After a slow start, the year’s Blu-ray release schedule finally heats up this week. Even if you don’t find the new day-and-date releases too exciting, the studios are unleashing a flood of great catalog titles to keep you busy.
Here’s a look at the slate of new discs:
- ‘50/50‘ (Summit)
- ‘Annie Hall‘ (MGM/UA)
- ‘The Apartment (1960)‘ (MGM/UA)
- ‘The Deadly Spawn: Millennium Edition‘ (Elite)
- ‘The Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin – The Story of LA Woman‘ (Eagle Rock)
- ‘Fairy Tail: Part 3‘ (FUNimation)
- ‘Fascination‘ (Kino)
- ‘Flash Point (2007)‘ (Well Go USA)
- ‘Godzilla (1954)‘ (Criterion)
- ‘Happy, Happy‘ (Magnolia)
- ‘Hell and Back Again‘ (New Group)
- ‘The Iron Rose‘ (Kino Lorber)
- ‘Lips of Blood‘ (Kino Lorber)
- ‘Manhattan‘ (MGM/UA)
- ‘Memphis: The Original Broadway Musical‘ (Shout Factory)
- ‘The Moment of Truth‘ (Criterion)
- ‘Motörhead: The World Is Ours – Vol.1 – Everything Further Than Everyplace Else‘ (EMI)
- ‘Mozart’s Sister‘ (Music Box)
- ‘Notorious (1946)‘ (MGM/UA)
- ‘The Nude Vampire‘ (Kino)
- ‘Paranormal Activity 3: Unrated Director’s Cut‘ (Paramount)
- ‘Queen: Days of Our Lives‘
- ‘Real Steel (2-Disc Edition)‘ (Disney/Buena Vista)
- ‘Real Steel (3-Disc Combo Pack)‘ (Disney/Buena Vista)
- ‘Rebecca‘ (MGM/UA)
- ‘Restless‘ (Sony)
- ‘Rifftrax: Live! Christmas Short-Stravaganza! – San Diego 2009‘ (Legend)
- ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil‘ (Image)
- ‘Shiver of the Vampires‘ (Kino Lorber)
- ‘Spellbound‘ (MGM/UA)
- ‘Stir Crazy‘ (Image)
- ‘Stripes‘ (Sony)
- ‘The Toy‘ (Image)
- ‘U2: From the Sky Down‘ (Universal Music)
- ‘The Whistleblower‘ (20th Century Fox)
- ‘Wings (1927)‘ (Paramount)
- ‘WWII in 3D‘ (A & E)
Let’s get the recent theatrical titles out of the way first, since this is generally the least interesting batch of new discs. Of these, ‘50/50‘ is the only one that has much appeal for me. The dramedy about a young guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) surviving cancer received very positive reviews last year, even despite Seth Rogen playing the best friend role. This looks like it’s worth a rental to me.
Beyond that… blah. In case the last ‘Transformers’ sequel didn’t give you enough robot-punching-robot action, Hugh Jackman steps up as a boxing coach who trains fighting robots in the ridiculous ‘Real Steel‘. This looks so stupid, I can hardly believe it got made. Then again, what am I thinking? This is Hollywood we’re talking about. This looks so stupid, I fully expect that at least two more sequels are already in development.
What can I say about ‘Paranormal Activity 3‘? If you liked the first two ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies, well, here’s another one just like them.
I saw the Rachel Weisz white-slavery drama ‘The Whistleblower‘ at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2010. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the well-meaning but heavy-handed issue movie. In his Blu-ray review, E. feels much the same.
Perhaps the most frustratingly inconsistent of American auteurs, Gus Van Sant delivered one of the worst-reviewed films of his career last year (yes, even worse than his ‘Psycho’ remake) with the romantic comedy ‘Restless‘, in which a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and a Manic Pixie Dream Boy (Mia Wasikowsa and Henry Hopper) compete to see which one can be more insufferably quirky than the other. This movie’s so bad, even Armond White couldn’t defend it – and he’s the guy who declared ‘Jack and Jill’ to be one of the best films of the year!
Now then, let’s get to the actual good stuff.
Aside from ‘The Lady Vanishes‘, ‘North by Northwest‘ and ‘Psycho‘, there has been a profound dearth of Hitchcock titles on Blu-ray. That finally changes this year. MGM leads things off this week with ‘Notorious‘,’Rebecca‘ and ‘Spellbound‘. I must have all three of these, especially the first two. Even if ‘Spellbound’ isn’t a great movie, it has those famous dream sequences designed by Salvador Dali, which I look forward to seeing presented in decent high-def quality.
Woody Allen is another director who’s been under-represented on Blu-ray to date. Sure, we’ve gotten several of his recent movies, but none of his early classics. MGM comes to the rescue once again with a one-two punch of his masterpieces ‘Manhattan‘ and ‘Annie Hall‘. Yes, please!
This week, Paramount lets fly the 1927 silent film ‘Wings‘, which was the first movie to win a Best Picture Academy Award. The WWI drama may seem a little silly by modern standards, but the aerial sequences are still pretty impressive.
I’m unclear as to whether Billy Wilder’s 1960 Oscar winner ‘The Apartment‘ will really be released today or not. MGM pushed the release date back several times. Earlier this month, Amazon put up a listing with today’s date, but that seems to have been pulled in the meantime. Yet DVDEmpire and Best Buy still have listings for the disc. What’s the real story on this? Whatever the case, it’s a great movie, so I hope that it does eventually come out.
Richard Pryor fans may be in for a treat with the new Blu-ray editions of ‘Stir Crazy‘, ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil‘ and ‘The Toy‘. Unfortunately, all of these are being issued by Image Entertainment, which has a spotty track record for quality.
I’d like to say that I expect better from Sony’s release of the Bill Murray/Harold Ramis/Ivan Reitman goofball classic ‘Stripes‘, but considering how badly the studio mangled ‘Ghostbusters‘, I’ll temper my enthusiasm until I see the disc for myself.
Criterion has teased monster movie fans with promises of adding the kaiju classic ‘Godzilla‘ (or ‘Gojira’, as it’s properly known) to the Collection as far back as a scheduled Laserdisc release in the late ’90s. Plans for that disc fell through at the last minute due to a licensing squabble with Japanese rights-holder Toho, and nothing became of a DVD either. Finally, more than a decade later, those promises have been fulfilled with a new Blu-ray that includes both the original Japanese version of the film and the Americanized version with Raymond Burr.
If giant radioactive lizards aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d prefer more traditional Criterion fare like the 1965 Italian drama ‘The Moment of Truth‘? All I know about this film is that it’s about bullfighting.
I have one more title to highlight here, the 2007 Hong Kong action thriller ‘Flash Point‘, starring Donnie Yen. I reviewed an import disc of this a few years ago. That disc had decent picture quality, but horribly mangled English subtitles. I’d hope for that problem to be corrected on the domestic copy from Well Go USA. I’m not sure that I like the movie enough to upgrade, but it has a solid half-hour of totally balls-out insane action at the end.
Does that give you enough options to choose from? Which titles will you pick up this week?