Blu-ray Highlights: Week of February 9th, 2014 – To the Bitter End

This week’s Blu-ray assortment brings us a couple of last year’s biggest disappointments, but don’t get too discouraged. Some smaller movies, as well as catalog titles and TV box sets, might still be worth a look.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (2/11/14)?

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New Releases

Ender’s Game‘ – Orson Scott Card’s original novel was a landmark of science fiction literature. Unfortunately, the author has turned into a loudmouthed nutjob in the years since. The controversy around his raging, hateful bigotry overshadowed the long-delayed movie adaptation of his book, despite the film’s other producers and stars doing everything they could to distance it from him. From what I’m told, the movie actually isn’t half bad. However, even setting aside Card’s involvement, I think I’d be bothered by the way all of the main characters have been rewritten as teenagers rather than young children, which seems to miss the point of the book entirely.

The Counselor‘ – Ridley Scott makes another turkey. What a shock. Honestly, I don’t think Scott’s made a decent movie since ‘Blade Runner’. Responding to criticisms that his last several pictures have been terribly written, the director must have thought that working from a screenplay penned by acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy (‘No Country for Old Men’) would be a surefire winner. No such luck. Pretty much everyone who saw it described the movie as howlingly awful, with special derision for a scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. No, not in a car… with a car.

All Is Lost‘ – Robert Redford takes on Mother Nature in this one-man sailing drama, filmed with only sparse dialogue. Redford’s tour de force performance was heavily buzzed as an Oscar contender when the film was released, but somehow got overlooked by the Academy. I wonder if this is simply the type of movie that requires the immersion of a big screen viewing. Academy voters who watched it on screener DVDs may not have gotten the full impact.

The Best Man Holiday‘ – Do you remember the 1999 rom-com ‘The Best Man’? Well, somebody sure did, as this belated sequel was one of the sleeper hits of last year. The success of movies like this and ‘Instructions Not Included’ prove the power of targeted demographic marketing.

Austenland‘ – Jerusha Hess, screenwriter of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ and wife of that film’s director Jared Hess, makes her own directorial debut with this quirky rom-com about a woman (Keri Russell) who blows her life savings on a trip to a Jane Austen theme park in hopes of meeting her own Mr. Darcy. It looks better than ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, so I’ll give it that. If you’re inclined to like this type of movie, then you’ll probably like it.

Diana‘ – Naomi Watts plays the “People’s Princess” in a bio-pic that was very, very badly received by critics and ignored by audiences.

How I Live Now‘ – Saoirse Ronan gets stranded in the rural English countryside, cut off from a world around her that erupts into war while she’s away, in this high-concept drama from ‘The Last King of Scotland’ director Kevin Macdonald. Reviews were mixed.

The Armstrong Lie‘ – Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’, ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’) aims his camera at the controversy surrounding disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. I’d have more interest in this if I hadn’t seen ‘Client 9’, in which Gibney painted the reprehensible Eliot Spitzer as a misunderstood hero whose flagrant hypocrisy and abuses of power were really no big deal. If that’s what he’s done for Armstrong, forget it, I’m out.

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box‘ – Sam Neill, Michael Sheen and several other actors who really ought to know better allowed themselves to be wrangled into this low-budget, family friendly, Steampunk-ish period fantasy. It looks like something that should have gone straight to cable syndication.

Catalog Titles

If you haven’t already bought all the movies in this franchise separately, the ‘Rocky Heavyweight Collection‘ bundles a newly remastered edition of the first film with recycled discs for the other five. I’m not a huge ‘Rocky’ fan, but if I were, I’d wait for a separate release of the original. (In fact, you can get a SteelBook copy of that from the UK now.)

The Jungle Book‘ has never been one of my favorite Disney animated features, but “The Bare Necessitities” sure is catchy.

As we barrel towards this year’s Oscars, Lionsgate would like to remind you that the studio actually owns one Best Picture winner. OK, sure, it’s ‘Chicago‘, and no one really understands how this movie won Best Picture, but still… Strangely, this isn’t even a notable anniversary for the film.

Much like Jess Franco, Jean Rollin was a prolific Eurosleaze cult figure whose appeal eludes me. Perhaps I was just born in the wrong decade. Redemption boxes up four of the director’s amateurish softcore horror flicks in ‘The Cinema of Jean Rollin: The Vampire Collection‘ with essays of appreciation from Video Watchdog magazine editor Tim Lucas.


If you missed it during the original broadcast, now’s your chance to catch up with one of last year’s best new shows, FX’s ‘The Americans‘, before the second season premieres on February 26th.

It wasn’t all that long ago that writer/producer Steven Moffat was the golden boy of British television. A couple lackluster seasons of ‘Doctor Who’ and a downturn in the quality of his modern-day ‘Sherlock‘ brought an end to those good fortunes. Many fans were none too happy with the third season of the latter, but if you’re still with the show (or just a completist), it’s available on Blu-ray.

I don’t see anything that I need to buy this week, though I will add ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘All Is Lost’ to my rental queue. Are you feeling more adventurous than I am?


  1. William Henley

    I enjoyed Ender’s Game, and have it preordered. Even though the cast is teenagers, the movie is filmed in a way that you could think that the characters are older children / preteens. Ender could probably pass for 10 or 11 years old (yes, I get he is supposed to be younger than that in the book).

    I was interested in Diana, but I think I will wait for a review.

    I like Sherlock well enough, but I have been watching it on Netflix. Farscape is the same way – until they do a proper HD transfer for Farscape, I am staying away from any Blu-Ray release of it. I don’t know if I buy that the original film elements are gone – that sounds way too much like a Lucas-excuse. I find it really hard to believe, considering when the show was shot, that they would not have kept the film elements perserved somewhere.

    Been debating a while on Jungle Book. It is not on my list of top Disney movies. I mean, if I can pick it up for a good price, I will (ie probably $17 or less), but I don’t want to pay the Disney surcharge for this. I mean, I get that right now, it is only $5 higher than my price, and $5 is less than I may spend at Taco Bell, but $5 here, $10 there on every Disney movie released starts to add up. I have picked up a few Disney movies recently from the UK the past couple of weeks that hit the price range I was looking for – probably picked up 5 Disney movies from Zavvi and Amazon.co.uk recently.

    Just went back to Zavvi and found Jungle Book Steelbook for under 10 pounds, so I am picking it up. They also have Little Mermaid under $10 as well, but the Steelbook is just the 2D version.

    • Josh Zyber

      William, be aware that the UK SteelBook copy of The Jungle Book is locked to Region B. It’s the only Disney animated title that’s region-locked, for some reason.

      • William Henley

        I’m cool now – my new Blu-Ray player is region-free. Been ordering a lot of discs lately from overseas, including PAL (1080i50) and Region B locked. Picked the player up specifically for this reason – there was actually a movie I have been wanting on Blu-Ray that so far has been released only in Italy (I guess because of distributor reasons). Sadly, the transfer sucks (I wrote a review of it on the site-who-cant-be-named). But all my UK region B stuff (Hugo 3D, Three Muskateers 3D, etc) work just fine.

  2. NJScorpio

    I’m interested in the first season of The Americans, as I’m a huge fan of FX’s Son’s of Anarchy as well as Justified. I wouldn’t blind buy it, but it’s times like these that I’m glad I still have a disc mailed to me by Netflix.

    I saw All is Lost not long ago, at home, and thought it was very impressive. I think there is a sweet spot for watching though. I can see what Josh said about watching on a small screen taking away from the impact of the film. At the same time, with such sparse dialogue, I can see watching it in a large theater a little…awkward. I watched it at home, on an 80″ screen, so I had the visual impact but was able to chat a little with the person watching it with me.

    It’s like, I’d imagine seeing it in the movies to be almost too emotional being so silent.

  3. Chris

    Um, “Scott hasn’t made a decent movie since Blade Runner”….seriously? Is it possible your hatred for “Prometheus” is poisoning you view of Ridley’s entire filmography of the last 25 years? “Black Hawk Down”? “Gladiator”? “Body of Lies”? All garbage?!

    • William Henley

      I finally picked up Prometheus, and don’t see what all the hate is about. Yeah, it’s not Alien, but it was still a pretty good movie.

    • Josh Zyber

      Body of Lies is terrible. I’ve never understood why anyone likes anything about Gladiator. Black Hawk Down takes a real-life tragedy and turns it into Michael Bay-style fetishized war porn.

      Yeah, I stand by what I said. Scott hasn’t made a good movie since Blade Runner. I think that all the production strife on Legend broke something inside him. He’s not the same man today that he used to be.

      • Timcharger

        “I’ve never understood why anyone likes anything about Gladiator.”

        And that’s a fault of yours. That you don’t “understand why anyone likes ANYTHING” about Gladiator.

        It’s fine that YOU don’t like Gladiator. But to not understand there is SOME merit a film that got 12 Oscar nominations and won Best Film and Best Actor?!

        Yeah, Scott hasn’t made “decent” Best Picture award winning films. Okay Josh.

        You or I, may or may not like Thelma & Louise. But to deny that Scott film is highly regarded in the consciousness of American films?!

        Any rich history of film, would have that image of the Thelma & Louie convertible flying into the air.

        We would all wish we Could have Ridley Scott’s “indecent” career for the last 25 years.


      • William Henley

        Just checked his Bio on IMDB, and yeah, I agree. 1492 and Prometheus were okay and enjoyable movies, but I wouldn’t call them good.

        Now, looking over the list, I don’t see anything I would really call BAD, but there are just a lot of movies that are just okay.

  4. Chris

    Too bad The Counselor turned out to be such a bust, Cameron Diaz is the worst and ruins pretty much everything thing she’s in. Although Cormac is a great writer (Blood Meridian is probably the best novel of the last 50 years), a lot of people said his style didn’t adapt well to the screen. I.E. people speaking in ridiculous sounding, never-ending monologues. I’ll watch it..but I probably won’t enjoy it.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Jungle Book”, it and “Robin Hood” are two of my favorite Disney movies of all time, think I’ll pick that up as well as the “Rocky” set since I don’t own any of them already…

  5. Timcharger

    “Pretty much everyone who saw it described the movie as howlingly awful, with special derision for a scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. No, not in a car… with a car.”

    Josh, are you trying to disparage us from buying this film or encouraging us to rush out the door to see this? Cameron Diaz-sex-car… that must have sold a few more copies?

    Common HDD readers, admit it, aren’t you a little curious? (Did I say that out loud?)

  6. HuskerGuy

    Jungle Book and Sherlock for me.

    I wasn’t aware the third season of Sherlock was being viewed so negatively. The wife and I just finished the last episode and loved it more than the second season from what I recall.

  7. Barsoom Bob

    Quite enjoyed Ender’s Game, both as a book and a movie. It was a relief after the soul crushing disappointment I had with Elysium. Asa Butterfield(?) ruined Hugo for me, his performance was just lifeless, but he won me over in this one. Best sci fi movie of the summer for me.

    I agree with you that Sherlock dropped the ball in the second season, especially the Hounds of the Baskerville episode 2.2. The character became just too shrill and flaming that it was off putting, but they did recover with the Reichenbach Falls final episode.

    I ordered the Season 3 set, but I have just seen the last episode on the telly, which I did enjoy and I think is a return form. Have to watch 3.1 and 3.2 to confirm.

    In truth, even though they were the first, and this is no slight to Cumberbach or Freeman, I think Elementary is a better modernization of Holmes because of the the writing of the characters.

  8. Chris

    I’ll take Body of Lies over any of Paul Greengrass’ tepid Bourne sequels any day of the week…

    If you really think about it, almost all war films can be dismissed as glorifying tragedy…

    As for Gladiator, it’s a hero’s quest to avenge the death of his murdered family and prevent his country from falling under the rule of an evil leader. It’s also doesn’t hurt it’s set against the backdrop of one of the most interesting periods in human civilization. But if someone is not into historical epics of period pieces in general I guess I can see how they wouldn’t really dig it.

    I agree that Scott has made some shit films though, American Gangster was awful and the new Robin Hood is one of the most poorly paced movies I’ve ever seen.

    I was actually unaware that there was trouble on the set of Legend, I’d heard all the horror stories about the Blade Runner production, maybe Ridley is just hard to get along with?

    • Josh Zyber

      I like historical epics and period pieces, but I don’t like BAD historical epics or period pieces. Gladiator is insipidly dumb.

      Legend was beset with production problems, capped when the soundstage that housed the entire multi-million dollar forest set burned to the ground halfway through shooting. In any of its existing versions, Legend is a pretty bad movie. The theatrical cut(s) I would consider unwatchable. The director’s cut is a huge improvement but still not very good. However, at least it’s a fascinatingly bad movie. That’s more than I can say for any of Scott’s recent output.

      The guy’s on auto-pilot these days. He doesn’t put any effort into his movies anymore. There’s an informative featurette on the Body of Lies Blu-ray in which Scott talks about how he likes to shoot very quickly and not dwell on the details of anything because he doesn’t want to waste his actors’ time. This is simply not the same man who so enraged Harrison Ford by obsessing over the font choices and placement of magazine covers on a newstand in the deep background of a scene in Blade Runner.

    • William Henley

      As for Gladiator, it’s a hero’s quest to avenge the death of his murdered family and prevent his country from falling under the rule of an evil leader. It’s also doesn’t hurt it’s set against the backdrop of one of the most interesting periods in human civilization. But if someone is not into historical epics of period pieces in general I guess I can see how they wouldn’t really dig it.

      Wasn’t that called Ben Hur? :-p

  9. Chris

    Yeah Legend could have been so much better, I actually think the biggest problem with that movie is the casting of Tom Cruise, he doesn’t know what the hell to do with the character, and Scott is known to not be the best at giving his actors direction…apparently another reason Ford and him didn’t get along.

  10. Chris

    Agreed, he’s too prissy to carry that movie, he’s a supporting actor at best. I hated Pirates of the Caribbean though so I’m probably pretty biased..
    One thing i will concede though, I genuinely hope the long awaited/rumored to be in production Blade Runner sequel never gets made, I think it can only tarnish the near perfection of the original….Prometheus all over again….

  11. Chris

    Maybe it’s because Im a product of the 80’s, but I find it hard to connect with a lot of classic films…They were made for a different audience..

    • Timcharger

      Keep talking like that Chris…

      “classic films… were made for a different audience.”

      …keep that up and you’ll be ostracized.

  12. Chris

    What I’m saying is the language of cinema has evolved so much over it 100+ year history, I can only go back so far until things begin to feel very dated. Have you seen “The Searchers”? it’s like watching paint dry.

    • William Henley

      So no Shirley Temple movies for you? No Wizard of Oz? No Snow White? Mary Poppins? Casablanca? Gone With The Wind

  13. Chris

    There are exceptions to every rule, and there are some old films I really do like. What I meant by a “different audience” is this: if you took an average movie-goer of the 1950’s and compared them with an average movie-goer of 2014, they would have vastly different expectations, attitudes and (for better or for worse) attention spans with regards to film. I’m not insinuating older films are garbage or don’t have merit or don’t deserve to be revered etc. What I’m saying is, in my personal experience on the basis of an ENTERTAINMENT LEVEL, there’s only so far I can go back until things just aren’t compelling.

    And when people like Tim chime in and talk about someone being shamed or “ostracized” because him or her may have an unpopular opinion, it’s an obnoxious bully tactic. Everyone has a right to their opinion, if someone thinks Battlefield:Earth is a far more entertaining sci-fi film than Star Wars than noone can tell them they’re “wrong” because it’s that person’s personal opinion.

    Josh presented his view yesterday that about 80% of Ridley Scott’s work has been sub-par. I inquired as to why he felt that way and he responded. I may not agree but I’m not going to start raging and freaking out over it, that’s his opinion.

    Anyways, in a feeble attempt to steer this thread back to it’s intended purpose, let’s all watch “The Counselor” and then we can meet back here and talk about how bad it sucked…I’m sure we’ll at least agree on that..haha.

    • William Henley

      Anyways, in a feeble attempt to steer this thread back to it’s intended purpose, let’s all watch “The Counselor” and then we can meet back here and talk about how bad it sucked…I’m sure we’ll at least agree on that..haha.

      That reminds me, Josh – whatever happened to Bad Movie Night? A few years ago, we were all talking about tuning in at such and such time on Netflix to watch a movie and discuss it in a chatroom or something. I think enough people have streaming now that we could make this happen – we should talk again about doing it.

  14. Chris

    Saw The Counselor last night, and yup it was pretty bad as I expected. The biggest problem being the dialogue, it doesn’t sound even remotely believable in a few scenes. It might have turned out to be a decent flick if Mcarthy had written the story and then they’d brought in a screenwriter to make it work….oh and Cameron Diaz was terrible, but that normally goes without saying.