Blu-ray Highlights: Week of August 4th, 2013 – Oo-De-Lally, Oo-De-Lally, Golly What a Day

Now we’re getting somewhere. After an almost unbearably slow month of July, the Blu-ray release schedule picks up with a huge new slate of discs this week. True, most of them are for really bad movies, but guilty pleasures are still pleasures.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (8/6/13)?

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New Releases

Tom Cruise stars as WALL-E in the sci-fi epic ‘Oblivion‘, which reportedly also borrows shamelessly from lots and lots of other movies you’ve already seen. Is that a bad thing? Depends on whom you ask. Aaron makes a case for it in his Blu-ray review. I’m inclined to give this a rent, since I happened to enjoy director Joseph Kosinski’s ‘Tron: Legacy’ more than most people. Walmart may or may not carry that SteelBook edition that I wrote about last week.

Once regarded as a laughingstock, Matthew McConaughey has apparently found his groove as a movie star. Over the past couple of years, the actor has undergone something of a career renaissance with well-received roles in movies like ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, ‘Killer Joe’, ‘Magic Mike’ and now ‘Mud‘. In this one from director Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter’), he plays a fugitive who befriends two young boys while hiding from bounty hunters. This was one of the best-reviewed movies at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

You might have thought that the trilogy of ‘Paradise Lost’ documentaries covered every aspect of the infamous case of the West Memphis Three, a trio of teenage boys who were convicted of ritualized Satanic child murder for apparently no other reason than the fact that they listened to heavy metal music. The new documentary ‘West of Memphis‘ approaches the case from a different angle, and by most accounts is just as riveting a story.

On the other hand, even critics who waxed rhapsodically about ‘The Tree of Life’ seem to have cooled their enthusiasm for director Terrence Malick’s follow-up, ‘To the Wonder‘. Perhaps he finally hit the limit for scenes of grass blowing in the breeze that a human being can tolerate?

I’m told that ‘Twilight’ star Kristen Stewart flashes whatever she has that pass for breasts in ‘On the Road‘. Sadly, that may be the most notable thing about this belated adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beatnik classic, which may have felt more relevant had it been made fifty years ago.

In the first of two ‘Drive’ retreads this year, Ryan Gosling stares blankly off into the distance toward ‘The Place Beyond the Pines‘. I like Gosling, but I don’t buy him as a tough guy, and readers of this blog know how unimpressed I was with ‘Drive’. I have zero interest in this.

Brandon Cronenberg has claimed in interviews that he’s never watched any of his father David Cronenberg’s movies. Funny, then, that pretty much everyone who’s seen his feature directorial debut ‘Antiviral‘, the story of a dystopian society where the illegal viruses are traded on the black market like drugs, has said that it plays like a straight-up clone of his dad’s famous “body horror” thrillers from the ’80s and ’90s. Is the younger Cronenberg lying, or have these obsessions passed down from one generation to the next through DNA?

Guilty Pleasures and Assorted Crap

One of the most notorious bombs of all time, ‘Ishtar‘ is now available on Blu-ray. Why? Who will buy this? The movie has no admirers who believe that it’s been misunderstood. It’s just a bad movie that nobody likes, because it stinks. What a waste of a disc.

The post-apocalyptic black comedy ‘A Boy and His Dog‘, on the other hand, has quite a bit of a cult following that I’m sure will eagerly buy the movie on Blu-ray, even though its grungy visuals probably don’t offer much upgrade in high definition.

Before he struck gold with the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ franchise, Wes Craven made the mistake of trying to adapt the comic book ‘Swamp Thing‘ into a super-campy movie in 1982. By any objective measure, it’s a terrible piece of garbage, but entertainingly so if you’re in the right frame of mind. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray doesn’t offer the unrated cut with Adrienne Barbeau’s topless scene that guided a generation of teenage boys through puberty when the movie aired in constant rotation on HBO throughout the ’80s.

I hesitate to say that Warner Bros. had a theme in mind when the studio chose to release the silly action flicks ‘Action Jackson‘ and ‘Passenger 57‘ both on the same day. I’ll leave it to you to decide if there’s a connection in that or not, but personally, I always bet on black.

Allegedly, Best Buy has had an exclusive on the cheestastic 1978 ‘Battlestar Galactica‘ pilot episode for the past few months, but (like most Best Buy exclusives) I’ll be damned if I’ve ever seen a copy in a store. For anyone who might have wanted to buy the thing, it’s now available at retailers that actually sell the products they claim to carry.

Did you realize that, after his legendary role as Bill S. Preston, Esq., Alex Winter cultivated a reasonably successful career as a director? He’s mostly worked in television, but his 1993 horror comedy ‘Freaked‘ is something of a cult item.

Movies based on videogames almost always suck. The 1999 ‘Wing Commander‘ is not an exception to this rule. However, it’s notable as the first movie to use the “Bullet Time” visual effect – about two weeks before ‘The Matrix’ was released – in a shot that lasts around five seconds. The theatrical release also played with one of the first full trailers for ‘The Phantom Menace’, which prompted eager ‘Star Wars’ fanboys to buy tickets just to see the trailer and then walk out. Those fans must have felt doubly foolish when ‘The Phantom Menace’ was finally released and they realized in horror how much they’d wasted their lives waiting for it.

In other titles that some might remember, Robert Downey, Jr. plays ‘The Pick-Up Artist‘, Kevin Bacon rides his bicycle fast as ‘Quicksilver‘, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor curse up a ‘Silver Streak‘, and an adorably young (pre-drugs) Corey Haim gets his heart broken as ‘Lucas

A Pleasure of the Guilt-Free Variety

The Criterion Collection adds another genuine masterpiece this week with Max Ophuls’ brilliant melodrama ‘The Earrings of Madame de…‘.

For the Kiddies

Disney opens the vault again for a cross-section of second-tier titles from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, in the form of its animated ‘Robin Hood‘, ‘The Sword in the Stone‘ and ‘Oliver & Company‘. None of these really count as classics, but if you grew up with them, nostalgia may compel a purchase.

Fox, meanwhile, reaches to the ’90s for the Macaulay Culkin live action/animated hybrid ‘The Pagemaster‘, which was supposed to get kids hooked on reading but mostly just put them to sleep.


Even the TV scene is pretty busy this week with the second season of ‘Strike Back‘, the third season of ‘The Borgias‘, the fifth (and final) season of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show‘ and the John le Carre miniseries ‘Smiley’s People‘, in which Alec Guiness reprises his role from ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’.

That looks like a lot to choose from, but I think I can resist most of them. In my estimation, the only must-buy this week is the Criterion title. I’m prepared to rent ‘Oblivion’. I’ll also add ‘A Boy and His Dog’, the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ pilot and ‘Smiley’s People’ to my wish list. What will you do?


  1. Robin Hood is one of my favorite Disney titles, if not my absolute favorite (love me some Roger Miller.) I’m all over that one. Swamp Thing and Sword in the Stone go on the want list.

  2. ‘Robin Hood’ is fantastic. Especially the intro tune! Try to get it out of your head.

    Big fan of ‘The Pagemaster’. Back in 1995, nasty Columbia Tri-Star (who had the worldwide distribution rights) decided to only release the Dutch dubbed version on VHS, which angered me. I had to procure a UK copy in order to enjoy Christopher Lloyd’s voice. I sure hope they’ll release this Blu-ray in Europe.

  3. Daniel Rowen

    Already bought the only bluray I want this week: The Ice Storm! I refuse to upgrade my DVD’s of Robin Hood or Sword in the Stone as the blurays are cropped-widescreen when the movies were animated closer to Academy Ratio.

    • Josh Zyber

      Both Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood were released well into the widescreen era. They would not have played in any theaters in Academy Ratio. Regardless of how much information was drawn on the animation cels for TV-safe protection, they were composed with the expectation of being projected at either 1.66:1 or 1.85:1.

  4. William Henley

    I already own Battlestar Galactica. Man was that an odyssey trying to get that from Best Buy! I think I would have rather have had a root cannal! Best Buy SUCKS!

    I do plan on picking up the Disney movies. I would have them already, but I have been on vacation the past couple of weeks, and my A/C went out right before I left, so those were moved to my “will pick up later” list (which sadly probably means never – I must have a dozen movies that I have done that with over the years that I still have not picked up).

    Debating on The Pagemaster. I remember liking it when I was younger, but I haven’t seen it in almost 20 years. I have a feeling that I am going to be disappointed.