In a year inundated with them, one of Disney’s live-action remakes didn’t quite live up to expectations. Will the movie have a better shelf life on home video? That’s one question raised by this week’s new Blu-ray and Ultra HD releases.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Dumbo – Tim Burton, whose live-action Alice in Wonderland was a huge hit for the studio, returned to Disney to helm a mega-budgeted remake of the decidedly modest animated classic about an adorable flying elephant. Audiences were a lot less receptive to this one. The movie failed to gross the $500 million it needed to break even. Critics were pretty hard on it as well, acknowledging Burton’s visual flair while bemoaning the storytelling and a lack of emotional involvement.
The Aftermath – Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Jason Clarke star in a love triangle period drama set during the early days of reconstruction in Germany following World War II. A movie like this lives or dies based on the strength of its reviews, and unfortunately critics found it to be very dull. The picture did negligible business.
Transit – Also WWII themed is a film from German director Christian Petzold (2014’s Phoenix) about a man whose attempts to flee occupied France are complicated when he falls in love with the wife of another man whose identity he has assumed. The filmmaker adds a bit of a metaphysical twist to this story that seems very much to be set in the 1940s (and is based on a novel published in 1942) by telling it, visually, in what appears to be the modern day with anachronistic settings, costumes, and other environmental details. The effect dislodges the story from time and forces viewers to question how much the world has really changed. Much better received than The Aftermath, this movie played very well at festivals and was praised by reviewers.
Dumbo flies onto the Ultra HD format with a SteelBook at Best Buy or a Target exclusive that comes with an art gallery book.
Paired with that, Disney also upgrades Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 Cinderella remake to 4k. Best Buy has another SteelBook.
If you prefer the 1950 animated version of Cinderella (and, frankly, who wouldn’t?), Disney reissues that movie as part of its Signature Collection line. Again, look for a Best Buy SteelBook or a Target exclusive with a book. And if you’re really a Cinderella fanatic, members of the Disney Movie Club get exclusive access to a double-feature of its two direct-to-video animated sequels.
The Criterion Collection closes out Pride Month with John Cameron Mitchell’s gender-defiant punk musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
If you’re looking for something a little more classical in form, Criterion’s other offering this month is the 1966 adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, a mammoth 7-hour epic from the Soviet Union that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar even at the height of the Cold War.
From the Warner Archive comes Gaslight, George Cukor’s 1944 noir about a woman (Ingrid Bergman) whose devious husband (Charles Boyer) enacts an elaborate ruse to convince her that she’s going crazy.
Sony explores more mental health issues with Birdy, Alan Parker’s 1986 drama about a shell-shocked Vietnam vet (Matthew Modine) who closes himself off from the world and becomes obsessed with birds.
Olive Films takes over the rights to John Schlesinger’s 1987 thriller The Believers, which was previously released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time. Martin Sheen plays a psychiatrist who fears that his young son has been targeted by a Satanic cult.
Foreign Blu-ray releases of David Lynch’s 1997 “psychogenic fugue” (his description) Lost Highway featured less-than-stellar video quality. I had hoped that perhaps Criterion might land the American rights and do a better job with it, but the title actually wound up at Kino. Unfortunately, a recent Tweet from Lynch confirmed that the disc is sourced from “old elements” which are presumably the same master from overseas. [Update: Kino responded to Lynch’s Tweet and blames the director for refusing to approve a new master or supplements.]
The MVD Marquee Collection rocks out with Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People, a bio-pic of London music producer Tony Wilson, who brought British punk to the world. MVD also has a reissue of Neil Burger’s 19th Century magician drama The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton.
Just prior to his breakout hit A Better Tomorrow, John Woo made 1986’s Heroes Shed No Tears, a soldier-of-fortune action extravaganza that the director considers to be his first “real film.” Film Movement presents a new 2k restoration.
Shout! Factory adds the 1980 Dom DeLuise rom-com Fatso to its Shout Select line.
Scream Factory serves up Fred Dekker’s 1986 horror comedy Night of the Creeps in a new Collector’s Edition that includes both the theatrical cut and a director’s cut. The Limited Edition copy packages the discs up with an action figure.
Also getting a Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory is Elli Roth’s 2013 cannibal exploitation thriller The Green Inferno.
Arrow Video rolls out a second volume of its American Horror Project with a box set of three obscure horror flicks. Separately, Arrow offers Double Face, a mash-up of the Italian giallo and German krimi genres starring Klaus Kinski.
Another giallo is on the way from Blue Underground, which reissues Lucio Fulci’s 1982 The New York Ripper in a 3-disc Limited Edition featuring a new 4k restoration.
The 1987 anime classic Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise was released on Blu-ray a couple times previously to underwhelming results. Whether the new copy from Maiden Japan provides any improvement or is a straight repackage remains to be seen.
Finally, I’m getting a little tired of mentioning David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, the Blu-ray of which got delayed yet again and is allegedly coming out this week. I’ll believe it when I see it. Expect to hear about this title again in a future Highlights post.
As a David Lynch completist, I’m going to hope for the best from the Kino Blu-ray for Lost Highway but set my expectations pretty low. It’s one of Lynch’s most underrated films
I imagine that Hedwig and the Angry Inch and 24 Hour Party People would make a great double-bill. Both of those are going on my wish list, along with Gaslight, Heroes Shed No Tears, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, and once again The Spanish Prisoner.
That’s quite a big list of titles I want. Is this week quite as exciting for you?
‘War and Peace’!! I heard about the restoration undertaken earlier this year, and became fascinated by the making of this epic. Apparently, the film makers (who were essentially hired by the Kremlin) had unlimited funds. That’s not just hyperbole, they could spend whatever they wanted in order to achieve their goal. Taken into account, it could be the most expensive movie in history. But it isn’t, because it was just bankrolled by the government, no film studio had to take any risks. FASCINATING. I want to see this!! $35 is an okay price, especially considering it’s Criterion.
I saw the film theatrically last month…and I took an inflatable cushion. The only intermission was a 45‐minute meal break in the middle. The film was originally released in four parts—so, really, itʼs like a four‐part miniseries. Watching it from start to finish in a single day isnʼt all that dissimilar from the “binge watching” thatʼs become more popular (or just more publicly discussed?) in the age of streaming and of season‐by‐season disc sets.
Itʼs definitely a well‐made film in many respects, but certainly the production values most vigorously command attention. Thereʼs a lot of peace in addition to war, but the war is what I most think back to: beautiful countryside vistas torn to bloody, smoky shreds and filled with hundreds of men wearing costumes evoking a period a century and a half earlier. If you can see it on the big screen, do. Peace also brings visual splendor to envelop the audience. The film seems an unlikely Soviet product—a film that follows the excesses of the aristocratic classes, while itself indulging in production excesses exceeding those of the American bourgeois capitalist film industry which would honor it as Best Foreign Language Film, in essence declaring it an exemplar of Hollywoodʼs own ideals. But never mind the politics (except those within the film, of course)—Bondarchukʼs War and Peace is a marvel. Itʼs not a perfect film, but itʼs an admirable one. Enjoy!
Ow, thanks for the excellent feedback. Good comparison to the binge-watching trend of today. Indeed, if broken down into four equal parts, it’s totally doable. Gonna check this one out for sure! Was planning on picking up the UK/Region B-edition, but that one has apparently been cancelled, because the British Board of Film Classification objected to a scene of animal cruelty.
There were some uncomfortable brief segments with live animals. One was a wolf hunt, where Pierre Kirillovich looked upon a wolfʼs capture—Tolstoy, it seems, felt that manʼs inhumanity to man and manʼs inhumanity to animals were part and parcel of the same thing. Battle scenes included horses, which sometimes fell and showed other signs of distress amid explosions. Thereʼs even a battlefield scene in which a stumbling Pierre steps on a fallen, living horseʼs jaw—I assume that was an error that made the cut.
Looks the Kino is placing the barebones release of Lost Highway’s blame on Lynch:
“We reached out to Mr. Lynch via email to oversee and color grade a new 4K transfer (from the original camera negative) and get his approval on the dozen or so extras we had planned to include. Once we knew he was not interested in working with us, we had no choice, but to go ahead with the current Universal master and the few extras we had already produced and acquired. To our surprise, the master in question was a very good one, so we were happy to release it with some extras. We found out later that the extras and packaging also had to be approved by him (not the norm) and we sent email after email without one response. We delayed the release by a month, hoping we could at least get him to approve the trailer, the essay and our packaging, at this point we knew the interview and commentary were not possible, but after a few more weeks, we dropped the essay, the trailer and changed our front art to the previously approved DVD art. The BD only includes the film on a dual-layered BD50 disc, maxing out the feature at 30mbps with 5.1 surround and 2.0 lossless audio. We were planning to take the high road and not play the blame game, but after his tweet this weekend, we felt like we had to respond. We’re still huge David Lynch fans and are proud to release one of his masterpieces on Blu-ray.”
I edited the post with a comment about that a little while ago. Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that Lynch is being difficult and is really to blame for the disc. I bet he’s refusing to work with anyone but Criterion at this point.
Agreed. I was surprised to even hear about the Kino release based on what Criterion has been releasing of his stuff thus far. All this pretty much made my decision for me to hold off to prevent the inevitable double dip.
I have The New York Ripper on the way. I’m interested in Dumbo, but I think I’ll redbox it first. I did preorder a 3d version of it from Amazon UK. Hopefully they’ll release it. I’ll pick up Lost Highway if it goes on sale, or hold out for a proper restoration.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Lost Highway Soundtrack, and now I have David Bowie’s ‘Deranged’ stuck in my head. I’m not complaining.
Yes. I own a cd copy of it. It’s dark but Bowie and Trent Rezner, that’s a marriage made in a very dark heaven.
I really like the film too, even if to this day I still don’t fully understand what happens in it. Is he metaphorically a different man, a visual way of showing a split personality, or some kind of Harry Houdini ?