Blu-ray Highlights: Week of June 1st, 2014 – Stay Gold, Ponyboy

    In this week’s new Blu-ray releases, 1950s greasers fight for your dollar against a bevy of undead challengers, including zombies, vampires, a Frankensteinian cyborg and even a resurrected holy man. Oh, and let’s throw in some cannibals too for good measure. If we could get all of these into one movie, imagine what a spectacle that would be!

    Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (6/3/14)?

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    New Releases

    RoboCop‘ – In the unending train of remakes that nobody asked for, the newly revamped, PG-13 ‘RoboCop’ was either the worst piece of crap ever or surprisingly tolerable, depending on whom you asked. Most everyone agreed that it’s unnecessary. After the box office failure of both this and the 2012 ‘Total Recall’, the take-away lesson for Hollywood is to stop messing with Paul Verhoeven classics.

    Son of God‘ – As I understand it, this is just an edited-down version of last year’s ‘The Bible‘ miniseries reduced to feature length in order to bilk the faithful into paying movie theater prices for something they’d already watched for free on television. The ploy apparently worked, and the condensed version pulled in some decent coin, all of which will be used to line the pockets of Capitalist fat-cat Mark Burnett. Jesus would be so proud. As you may recall, this is the painstakingly historically accurate adaptation of the text, which features a white Jesus, ninjas, and a Satan who looks exactly like President Obama.

    Lone Survivor‘ – As the producer of quality TV shows like ‘Friday Night Lights’, Peter Berg has had a pretty interesting career. As a feature film director, on the other hand, he’s churned out a lot of garbage like ‘Hancock’ and ‘Battleship’. With this true-story military adventure tale, Berg made a bid for Oscar glory, only to get ignored by the Academy. While some critics praised the film’s grittiness, others labeled it jingoistic claptrap.

    Catalog Titles

    Although MGM previously released Sergio Leone’s ‘Man with No Name Trilogy‘ on Blu-ray, the discs suffered some quality issues, especially the notoriously poor video transfer for ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. With the new reissue, the studio attempts to rectify that with a new 4k remaster of that particular film. However, be aware that ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’ have not been remastered and are the same transfers used before. Fortunately, those two were nowhere near as bad as ‘The Ugly’ and are at least watchable. I wish MGM had made the extra effort to provide the original, tighter and more focused theatrical cut of the last film rather than the bloated extended version, but I’ll take an upgrade however I can get one. I hope it doesn’t take long for the three movies to be broken out to separate releases so that I don’t have to rebuy the other two.

    Speaking of movies no longer available in their original versions, Francis Ford Coppola re-edited his 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s ‘The Outsiders‘ in 2005 to create a longer alternate cut called ‘The Complete Novel’, purportedly to make the film more faithful to the book. Unlike his revision of ‘Apocalypse Now’, the original theatrical cut has since been suppressed. That’s a shame, as I’d prefer to see both. In any case, the movie featured a bevy of young talent just on the cusp of stardom, including Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane and more.

    I have long been a defender of Oliver Stone’s misunderstood historical epic ‘Alexander‘. It’s a flawed film, but a fascinating one. Even I have to admit, however, that Stone’s attempts to fix the movie with a “Director’s Cut” followed by a (not-so-final) “Final Cut” only served to compound its problems and actually make it worse. Given great latitude by Warner Bros., Stone gives it one more shot with a so-called “Ultimate Cut.” Is this really his final word on the subject? I have no idea, but I’ll be among the few willing to give him the benefit of the doubt one more time.

    In addition to that, Warner is also taking it on faith that there are still enough Jerry Lewis fans in the world to justify an oversized Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set of his goofy comedy… I hesitate to use the word “classic,” but fans might… ‘The Nutty Professor‘. Lewis has always been one of those comedians who you either “get” or you don’t, and sadly I just really don’t. At all.

    In a similar but more modern vein is Ben Stiller’s parody of the inanities of the modeling world, ‘Zoolander‘. As I recall, the comedy gave me one truly hearty laugh with the surreally hilarious “Gasoline Fight” sequence. The rest of it, though… Eh, there are already so many genuinely stupid movies in the world that I don’t see the point of trying so hard to pretend to be stupid.

    The recent death of director Antonia Bird may have prompted Scream Factory to license her cult cannibal thriller ‘Ravenous‘ from Fox. Unfortunately, early word is that the master Fox provided is dreadful and looks like a standard-def upconvert. It seems doubtful that a movie with this limited a following will receive a better reissue in the future, but stranger things have happened.


    In preparation for the impending final season, HBO offers the sixth season of ‘True Blood‘. I still like the show and will see it through to the end, but it lost its luster a while back and I can’t bring myself to collect past seasons.

    Also on the TV docket are the third season of ‘Falling Skies‘, plus reissues of ‘Breaking Bad‘ (complete series) and ‘The Walking Dead‘ (Seasons 1-3) in more compact packaging.

    Due to my own personal lack of interest, I neglected to highlight some other marginal titles like ‘The Birdcage’, ‘The Break-Up’ or ‘You, Me and Dupree’. I suppose even those have their fans.

    What grabs your attention this week?


  1. William Henley

    Son of God is actually an extended version of The Bible. I think the Jesus story in The Bible was only like an hour long out of the miniseries (it may have been a two parter, I cannot remember, but I think it was just a one parter). The movie plays much better than the series did. I wouldn’t call it painstakingly accurate, but it certainly is more enjoyable to watch than other movies based on the life of Jesus. I think the fact that it isn’t taken word for word out King James and the fact that the actor doesn’t think that he is receiting Shakesphere really help in the enjoyability. The CGI is awful, though. It is 2014, why can’t we render our CG in high-res?

    I enjoyed Robocop, but I really never cared for the original. I don’t like it enough to buy it, though – it is one of those movies that I may catch one day on cable, but I am not going to pay to pick it up. Unless it ever falls into the sub-$10 bin at WalMart.

    I also chose other. The new Sleeping Beauty disc is available this week in Europe (those of us in the US have to wait a few months for the domestic release). Importing the UK version is cheaper than the American version, so I picked it up. Should have it in a few days.

  2. Chris B

    Stoked to see what the new transfer of TGTBTU looks like, day one purchase for me!

    Saw Lone Survivor back in theatres, great movie but super emotionally draining, not sure it has much of a replay value for me.

    Gonna rent the new Robocop, like William I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about with the original…I’ll give the remake a chance anyways.

    Although I’ve heard much about Alexander over the years, I’ve never seen the film. Josh, as a fan what version do you recommend someone should watch for the frst time?

    • Josh Zyber

      I have not seen the Ultimate Cut of Alexander yet. Of the three previous versions, I prefer the original theatrical cut, which tells the story in a linear format from his youth to death. For the other versions, Stone jumbled up the order of scenes to make the film more “Oliver Stone-ian.” Both are very confusingly disorganized with flasbacks and flashforwards and flashbacks within flashforwards within flashbacks. It’s totally confusing and ruins both the character’s development and Colin Farrell’s (already fragile) performance.

      Keep in mind that I’m in a minority for liking any version of the film at all.

      • Chris B

        I hear ya, I think everybody (myself included) has at least 1 or 2 movies they really like or love that 90% of the population thinks are crap! Haha I’ll watch the theatrical cut with an open mind and if I like it enough maybe I’ll check out some of the alternate versions down the road.

        Although, with the exception of Blade Runner, I’m not sure if I can think of a single film that has benefited (greatly or marginally) from a director going back and tinkering with it years later…

        • Josh Zyber

          The Final Cut of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is the best version of that movie.

          The Director’s Cut of Legend is also far superior to the theatrical cut (though still not a very good movie). Likewise, the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven takes a pretty lousy movie and makes it fairly decent. (Too bad Scott can’t retroactively replace Orlando Bloom.)

          Not a lot of others are jumping to the top of my head, though.

          • Chris B

            Basically,Ridley Scott needs a couple tries to get it right.

            I guess Heaven’s gate could qualify, though most people think that’s a crap movie in any incarnation.

            One thing I have noticed is the European cut of a lot of movies tend to be better. If someone has only seen the North American version of The Professional for example, they’re missing out big time. It seems like North American audiences aren’t given very much credit by the studios…

          • Josh Zyber

            The long version of Heaven’s Gate is actually the original cut. After a brief run in New York where it received scathing reviews, the film was yanked by United Artists and edited down to a shorter running time. Unfortunately, the shorter version took a ponderous movie and made it incoherent, and thus received even worse reviews and word of mouth.

          • William Henley

            Josh may beat me down, but I like the extended cut of Dune – although it was not sanctioned by the director, so that is not really the director tinkering with it.

            The Richard Donner cut of Superman 2 is also brilliant – although he was cut as director when he had already filmed roughly 85% of the movie. I find this version superior to the original.

            All three Lord of the Rings movies benefitted from the extended versions.

            Star Trek: The Motion Picture is much better in its Director’s Cut format

            Sin City
            Terminator 2: Judgement Day (although there is nothing wrong with the theatrical release)
            Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind

    • There’s a website called capsaholic that has screen grabs. The detail is amazing, but it looks a little orangy/tealy. I’m still curious to see on my tv, but I’ll hold out for a single release.

      • Chris B

        Jesus, it looks yellow as hell! Now I’m worried, I’ve been stoked about this release for months. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be an even bigger dissapointment than Godzilla! *shudders* Josh, any idea when we can expect a review?

          • Chris B

            It also looks like the dark areas are really heavy…like the shadows and sideburns in Eastwood’s face look way to dark…at least to me anyways.

          • Chris B

            At any rate, like they always say, screenshots alone aren’t a totally accurate depiction of what watching the movie will be like….I’ll reserve judgement

        • I’m still excited to see it in action, I would love to know how they come up with the decisions on the color timing. Anyways, if you get it, give us your thoughts.

          • Chris Bennett

            So, I just spent the last hour on that caps-a-holic site going back and forth between the new master and the Italian release, and my initial dismay may have been unfounded. Detail is definitely far better on the new MGM disc hands down. As far as the color timing goes, although it was sort of off-putting at first, when you look at how much more appealing some of the nighttime shots are with their increased clarity, and how the intense yellows give the desert shots a heightened sense of how hot it must really have been, It could turn out to be a far better improvement than I initially thought. Looking at the two side-by-side it sort of seems like the palette on the Italian release was too cool to begin with, and maybe what seems like an over-abundance of yellows on the new disc is merely a correction of past mistakes. I’m picking it up tomorrow after work….I’ll let ya know how it looks during an actual sit-down viewing.

          • Chris B

            I’ll concede that The Donner cut of Superman 2 is the better movie, but I never cared for Dune or ST:TMP in any version.

            I wasn’t aware that Sin City had a dirctor’s cut different from the theatrical version…what footage did they add?

            I agree that Aliens is better as a DC though, it’s a more complete story, Terminator 2 I thought was ok in the extended version but it wasn’t really nccessary.

            I’m guessing based on your statement that all the LOTR films were better as extended editions that you’re a big middle earth fan. I think those editions cater to some pretty die-hard Tolkien addicts as opposed to casual movie-goers or even film buffs in general. I mean shit, I watched Return of the King in it’s theatrical cut of nearly four hours, and the last thing I was thinking at the end was “Gee, that was a good movie…I just wish it were longer!” Haha.

            But yeah like I said, you mentioned a few that I had forgotten about….

          • Chris B

            Im about 2/3rds of the way through the new master of TGTBTU so I think I can give a pretty accurate description of my impression.

            First of all, thr color timing looks indeed too yellow to my eyes, I feel like they did go overboard a bit in that respect. However, I managed to remedy this issue pretty quick by changing the color preset on my TV from warm2 down to warm1, which looks like a far more
            Balanced picture and much more pleasing to my eyes.

            The good news is detail is pretty fantastic! Especially the close-ups of the actor’s faces as well as interior shots are remarkably well defined. I’d say the least impressive shots are actually the long ones of the desert and various landscapes (although they still look pretty damn good). Shadows aren’t nearly as heavy as I feared and look nicely balanced, it’s also obvious they listened to all the DNR haters that were so dissapointed with the last release. Much of the grain remains intact and like I said the faces are rich with detail and don’t have that unnappealing “waxy” look.

            All in all, I’m pretty happy with the transfer. It ain’t perfect and is a tad warm…but it’s the best this movie has ever looked on a home video format. I’d give the PQ 4/5. Hope this helps! I’d be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on this….

          • Josh Zyber

            Allegedly, the Italian restoration team referenced Technicolor prints of the film and consulted the Assistant Cameraman on the color timing. That’s still no guarantee that the colors on the new Blu-ray are actually correct, unfortunately.

          • Chris B

            Yeah hopefully it isn’t too long, MGM sure is milking this trilogy for all it’s worth. When the clerk at the store rang it up it was over 40 bucks for the trilogy and I was like “40 bucks?! These movies are like 50 goddamn years old!” Haha

  3. You sound like me, Josh…I still watch TRUE BLOOD, but I haven’t bought a Blu-ray season since Season 4, and only bought seasons 3 and 4 because they were under $25.

    I believe Obama…err, Satan…was deleted from the SON OF GOD movie. It’s also supposed to have footage that didn’t air on TV. Like maybe Jesus voting disciples out of the fellowship or something “Judas, the tribe has spoken…it’s time for you to go.”

    I’m on the fence about RoboCop, but may just rent it first and if I like it, wait for it to drop in price.

  4. Lord Bowler

    I’ve already pre-ordered RoboCop (2014). This isn’t as good as the original, but I enjoyed the new take on the story. Also, I really like the Samuel L. Jackson News casts in place of the commercials in the original RoboCop.

    ‘Lone Survivor’ (Universal) – Great Movie of an amazing real-life story!

    ‘Falling Skies: The Complete Third Season’ (Warner Brothers) – Not the greatest show, but a pretty good alien invasion show with some really good twists in the story!

    I didn’t select the three-pack Walking Dead because I already have Seasons 1 and 2. Will be picking up Season 3 and 4 soon.

  5. Ah, ‘Ravenous’. It’s the favourite movie of one of Plissken99, one of HighDefDigest’s prolific forum members. He even has a Ravenous avatar.

    I have never seen the movie, though.

    • Chris B

      I remember watching at a friends birthday party when I was about 14 or 15 and we all thought it was awesome. However, we all think a lot of things are awesome at that age before we realize they actually suck. I’m worried this will be the case with Ravenous. I’ll probably still give it a rent though, at the very least for old time’s sake 🙂

      • Ravenous is still awesome. Actually, I love it more with every viewing, but everyone has their own tastes. The bluray is pretty disappointing as far as picture goes, but at least it isn’t a tiny little window inside my widescreen tv anymore. A very slight upgrade from the DVD. There are a few scattered scenes that made me see the potential for a great looking movie, but were very few and far between. The Jeffrey Jones interview is awesome. I love the reversible cover with the original onesheet art. Maybe in another 15 years we’ll get a stellar remaster…

        • Chris B

          Yeah what the hell is with those aspect ratios on some older dvds? It makes the movie practically unwatchable. Maybe I’ll give Ravenous a spin this weekend….Speaking of remasters, I double checked the features on TGTBTU disc and yup…just the same ones from 2004 unfortunately , nothing about the new transfer. However, I watched the last hour of the film last night and I’d like to bump up my previous rating to 4.5/5. It really does look phenomenal for it’s age, detail is off the charts…,it blows all other versions out of the water. I’ve read a few negative reviews on amazon that call it “horrendous” and “utter garbage”. That’s nonsense…it’s a fantastic picture for a fantastic movie. Period.

  6. Drew

    Does anybody know when the Barnes and Noble Criterion sale is going to start? It seems like I’ve been waiting for longer than usual.

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