Blu-ray Highlights for 12/13/11 – Take Your Stinking Paws Off Me!

Even if the volume of new Blu-ray releases may seem light today, the week brings us more interesting titles than we’ve gotten in a few months.

Here’s the release slate:

Is it a prequel or a reboot? I’m still unclear on that. Whatever it is, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ turned out to be one of this summer’s biggest surprise hits. The movie raked in nearly $500 million worldwide despite an unwieldy title (wouldn’t a simple ‘Rise of the Apes’ have sounded better?) and dull trailers. As I recall, Luke here pretty much hated it. I didn’t see the movie, so I’m not in a position to judge. The trailers really didn’t inspire me, but word of mouth from folks I know out there in the real world (i.e. not film snobs like me) has it that the movie is “Awesome!” Huh. Maybe I’ll rent it. Does James Franco really play a brilliant pharmaceutical scientist? Seriously?

You know, I loved the first ‘Kung Fu Panda’, but I couldn’t bring myself to see ‘Kung Fu Panda 2‘ in theaters. All the trailers for it made the sequel look like a typical case of, “More of the same, but dumber and in 3D!” That’s probably not fair. I’m sure that I’ll catch up with this one on Blu-ray. It can’t be as bad as ‘Cars 2’, can it?

I seem to be in a minority in this, but I found the remake of ‘Fright Night‘ quite entertaining. Colin Farrell is especially fun as the creepy vampire-next-door named Jerry. The movie was a big ol’ flop, and I think that’s a shame. You can buy it on Blu-ray now in 2D or 3D options. (Unfortunately, I felt that the 3D added next-to-nothing to the movie.) As a tie-in with this, indie studio Twilight Time has licensed the original 1985 film for a limited edition run on Blu-ray. I wound up watching the original on cable after seeing the remake, and dear lord, the movie does not hold up to any fond memories of it. Aside from the performance from Roddy McDowall, it’s kind of embarrassingly cheesy and amateurish. The remake is a big improvement on just about every level, in my opinion.

The final day-and-date title of note is the Chinese action/kung-fu/mystery/fantasy ‘Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame‘. I’ve been burned by Tsui Hark enough times in the past. I won’t make that mistake again.

Director Joe Johnston had a big hit with the retro comic book adventure ‘Captain America’ this year. That must have inspired Disney to dig his earlier ‘The Rocketeer‘ out of the catalog. The movie was a box office dud back in 1991, but has developed a devoted cult following in the meantime. I don’t think I’ve seen this since it hit VHS.

The best catalog title of the week is the Brazilian crime epic ‘City of God‘. This movie is amazing. It marked in Fernando Meirelles the most exciting breakthrough for a director since Tarantino and ‘Pulp Fiction’. (Unfortunately, I was scheduled to review the Blu-ray for the site, but Fed Ex decided to lose or steal the package with the screener disc. So that review will have to be delayed.)

Speaking of breakthroughs, a New Zealander by the name of Peter Jackson proved to the world with ‘Heavenly Creatures‘ that he had greater artistic aspirations than just making low-budget splatter comedies for the rest of his career. The movie was a big international success and put Jackson’s name on the cinematic map, along with that of star Kate Winslet. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? I’ve never really cared for the movie, personally. I found the psychology of the characters simplistic, and felt that the film had an uncomfortable homophobic streak. But perhaps it’s time for me to revisit it?

If nothing else, ‘Velvet Goldmine‘ proves that Todd Haynes is a remarkable filmmaker. Literally no one else on Earth would be able to direct a movie about the ’70s glam rock scene that makes the whole thing seem so utterly boring. That’s quite an achievement. In fact, he proved again with his recent ‘Mildred Pierce‘ miniseries that he can turn just about any juicy subject material into something completely tedious. Why does this guy have fans?

For as much as the company is respected, the Criterion Collection had a bumpy start in the DVD format back in the day. The earliest wave of Criterion DVDs featured non-anamorphic letterbox transfers recycled from Laserdisc, and suffered a lot of technical issues. Two of the worst of those discs, Japanese director Seijun Suzuki’s 1960s gangster… thrillers(?)… comedies(?)… ‘Branded to Kill‘ and ‘Tokyo Drifter‘, are finally getting a much-needed upgrade to Blu-ray. I watched these movies on DVD based on an enthusiastic write-up in Video Watchdog magazine, but I just couldn’t get into them at all. They seemed to have all the elements of classic cult cinema, but… I don’t know. I didn’t dig them. Maybe I’ll try again some day.

Which titles do you have your eye on this week?


  1. CK

    I’ll probably get Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I greatly enjoyed, and I might pick up the new Fright Night as well. I liked it quite a bit and there’s just not enough 3D stuff out there to choose from.

  2. Drew

    ‘City of God’, ‘Heavenly Creatures’, ‘Fright Night 3D’, ‘Kung Fu Panda 2 3D’, and ‘Rise of the Apes’ for me.

    Luke was way off the mark in his review for ‘Apes’. If I remember correctly, Aaron liked it quite a bit more.

    You should give it a shot. Most of the people that I know — even film snobs — felt that it was at least worth seeing once. It’s miles better than the Tim Burton ‘Apes’ although, I’ll admit that is not saying much.

    The bottom line is, the overall positive impression of it from even the most ardent cinephiles makes it worth viewing at least once. Most people really enjoy it. What do you have to lose?

  3. JM


    Are the Hong Kong Film Awards reputable?

    ‘Detective Dee And The Title Of Incredible Length’ was all over it.

    Nominated: Best Film
    Won: Best Director (Tsui Hark)
    Won: Best Actress (Carina Lau)
    Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (Tony Leung)
    Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (Deng Chao)
    Nominated: Best Cinematography (Chan Chi-ying, Chan Chor-keung)
    Nominated: Best Editing (Yau Chi-wai)
    Won: Best Costume Design (Choo Sung-bong)
    Won: Best Production Design
    Nominated: Best Action Cherography (Sammo Hung)
    Nominated: Best Original Score (Peter Kam)
    Won: Best Sound Effects
    Won: Best Visual Effects (Phil Jones)

    What did Tsui Hark do to you, Josh?

    Did he touch you in a bathing suit location?

    • Josh Zyber

      I’ve seen several Tsui Hark movies and haven’t particularly liked any of them. As a director, he seems too preoccupied with getting his actors to stand in dynamic “hero” poses (usually holding a gun or a sword) that will look good on a poster, over and over again from scene to scene. His scripts are usually incoherent and his action scenes pretty tame. His movies almost always sound like they’ll be a lot of fun, but never really are.

  4. Dragonball Z is a possibility for me. I am really debating. I really prefer the Kai series, but I hear that it is ending at the end of the Cell Saga. It seems weird to pick up Dragonball Z right after Cell, and not have the previous series. In any case, I am not picking it up today, but may bend eventually and get these.

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a possibility. I saw it twice at the theaters (the first time was not of my own merrit, but the second time it was), and it was actually a pretty good movie.

    Sherlock Holmes and Rocketeer may be rentals for me, as I have never seen either.

    Kung Fu Panda 2 was a disappointment, and I won’t be picking up that one.