Blu-ray Highlights for July 24th, 2012 – To Boldly Split That Infinitive

At least in my opinion, it’s rare that a TV box set would be the best Blu-ray release of the week. Perhaps that’s because I stopped collecting TV shows when I realized that I never made time to rewatch all the episodes. Some series deserve a special exception, however.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (7/24/12)?

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We got a taste of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘ on Blu-ray with that sampler disc earlier this year. The restoration of this series into high definition took an unprecedented amount of work, and the results looked stunning. Now, finally, CBS and Paramount offer up a box set of the show’s complete first season in similar quality, packed with interesting bonus features. While the first season may be one of the show’s weakest (the series didn’t really find its footing until Season 3), this was clearly the start of something special. Trekkies need to jump on this right away.

After decades playing Frasier Crane on TV, it took Kelsey Grammer a while to break that typecasting and find another successful role. He seems to have finally done that with the political drama ‘Boss‘. Because I don’t subscribe to the Starz network, I’ve never caught any episodes of this. Are any fans reading today? Fill me in on what I’m missing.

New Releases

Indie darling Elizabeth Olsen tries to go mainstream with the supernatural thriller ‘Silent House‘. A remake of an Uruguayan film (color me surprised that Uruguay has a film industry) and made by the directors of ‘Open Water’, the entire 85-minute movie was shot in one unbroken take (or seamlessly edited to appear that way). Unsurprisingly, most reviews called this a gimmick movie with little to recommend aside from Olsen’s performance.

I often wonder how Eddie Murphy still gets work. Do his movies still make money? Who goes to see them? Don’t get me wrong, I think the guy is talented when he puts his mind to something. (He was by far the best part of the ho-hum musical ‘Dreamgirls’.) Sadly, he rarely puts that much effort into anything these days. Murphy’s latest paycheck comes in the form of the slapstick farce ‘A Thousand Words‘. While the trailers for this didn’t look anywhere near as horrid as, say, ‘Norbit’ or any of his godawful Klumps movies, nothing could ever convince me to watch this on purpose.

The UK drama ‘The Deep Blue Sea‘ does not – I repeat, NOT – feature any scenes where super sharks bite Samuel Jackson in half. If you’ve instantly filled with disappointment upon my saying that, this British period piece romance from director Terence Davies (‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’) is probably not for you anyway. Consider yourself warned.

The independent scene also brings us the audience-pleasing documentary ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi‘ and the Israeli family drama ‘Footnote‘. Both have received a fair amount of acclaim.

Arty Stuff

Did you realize that Whit Stillman had a new movie in theaters this year? It was called ‘Damsels in Distress’, and was all the buzz among the New York intelligentsia for about 30 seconds before disappearing in a blink everywhere else. The director’s semi-return from obscurity has prompted the Criterion Collection to issue two of his previous movies on Blu-ray: ‘Metropolitan‘ and ‘The Last Days of Disco‘. While I haven’t seen either of these, Mrs. Z and I saw his ‘Barcelona’ back in 1994, and were not fans. I swear, it felt like we were trapped in that theater for 101 years, not 101 minutes. Needless to say, I can’t get overly excited about these. Still, a part of me feels that I should give the director a second chance. There must be some reason that people like him, right?

If Stillman’s films are too linear and narratively coherent for your particular tastes, try British director Derek Jarman’s 1988 surreal political nighmare ‘The Last of England‘, starring Tilda Swinton before anyone knew who she was. Jarman was never a mainstream-friendly filmmaker. To call his films “challenging” is an understatement, but they’re rich with meaning if you put the effort into exploring their complexities. I’m not sure how much benefit there is to watching this one on Blu-ray, however, given that a lot of it was shot on 8mm film.

Guilty Pleasures

John Frankenheimer was indisputably a talented filmmaker. He directed ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, ferchrissakes. Sadly, his later years suffered a series of misfires, perhaps the worst of which was his 1996 adaptation of ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau‘ starring Marlon Brando. The movie’s production was famously troubled. Frankenheimer stepped in just four days before the start of shooting after the studio fired ‘Hardware’ director Richard Stanley. Brando’s oddball behavior and complete indifference to anything that might be called “acting” drove everyone nuts. The finished product is an embarrassingly jumbled mess, to put it lightly. And yet, in its awfulness, there’s something perversely mesmerizing about the film, which is certainly one of the strangest things to ever come out of a major studio. I don’t think I can recommend buying this blindly, but someone out there might want to rewatch it.

I used to be friends with a guy who insisted that the superhero spoof ‘Mystery Men‘ was a hilarious and underrated gem. I watched it at his recommendation. As I recall, I laughed once. You’ll note that I said I “used to” be friends with him. Still, the movie seems to have a cult following who will no doubt appreciate the Blu-ray’s upgrade from the crappy non-anamorphic letterbox DVD they’ve been stuck with until now.

I’m certainly down for ‘Star Trek’ this week. That’s probably the limit of what I plan to spend, though. How about you?


  1. Josh, ‘Boss’ is really quite good. At times it feels like Starz is trying to insert as much risque material as possible (see: ‘Spartacus’), but Kelsey Grammer’s performance is something to see.

  2. William Henley

    Star Trek, hands down! I will probably pick it up Friday. I hope those $59 sales from Best Buy and Amazon are good all week, and not just for today.

  3. JM

    Elizabeth Olsen has half the talent of her twin sisters duct taped together.

    ‘Boss’ is on the Q because of Aaron’s review, though I remember him hating it when it was on tv, for being too unpleasant. Maybe it got better?

    ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau‘ is the greatest movie ever made. I credit Val Kilmer’s blue arm band, and Marlon Brando’s ice bucket hat.

    • William Henley

      half the talent of her twin sisters duct taped together

      So are you saying she is as talented as one of her sisters, or just that neither of the Olsen Twins has any talent on their own? 🙂

      Also, I think I would pay good money to see Mary Kate and Ashley duct-taped together. They seriously need to get out of the kiddie movie arena.

    • ‘Boss’ was better the second time around actually.

      And I don’t think I said I hated it, but I did feel that it had the Starz desperation about it which is let’s try to out-sex everyone. I don’t think overt sexuality is bad at all (I love ‘Game of Thrones’) It just feels like a desperate move on shows like ‘Spartacus.’ However, ‘Boss’ balances unrealistic, sensual sexuality with a blistering political bent. Good stuff.

  4. Shannon Nutt

    I was planning on skipping STAR TREK until prices went down, but when it hit $60, I took the dive. I’m still keeping my other seasons on DVD until I’m sure Paramount is doing all seven seasons…I’m not totally convinced yet they will (despite promises).

    • JoeRo

      While I’d love to allay your fears about the complete release of TNG on blu ray I can’t honestly do that. BUT! Watching some of the special features on the set reveals some completed scenes from later seasons, including episodes from season seven. Also the sampler disc Star Trek: TNG the Next Level includes season five favorite “The Inner Light”. While these latter day TNG developments aren’t guarantees, it does appear that the fine folks behind this remastering project are going out of their way to reassure fans that all seven seasons will see the HD treatment.

      FYI, the Okudas are both working hard to ensure these episodes achieve the highest level of audio visual quality while remaining true to the original on air run. I honestly can’t imagine this project being in better hands.

  5. EM

    TNG is preordered. I wonder if we’ll be able to get all the other seasons as cheaply as $60. If so, I’m in. When the season sets on DVD were new, one was hard-pressed to find them at much less than a hundred bucks. I didn’t complete the series until I found some of the seasons at bargain prices like this.

    • EM

      And by the way, Josh…as season five’s “Cause and Effect” showed, to boldly split an infinitive is perfectly compatible with Grammer.

    • William Henley

      I am wondering if they are going to be in HD on Netflix and Amazon. Netflix streams TOS and the animated series in HD (well, Enterprise too for that matter, but it was edited in HD to begin with), so I am wondering if they will get TNG.

      I am with you, though, at $60 a season, I will gladly pick them all up. However, that is like the upper pricerange that I can get them at – any higher than that, and I will have to wait for a lightning deal or deal of the week or something.

      • EM

        Wait…Paramount’s got the animated series in HD already but hasn’t released it to Blu-ray?!? I hope to high Sto-vo-kor that the plan calls for a release shortly after TNG is done.

        • William Henley

          Yes, its in HD. That being said, it is still 70s style animation and paint and crappy film stock. So even though my understanding is that they went back to the original film negatives, it really doesn’t look that much better than a DVD upconvert.

          There is also in season 2 of TOS on Blu-Ray the Tribbles episode that is in HD. If you have that, you can see the quality.

          The DS9 episode on the same disc is an upconvert.

          • EM

            While it can be enjoyable to look at a painting from across the room, I also like to get close and examine individual brushstrokes, flaws and all. That was part of the fun of the original-series BDs in the first place: viewing a work of film and video as though it were being re-staged as live theater using the same makeups, props, costumes, and sets, with all the benefits and risks that that re-staging implies.

          • William Henley

            I can see this. While I am picking up season 1 of TNG on Friday, I watched Farpoint again on the sampler disc last night, and was actually doing stuff like looking at details in the background, noticing how much Worf’s makeup changed just in that one episode (in a few scenes, its like you can actually see the edge of the rubber or silicon or whatever they were using), the detail in Troi’s head piece, etc.

    • Mike Attebery

      Denied. Apparently the delivery guy didn’t deliver it, because he didn’t think pressing the call button next to the name “Attebery” would be a good way to deliver a package to someone with the last name “Attebery.” Irritating.

  6. JoeRo

    Stark Trek Season One is amazing on Blu Ray. Slowly working my way through season one right now (current episode the laughably terrible “Justice”). A pleasant surprise, these discs don’t contain any java so you can actually stop/power down your player and resume without any headaches. Good stuff. I hope this kind of no-frills authoring becomes a trend that other IPs pick up on.

    Despite the fact that season one is arguably the worst season of the entire series there are quite a few good episodes throughout, and even the bad ones lay the groundwork for things to come (the genesis of Data’s preoccupation with Sherlock Holmes, the introduction of cheesey pulp character Dixon Hill, and let’s not forget perennial pain in the ass Q). I’m absolutely blown away by the visual presentation on this set, and thoroughly looking forward to subsequent seasons.

    • EM

      What Next Gen’s later seasons have over the first couple is primarily a decrease in campiness and an increase in consistency. It’s in the later seasons where you are more likely to find the best production values, better-defined regular and recurring characters, and the general sense that this really could be an actual functioning spaceship in an actual functioning universe. But those comforts, while they often result in a greater quantity of watchable episodes, don’t necessarily result in a greater quantity of compelling episodes. That’s why I was slow to complete my TNG DVD collection: my purchase decisions are about the individual episodes, not some average or mean timbre, and I found $100 to be a high asking price for a collection that had maybe 3 excellent episodes amid 23 others that were largely comfortable but did not compel much repeat viewing. Earlier episodes are more raw—and some are absolute clunkers, just as some in later seasons are—but some of those earlier episodes are also more vital and challenging and thought-provoking. Many episodes of later seasons are like Data’s poetry: they exhibit fine craftsmanship, even cleverness, but they lack an essential spark.

  7. William Henley

    Glad to hear about the no Java! That is so welcomed!

    You know, I was actually poking around the review on, and they actually touched on several episodes, ones that I thought were seasons 3 and later. I am actually surprised to see that Hide and Q, Datalore, The Long Goodbye, and the episode with the Binaries were all season 1 episodes. I really and truely thought all of those were much later in the series.