Life 2017

Blu-ray Highlights: Week of June 18th, 2017 – Sweet, Too Short, Like a Box of Chocolates… Choose Your Own Pun

No exciting blockbusters on Blu-ray this week, sadly. The biggest release of the week was a box office bomb. The few interesting new discs available are arty or cult catalog titles.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (6/20/17)?

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New Releases

Life‘ – From the generic title, this could be either a big screen spinoff of the BBC nature documentary series, an adaptation of the classic children’s board game, or possibly a remake of a forgettable 1999 Eddie Murphy prison comedy. What it really turns out to be is a shameless ‘Alien’ knockoff in which a team of astronauts on board the International Space Station (Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada) discover the first confirmed extraterrestrial cellular lifeform, which quickly grows, mutates, and stalks and chases them through the station to eat them one by one. You’ve seen this before. We’ve all seen this before. I have at least one friend who claims that it’s a decently efficient B-movie, but critics were generally unimpressed and domestic audiences gave it a pass. The movie did better overseas, but not enough that you should expect a sequel. Hopefully the VFX and outer space scenes are eye candy enough to justify the Ultra HD edition.

Wilson‘ – Woody Harrelson stars as an crotchety misanthrope who struggles to reconnect with his ex-wife (Laura Dern) and form a relationship with a teenage daughter he only recently learned exists. Despite a screenplay adapted by author Daniel Clowes from his own graphic novel, reviews were mixed to negative, most comparing it unfavorably to the superior adaptation of Clowes’ ‘Ghost World‘ (just released on Blu-ray by Criterion last week).

Catalog Titles

Newly enshrined in the Criterion Collection is ‘The Marseille Trilogy‘, a trio of French movies from the 1930s by Marcel Pagnol, an author, playwright, and early auteur of the “talkies.”

Very nearly as acclaimed in the annals of film history is Richard Pryor’s 1976 comedy ‘Car Wash‘, now inducted into the pantheon of Shout! Factory’s esteemed Shout Select line.

Meanwhile, Scream Factory jacks into the web for the dopey Virtual Reality thriller ‘The Lawnmower Man‘, which was allegedly based on a short story by Stephen King that had nothing at all to do with computers or VR. (It’s about some sort of pagan god who murders people with a lawnmower.) The author was so offended that he sued to have his name removed from the movie’s marketing. This thing looked cheesy and dated even when it premiered in 1992. I can’t imagine watching it now, but our reviewer E. still enjoys it. I suppose, if ever there were a good excuse to watch a movie on an Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR, this might be the one to start with.

Also from Scream Factory are the 1966 British horror thriller ‘Island of Terror‘ and ‘The Paul Naschy Collection‘, which compiles five monster flicks from the European cult star.

Dario Argento’s directorial debut, the 1970 giallo thriller ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage‘, was previously released on Blu-ray twice before, first by Blue Underground in 2009 and then by VCI in 2013. Both discs received respectable reviews for the times they were issued. Nevertheless, Arrow Video gives the movie a third (and hopefully definitive) go-round, this time with a new 4k film scan and a host of exclusive bonus features.

Scorpion Releasing goes sleuthing with the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit mystery ‘Ten Little Indians‘.

The Warner Archive unearths the weird Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy ‘Joe Versus the Volcano‘. The film was not much of a critical or box office success when it was released in 1990, but Roger Ebert inexplicably adored it and the movie gained a cult audience over time. Personally, after watching it, I felt that chucking every existing copy into a volcano was the only suitable fate for it. (I had a similar reaction to playwright/screenwriter John Patrick Shanley’s ‘Moonstruck’, which won him an Oscar, so perhaps I just don’t get the guy’s sense of humor.)

From the product listing, Kino’s reissue of the Supermarionation double-feature ‘Thunderbirds Are Go/Thunderbird 6‘ appears to be a direct copy of the Twilight Time Blu-ray from 2014, just with new cover art. That’s good news if you missed out on that limited edition.

Other titles licensed by Kino include the 1986 crime drama ‘8 Million Ways to Die‘, which was the final feature film from ‘Harold and Maud’ director Hal Ashby (sadly, generally regarded one of his weakest efforts), and Julie Taymor’s filmed stage production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘.

Finally, Paramount bundles ‘Airplane!‘ and its lesser sequel into a 2-Movie Collection.

My $.02

I’m not much of a Dario Argento fan, but I have some passing interest in checking out ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’. If Kino bothers to send a screener for the ‘Thunderbirds’ double-feature, I’ll review it and compare to the Twilight Time copy. Otherwise, I’m content to save my money this week.

Do you see anything on the list this week that your life won’t be complete without?


  1. Bolo

    I have most of the films from Argento’s peak, but for some reason I never picked up ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage‘. I’m more partial to the middle of his career where he went totally nuts and developed his trademark surreal style of high-contrast lighting schemes and intense synth keyboards. His earlier is stuff is pretty good. He mostly just imitates Hitchcock, but does a decent job of it. I remember ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage‘ being a pretty enjoyable Hitchcock knock-off and maybe I’ll but this edition and revisit it.

    I’ve never seen ‘Car Wash’. I like ‘D.C. Cab’, and if it’s like that then I’ll probably enjoy it.

  2. Chris B

    Hey Josh, I noticed recently that StudioCanal in the UK has (recently?) released David Lynch’s “The Straight Story” on Blu ray. Are you planning on reviewing the disc at any time in the future?

    • Josh Zyber

      The only Straight Story Blu-ray I see on Amazon UK looks to be an import from Spain:

      If Studio Canal had actually put any work into the film, it seems pretty unlikely to me that they’d only release it in Spain and nowhere else.

      The Japanese import I reviewed a few years ago was licensed from Studio Canal and looked pretty poor, with a very dated transfer. This doesn’t seem like something I want to risk any money on right now.

      • Chris B

        My mistake, that’s the one I was referring to. I was just curious because doesn’t StudioCanal have a pretty good track record for A/V quality? I know their Melville stuff is on par with the Criterion releases here in N.A. I remember reading your review of that Japnese disc and how poor it looked. Was hoping with all the David Lynch fever swirling around maybe somebody had decided tp put out a decent blu ray of the movie.

        • Josh Zyber

          Studio Canal’s track record is all over the map. They’ve botched a number of alleged “restorations,” including The Man Who Fell to Earth recently.

  3. NJScorpio

    ‘Joe VS The Volcano’ is one of my personal favorites…it’s one of those movies where the whole is greater than all of the parts. It’s just a charming movie. I look forward to adding it my collection, but not for more than a few bucks.

  4. Darkmonk

    I didn’t see LIFE yet – but when you say “domestic audiences gave it a pass” -that means they never saw it. Which means their having “given it pass” is not a metric for it being bad, since they never saw it.

      • I loathed LIFE. I saw it as nothing more than a completely unoriginal ALIEN knock-off. If the cartography character who gets lost and the biologist character who decides to touch a space cobra in PROMETHEUS drove you crazy, wait until you see these dimwit characters and ridiculous decisions they make just to keep the movie moving forward. None of their actions are justified. It’s a messy B-movie that doesn’t actively try to be a B-movie until the last ten minutes.

  5. Csm101

    The Bird With the Crystal Plumage would be my most likely purchase this week. I already have the oop Blue Underground version, but this new transfer is intriguing. I would love it if some of Argento’s lesser known (or lesser loved) works to start getting the Arrow treatment as well. I’m willing to bet that Life will be plenty entertaining and I’m definitely going to Redbox it before purchase. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Carwash, but I’m kind of interested. I’m also not too familiar with Paul Naschy, but it seems like it’s in the realm of the stuff I like.

  6. Deaditelord

    I’m in for The Naked Gun: Trilogy Collection (not on the list, but should be out tomorrow), Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Big O: Complete Collection. Life I want to see first, but I may pick it on UHD if I like it.

    I’m also interested in the Joe Bonamassa release, but am debating picking it up. How good are concert sound mixes these days on blu-ray? Has the quality reached a point where a lossless audio track of a concert on blu-ray exceeds listening to it via CD or FLAC? I ask because the last time I watched a concert was back on DVD many years ago and I remember the 5.1 mix on it being dreadful.

  7. William Henley

    I may be weird, but I actually prefer Airplane 2, but just barely nudges its way out over the original for me – both are great. I think William Shatner is what did it for me.

    As for as what I am buying, it looks like Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon for me

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