Blu-ray Highlights: Week of July 20th, 2014 – Like OMG, For Realsies?

This is the sort of week where I have very little good to say about the new Blu-ray releases. Unfortunately, we’re going to hold a contest later today to give one of them away, so I should probably tone down my snark a little. Do you think I can manage it?

If I were you, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (7/22/14)?

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New Releases

Transcendence‘ – Johnny Depp remakes ‘The Lawnmower Man’ in the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister. The trailers looked… well, not very good, and the reviews were unkind. You’d think that cinematographers would make a natural transition to directing, but most who’ve attempted it have had mixed results at best. Barry Sonnenfeld is perhaps the most successful example, and even he’s made more turkeys than good movies.

Sabotage‘ – Prophetically titled, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest flop (his third in a row since returning to acting) may signal doom for his comeback attempt. In this action thriller directed by David Ayer (‘End of Watch’) and scripted by Skip Woods (‘A Good Day to Die Hard’), Arnold plays the head of a DEA task force targeted for revenge by a drug cartel. From what I hear, every other word in the screenplay is “fuck,” “fucking” or “motherfucker” – which is hack screenwriter shorthand to indicate what tough guys the characters must be. The fucking movie fucking looks fucking awful.

Heaven Is for Real‘ – A little boy has a near death experience. When he wakes up in the hospital, he tells his parents that he went to Heaven and saw Jesus riding a rainbow-colored unicorn. Everyone who hears his story takes the boy absolutely seriously and hails him as a prophet delivering incontrovertible proof of God’s existence. This really happened, and now there’s a movie about it, and I’m biting my tongue so hard as I write this that blood is streaming down my chin. I will refrain from further comment before I need stitches.

Dom Hemingway‘ – I quite enjoyed director Richard Shepard’s hitman comedy ‘The Matador‘, and was saddened when his new feature received a lot of vicious reviews. It was perhaps a mistake for an American director to attempt to make a British gangster movie. It probably didn’t help that Jude Law looks like a cartoon character, and the following publicity photo is a nauseatingly grotesque use of teal-and-orange. Fair or not, that alone puts me off the movie.

GMO OMG‘ – Farmers and ranchers have practiced genetic modification of crops and livestock for centuries by way of selective breeding and fertilization. Of course, as soon as modern science attempted to speed up the process, people absolutely freaked out about it. Now we have so-called “activist documentaries” like this one fanning the anti-science flames. I believe that there’s a real conversation to be had about genetic modification of our food, but I don’t trust an annoying hipster who fancies himself the Certified Organic Michael Moore to provide a balanced view on the issue.

Blue Ruin‘ – Indie revenge thriller starring no one you’ve ever heard of. Our reviewer Kevin says it’s worth a look.

The Single Moms Club‘ – Tyler Perry. Enough said. You already know whether you’re in his audience or not.

Catalog Titles

Speaking of oblique connections to Christopher Nolan (as I did above when talking about ‘Transcendence’), the Criterion Collection upgrades the original 1997 Norwegian thriller ‘Insomnia‘ (which Nolan later remade with Al Pacino) to high definition this week. Also available is a box set called ‘The Essential Jacques Demy‘, which compiles six of the French director’s features: ‘Lola’, ‘Bay of Angels’, ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’, ‘Donkey Skin’ and ‘Une Chambre en Ville’. ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ in high-def should be quite a treat.

It’s guilty pleasure time with the Canadian werewolf flick ‘Ginger Snaps‘ and the totally rad lovers-on-the-run ’80s epic ‘The Legend of Billie Jean‘.

As I recall, Park Chan-wook’s ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ wasn’t treated so well the last time it was released on Blu-ray. Tartan Video (via current distributor Kino) attempts to make up for that with an Ultimate Revenge Edition (is that really the best name they could come up with?) of the first movie, ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance‘. How much of an upgrade the disc will be, I don’t know.

Also from Kino are a pair of Billy Wilder classics: ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes‘ and ‘Witness for the Prosecution‘.

Television

Just about wrapped up with the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ restoration work, CBS Films gives some attention to the epic 1980 James Clavell miniseries ‘Shôgun‘, in which Richard Chamberlain beat Tom Cruise to the punch and became the first white samurai. Somehow, it seemed less ridiculous at the time.

I don’t have any must-buys this week, but both Criterions will go on my wish list for later. Does anything grab your attention this week?

36 comments

  1. Chris B

    Sigh….so I caved and ordered a few more Criterion discs to capitalize on the B&N sale….I’m weak. Among them is the new Insomnia release. I’ve never seen the original, but I really enjoyed the Nolan remake except for the casting of Robin Williams as the villain. Hopefully the original has someone more believably menacing as the bad guy…

    I’ll definitely be renting Dom Hemingway in the near future, the trailers were hilarious so hopefully I haven’t already seen the best jokes in the movie.

    I was interested in checking out Transcendance before it got destroyed by the critics….I’ll probably steer clear…everyone I know who’s seen it says it’s pretty brutal.

  2. William Henley

    There is nothing that is a must-buy for me. There are three I am mildly interested in.

    Heaven is for Real is probably a Redbox rental. I did not see it at the theater – while I have enjoyed a few of the other religion-based films that have come out this year, this one just did not really sound that interesting to me. I must say, though, I am silently laughing that this and Flatliners are released the same day, as they have a similar theme.

    Godzilla vs Megalon will probably get picked up soon. They are releasing Godzilla movies faster than I can watch them. I blind bought a couple of the 90s Godzilla releases because they are cheap, and ended up really liking them, so now I am picking up Godzilla movies left and right, as well as some of the other Japanese monster movie series. Call it a guilty pleasure.

    Speaking of guilty pleasures, I am a fan of the American Girl movies, although I am hesitant to pick up this one. The first three movies (which I think were made for television) were fantastic – like all three were 5 star films. Then Kitt came out, and that movie was like a 3 star film, then Clarissa, which was 4 star, but then McKenna was like a 2.5, then Saige was like a 1.5. It seems that the quality really went downhill when they went to DTV releases and started turning them out once a year. I may pick it up eventually, but if this one isn’t any better than Saige, I will probably stop after this one.

  3. Lord Bowler

    The only one I may pick up is Flatliners…

    Also, possibly Burt Lancaster’s The Scalphunters… as a blind buy.

    Transcendence and Sabotage are rentals for me.

  4. “Blue Ruin‘ – Indie revenge thriller starring no one you’ve ever heard of” … ah, come on, Josh!! Devin Ratray is one of the stars! Buzz from ‘Home Alone’! “Kevin!! What did you do to my room!?”, “A) … 2) … and D) We live on the most boring street …” (classic Buzz counting!), “But they do have nude beaches, right?”. Childhood nostalgia! He also played the boyfriend in ‘Dennis The Menace’.

    I thought ‘Flatliners’ already had a Blu-ray release by Sony, by the way.

    And ‘Made in America’ apparently isn’t the hilarious 1993 Ted Danson/Whoopi Goldberg movie I have seen many times while growing up. Starring Will Smith in one of his first roles!

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Flatliners was indeed previously released by Sony. Now it’s been licensed out to Mill Creek for the reissue. A number of Sony titles are getting reissued this way.

  5. Dave

    If you’re looking for The Legend of Billie Jean, check the $7.88 bin at Walmart. I saw it there this past weekend.

  6. Timcharger

    Josh: “I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

    How do you do that Josh? That amazing that you could hold my breath.
    🙂

    “I wouldn’t hold my breath”
    or
    “You shouldn’t hold your breath”
    or
    “Don’t hold your breath”

    Sincerely,
    Grammar Police

      • Timcharger

        Josh has the power to edit. We, comment posters, can’t.
        He edited his phrase to the proper usage.

        -Grammar Police.

      • Timcharger

        Plus saying one WOULDN’T implies that one believes that one CAN/COULD do it.

        I wouldn’t eat that
        implies
        that I could eat that.

        I wouldn’t hold your breath
        implies
        that I could hold your breath

          • Timcharger

            So you think “I wouldn’t hold your breath” is proper grammar,
            after Josh has made his correcting edit and his “Smart guy. :)”
            response?

            You are officially out of the Punctuation Patrol.

          • EM

            It’s a grammatically well-formed clause. The problem is that the negation implies a corresponding affirmative that runs afoul of an established idiom and of pragmatic considerations. But the impossibility or improbability or just plain falsehood of a scenario has no bearing on the grammaticality of a sentence describing it, and the sentence in question actually states a negation of the offending scenario anyway, hence my finding it quite credible.

          • timcharger

            Pointing out proper usage was my goal. (And doing so in a way
            with some humor).

            So, your goal was to point out “credibility”?!

            Will you then be quoting and pasting the other sentences that
            Josh also wrote to point out which other ones you find “credible”,
            too?

            Weird goal to have, isn’t it?

            —–

            Okay, let’s go with your goal. I don’t understand your motivation.
            But let’s examine what you did say.

            You saying the negation, [that Josh WOULDN’T do it]
            of an impossiblity (or improbability or plain falsehood) [that Josh could hold our breath]
            is credible.

            In sum, you stated: the negation of the impossible is true.

            -(-A) = A

            Thus, you pointed out something true by definition.
            It’s “indubitably” true.

            —–

            If there was reader who didn’t believe Josh; who thought Josh
            WOULD hold our breath; who thought Josh decieved us with
            lies that he wouldn’t hold our breath; if that reader existed…

            ..then yes, your comment has merit.

          • timcharger

            Em, I don’t post on your threads.

            You have tangled with me repeatedly on threads
            that I have addressed to other people.

            Clearly, you are educated, well read, but something
            doesn’t click and play nice between us.

            Perhaps, a person named Tim who was a Charger
            fan walked out of a bar with your girlfriend. I am not
            him. (I hope not.)

          • EM

            TiM, it seems I can and may post on this very public forum without the benefit of your invitation or approval, just as it seems you can proffer analyses and corrections without the benefit of being correct.

          • Timcharger

            “it seems you can proffer analyses and corrections without the benefit of being correct.”
            So says only you. You, the credibility-watcher.

            Try re-reading; it can help. Even with the “benefit of your invitation
            or approval”, I will not post on your threads. Keep posting on mine;
            I’ll be the highlight of your day.

            So you must believe I have caused you great offense in the past. I
            promise you that she didn’t tell me that she had a boyfriend. Plus,
            she wasn’t that loyal anyway. I did you a favor.

  7. Timcharger

    Josh: “Farmers and ranchers have practiced genetic modification of
    crops and livestock for centuries by way of selective breeding and
    fertilization.”

    Side note-
    “Selective breeding and fertilization” have occurred not for centuries,
    but for thousands and thousands of years.

    Main point-
    I’m no genetics expert, but I’m pretty sure a rancher selecting to
    keep his biggest, healthiest animal around to reproduce (selective
    breeding), or a farmer putting manure into the ground (fertilization);
    I’m pretty sure all that ISN’T the “genetic modification of crops and
    livestock” that is controversial.

    I, too like you Josh, “believe that there’s a real conversation to be
    had about genetic modification of our food.”

    But I’m sure it doesn’t begin with framing the conversation as
    science versus anti-science.

    I would bet it’s likely closer to: immediate economic profits versus
    long-term health effects.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Let’s look at dogs, for example. Many (most?) breeds of dog available today are man-made via deliberate cross-breeding to bring out certain traits from generation to generation. Golden Retrievers didn’t exist 300 years ago. They were invented in the 19th Century by Scottish fowl hunters who needed dogs that could fetch downed game from both land and water. So they crossed water spaniels with other breeds of retrievers until they made a dog that had the traits they wanted.

      That’s genetic modification. Golden Retrievers are GMOs.

      Farmers do the same thing with crops.

      The debate about GMOs doesn’t necessarily need to be about science vs. anti-science. However, the movie “GMO OMG” is specifically an anti-science documentary made by a dumbass hipster who’s more interested in putting himself in the spotlight as a public activist than about honestly discussing the issue.

      • Timcharger

        1) We aren’t eating dogs, right? Let’s agree on that first. 🙂
        (By the way, the dog I had growing up was a mongrel. So I’m on
        the mix-breed train.) It’s the consumption of the GMO food, that
        is the concern.

        2) I’m not defending the GMO OMG movie. You may certainly be
        correct about the director.

        3) There is a big, BIG difference between selective breeding for
        traits like hair length, fur color, body size, long/short snout, etc.
        versus
        genetically modifying a plant to be resistant to insecticide that is
        lethal to a million species of bugs. And owning both the patent
        to the insecticide and the seed.

        Let’s create complex poisons to kill off insects that adapted and
        survived for millions of years before us. And let’s genetically
        create food that is immune to those poisons, so we can use those
        poisons all over our food supply. This sounds like the plot of a
        sci-fi, horror movie, doesn’t it?

        Maybe we humans have perfectly done the genetic modifications
        and no bad health effects will occur. Maybe, I don’t know.

        But I do know this ISN’T like selectively breeding yellow dogs to
        create a cute, blonde Golden Retriever puppy. Bad analogy, Josh.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I stand by the analogy as sound. The point is that man has forced the adaptation of desirable species traits that would not have occurred on their own in nature. Whether that’s fur color on a dog or resistance to insecticide in plants are just different degrees of the same issue. And if you think the line is just drawn at “Well, we don’t EAT dogs,” the same type of cross-breeding has occurred in cattle and pigs and fowl for centuries.

          Yes, there are other legitimate issues to debate on this, including ethical issues, but this particular documentary isn’t a good starting point for that.

          • Timcharger

            Of course, you can’t back down and must stand by your analogy. This is the internet.

            It’s a pretty clear line to draw. Genetic resistance to complex insecticides that we humans manufactured to kill a million species of bugs is not a natural trait to plants.

            You want to selectively breed pigs that have bigger bacon parts. Go ahead, I don’t see any controversy.

            You want to genetically breed pigs that can re-grow a bacon butt like a lizard that lost its tail. Or create a Pegasus-like Golden Retrievers with wings. Count me out your experiments.

            Our GMO controversy is about introducing traits that are nowhere close to the natural traits of the plant. It’s NOT “different degrees of the same issue.”

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Agree to disagree. One form of modification is an evolution of the other.

            I’m not saying that I want pigs with wings, but most of the anti-GMO hysteria (including this documentary) is based on irrational fear of science, not actual scientifically repeatable testing and validation.

            I have a feeling that if scientists found a way to “turn off” some gene in humans that makes us prone to cancer, most people would probably be on board with that. But make a plant resistant to insecticide and “AAAHHHH, ye witches be doing the work of the Devil!!”

          • Timcharger

            Josh, it’s good that you have these opinions of yours.
            Otherwise, we wouldn’t have great blu-rays like Jurassic Park.
            Wasn’t the character in Jurassic Park, the owner of Ingen, was
            Josh Hammond, right? 🙂

          • Timcharger

            The reaction you have to:
            “pigs with wings”
            should be the same to
            “plants genetically immune to insecticide”.

            Both should give you the same sense of something’s not right.
            We might not want to go down that road, is the feeling to have.

            But you clearly aren’t alarmed by the creation of plants that are
            immune to insecticide. You aren’t concerned with why. Why do
            we need plants that can handle more insecticide sprayed onto
            them. Does that mean we will use more… noooo, let’s not think
            too many steps ahead.

            If we all had the same sensibilities, there wouldn’t be any great
            sci-fi, horror movies, would there?

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Most sci-fi horror movies are overtly anti-science at their core. I don’t rely on horror movies to provide rational views on scientific progress.

          • Timcharger

            You’ll find upon closer examination, they aren’t really
            anti-science. They are rather anti-bad-scientist. It’s
            usually plain old human greed. Pride, envy, lust are
            really at the core of those sci-fi, horror flicks. The
            misapplication of the science, not the science itself,
            is the culprit.

            I, too, “don’t rely on horror movies to provide rational
            views on scientific progress.” I’m hoping GMOs don’t
            become a horror movie.

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