This week may only bring a small volume of new Blu-ray releases, but packed within the short list of titles are some real standouts. Maybe not everything is awesome, but at least a few things could be.
‘The Lego Movie‘ – What might have been little more than a crass merchandising tie-in blossomed into one of the best-reviewed movies of the year and a (no pun intended) blockbuster hit. You can thank Chris Miller and Phil Lord, masterminds behind the ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and ’21 Jump Street’ franchises, for that. The Blu-ray is available in either a standard 2D release or a more expensive (and bulkier) “Everything Is Awesome Edition” box set that comes packaged with a Lego minifig and other physical swag. The latter is the only way to get the movie in 3D, unless you import from overseas. The 3D disc can be purchased from Amazon UK in a standard keepcase for less money. (I’m quite surprised that no retailers have offered a SteelBook edition yet.)
‘The Grand Budapest Hotel‘ – I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get to see Wes Anderson’s latest visual extravaganza on the big screen, but I’ve had too much going on in my life this year to get out to the theater. I hear this is one of his best. The movie has an alternating aspect ratio gimmick that I fear will not be optimized for Constant Image Height playback on Blu-ray. Anderson fans should also be a little wary of buying this Blu-ray from Fox since we all know that a Criterion Collection version will follow eventually.
‘Joe‘ – This little slice-of-life drama was publicized as a redemptive role for Nicolas Cage, and proof that the troubled star can still deliver a decent performance when called to. It was also hailed as a return-to-form for director David Gordon Green, who sacrificed the indie cred of his early efforts such as ‘George Washington’ and ‘All the Real Girls’ for Hollywood paydays churning out terrible comedies like ‘Your Highness’ and ‘The Sitter’. As much as I might like to give both men the benefit of the doubt, I’ll probably wait for this to show up on cable.
‘Ernest & Celestine‘ – An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature this year, the story of an odd friendship between a bear and a mouse is drawn in a very charming watercolor style. The Blu-ray has both the original French soundtrack (with English subtitles) and the English dub populated with celebrity voices (Forest Whitaker, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy and others). While both have been encoded in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio format, it appears that the dub has been prioritized with a full 5.1 track while the French original has been relegated to stereo.
‘Walk of Shame‘ – Appropriately titled, the Elizabeth Banks comedy was both terribly reviewed and a box office bomb. To rub salt in the wound, Banks was even sued for allegedly lifting portions of the screenplay from another script. (Lawsuits like this are common in Hollywood and typically meritless. Banks was neither a writer nor a producer on the film.) The actress sure does look good in the yellow dress featured in the poster art, though. That’s something, right?
The Criterion Collection has a big week with three new high-def releases: Peter Weir’s enigmatic masterpiece ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock‘, Georges Franju’s cool French caper ‘Judex‘, and the Oscar-winning (yet incredibly divisive) Vietnam War documentary ‘Hearts and Minds‘.
Do not take this as an endorsement, but I feel compelled to point out that this week’s listing for ‘Almost Human‘ is not the recently-canceled sci-fi TV series about Karl Urban and a robot. This one is a schlocky alien abduction thriller about which I’ve heard nothing positive.
Don’t subscribe to Netflix? No worries. So long as you’re patient, you can still catch up with Kevin Spacey’s acclaimed political drama ‘House of Cards‘. The second season is now available on Blu-ray.
I’m really tempted to import the 3D version of ‘The Lego Movie’ from the UK, but I have a nagging feeling that a SteelBook will turn up somewhere eventually. I may need to wait for that and rent the movie in the meantime. Likewise, I will probably wait for the inevitable Criterion edition of ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’.
‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, on the other hand, is a must-own for me. The other two Criterions are pretty appealing as well.
What floats your boat this week?