Blu-ray Highlights for 1/24/12 – “A Lot” Is My Favorite Number

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:


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.

Alfred Hitchcock

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

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!

Other Classics

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.

’80s Comedy

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 Collection

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.

And Finally…

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?


  1. JM

    I’ve never seen a Hitchcock film. Which blu-ray would be best to try first?

    ‘The Nude Vampire’ looks intriguing. I will have to research that.

    Last week “Redline’ and ‘Detective Dee’ fucked me with a one-two punch of boredom, so I’m feeling less experimental this week.

    I might need to take in a double Woody.

    • Josh Zyber

      Notorious and North by Northwest are the most “Hitchcockian” of the Hitchcock films available on Blu-ray. I’d probably start with Notorious.

      The guy directed over 60 films. You’ve never seen any of them?

      • JM

        I’m 0 for 60, soon to be 1 for 60.

        I’ll take a whack at ‘Notorious’ as soon as netflix gets the blu-ray.

        You know the documentary ‘Jesus Camp’? That’s the ‘Pretty Woman’ version of my childhood.

        Post-university, I’ve seen 1 Fellini, 1 Bergman, and 2 Dreyers.

        If only I could figure out how to enjoy them…

      • North by Northwest was my first Hitchcock film, my English teacher in Junior High had us read lines from it, and I eventually got my family to rent it on VHS. I need to buy the Blu-Ray for this film that I have loved for over 30 years.

      • EM

        My first Hitchcock film was Psycho, which I saw at the age of 13. My second was The Birds.

        This might explain some things.

        • Josh Zyber

          I just scanned through Hitchcock’s list of films on IMDb. Looks like I’ve seen about 15 of them, plus assorted episodes of his TV series.

          Some of his early or less famous movies I may mix up in my head a little. For example, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen either Saboteur or Sabotage, but I can’t remember which one. He tended to repeat certain themes throughout his career, so it’s easy to confuse some of his movies.

          • EM

            A lot of people confuse Sabotage and Saboteur, because of the similar titles. Sabotage is a British film with Oscar Homolka playing a fellow who runs a movie theater; I think the film is most famous for the suspenseful scene in which a young boy unknowingly carries a bomb with him on a bus ride. Saboteur is an American film, made just a few years later, with a very famous fight atop the Statue of Liberty.

            Confusing matters all the more is the fact that Hitch remade his own Man Who Knew Too Much.

  2. Drew

    Big week for me. The Hitchcock films are a must. The Woody films are as well.

    I can’t figure out why, but I’m a fan of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise. I didn’t get a chance to see the third in the theatre. Count me in.

    My son absolutely loved ‘Real Steel’ and has been asking when it comes out, essentially since the day after he saw it in the theatre. Looks like I’ll be picking it up for him.

    I’ve heard to many great things about ’50/50′ to pass it up. Damn! I hate weeks like this!

  3. Random Commenter

    I’m getting pretty much all the catalogs, minus the 80’s comedies. Big week for catalog Blu-rays.

  4. Josh,

    I was dragged kicking and screaming to see Real Steel this past weekend at the dollar theater. To my astonishment, I found that I REALLY liked it. Maybe it was because I had such low expectations. Give it a rental on Vudu, its actually a decent film.

    As for me, I just picked up WWII in 3D. About to stick it in.