Still lagging behind in your viewing of this year’s Oscar nominees? This week’s bustling batch of new Blu-ray releases will give you a chance to catch up on a few of them before the ceremony on Sunday. Get on it!
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Coco‘ – Pixar expands its cultural horizons with a Dia de los Muertos-themed story about a young Mexican boy with a passion for music who travels to a very colorful underworld in search of his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. Despite some superficial similarities to 2014’s ‘The Book of Life’, the film was well reviewed, a solid box office hit, and is a virtual lock to score a Best Animated Feature Oscar this weekend. Disc options include a SteelBook at Best Buy, a Digibook at Target (both Blu-ray + DVD + Digital), or a separate 4k UHD in normal packaging. If you want 3D, you’ll need to import from overseas, either in a standard case or a SteelBook (same art as the Best Buy version).
‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ – The surprise winner at the Golden Globes this year, and consequently a very strong contender for the Best Picture Oscar, Martin McDonagh’s blackly comic drama is also one of the most divisive of this year’s nominees. For as many raves as it received from critics, viewers who didn’t care for it have been very vocal in their hatred. Frances McDormand plays a grieving mother who wages a campaign to shame the local sheriff (Woody Harrelson), who she feels hasn’t done enough to find her daughter’s killer. Even if the movie doesn’t take the big prize, McDormand appears to be on her way to collecting a second Best Actress trophy.
‘Darkest Hour‘ – Gary Oldman is likewise the frontrunner to take the Best Actor category for his showboating portrayal of the larger-than-life Winston Churchill. By most accounts, Oldman is the best part of the movie, which is otherwise a routine bio-pic. Joe Wright directs, which, in a way, makes this part of the same cinematic universe as his 2007 ‘Atonement’. Of last year’s two WWII movies revolving around the Dunkirk invasion, most viewers seemed to prefer the Christopher Nolan version, though it should be noted that they follow different aspects of the story and could actually be watched in conjunction with one another.
‘Murder on the Orient Express‘ – Kenneth Branagh directs himself as the famed inspector Hercule Poirot in an all-star remake adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnit. He surrounds himself with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, and Johnny Depp. Despite mixed reviews, the film was something of a quiet blockbuster. Although it never hit the top of the box office (ironically, falling behind another director’s sequel to Branagh’s own ‘Thor’), it played well as counter-programming against the goofy comic book epic and slowly amassed over $350 million from a $55 million budget.
‘78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene‘ – Documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe (‘The People vs. George Lucas’) dissects one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. Celebrity fans including Guillermo del Toro, Elijah Wood, and Eli Roth somehow find a way to have 90 minutes of conversation about a 3-minute scene.
‘Just Getting Started‘ – How sad that Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones have to resort to starring in an old codger buddy comedy. I bet the notoriously cranky Jones wasn’t much fun to be around while pondering the state of his career. The movie is also the first feature that director Ron Shelton has gotten off the ground since 2003’s lamentable ‘Hollywood Homicide’. It may be another decade and a half before he gets another chance.
‘Coco‘, ‘Murder on the Orient Express‘, and ‘Three Billboards‘ all debut in Ultra HD alongside their regular Blu-ray counterparts.
Anticipating the upcoming franchise reboot, Paramount upgrades both of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider‘ entries to 4k. Best Buy carries SteelBooks for both, as if that’s something anyone really wants to shell out money for. The timing of this is a little strange, in that the corresponding standard Blu-ray editions won’t be available until next week. I’m not a fan of either movie, but I recall the original Blu-ray of the first one having a pretty poor video transfer. For the sake of people who do like them, I hope that gets rectified.
Other UHD updates include ‘Straight Outta Compton‘ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty‘.
It’s not unusual, to be loved by anyone… Oh, sorry, wrong ‘Tom Jones‘. Entering the Criterion Collection this week is Tony Richardson’s 1963 period piece adventure comedy. The film was a smash hit in its day and the Best Picture Oscar winner.
Disney pulls its classic ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ out of the vault for a new Signature Collection reissue. Best Buy has a SteelBook and Target a Digibook. Available exclusively from the Disney Movie Club is the 1998 remake of ‘Mighty Joe Young‘ with Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron.
The Warner Archive investigates the 1966 Paul Newman detective thriller ‘Harper‘ and its 1975 sequel ‘The Drowning Pool‘.
From Scream Factory comes the 1970 sci-fi chiller ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project‘, in which a scientist races to stop an A.I. supercomputer from unleashing nuclear destruction upon the world.
Among other titles on offer from Olive Films are John Frankenheimer’s 1962 prison drama ‘Birdman of Alcatraz‘ and the 1989 Jerry Lee Lewis bio-pic ‘Great Balls of Fire!‘ starring Dennis Quaid.
Arrow Academy’s ‘Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin‘ box set compiles five collaborations of the filmmaker with the critic/journalist.
The main Arrow label, meanwhile, indulges in some schlocky horror with the 1977 shocker ‘Scalpel‘ and a limited edition of Frank Henenlotter’s 1982 gorefest ‘Basket Case‘.
In the early 1980s, the anime series ‘Urusei Yatsura’ (loosely translated “Those Obnoxious Aliens”) was one of the key titles in the “magical girlfriend” genre. Based on a popular manga, the show followed the adventures of a dim-witted high school boy who finds himself unwittingly engaged to an adorable but annoying alien princess. The TV series ran for over 200 episodes, the first half of which were directed by Mamoru Oshii (who would later go on to make the highly influential ‘Patlabor’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell’). Oshii also directed two feature films in the franchise (out of six).
Despite all that wealth of backstory, Oshii’s 1984 ‘Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer‘ stands apart from the rest of the series and can be enjoyed on its own. The plot, which finds the characters trapped in a bizarre dream in which their school day will never end, takes a break from the usual romantic hijinks and tries to do something more surreal and even philosophical. Although fans were initially put off by this, the film was eventually regarded as a minor classic. The Blu-ray comes from Discotek Media.
I have the 3D SteelBook for ‘Coco’ on preorder from Zavvi. I’m supposed to be scheduled to review ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ for this site, but the studio hasn’t sent a screener as of yet so I don’t know if that’s going to work out.
I’m interested to see ‘Three Billboards’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, but can probably wait for those to turn up on HBO or Netflix.
‘Harper’ and ‘Tom Jones’ will go on my wish list. I’m also considering ordering ‘Urusei Yatsura 2’.
That’s quite a lot for one week! What do you have planned?