Blu-ray Highlights: Week of December 17th, 2017 – Operation Dynamo

Christmas is fast approaching and the home video studios have one last chance to tempt you. Will any of this week’s new Blu-rays go on your wish list for Santa?

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (12/19/17)?

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New Releases (Blu-ray)

Dunkirk‘ – At the moment, the odds of Christopher Nolan finally landing an Oscar seem pretty strong. His WWII epic was a big box office hit and one of the best reviewed movies of the year. If not Best Picture, the technical achievement stands a very good chance of scoring a Best Director trophy. To that end, Nolan shot the movie in a mix of 65mm and IMAX film, which means that all the Blu-ray and Ultra HD editions are stuck with that alternating aspect ratio gimmick he loves so much. Also, the audio is plain 5.1 because the director has an irrational hatred of Atmos. Best Buy carries a SteelBook, but only for the 1080p disc.

The Lego Ninjago Movie‘ – The animated Lego franchise suffered its first box office disappointment this year. The Ninjago toys are pretty popular with kids, but apparently their parents wanted nothing to do with a movie. Reviews were also rather weak for this installment. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. is making another big push for it on video, with Blu-ray, 3D and UHD editions all available. (As with ‘Dunkirk’, Best Buy’s SteelBook is 1080p only.) I’m sure all this franchise needs to bounce back is a ‘Lego Batman’ sequel and all will be right with the Lego world again.

mother!‘ – From the exclamation point and lack of capitalization in the title, it should be obvious that Darren Aronofsky is in uber-pretentious mode once again. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star in a movie that was painted as a weird and surreal home invasion thriller in the trailers but is reportedly actually an elaborate allegory for something else entirely. Critical reaction was heavily divided, with some calling it brilliant and others trash. Audiences almost unanimously sided with the latter. The movie was one of the biggest box office failures of the year and viewer word-of-mouth was toxic.

Victoria & Abdul‘ – Didn’t Judi Dench claim she was retiring from acting a few years ago due to failing eyesight? She hasn’t seemed to slow down much in the meantime. Here, she reunites with director Stephen Frears (‘Philomena’) for a feel-good period piece about Queen Victoria’s unexpected friendship with an Indian commoner. I really enjoyed a line Phil dropped into his theatrical review calling this an “expansion of the Mrs. Brown cinematic universe.” Frears is usually a reliably solid filmmaker, but Phil didn’t care for much about this one.

Stronger‘ – Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing who’s forced to rebuild his life after losing his ability to walk. True story or no, the movie appears to hit every beat of the “triumph over adversity” playbook, though Gyllenhaal’s performance is said to be… well, strong. David Gordon Green, whose career vacillates wildly from respectable indie fare to inane stoner comedies, directed.

Leatherface‘ – As if anyone wanted such a thing, the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ franchise gets another prequel reboot. Lionsgate had so little faith in the movie that the studio shelved it for a couple years before dumping it on DirecTV and On-Demand (with very limited theatrical screenings). The biggest name in the cast is Stephen Dorff, which should tell you a lot about what to expect.


In addition to ‘Dunkirk‘, the majority of Christopher Nolan’s filmography also makes its away to Ultra HD this week. Warner’s ‘Christopher Nolan Collection‘ bundles ‘Dunkirk’ with ‘Batman Begins‘, ‘The Dark Knight‘, ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘, ‘Inception‘, ‘Interstellar‘ (on loan from Paramount) and ‘The Prestige‘ (from Disney). All of these were also announced for standalone releases (plus a trilogy set for the Batman flicks), though Amazon and other retailers pulled their listings for ‘The Prestige’, so I’m not sure about the status of that one outside the box set.

The Batman movies are supposedly sourced from new 4k transfers. With luck, there’s a chance that the Edge Enhancement problems that plague ‘The Dark Knight’ on Blu-ray could finally be resolved. (Fingers crossed on that.) As mentioned earlier, however, Nolan actively hates immersive audio, so none of the soundtracks have been remastered.

Also available in 4k are ‘mother!‘ and ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie‘.

Catalog Titles

The latest limited editions from Twilight Time include Otto Preminger’s 1947 period piece melodrama ‘Forever Amber‘, the 1962 British drama ‘The L-Shaped Room‘, the 1970 adaptation of ‘Wuthering Heights‘ with Timothy Dalton, Arthur Hiller’s 1971 film version of the Paddy Chayefsky dark comedy ‘The Hospital‘, and Woody Allen’s 1990 fantasy drama ‘Alice‘.

Synapse Films offers a new 4k restoration of Dario Argento’s famed giallo ‘Suspiria‘ in a limited edition SteelBook. Preorders are already shut down through Synapse’s own site, but at the time of this writing Amazon still has copies left at an absurd $89.95 price point. I am confident that the same disc will eventually be sold in a standard keepcase for a lot less money if you’re patient.

Severin’s ‘The Amicus Collection‘ bundles the 1970s British horror shockers ‘Asylum’, ‘And Now the Screaming Starts’, and ‘The Beast Must Die’. Although the first two are also available separately, ‘Beast’ is exclusive to the box set.


Having just released the first five seasons of ‘South Park‘ on Blu-ray a couple weeks ago, Paramount follows that up with Seasons 6-11 now.

My $.02

Despite its acclaim, I’m honestly not terribly excited to watch ‘Dunkirk’. I’ve been burned by Christopher Nolan one time too many. Nonetheless, I will get to it eventually.

I also have some interest in ‘The Hospital’. Beyond that, I’m happy to save my money this week for other holiday shopping.

Which of these discs would you like to see in your stocking next Monday?


  1. Csm10

    My Suspiria steelbook should arrive in the mail some time today. I still haven’t
    purchased the Amicus collection but very much want it. Dunkirk is of high interest. The Dark Knight movies on uhd might be cool in the future. Mother, Leatherface, and Lego Ninjago 3d ar also on my wish list.

  2. Bolo

    I caught ‘mother!’ in cinemas. It’s a theme-driven movie, but its exploration of its theme doesn’t become more interesting as it progresses, only more brutal. I actually enjoyed the first two thirds of the movie because there was a lot of dark humour in watching people break social norms and make each other uncomfortable. But the final third was just numbing in its relentless violence. Aronofsky’s staging is top-notch. The film grew on me a bit the more I thought about it, but not enough to say I really liked it. I can understand why other people outright hate it and I don’t really feel compelled to revisit it.

  3. Chris B

    I’ll rent Leatherface since I’m a fan of the franchise. I’ll buy the Suspiria standard exition when it’s inevitably released.

    You’re right to be hestant about Dunkirk. It’s a great technical achievement wrapped up in a boring movie.

  4. Deaditelord

    I’m in for the Christopher Nolan Collection in 4K, but will wait for them to go on sale. My copy of Suspiria should be showing up today and I can’t wait to watch it tonight. Mother!, the Lego Ninjago movie, and Stronger I’ll likely rent.

  5. Dick Dreyfuss

    “You’re right to be hesitant about Dunkirk. It’s a great technical achievement wrapped up in a boring movie.”

    I agree.

  6. Timcharger

    Josh: “stuck with that alternating aspect ratio gimmick he loves so much. Also, the audio is plain 5.1 because the director has an irrational hatred of Atmos.”

    So interesting that the complaint against shifting aspect ratio has the same logical conclusion against shifting audio source/direction. Sound from rear speakers, sound from ceiling speakers, don’t get complaints of altering one’s aural-aspect-ratio. I want both, sound from various aspect ratios and video from various aspect ratios. If the director thinks the film is enhanced with sound coming from behind me, or with an image coming from higher in the ceiling, it’s a good thing. It’s not logical to complain against one (video) and admire another (audio).

    • William Henley

      Shifting aspect ratios is no issue if you have a 16:9 screen – it is a huge issue if you have a 2.35:1 screen – the screen will never be filled. The Imax footage will fill it from top to bottom and you will just have pillar boxes on the side, which is fine, but the 65mm footage will be pillarboxed on all 4 sides.

      Usually when I have a movie with shifting aspect ratios, I just say “Screw it” and set it for 2.35:1 and let the 16:9 scenes fall into the matted area around my screen. Which is fine, usually, as long as they are not using weird framing.

      In this case, though, the review said the Vudu version did NOT have shifting aspect rations, and the 4k version was $10 cheaper than the UHD disc, and Vudu will be Dolby Vision, so I just went with that.

      • I don’t normally mind shifting ratios, but in the case of Transformers: The Last Knight, it seemed to shift with every cut between scenes, it was horribly distracting.

    • James

      Naw, man. Those are two totally different shifts. It may shock you to learn that sight and sound are different senses with different thresholds for disorientation.

      • Timcharger

        If one can “overcome” the knowledge that a sound behind you from the rear speakers should teleport you out of the film’s storytelling, then one can similarly “overcome” the knowledge an image coming from a different higher (or lower) part of the screen. While sight and sound are different senses, it is your same mind that interprets that data. If I were to suggest that it may be “shocking to you” that your one brain interprets both sight and sound, that would make me as disingenuous as you were in good faith dialogue.

        • William Henley

          I think your analogy is wrong. The difference between shifting from 1.78:1 to 2.35:1 is more like taking a mono soundtrack with everything going to the center channel – music, speech, everything, then suddenly we switch over to an aereo combat scene and without warning, the plane sound starts in the center speaker then flies to the front left, side left, rear left, zooms over your head, and just when you say “whoa”, we switch to a closeup of the pilot and we are back to a mono sound format, then back to the wide shot and we are in atmos again. Now imagine that a person was piping the center channel to all speakers, or using some ProLogic to fill their soundstage when suddenly an Atmos encoded scene dropped in, and even though they had an Atmos setup, they couldn’t hear the height because they had processing turned on. So you are stuck with the option of leaving it in one speaker, with an occassional height and rear scene, or using processing to expand it to all speakers which would prevent you from getting the atmos metadata from the track. Oh, and let’s say that to get that single channel sound from every speaker, you had to flip a switch or rewire your system. That is what having shifting aspect ratios does to anyone running CIH.

          Granted, not a perfect analogy (I don’t know if you can simulate surround from Mono (you can from stereo), but you can send the signal to every speaker), but its just an example

  7. Timcharger

    Josh: “Despite its acclaim, I’m honestly not terribly excited to watch ‘Dunkirk’. I’ve been burned by Christopher Nolan one time too many.”

    You actually fear gravitational waves (magic love rays) are in Dunkirk?

    • William Henley

      Do the Nazis have any special sci-fi weapons? Cause that sounds like the kind of thing that has been in every World War 2 movie over the past 30 years. So Christopher Nolan doing World War 2? Yeah, its fair to guess that there are gravitational waves in it. 😉

      • Timcharger

        Procrastination with holiday purchases has nothing to do with how one pays for last minute shopping. Avoiding interest charges “makes (ALL THE) difference.” No wonder the banks keep winning.

  8. William Henley

    So I went with the Vudu UHD releases of Dunkirk and will probably pick up Interstellar as well on Vudu. And possibly Inception.

  9. photogdave

    “Boring” is the last adjective I would use for Dunkirk. It’s engaging and fascinating.
    I feel sorry for anyone who missed it in the theatre. An amazing and unique viewing experience.
    I’ll pick up the 4K package that includes the Blu-ray as my first future-proofing purchase.

    • Chris B

      I saw it in 70mm Imax and it left me cold. It’s handsomely mounted and expertly crafted, but I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters at all. Hell can you even remember anyone’s name in the movie? The sequences with Hardy were my favorite because at least they involved actual warfare. It’s not even really a war movie….it’s an evacuation one.

      • James

        Repeated viewings fill out the characters. The character arcs and personal narratives are subtle, but not absent. I was a little cold during the first viewing, but nearly in tears at Rylance’s “Dammit, Peter, I hear ya!” by the third time through, having picked up all of that character’s situation. The other narratives and arcs are slighter than his (and Georgie’s is kinda corny), but familiarity with these people across multiple viewings changes the emotional calculus by a lot.

        • I couldn’t agree more. It’s such an experiential film that my first viewing was pretty overwhelming. With subsequent viewings, no longer under the intense barrage of not knowing what was going to happen next, I was able to soak in the character details. Rylance’s performance is one of the most subtle of the year, yet so impactful.

  10. James

    Josh, if it helps any, I hate the shifting AR in TDK with the fury of a thousand suns, and shook my fist at the sky when the announcement came for Dunkirk’s shifts, but I’ve streamed the YouTube HD scenes to approximate the whole movie about three times this week (significant because Amazon et al versions use a fixed ratio), and I was rarely jarred from the spell by the AR shift. And I seriously couldn’t be more hypersenstive to it, especially during the down-shifts that seem to cut the brightness of the images in half.

    For three reasons I’m fine with it this time: 1. I just love Dunkirk way more than TDK, so suspension of my irritation was higher, 2. So much of the movie is IMAX, so the wide open shots dominate the experience, and they are amazing looking, 3. The down-shift in beauty with the smaller ratio is far less apparent than it TDK (65 mm is why, I guess).

    Let us know what a fellow hater of Nolan Schizo-Ratio thinks of this one.

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