This week brings a truly monstrous assortment of new Blu-ray and Ultra HD discs. From tiny dancers to giant lizards, and even an all-puppet musical sex comedy if that’s what you’re into, there should be a little something for just about anybody in here.
Be honest, I had you at the puppet sex musical, didn’t I?
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Responding to complaints that Gareth Edward’s 2014 Godzilla reboot didn’t have enough Godzilla in it, new director Michael Dougherty reportedly amps up the giant monster mayhem, pitting the Big G against many of his classic foes. Reaction to this seems to be directly the inverse of the last movie. Those who liked Edwards’s approach didn’t care for this one and vice versa. All told, reviews were weak and the movie significantly underperformed at the box office, which puts the fate of Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse franchise into some jeopardy. (Godzilla vs. Kong was already in production and will be released next year anyway.) As for King of the Monsters, Blu-ray and Ultra HD editions are available, and Warner is one of the few major studios still actively supporting 3D.
Rocketman – Dexter Fletcher, the uncredited co-director who salvaged last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody from the wreckage Bryan Singer had left of it, takes full control of another musical bio-pic set in the 1970s. Fletcher’s Eddie the Eagle star Taron Egerton dons the feathers and sunglasses and other crazy outfits to play Elton John at his flamboyant peak. Although the reviews for this one were much stronger than the messy Rhapsody (Egerton actually doing his own singing probably helped), it wasn’t quite as much of a blockbuster hit and probably won’t score as many Oscar nominations next year. Nevertheless, it did well enough to be successful and will likely have a strong shelf life on video.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 – The cute but forgettable 2016 animated hit gets a sequel that ditches problematic star Louis C.K. and replaces him with Patton Oswalt as lead dog Max. Harrison Ford also joins the voice cast in a supporting role. Despite these changes, this seems to be a case of diminishing returns. Critics shrugged it off and the movie did less than half as much business as its predecessor, not that any of that will matter to your kids.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco – One of the breakout titles from this year’s Sundance Film Festival is a semi-autobiographical indie drama about a man (star Jimmie Fails playing a version of himself) attempting to maintain and restore a house that his grandfather built despite not actually owning it or living there. Moreover, it’s the story of the city itself, and how its change over time has affected the people living in it. The film won a couple of awards at Sundance and critics mostly adored it.
The Banana Splits Movie – Now this is just bizarre. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was apparently a real kids’ TV series from Hanna-Barbera and producers Sid and Marty Kroft that ran for a couple seasons from 1968 to 1970. Five decades later, the property has been revived as an R-rated horror parody about a bloody axe-murder spree on the set of the original show. That premise sounds kind of amazing, but reaction to its premiere at Comic-Con was mixed. The movie is a direct-to-video release now and will air on the Syfy network in September.
We have a full slate of Ultra HD discs this week, starting with day-and-date titles Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Rocketman, and The Secret Life of Pets 2 – all of which have SteelBook editions at Best Buy.
A couple of classics are also getting upgraded with 4k: Rob Reiner’s terrific Stand by Me and Francis Coppola’s war masterpiece Apocalypse Now. Both have HDR video and remixed Dolby Atmos sound. Additionally, Apocalypse Now is a new, so-called Final Cut of the film that attempts to strike a balance between the original theatrical release and the much longer Redux cut. The 6-disc set will include all three versions of the movie in 4k.
The Criterion Collection travels to Japan for Yasujirô Ozu’s 1952 The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice, to Iran for Abbas Kiarostami’s The Koker Trilogy (1987-1994), and to Sweden for a single-disc reissue of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s 1997 Insomnia.
The Warner Archive rolls out another classic from the 1930s with William Wyler’s Jezebel, which won star Bette Davis a second Oscar.
The regular Warner label, meanwhile, drops a wave of new SteelBook repackagings for Beetlejuice, The Goonies, The Exorcist, the original Friday the 13th, and Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye and Salem’s Lot.
Kino offers the Kirk Douglas 1955 Western Man without a Star, directed by King Vidor.
Sony relitigates The People vs. Larry Flynt with a reissue of the bio-pic about the notorious Hustler founder.
Hen’s Tooth Video resurrects the campy 1974 sex spoof Flesh Gordon. (Temper your expectations; the movie is only rated R.)
Harder in its sleaze is Abel Ferrara’s 1976 feature directing debut (under the pseudonym “Jimmy Boy L”), the X-rated and charmingly-titled 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy, starring his then-girlfriend. Ferrara reportedly had to step in front of the camera himself for a sex scene when his male actor couldn’t perform to standard. Vinegar Syndrome has seen fit to restore that one from the 35mm camera negative.
Also newly restored by Vinegar Syndrome are the classic “Rowdy” Roddy Piper post-apocalyptic extravaganza Hell Comes to Frogtown, the 1984 German cult film Decoder, and the aforementioned puppet sex musical Let My Puppets Come (from Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano).
For all that, perhaps the most perverse choice of movie to release on Blu-ray this week is the final feature from British director Derek Jarman – 1993’s Blue (not to be confused with Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Blue from the same year). The film literally only consists of a static blue frame while a montage of various sounds and narrations play over it. The BFI felt this worth remastering in 2k as part of a Derek Jarman box set released in the UK earlier this year. Zeitgeist Films has licensed two of the titles from that box: Blue and 1990’s The Garden.
Those dastardly lizard people from outer space are back! Creator Kenneth Johnson’s legendary 1983 TV miniseries V finally hits Blu-ray courtesy of the Warner Archive. Although there’s no word yet about its lesser sequel V: The Final Battle or the one-season spinoff series, one can hope that those will follow if sales of this are strong enough.
Also available are the third season of Into the Badlands and the fifth season of The Flash.
I’m very excited about both V: The Original Miniseries and the Apocalypse Now UHD.
Hell Comes to Frogtown is a great guilty pleasure, but I’m not sure I need to buy it right now. Jezebel would be a more respectable entry for my wish list, and despite my snarky comments, I actually am interested in exploring Derek Jarman’s work.
I’ll watch Rocketman if I come across it on HBO or Netflix someday.
Don’t go breaking my heart. Tell me you want something this week.