Blu-ray Highlights: Week of April 3rd, 2016 – Force Stop

Believe it or not, more than one new Blu-ray will hit store shelves this week, though you’d certainly be hard-pressed to tell that by looking at the release calendar. As the biggest movie of 2015 (currently the third biggest movie of all time) lands on home video, very little else will dare to compete against it.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (4/5/16)?

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New Releases

Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ – Show of hands, did anyone not go see this in the theater? Just me? That’s right, I skipped it. Even the (mostly) ecstatic word-of-mouth couldn’t crack through my hardened shell of cynicism and just plain not-giving-a-damn about ‘Star Wars’ anymore. Supposedly it’s pretty good. I’ll find out shortly when I catch up with it on Blu-ray. As befitting such a huge box office hit, the studio has decided to pimp the movie out to a host of retailer exclusives – some that just have unique packaging and others that contain exclusive video supplements. None of them include 3D, Dolby Atmos, or the annoying alternating aspect ratio gimmick from IMAX theaters – all features which may or may not appear on a double-dip (or triple-dip, or quadruple-dip, etc.) down the line.

Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie‘ – Even as a moderate ‘Ghost in the Shell’ fan, I find the current state of the franchise terribly confusing. If I have this right, it goes something like this: First came the original manga by Masamune Shirow, which was adapted into a pair of feature films by Mamoru Oshii. Then, a TV reboot called ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ used a similar animation style and many of the same voice actors as the Oshii films, but officially existed in a separate narrative continuity. ‘Stand Alone Complex’ spawned a second season called ‘2nd Gig’ and a TV movie called ‘Solid State Society’. With me so far? From 2013 to 2015, a second TV reboot (this one a prequel) called ‘Ghost in the Shell: Arise’ spanned five hour-long mini-movies, and featured a new animation style and a new voice cast. Now, after all that, we have ‘The New Movie’, a feature film sequel to ‘Arise’ that follows up on the plot of the fifth mini-movie. ‘The New Movie’ is being released on Blu-ray in North America now, even though only the first two of the ‘Arise’ mini-movies are currently available on home video here yet – meaning that most American fans will probably have no idea what’s going on in this one. Got all that? Yeesh! I think I’m glad I stopped watching after ‘Solid State Society’.

Mojave‘ – Garrett Hedlund and Oscar Isaac star in a thriller written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (‘The Departed’). In reviewing the theatrical release, Phil described the movie as “a pretentious concoction of half-baked ideas from a filmmaker who should know better.” Ouch.

#Horror‘ – A cheapie fright flick in which a group of overprivileged ‘tween girls are stalked by someone they’d cyberbullied online. #straighttothebargainbin

Catalog Titles

Arrow Video is in a giallo kind of mood this week. The label has three (really four) Italian horror thrillers on tap: Lucio Fulci’s 1981 ‘The Black Cat‘, Sergio Martino’s bizarrely-titled 1972 ‘Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key‘, and a two-fer by Luciano Ercoli called ‘Death Walks Twice‘ (a double feature of 1971’s ‘Death Walks on High Heels’ and 1972’s ‘Death Walks at Midnight’).

Beyond that, the only other catalog title that jumps out at me is ‘Prefontaine‘, the bio-pic about Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine that was the first non-documentary film from director Steve James (‘Hoop Dreams’). I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard the movie is pretty good.

Television

If you’re looking for a space drama that’s a little more science fiction and a little less fantasy than ‘Star Wars’, the Syfy network’s excellent ‘The Expanse‘ was one of the best new TV series of 2015.

Also available are the third season of Cinemax’s ‘Banshee‘ and the complete ninth season of ‘Doctor Who‘ (which was previously divided between two smaller box sets).

My $.02

I have no doubt at all which title will lead the voting in this week’s poll. Perhaps a better question is how many of our readers are not planning to buy ‘Star Wars’ this week.

I have the ‘Force Awakens’ SteelBook on preorder at Best Buy and will try to watch that as soon as I can. Nothing else calls out to me. (As much as I like ‘The Expanse’, I’ve cut way back on collecting box sets of TV shows I already watched on broadcast.)

Will you pick up anything other than ‘Star Wars’?

31 comments

  1. NJScorpio

    I won’t be buying ‘Star Wars’.

    I enjoyed it in the theaters, in 3D, but I’m not in a huge rush to rewatch it.

    With ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, I saw it in theaters in 2D…so when I happen to come across a great deal on the 3D Blu-Ray, I’ll snatch that up. Since I saw ‘The Force Awakens’ in 3D, again, no rush.

    I mean…after all, there WILL be two more, so I’d anticipate a box set at some point. I’ll just pick it up then. Probably in 4K by then.

  2. Bolo

    I’ll rent ‘Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie’ (I guess they just stuck with the working title on that one, huh?). I’m a big fan of the 1995 movie (its sequel, ‘Innocence’, not so much) and absolutely loved the ‘Stand Alone Complex’ series. I’ve found ‘Arise’ somewhat underwhelming. It suffers from a lot of the same problems as all prequels/reboots. But since all the over-explaining of stuff nobody asked to have explained is out of the way, hopefully ‘The New Movie’ can just tell a good story with the focus on the plot.

    I will also give that ‘Lupin III’ movie a go. It is a direct follow-up to the ‘Woman Named Fujiko Mine’ series, which I liked up until it got incredibly gross at the end. If it’s like the early fun episodes of the show and avoids the sicko stuff of the later episodes, then I’ll like it.

  3. Lord Bowler

    Like the rest of the universe, I’ll be picking up Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Target for the exclusives.

    Additionally, I’m considering picking up the classics:
    ‘The Gallant Hours’ (Kino)
    ‘The Purple Plain’ (Kino)

    And, on the TV front the show ‘The Expanse: Season 1’ (Universal)

  4. Csm101

    I’m picking up the plain blu for Star Wars. I want to believe it will be out in 3D in the future, but just in case they scrap those plans… I already own The Black Cat and YVIALRAOIHTK when they came in the bundle pack. I think these are the same, just sold seperately. I am very interested in The Death Walks Twice set.

    • William Henley

      I have started picking up digital releases lately, but mainly on movies and shows that I don’t think there will be physical HD copies of. Like iTunes has tons of Shirley Temple movies in 1080p, Amazon and iTunes has the TV show Bringing Up Bates, The Willis Family, Jill and Jessa Counting On, 19 Kids and Counting, and The Waltons (this shows in HD on the Inspiration channel, but my cable company really compresses that channel as its not a popular one. Sadly the show is cropped 16×9, but the HD transfer looks WAY better than the old DVD releases). Also, back when I was into the show, Vudu had hands down the best looking Dance Moms (I stopped in season 3, the show got really repetative recycling stories, and they are not that good of actors. Yes, it is a partially-scripted reality show, look it up). The movie Dreamer was only released on Blu-Ray in Italy, and the transfer is AWFUL, but the iTunes version is considerably better. And I bought like 5 copies of Dune from different distributors, and hands down the best transfer is the one on Vudu.

      I still prefer physical copies when I can get my hands on them, but if you have a good quality encode like on Vudu or where you can download the file like on iTunes, the quality is usually REALLY good. Bigger file size and higher bitrate doesn’t always mean better picture (although compressing too much does start to loose sharpness, detail and can start to introduce compression artifacts). Also, iTunes doesn’t have 7.1 or lossless audio (Their files are encoded at 5.1 in AC3 at 384kbps, and stereo mixes are in AAC at either 128kbps or 224kbps – which truthfully is fine for older television shows and reality shows, not really good for newer movies).

      But yeah, I have started buying digital copies more as well.

      And man, I am chatty today. Eh, lunch is over, I need to get back to work

  5. I went the digital rights route with The Force Awakens. I got to watch the movie on Friday and that should tie me over until I find the eventual re-release I like. This is the second movie I went this route with and I probably will do more since the quality of the stream through Amazon is very good. As much as I hate my local cable company, I cannot complain about their internet service. It has been rock solid over the years and have had no issues with HD streams.

  6. HuskerGuy

    “Beyond that, the only other catalog title that jumps out at me is ‘Prefontaine‘, the bio-pic about Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine that was the first non-documentary film from director Steve James (‘Hoop Dreams’). I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard the movie is pretty good.”

    I will attest to this being a very good movie. I think it’s available to stream on Netflix.

  7. Thulsadoom

    Nothing on that list for me, I’m afraid.
    Josh, I’d like to add my plus 1, to the list of people NOT buying TFA. 🙂 As a huge Star Wars fan, I’m sorry to say I did spend my money to see this at the cinema, and disney did get my money. On the plus side, I can easily say that unless they real pull some magic out of the hat in any of the new movies, I won’t be seeing any more of them at the cinema. I’ll wait for online rental.

    • William Henley

      I just finished the third episode on the DVR. I liked the first episode, but I was disappointed in the second and third. I think my biggest problem is I am three episodes in and cannot name a single character, and actually keep confusing characters as several have similar looks and personality. “Wait, I thought he was outside the ship, why is he suddenly inside in an air lock, did they finish the repairs already? Oh, that’s someone else”. I REALLY want to like this show, I am just having trouble getting into it.

    • eric

      I ended up loving this show but it did take me a while to get attached to it. Was hard to follow along at first, but once you could remember who was who and the stories started tying together. I was worried for a while it was going to be another Dark Matter type, but, I really liked Season one of that too. Great sci Fi the last few years.

  8. JERP

    I didn’t see “The Force Awakens” in theatres. I’m a huge Star Wars fan but the prequels really made me cautious and the theatre where I live really sucks. I’ll wait and pick up one of the double or triple dips. The only other releases I may pick up are the Purple Plain and Expanse: S1.

    • William Henley

      I understand. I was cautious as well, but it was a good experience on the big screen. I think a lot of people are overrating The Force Awakens, but I still think it is a very good movie – like 4 stars in my book. I think it is up there with Revenge of the Sith (which I feel most people greatly UNDERrate). So, I don’t think its as good as the original trilogy, but it is WAY better than Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones.

      I think you will enjoy it – it may not be the best Star Wars movie, but it is good, and if you don’t mind having it in 2D, $20 is a really good price

  9. William Henley

    Just Ghost in the Shell.

    I WILL NOT pick up Star Wars until they release it in 3D. I am getting pretty sick of Disney doing this, and have actually stopped buying movies from them if they don’t include the 3D theatrical version. I have actually been buying many from Europe to get the 3D versions, but I have held out on a few movies for the 3D version. I have enough backlog of movies to get through to keep me entertained until Disney sees the light and releases this in 3D. I am sure they will – they are probably just going to double dip to get more money. I couldn’t imagine that Disney would flat out not release it anywhere in the world in 3D, there are too many people wanting it.

  10. Chris B

    I’d like o buy Star Wars eventually, but the bestbuy steelbook is kind of ugly IMHO and we don’t have Target up here anymore. I’ll wait for the price to drop a bit and pick it up later this year. Maybe in the fall just before Rogue ! is released and I’m feelin all Star Wars-y again.

    I watched the first episode of The Expanse on the SyFy website and really liked it. I’ll pick up the first season when things settle down at work a bit and I have more free time to actually watch it. I’ve grown tired of picking things up day 1 only to have them sit on my shelf for months…enough of that nonsense…

  11. itjustWoRX

    I’ve seen one or both of “Prefontaine” and “Without Limits,” but I’ll be damned if I remember what was what. For $7 I picked up “Prefontaine.”

    I also never got to see “Star Wars,” (not because I didn’t want to) so I preordered that.

    A female friend loves anything to do with Jason Sudeikis so I bought her “Tumbledown.”

  12. Deaditelord

    I love the Lupin III series so buying Jigen’s Gravestone is an absolute no-brainer. I’ll probably stream/rent the new Ghost in the Shell movie too. Otherwise, mark me as not buying Star Wars this week because I’m waiting for the 3D version later this year. (Knocks on wood with fingers crossed.)

  13. Josh Zyber
    Author

    Went to Best Buy last night to pick up my Force Awakens SteelBook. Unlike other recent Best Buy exclusives (such as Hateful Eight), the store was well stocked with tons of copies of this one.

    • Csm101

      My Best Buy is pretty good about stocking their steelbooks. They had a decent amount for Hateful Eight last week, and like you stated, a very generous amount for The Force Awakens. I do think the one I visit, which is closest to my home, does have a lot of movie collectors living in the area as the same stuff I look for goes missing if I don’t pick it up in a timely manner. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelbooks are all gone by today or tomorrow.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        Do they still have the Hateful Eight SteelBook? The Best Buy web site says it’s not available for shipping and no stores within 250 miles of me have any in stock. From what I’ve heard, each store was only shipped about five copies of that one. Whereas there were dozens of Force Awakens SteelBooks in three different displays at my local Best Buy last night.

        • Csm101

          According to the website, no. Same message about the 250 mile thing. I have to admit when I went yesterday, I didn’t look for it though. I was kind of wanting my own copy of the animated Justice League: War, if I stop in, I’ll look for it.

        • Csm101

          So I just went to BB to pick up JUstice League and also picked up Batman: Arkham or something like that. I didn’t see any Hateful Eight steel books but I did count 189 Star Wars: FA steel books though. I was way off! 😆

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        True, but I’m a SteelBook collector. Also, this one looks a little better in person than it did in photos.

        When a Blu-ray comes in a standard keepcase, I transfer it to a DiscSox sleeve and file it away in a trunk where I’ll rarely ever see the artwork again.

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