hopefully I will be able to run Vudu on that.

        So, yeah, love hate relationship with Vudu right now

  7. Timcharger

    Josh: “‘Ip Man 3‘ – Donnie Yen returns to cap off the trilogy of martial arts epics about the kung-fu master who trained Bruce Lee. How much of this series is based on fact and how much on myth, I’m not qualified to say.”

    Say what?! Are you saying that Mike Tyson
    DIDN’T travel back in time to fight Ip Man???

    • HuskerGuy

      Have you seen the movie? I loved the first and thought the second was okay. I haven’t seen much about this third one though.

    • NJScorpio

      Having watched this last night…..

      I can accept that, in 1959 Hong Kong, there is a crime boss who is (1) American, (2) Black, (3) sporting face tattoos, (4) is a powerful boxer….and I can get past his terrible acting for a legitimately cool fight sequence…but it felt TERRIBLY shoehorned into the story. His part could be completely removed with no impact on the story line. All actions attributed to him in the overall story could have been attributed to any of the other “forgein devils”.

      That, and teasing the Bruce Lee aspect also felt lame…those kinds of gimmicks really weren’t needed as it was an above average martial arts movie that was very well acted.

  8. C.C.

    I absolutely ADORE Barcelona and the Whit Stillman Trilogy. I think you missed the knowing whimsy.
    After all, Noah Baumbach has basically been ripping off Whit Stillman his entire career and probably has Metropolitan on a loop in his house.
    Barcelona is beauty. Thanks god it is finally on blu ray. Chris Eigeman should have been a bigger star.

  9. EM

    The big Tuesday movie release for me is not a movie—it’s a book assembling the fronts and backs of the vintage-era Topps trading cards for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. In the ’80s, we didn’t have a window of 3–4 months between film premiere and video release, and trading cards were one of the ways in which we kept our favorite movies alive. Ah, the memories… The book even has commentary, like some of your favorite Blu-rays! I have my copy preordered from Amazon.

  10. Deaditelord

    Will purchase The Holcroft Covenant at some point when it’s on sale and will definitely rent The Revenant. However, nothing really jumps out at me this week as a must purchase.

  11. itjustWoRX

    Well…another release date, another no-show for Gaspar Noe’s “Love (3D).” Looks like the company handling the release (Alchemy) is in the dumps. I doubt we’ll see this one on Blu anytime soon, if ever.

    I preordered “The Revenant” and “Lady in the Van.”

  12. Thulsadoom

    I’m tempted by The Stuff, as I remember enjoying that as a kid, but I’m not sure it’s one that’ll have stood the test of time…

    This week I’ve finally got round to replacing my DVD copies of Key Largo and Maltese Falcon with BluRay… I’ve purposefully not watching them for ages, so looking forward to them!! Oh, and Fright Night 3D (the remake, obviously). I rather enjoyed that, and it was going cheap. 🙂

  13. HuskerGuy

    Nothing for me. I saw The Revenant in theaters and wanted to walk out at one point. I decided to stick around thinking the payoff would all be worth it, but sadly it wasn’t.

    I’m not picking it up, but have to just say that Silicon Valley is hilarious and if you have HBO you should be watching it. I think season 3 starts this week.

  14. Csm101

    Watched The Revenant this morning and was pretty blown away by it. I would rank it as one of the best I saw last year and this year so far. Tom Hardy was awesome. I kind of liked him better than Leo performance wise. It was gorgeous to look at and amazing to listen to. Great use of surround. Damn near perfect for me.

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