Blu-ray Highlights for 7/12/11 – Return I Will to Old ‘Brazil’

Yes, it’s another slow summer week for new Blu-ray releases. Even the title I’ve most eagerly awaited appears to have arrived on the format in a compromised form. Will I be able to resist buying it anyway? Honestly, probably not.

Here’s the week’s release slate, including titles that street on Friday:

Terry Gilliam’s cult masterpiece ‘Brazil‘ is an amazing visual treat that deserves a great high-definition presentation. According to our reviewer E. (review linked above), Universal’s Blu-ray edition is pretty decent in the technical respects of video and audio, and a lot better than most Universal catalog titles. So what’s the problem? Unfortunately, the disc only includes the 132-minute theatrical cut, which was shorn of about ten minutes of footage as a hammered-out compromise during Gilliam’s legendary battle with studio head Sid Sheinberg, who hated the movie and tried to chop it to pieces. Until recently, I held out some hope that the disc might actually contain Gilliam’s preferred 142-minute cut, which Universal released on DVD in packaging that mistakenly listed the theatrical running time. However, it’s now confirmed that the Blu-ray is indeed the shorter cut.

The theatrical cut isn’t bad per se, but this is a case where more really is better. The Criterion Collection released the Director’s Cut on Laserdisc and DVD in splendid packages that offered hours upon hours of essential bonus features, including Sheinberg’s horribly butchered 94-minute TV cut of the film and the outstanding ‘Battle for Brazil’ documentary. None of that is present on this bare-bones Blu-ray.

Rumors have circulated that Criterion may eventually be able to port its content to Blu-ray. (The studio released a special edition of Gilliam’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘ on the format about a year after Universal’s standard release.) But nothing has been confirmed yet. I suspect that a lot of fans are going to wait this out and hope for Criterion to reach another arrangement with Universal. I may wind up breaking down and buying the theatrical cut to tide me over until then.

In other news, the week’s most appealing day-and-date title is probably ‘Rango‘, the animated comedy in which Johnny Depp plays a lizard who becomes a Wild West lawman by accident. The trailers looked delightfully weird, and word-of-mouth was strong during its theatrical release.

I have a hard time buying Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer. The last time he tried was the atrocious John Grisham adaptation ‘A Time to Kill‘, one of my most hated movies ever. He gives it another shot in ‘The Lincoln Lawyer‘, based on the very Grisham-like book from Michael Connelly. The movie didn’t do much business at the box office, but the reviews were surprisingly less scathing than expected. Still, my interest in this is pretty low.

This year’s remake of ‘Arthur‘ starring Russell Brand in the old Dudley Moore role looks terrible and was savaged by pretty much everyone who saw it. This is a big pass for me. I also can’t build up much enthusiasm for ‘Insidious‘, the latest horror concoction from the creators of the ‘Saw’ franchise.

On the other hand, the surreal Thai drama ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives‘ looks pretty interesting. The movie won top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but never made much traction on these shores. I’ll have to give this one a shot.

In guilty pleasure territory, Shout! Factory offers up two pivotal sci-fi cheesefests from the late 1970s/early ’80s, ‘Battle Beyond the Stars‘ and ‘Damnation Alley‘. Trivia note: a young James Cameron was responsible for the special effects and art direction on the former. I’m sure those goofy miniatures are going to look great in high def!

Finally, we come to the Criterion Collection’s only release of the week, Mike Leigh’s ‘Naked‘, the story of a possibly-schizophrenic drifter (David Thewlis) who obsesses over conspiracy theories and ruins the lives of everyone he comes in contact with. The film is uncharacteristically dark (very, very dark) and brutal for Leigh. Mrs. Z and I have a huge disagreement over this movie. I happen to think it’s excellent, but she finds the main character’s behavior too reprehensible.


  1. EM

    The Buster Keaton Short Films Collection is what interests me most from the list above. However, I’ll need to review a library or rental copy before making a purchase decision.

  2. i have never seen brazil. i remember when it came out it was a critics favorite but i was 12 at the time and just overlooked it.

    would love to go back and visit damnation alley.

  3. Tony

    I have Brazil coming on Netflix today. I haven’t seen it for several years, so hopefully this holds me over until the Criterion comes out.

  4. The only thing that sounds remotely good to me is Robot Chicken – and I am holding off on that to see just how much is on the disc – really don’t want to sink money into a 12-minute long show.

  5. Kevin

    Only ones I’m interested in are “Robot Chicken” and “Brazil” (which I haven’t seen, but based on comments on here and various other sites, I’m very curious to check out).

  6. Brandon Erwin

    I’m not a fan of the “Saw” movies outside of maybe the first and second one. “Insidious” though, felt like it should be played as a double feature next to “Drag Me To Hell.” While no where near as good, it had the same comedic over the top, almost Evil Dead-ish feel to it. Scary? Not at all in my opinion. Almost…Spoofy. I’d say check it out. Maybe with your low expectations you’ll like it a little more than you think?