Blu-ray Highlights for July 10th, 2012 – Tonight I’m Gonna Party Like It’s 1999

In the age of Facebook, is there still any point to high school reunions? And in the age of the 90-day turnaround to home video, is there any point to releasing an unneeded four-quel to theaters? These are the questions that come to mind when pondering this week’s Blu-ray release slate.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (7/10/12)?

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The first ‘American Pie’ movie was released in 1999. That would make 2012 the 13th anniversary for the characters. What high school holds a reunion on the 13th anniversary? Is this question addressed in ‘American Reunion‘? I have no idea, and am frankly in little rush to find out. The original… ahem… trilogy of ‘American Pie’ movies were an exercise in diminishing returns. By the time of 2003’s ‘American Wedding’, the franchise and its characters had pretty much played themselves out, and that’s to say nothing of the countless DTV spin-offs. Yet here we have a fourth theatrical entry that reunites the original cast. Judging by its box office performance, most audiences in North America viewed this sequel with as much disinterest as I did. The story was different overseas, however, where the movie was a big hit. I guess foreign audiences can’t get enough Stifler. This thing’s bound to turn up on HBO in a couple more months. I’m sure that I’ll run across it there on some lazy weekend afternoon.

It’s a rarity that Robert De Niro puts in the effort to deliver a real performance anymore. These days, he spends most of his time cashing paychecks in lazy ‘Fockers’ sequels, which I’m sure have made him a very wealthy man. For that reason, if little else, his work as an absentee father who forces his way back into his adult son’s life in ‘Being Flynn‘ deserves some measure of attention. The movie as a whole received mixed reviews (many complained about the way that the film watered down the content of the memoir that it’s based upon), but the performances were generally singled out for praise. A rental, perhaps?

I feel funny calling ‘Margaret‘ a “new release.” The movie was notoriously shelved for four years due to a dispute between director Kenneth Lonergan (‘You Can Count on Me’) and the studio that exploded into a legal battle. The film, in which a teenage student (Anna Paquin – hey, I warned you that this was made four years ago!) causes a fatal accident by distracting a bus driver, was eventually released on 14 screens in late 2011. It would have promptly vanished into oblivion at that point if not for the concerted efforts of a group of critics who banded together under the name “Team Margaret” to raise attention for the movie. Reaction in general was very divided. Even the biggest of its supporters have conceded that the two-and-a-half-hour film is meandering and disjointed, but apparently they found something worthwhile beneath the surface. Other critics were less forgiving. This seems like another rental candidate.

This Sporting Life

In time to capitalize on Olympic fever, Warner Bros. trots out a cleaned-up restoration of the 1981 Oscar winner ‘Chariots of Fire‘, which tells the true story of two runners in the 1924 Olympics. These days, the movie is probably best remembered for its Vangelis theme music. I’m sure it will sound great in lossless audio.

Formula One racing may not be an Olympic sport, but the documentary ‘Senna‘ received great acclaim when it was released to theaters in 2010 and on DVD last year. I’m not sure what took the movie so long to come to Blu-ray here. (It hit the format in Europe at the same time as the DVD.) Whatever the cause for the delay, it’s finally available now.

The Monster Squad

Remember how, a few weeks ago, I reported that the first and third ‘Blade‘ movies had been released on Blu-ray without the second? Some of our readers corrected me that all three had actually been pushed back to today. But then people started spotting copies in stores. Different retailers online still list different release dates. At this point, I have no idea when ‘Blade’ or ‘Blade: Trinity’ were or will be released on Blu-ray, but what I can say is that the Guillermo del Toro-directed ‘Blade II’ should be out now. Maybe. Honestly, I don’t have a clue.

New Line is also supposed to give us ‘Spawn‘. Whether that one’s really happening is anyone’s guess.

Weird Science

When iconoclastic British filmmaker Ken Russell passed away earlier this year, I suspect that a few curious viewers may have been introduced to his peculiar brand of madness. A movie like his drug-trip freak-out ‘Altered States‘ is guaranteed to bend a few minds.

The 1983 sci-fi thriller ‘Brainstorm‘ is a pretty corny movie about a group of scientists who invent a device to record each others’ memories. It’s notable primarily for being directed by special effects legend Douglas Trumbull, for being Natalie Wood’s last film, and for being presented in a variable aspect ratio format. The Blu-ray is preserved in the original Constant Image Height configuration, which means that long stretches of the movie will appear windowboxed in the center of a 16:9 TV screen with black bars on all four sides.

Although directed by famed sci-fi author Michael Crichton, ‘Coma‘ is not based on Crichton’s own writing. Instead, it’s adapted from a pulpy medical thriller by Robin Cook. If that seems odd, remember that Crichton originally went to medical school with plans to become a doctor (and was later one of the creators of the TV series ‘ER’). Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold star in this routine but efficient 1978 suspense mystery. Personally, I’m waiting for Crichton’s goofy 1984 sci-fi opus ‘Runaway’ to hit Blu-ray.

Also available are ‘Frequency‘, in which Jim Caviezel uses a Ham radio to talk to his dead father (Dennis Quaid) in the past, and ‘Outland‘, in which Sean Connery re-enacts ‘High Noon’ in outer space. The latter is silly but fun, and was previously only available in a crummy non-anamorphic letterbox DVD.

For a Few Dollars More

Twilight Time takes a lot of flak for its limited-edition business model and higher-than-average prices, but the fact is that the indie distributor is able to license and release titles that might never make it to Blu-ray otherwise. This week, the studio rolls out the 1944 musical ‘Cover Girl‘ with Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth, and the 1965 madcap comedy ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines‘. While neither of these is necessarily a must-own title for me, fans should be happy to see them in high definition.

The TV Set

Bazinga! That’s the catch phrase, right? Warner Bros. previously issued the third and fourth seasons of ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ on Blu-ray, and is now going back to release the first two. Season 5 will be available in September, and then you’ll be all caught up.

I’ve already watched a screener copy of ‘Brainstorm’. I might put ‘Chariots of Fire’, ‘Senna’, ‘Outland’ and ‘Altered States’ on my wish list for later purchase. Does anything perk up your attention this week, or are you reserving all your money for the Barnes & Noble Criterion sale?


  1. William Henley

    “Cover Girl” and “Those Magnificant Men and Their Flying Machines” both sound interesting, but I have seen neither. I may rent the movies, and if I like them, pick up the Blu-Rays.

    I am actually surprised Ultimate3DHeaven is releasing anotehr title so soon after releasing their last 3. I haven’t sen 3D Bikini Beach Babes, but I have one of their other discs, and am so blown away by it, I will probably blind-buy anything this company puts out! Their Mystic Mountains disc was the whole reason I bought a 3D television – it is that Demo-worthy footage, with that 3D “Wow” factor I have been looking for, and the fact that I LOVED the subject matter (The Austrian Alps) just had the drool going for me for the entire 50 minutes of the show.

    That was a really wordy way of saying “Nothing this week”, but there are a couple on there that got me curious. However, they are on the back burner for now. Singing In The Rain ships next week, Star Trek the week after that, and I got to renew my Prime Account on Friday, so this is going to be an expensive month for me.

  2. motorheadache

    American Reunion is actually pretty good– I’d say it’s the best one since the original, and a much more satisfying “closer” than American Wedding. Stifler is less of a cartoon character in this one than the last as well.

    Hopefully Blade II actually comes out– I was lucky to snag the first and third movies at Frys for 8 bucks a pop. But I haven’t watched them yet because I was waiting for II to come out.

    • if you feel this way, i really REALLY hope you enjoy the review for Pie 4, or 8 if you’re into semantics and all that.

      as for blade 2, it’s out. i grabbed a copy at worst buy.

  3. EM

    I have Outland preordered. I wouldn’t call the movie silly, but I would say certain aspects are. In particular, the film’s signature cause of death—rapid decompression outside an Earth-normal atmosphere—is handled way, way over the top. But it’s not like those scenes happen every five minutes, nor is the film incorrect in presenting that sort of death as a legitimate danger—it’s just that the depiction itself is hyperdramatic. Otherwise, the film is a solid drama-thriller. And it’s fun, as Josh said.