Blu-ray Highlights: Week of February 8th, 2015 – Look Now, Really!

This week brings a big load of new Blu-ray releases, from a Disney animated classic to a cult masterpiece and more. Depending on your tastes, this could be an expensive week.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (2/10/15)?

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New Releases

Nightcrawler‘ – Jake Gyllenhaal takes over from Alan Cumming as Marvel’s teleporting ‘X-Men’ mutant in… No? That’s not what this is? I really need to start watching trailers before I write these things. Apparently, Gyllenhaal actually plays a down-on-his-luck scumbag who trawls the city streets at night to videotape crimes and terrible accidents so that he can sell his footage to a ruthless local news producer. The movie received enthusiastic reviews, enough that many people were upset that Gyllenhaal was snubbed for an acting Oscar nomination.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day‘ – It’s a shame the studio couldn’t get Colin Farrell to reprise his role in this sequel to… Dammit, I just did it again, didn’t I? I guess this is really some kiddie comedy with Steve Carell and an accident-prone little boy. Remarkably, Carell did get an Oscar nomination this year, but certainly not for anything he did here.

Laggies‘ – OK, this one I know! Keira Knightley remakes the Charlize Theron comedy ‘Young Adult’ from a few years ago. Well, that’s what it sounds like, anyway. From the director of ‘Humpday’ and ‘Your Sister’s Sister’. Also starring Hit-Girl.

Rosewater‘ – Jon Stewart stepped away from the ‘Daily Show’ news desk to direct a feature film about… something that happened on ‘The Daily Show’. Not much of a stretch, perhaps, but I suppose if the movie was going to get made anyway, he didn’t want somebody else to screw it up. For his first order of business as a filmmaker, Stewart cast Gael Garcia Bernal – who is Mexican – as an Iranian journalist. Urgh. Most reports are that the movie is very well-meaning and occasionally effective, but not entirely successful.

Kill the Messenger‘ – Speaking of well-intentioned movies about real-life journalists, Jeremy Renner plays a California newspaper reporter who uncovered a conspiracy involving CIA agents trafficking drugs into the United States – only to find himself discredited and disgraced when he tried to take the story public. Unfortunately, according to Phil’s theatrical review, the dramatization of this potentially incendiary subject matter is merely “fine” and never rises to its potential.

Predestination‘ – A couple of my friends have raved about this Ethan Hawke time travel thriller from the Spierig brothers, who previously directed him in the underrated ‘Daybreakers‘, which I quite enjoyed. The fact that the movie didn’t get a theatrical release and is going direct-to-video is a little concerning, however. (I’m also reminded that the Spierigs’ zombie flick ‘Undead’ was a giant pile of stupid crap.) This seems like a good rental candidate.

Force Majeure‘ – While on a ski vacation in the French Alps, a Swedish family has a close encounter with an avalanche. Although they all survive, the father does not react well in the situation, and this drives a big wedge between him and his wife. The drama was well-reviewed and nominated for a Golden Globe, though ignored by the Oscars.

Catalog Titles

Available on Blu-ray in Europe for a couple years already, Disney has finally unleashed (har har… ) ‘101 Dalmatians‘ onto the format in North America too. Although you might expect its DTV sequel to get bundled with it as a double-feature, that one is instead being released separately as a Disney Movie Club exclusive. Other DMC exclusives include ‘Pollyanna‘ and ‘Old Yeller‘.

Nicolas Roeg’s extraordinary supernatural thriller ‘Don’t Look Now‘ was also previously released on Blu-ray in Europe, but only in a disc with a poor video transfer. The new Criterion Collection upgrade is much welcomed. In the film, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play grieving parents who try to distract themselves with a trip to Venice, only to be repeatedly taunted (or possibly haunted) by reminders of their dead daughter. That summary makes the film sound much more formulaic and simplistic than Roeg’s rich, heavily-symbolic storytelling actually achieves.

Criterion’s other title this week is Jean Renoir’s ‘A Day in the Country‘, which has a vaguely related theme about a family traveling for a vacation. An uncompleted project, the film only runs 41 minutes, and as such may be hard to justify purchasing at Criterion’s asking price. Better to wait for the next Barnes & Noble sale for this one.

Back to Julie Christie for a moment. In 1967, the actress headlined an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s pastoral drama ‘Far from the Madding Crowd‘. With a remake starring Carey Mulligan on the way, the Warner Archive digs up the original film.

The latest round of limited editions from Twilight Time include: Dustin Hoffman in the Lenny Bruce bio-pic ‘Lenny‘, Woody Allen’s Napoleonic War comedy ‘Love and Death‘, Roger Corman’s gangster flick ‘The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre‘, the 1943 Lena Horne musical ‘Stormy Weather‘, and Sidney Poitier’s inspirational teacher classic ‘To Sir, With Love‘.

Kino has a thing for Norman Jewison this week. The label has licensed the director’s 1966 madcap comedy ‘The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming‘ and his 1978 union corruption drama ‘F.I.S.T.‘ (the latter starring Sylvester Stallone).

Scream Factory is all about horror comedies, with double features of ‘Love at First Bite‘ and ‘Once Bitten‘, as well as ‘Vampire’s Kiss‘ and ‘High Spirits‘. Some of these are better or funnier than others. ‘High Spirits’ in particular is a huge waste of talent.

Television

Directed by indie favorite Lisa Cholodenko (‘The Kids Are All Right’) and based on a Pulitzer-winning novel by Elizabeth Stout, HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge‘ tells the life story of a bitter Maine schoolteacher (Frances McDormand) and her much put-upon husband (Richard Jenkins). I watched a little bit of this but just couldn’t get into it, and cannot for the life of me figure out why this subject matter needed to be told in an epic four-part miniseries.

In other TV fare, Lionsgate offers the sixth season of Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie‘.

My $.02

I consider ‘Don’t Look Now’ a must-buy. I would probably also put ‘101 Dalmatians’ here if I didn’t already own the UK SteelBook.

I’ll look to rent ‘Nightcrawler’, ‘Predestination’ and ‘Rosewater’. My wish list for later will include ‘To Sir, With Love’, ‘Lenny’, ‘Love and Death’, and possibly ‘The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’.

What will you open your wallet for this week?

17 comments

  1. William Henley

    I got Old Yeller and Polyanna in last Tuesday. DMC apparently has no issue breaking release days on exclusives.

    Sailor Moon is a maybe for me. It was my first taste of anime, but on watching a few of the episodes on Hulu, I realize that the original is not as good as I remember (even with the new dub, or watching in the original Japanese). I am liking Sailor Moon Crystal, though.

  2. 101 dalmations and Nightcrawler for sure. I’m interested in the Once Bitten two pack for nostalgia sake. We used to watch that one ALL the time on Cinemax or HBO. I got a buddy at work who’s a disney movie club member and I’d like to add Old Yeller to my collection. If the price isn’t too steep maybe I’ll have him order it for me.

        • William Henley

          Sadly, I have not had a chance to pop it in. I had training all last week in the evenings, and working in the days. Last night was my first free night, and I slept. I may pop it in tonight.

          • William Henley

            Just to note, other DMC exclusives from the same time period (such as Apple Dumpling Gang) look fantastic, but they don’t do much with the audio – Apple Dumpling Gang, Pollyanna and Old Yeller are all Dolby Digital 1.0 (The Love Bug and Herbie Rides Again are DTS-MA5.1). The Dolby Digital track on Apple Dumpling Gang was fine, it handled the soundtrack just fine. Just don’t expect the lovely Disney Home Theater mix that they have been putting on all their classic cartoons. The DMC exclusives are also bare bones – it is litterally just the movie, and sometimes a trailer. All are region-free

        • It looks… okay. The aspect ratio is 1.66:1. The opening titles look awful, but that may have something to do with the compositing techniques at the time. The titles look muddy and soft. Once the movie starts, the picture quality improves dramatically. This is a very heavy grained film – almost makes me wonder if the film they scanned from may have been a couple of generations from the master. Now the picture appears not to be tinkered with, no sharpening or noise reduction, and nice natural grain look, but there is SO much grain, that it looses details. When the movie is playing, the movie is pretty good, but if you pause the disc, the frame looks soft.

          As far as dirt and scratches and splices, I saw none whatsoever. The film elements look great.

          The encode looks solid, and handles both daylight and nighttime, inside and outside scenes just fine.

          So yeah, the movie is obviously in HD, and there seems to be no tinkering to the picture, but I am not really sure if that is a good thing or not. It is probably the best it has ever looked, but not sure if it is the best it could look, and most of that just really comes from the fact that there is so much film grain, it makes you think that the master is a couple of generations from the original. If that grain was in the camera negative, then Disney used very grainy film for the masters, and that just does not sound like Disney.

          The sound quality is pretty bad. The opening song sounds like it is played through a tin can, and the entire soundtrack sounds flat and tinny, especially the music. However, this could very well be due to the sound-recording methods used at the time. I don’t have any other versions of this movie, so I cannot really compare it to anything. The movie never sounded great, but I don’t remember it sounding this flat, either, but, like I said, I got nothing to do a side-by-side comparison with.

          There are no bonus features. The disc opens to a static menu with “Play” and “scene selection”

          The disc comes in the standard disney slipcase.

          • Okay, I got futher in. The picture quality is very uneven. Some scenes look absolutely fantastic. It looks like different scenes were either pulled from different sources, or that they must have used very different film stocks from one scene to another. There may be other filming techniques that they may have used that causes the unevenness in clarity and film grain. It’s really uneven.

            The disc does have English subtitles, but you have to select those with the subtitle button on your remote – there is no way to access them through the menus

          • Thanks again William. I’m definitely still interested in this one. Heavy grain usually doesn’t bother me, so I don’t think it’ll be an issue. I never got it on dvd so I might as well get the blu. I wasn’t expecting the royal treatment anyways. I appreciate the input.

          • William Henley

            If I rated the video, some scenes look 2/5, while others look 5/5, and everything in between. Some of the closeups of the dog are fantastic, and you can see every single hair on him. If I had to give the video an overall score throughout the entire movie, I would say either a 3 or 3.5 out of 5.

            Audio is a 2/5

  3. Chris B

    I can’t wait to see Nightcrawler, going to Redbox it this week. Sadly, it will probably be the last movie I get from them becuase they announced on Friday that they’re pulling out of Canada because of lack of demand for physical media *sob*

    Predestination looks interesting as well, will most likely rent it in the near future as well.

    Don’t Look Now sounds kind of interesting but I’m kind of put off by Donald Sutherland’s appearance in it. Something about the ridiculous ‘fro and creeper mustache seems to date the movie terribly.

    On a non-movie related note; Josh, how are you and the fam coping with all the brutal winter weather New England has been receiving the past few weeks? You guys snowed in yet? Hangin’ in there?!

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      This snow is killing me. It’s piled up to my windows in my front yard and I have nowhere left to shovel any more.

      The mayor is talking about shutting down the whole city. I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds bad.

    • EM

      In my opinion, the most off-putting aspect of Sutherland’s appearance in Don’t Look Now is not his scalp and facial hair (they seem fine to me a few years later in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) but the vigorous nude sex scene.

      And here’s a quiz question inspired by Don’t Look Now:

      To avoid unpleasant associations with death by water, visit:
       a. Las Vegas
       b. Riyadh
       c. Venice, canal capital of the world

  4. For starters, 101 Dalmatians and part 2-DMC selling the combo for $29.95. As with previous movies, I would expect the U.S. release to be a new transfer, but hey, maybe not. Like Josh, I have the UK release (Steelbook)

    Russians are Coming – will I buy it this week? Maybe not, but it is high on my list.

    That leaves on the far/distant maybe list Nightcrawler and iono, Nekromantic 2 (waiting for review first)

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