Blu-ray Highlights for 4/5/11. What Are You Buying?

We’ve got another big week for new Blu-ray releases. Perhaps not quite as big as last week, but there are still plenty of attention-grabbing titles to keep an eye on.

Here’s a look at what’s being released this week:

Do you like ‘Tron’? I hope so, because we’ve got a whole lot of ‘Tron’ going on this week. Disney brings us both the original 1982 ‘Tron‘ and its recent sequel, ‘Tron: Legacy‘. You can buy them individually, or packaged together in a couple of different configurations. Of course, ‘Legacy’ is also available in 3D. If you’re a ‘Tron’ fanboy, this week must be a dream come true.

The adventures of the Jesus lion continue in the latest ‘Chronicles of Narnia‘ entry, if you’re still into that series. This one was kind of a box office disappointment. Apparently, the Blu-ray has been altered from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to fill a 16:9 screen. (The movie was shot on digital video, so this is probably an open matte transfer.) Fox has also neglected to offer a 3D edition. It sounds like the studio doesn’t care much for the movie, doesn’t it?

Other new day-and-date releases include ‘I Love You Phillip Morris‘, the strange black comedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, from the writers of ‘Bad Santa‘. It didn’t get much theatrical exposure, but our reviewer E. thought it was pretty good. (Click the link above for his review.)

On the other hand, we have the latest ‘Meet the Parents‘ sequel, ‘Little Fockers‘, which Aaron says is just dreadful. I believe him. I was over this franchise with the first movie. You can count me out.

Let’s look at catalog titles. The biggest prize this week is Sony’s new restoration of Martin Scorsese’s landmark ‘Taxi Driver‘. I haven’t seen the disc yet, but David gave it one hell of a terrific review. (Seriously, click over to read that thing.) By all accounts, this is a must-own Blu-ray.

Remember when Kenneth Branagh was an exciting filmmaker? Let’s try to hold onto those feelings as we cringe at the trailers for ‘Thor’, shall we? Save for a badly miscast Keanu Reeves, Branagh’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado about Nothing‘ is a pretty terrific movie.

Mrs. Z has a huge crush on Ryan Gosling. ‘Lars and the Real Girl‘ is a big reason for that. I’ve still only managed to see bits and pieces of it, but it seems good.

I have really mixed feelings about ‘A.I.: Artificial Intelligence‘, Steven Spielberg’s attempt to take over a project that the late Stanley Kubrick had spent the better part of two decades developing. It’s an interesting film with some interesting ideas, but Spielberg’s touchy-feely cinematic approach clashes badly with Kubrick’s cold intellectualism. When I saw this in theaters, my stomach twisted into a knot during the opening scene, as soon as William Hurt’s character announced that he wanted to build a robot that could loooooooooooooooove. Blech. Kubrick must have spun over in his grave at that. About ¾ of the film are pretty fascinating anyway, until the godawful epilogue, which has got to be the single worst ending for any movie ever. And that’s including all the other Spielberg movies with crappy endings. (Apologists, don’t try to tell me that the ending was Kubrick’s idea, because I can guarantee you that it wasn’t Kubrick who wrote all that nonsense technobabble bullshit about the “space-time continuum.”) You know what, forget it. The more I think about it, the more I remember how much this movie sucks.

Speaking of movies I really wanted to like but just couldn’t, we also have ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt‘, Milos Forman’s bio-pic starring Woody Harrelson as the controversial pornographer. (If you’ll recall, this is the movie that fooled everyone into believing that even Courtney Love could act.) Unfortunately, the picture is undone by a hackneyed script from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, screenwriters of such stunning masterworks as ‘Problem Child’ and ‘That Darn Cat’. In the end, this one has almost as much psychological complexity as those.

Anyway… Once upon a time, the creator of ‘The Road Warrior‘ made a family film about a talking pig that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Yes, all of that really happened. This week’s Blu-ray release of ‘Babe‘ will give us a chance to find out if the movie holds up to our fond memories of it.

As a tie-in with this weekend’s upcoming remake, Warner Bros. gives us a double bill of the original ‘Arthur‘ and its disappointing sequel.

Finally, I don’t know that I’d really recommend buying this one, but the 2003 adaptation of ‘Peter Pan‘ from director P.J. Hogan (‘Muriel’s Wedding’) is a very visually arresting movie. Unfortunately, the scripting and pace felt incredibly condensed and rushed to me. (Seriously, this thing is a frantic dash from one plot point to another.) I’d be interested if Hogan were ever allowed to put together an extended director’s cut or something that allows some breathing room between scenes.


  1. I got the Tron Limited Edition set arriving today, but I think I am more excited about Fiddler On The Roof – it was one of those movies I have been waiting for a Blu-Ray release on – or any HD transfer for that matter – I have never seen an HD transfer of it shown on TV. I will probably be singing If I Were A Rich Man in about 10 hours from now!

    I have Narnia coming I guess on Friday. I liked it better than Caspian, but its still not as well as the first one. I do hope they plan on doing some of the other books as well – especially The Silver Chair.

    I have mixed feelings about AI as well, and its probably not enough to push me into buying it. Its STRANGE to me. Frankly, I am not a Kubrick fan, and, like you said, Speilberg doing Kubrick is, well, WEIRD. There are parts of the movie I liked, parts I didn’t, and I just don’t think its enough for me to justify repeat viewings.

    Gundam is tempting, but not enough to justify a $60 price tag. The other two volumes are also $50 and $60 each, and they are only an hour long. And that’s on AMAZON! Of course, that is nothing compared to the imports! Funimation has spoiled me, with me spending $20-$30 for entire series or seasons of a show, so the concept of $60 for a 60 minute show makes my skin crawl!

  2. vihdeeohfieuhl

    I got the limited edition ultimate Tron experience. It arrived yesterday afternoon. I watched Legacy in 3D last night, and I can personally attest to the fact that it is THEE NEW REFERENCE Blu-ray 3D disc. It is absolutely flawless. It is a shining example of the potential of the format. Even the Avatar blu-ray 3D disc wasn’t this technically proficient and impressive. My socks were assuredly knocked off.

    Taxi Driver and Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker should be here around 11:00 today. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe me when it comes to watching Taxi Driver. The review yesterday has me going crazy with anticipation for it. I’m so happy that it was given such a pristine transfer. I was thinking about picking up A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, but after what Josh just said about it, I think I’ll pass. Thanks for reminding me about some of the more inexcusable aspects of that one Josh!

    • You know, I hear everyone talking about how Legacy is reference and how the original is a “preservation”. In fact, two review sites said the same thing (one of course being this one). I watched about a third of both last night, and I want to say TRON has GOT to be the new reference for catalogue releases! I have always wondered how the quality we have seen on Disney classic animation would translate to older live-action movies, and now we know! The video is absolutely AMAZING (a full 5 stars from me) – it has never looked better, and the sound is….. WOW! I am blown away, and makes me wonder what the heck it is that Disney is doing that the other studios are not!

      Also, kudos to Disney on the case! A lot of times, it seems that Functionality is sacrificed for something that Looks nice (ahem – Ten Commandments – try getting the 1923 version out without breaking the disc). This is a really good case design, and its so small, I have it sitting in front of Sound of Music on my shelves!

      Fiddler on the Roof was okay. It looks better than the DVD releases, and after you get about a couple of minutes into it, it looks amazing. The start is a little rough though, with tons of noise and dirt. I am not sure what it sounds like with its 7.1 mix, but playing it on a 5.1 system was weird to me – like they put tamborines in the rear right speaker, which was really distracting. Its a weird mix to me. Still, other than the fact that its mixed werid, overall it sounds pretty darn good.

      • Perhaps it was the credit sequence on Fiddler. I’ve noticed that a few credit overlays really mess with the video quality on older films. I was initially devastated by how Deliverance looked until it got past the opening credits, and that movie came out roughly the same time.

        • Well, Fiddler has a Prelude, which has the popular Tradition song, then it has the credits (so roughly 5 minutes into the movie). The noise sorts itself out before the credits start.

      • vihdeeohfieuhl

        Nice post Mr. Henley!

        Disney really does make you wonder what it is they are doing, and how it is they are doing it, that simply no other studio is. I agree — mostly — with your assessment of the original Tron. I don’t know that I’ve watched a catalogue title that relied on CG or animation that rivaled it. If Disney can maximize the potential of the format — both standard blu-ray and blu-ray 3D — almost every time they release a new title, why can’t any of the other studios do this consistently?

        Disney has put out Blu-ray 3D discs in back to back weeks (Tangled and Legacy) that essentially set a new standard, and then topped it. Tangled was as good — from a 3D video quality standpoint — as any Blu-ray 3D disc that had ever came before it, and then Tron: Legacy comes along and blows it out of the water. Thus, becoming the new reference for the format. For my money, the Legacy 2D blu-ray is as good as anything ever released on the format as well.

        It’s probably just a case of the other studios being too cheap, too lazy, and not caring enough to even try and maximize the potential of the format. 🙁 How terribly sad and disappointing to know what a lot of our beloved films could look like if the proper care was taken.

        • Josh Zyber

          One thing to keep in mind is that the original Tron was shot entirely on 65mm film. That gives it a big advantage over most catalog titles.

          • vihdeeohfieuhl

            Good to know. It’s definitely of higher quality than any other cataloque title that heavily relies on CG or animation. That could very well be why it’s superb. Thanks for that little tidbit!

          • This may be true, but this may be to help with the fact that, frame by frame, it was converted to transparencies, had lighting effects and composites done much like classic animation, and was then rephotographed back to film. Its simply amazing that it still looks that good.

  3. vihdeeohfieuhl

    Oh just one more comment –

    I forgot to comment on the audio quality of Tron: Legacy. I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t had a blu-ray disc yet that comes within a mile of matching the audio quality of this! I literally can’t think of one that even holds a candle to it. Just wait! You can read all of the superlatives that are being thrown around for this audio track, and you will still be stunned. It’s one case where even superlatives can’t begin to adequately describe the excellence of something.

  4. vihdeeohfieuhl

    I meant to add that I have the new Narnia arriving Thursday or Friday. I didn’t see it in the theater, and I didn’t like the second one. However, there was enough all around positivity about this one to persuade me to buy it. I found some coupons and paid about $15 for it. I figure if it’s awful, I can probably sell it for more than that. I’m quite disappointed they didn’t give it a 3D release. You know that Disney absolutely would have if they would have held on to the Narnia franchise. I could be wrong, but I’m almost certain that it was actually shot with 3D equipment, and most people were impressed with the 3D presentation in theatres. How does a major release like this not warrant a 3D edition?

    • Unlike many 3D movies I saw, what I liked about this is that I “bought” the 3D – it didn’t seem forced or unnatual. That being said, it wasn’t a stand-out 3D title at the theater. I would warrent that we won’t see a 3D release until the format picks up a bit more popularity.

      • vihdeeohfieuhl

        So overall, would you say that the new Narnia film should have warranted a Blu-ray 3D release? It seems like you were at least a little bit impressed with the theatrical 3D presentation. You just know that Disney would have given it a Blu-ray 3D release, and a pristine transfer to boot! It’s just disappointing that Fox is neglecting it like this. You talk about this film warranting a 3D release once the format becomes more popular, but we need titles like this on Blu-ray 3D available in order for the format to do that. There are far too many big titles locked into retailer exclusivity, as well as far too many mediocre — Cough! My Bloody Valentine Cough! — titles available for the format to really take off.

        • The 3D in Narnia is not in your face, but rather helps with immersion. I don’t think the general public would hold this as a strong 3D movie, and my thought is that sales of this movie in 3D would be low at best, and probably won’t do much to drive the format.

          There are many movies that came out in 2006 and 2007 that didn’t get Blu-Ray or HD-DVD releases at the time, because sales of these formats were still relatively low, and those movies wouldn’t have really helped push the format, no matter how good they were, but we are now starting to see now. I have a feeling this Narnia movie will be similar – it warrents a 3D release, but at this early in the 3D life cycle, it is probably not going to do much for the format.

    • Josh Zyber

      I think that depends on whether the studio bothers to send us a screener. I don’t believe Image has been particularly good in that regard. I’m not personally scheduled for this one, so I don’t know whether we got a screener or not.

      • Image doesn’t send out screeners for every release they handle. they’re better than many studios concerning their catalog releases, though. i’m currently slated for Larry Flynt (reserving comments until then), and if that one shows, Jawbreaker most certainly will.

  5. Sorry Josh, I think The People vs. Larry Flynt is a great movie, and both Woody and director Milos Foreman’s Oscar nods were well-deserved. It’s certainly worlds-better than some of the other overhyped releases of this week (particularly TRON…I’ve never seen so much fanboy lust over two terribly sub-par films).

    • Josh Zyber

      The reason I didn’t care for the Larry Flynt movie is that it’s just such a by-the-numbers bio-pic that hits every single cliche of the genre as it ticking them off from a list: Troubled childhood, check. Success too soon, check. Alcohol/drug problem, check. Fall from grace, check. Ultimate triumph over adversity, check. It even throws in a courtroom climax.

      And for the story of a guy with as much dirt in his past as Larry Flynt, the movie is painfully sanitized. It practically beatifies him as Saint Larry, patron saint of First Amendment rights, and whitewashes everything else about his life. That’s just not the movie about Larry Flynt that the world needs.

      Meh, it just didn’t do it for me.

  6. EM

    Tron, definitely!

    However, I’m probably not getting it this week. For some reason I had it in my head and in my notes that Tron was being released next week (which means I misled William Henley in last week’s highlights discussion—I do apologize). To save money on shipping, I preordered Tron from Amazon along with another release which, so far as I know, really does debut next week. So, Amazon may wait till both are available before shipping me Tron. Oh, well—I have some Netflix movies waiting to be watched. And a set of 12 DVDs that I ordered arrived on Friday—so, I have plenty to watch this week. And I think Tron’s price on Amazon might have dropped since the pre-order period, too.

    For what it’s worth, the release that I think is debuting next week is the first season of Car 54, Where Are You?—sorry, standard DVD only. Car 54 is a classic early 1960s sitcom. Ooh! ooh! it’ll be a lot of fun.

      • EM

        Oh, sure. I also apologize for whatever I did to flub up my italics above. 😛

        I love Babe (it’s one of those rare films that prompted me to applaud in the theater), but the Blu-ray is not on my shopping list. I have the movie on DVD already, and I’m trying to be very selective about Blu-ray upgrades. Having read some reviews, I’m not yet convinced that the Babe Blu-ray is a worthwhile upgrade (not that it sounds bad per se). I might eventually change my mind, but for now it’s not a must-get.

  7. motorheadache

    I’ll be getting Dawn Treader– haven’t seen it yet, but I like the other two well enough so I figure I’ll like this one too (I think they all have been received about the same). No 3D is fine by me (not a fan), and as long as the 16:9 formatting is director approved, I’m fine with that too. I think Robert Rodriguez has done the same with some of his movies.

    I’ll also get Much Ado About Nothing. Maybe Taxi Driver, but I’m not sure.

  8. What a decision,

    I am about to buy my first new TV in over 5 years and I have really not wanted to get drawn into the 3D morass. But Avatar was amazing in 3D and Tron was mind blowing with what they did. So now I’m stuck on deciding on a 60′ plasma or a 50′ with the possibility of 3D. I know I can’t afford a 60′ with 3D but I really want that extra size. Either way Tron will look awesome on whatever set I get, but if I get the 3D set I’d have to wait extra time to be able to afford the glasses.

    Man what a decision.

    • vihdeeohfieuhl

      That is a tough decision. We always want to go as big as possible for our home theaters, but in this case that might restrict you from 3D. Are you sure you can’t afford a 58″ 3D plasma? I’ve seen them for prices very comparable to 50″ sets. Have you looked online for a PN58C7000 by Samsung or a PX950 60″ by LG? I’ve seen both of those sets priced very low and reasonably. I’ve seen the Samsung for as low as $1,950, and the LG for as low as $2,000. Granted, these two sets are not the very best 3D sets available, but they will still give you extremely agreeable picture quality in both 3D and 2D. If you were looking at a Samsung PN50C8000 or a Panasonic 50″ VT25 or 50″ GT25/30 you were probably going to pay close to that much for either of these sets. I don’t know just trying to help you get the best of both worlds. Hoping you can go both very large and 3D. The Tron: Legacy Blu-ray 3D disc is enough to make it worth going 3D. It’s absolutely mind blowing!

  9. Tron Legacy 4-disc set and Babe. I picked up Tron Legacy because of the sweet visuals and auditory presentation. I picked up Babe because it’s simply sweet.

  10. I’d probably go for Narnia and the original TRON (Legacy was “Big screen eye candy not worth seeing a second time”). Shame Narnia’s getting a lacklustre release by the sounds of it. Don’t care about the 3D, but shame about the aspect change. Hopefully the UK release will be an improvement.

  11. Oh, and as a side note (Sorry for the double post), if characters who are Jesus/Messiah analogies in film are going to get the ‘Jesus-name’ treatment, then I think any reviews/comments on The Matrix, Dune and Robocop (amongst others) should all be amended to include ‘Jesus-Neo’, ‘Jesus-Atreides’ and ‘Jesus-Robo’. 😉

    • Josh Zyber

      Yes, those are all Messianic figures, but the Narnia stories take that to a different level. They’re deliberate Christian parables.

  12. Scott H

    I am going to get Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and possibly Taxi Driver. I am not sure about upgrading on TD cause I have it on DVD and I might get the Tron set, havn’t seen Legacy but also havn’t seen the original in twenty years. Man did that movie become hard to find on VHS and DVD. And super expensive if you could find a copy.