Blu-ray Highlights for 3/13/12 – Adventures in the Uncanny Valley

March is ablaze with Blu-ray releases. Last week’s release slate was so packed with new discs that we actually missed some important Best Buy exclusives that we’ll cover today. On top of that, this week brings us another huge assortment of notable titles. Can your wallets handle all this excitement?

Here are the new discs being released today:

Important Stuff We Missed Last Week

Honestly, I just don’t understand Best Buy’s marketing strategy. Why would the retailer bother to pay a studio like Fox for the right to exclusively carry certain Blu-ray titles, and then not bother to advertise that fact? Once upon a time, the store at the very least used to set up a dedicated end-cap to display exclusive titles, but that isn’t the case anymore. These discs are just intermingled with everything else on the regular shelves, with nothing to distinguish them. How is anyone supposed to know that these secret exclusives exist?

Last week, Fox launched a new line of titles called the “Filmmakers Signature Series,” exclusive to Best Buy. New to the high-def format are the Ed Burns indie dramas ‘The Brothers McMullen‘ and ‘She’s the One‘, neither of which is worth getting excited about. However, much more interesting are the reissues of William Friedkin’s ‘The French Connection‘ and Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street‘, both sporting brand new remastered transfers.

Yes, ‘The French Connection’ has been totally remastered with the supervision of cinematographer Owen Roizman, who has undone all of the stupid revisionist color timing changes that director Friedkin imposed on the previous disastrous Blu-ray release. The movie is no longer tinted purple for no reason! This should be a cause for celebration. So why is the disc being buried on the racks at Best Buy with no fanfare?

While at the store for that disc, collectors may also want to pick up the preorder metal case for next week’s release of ‘The Muppets’. This is the same case that Tom described in a post a few months ago as a planned exclusive for Future Shop in Canada. It seems that Best Buy in the U.S. has it as well. If you plunk down $7, you can walk out of the store with the empty metal case now. Bring your receipt when you buy the Blu-ray next week (in its normal packaging), and the store will deduct that $7 you already paid from the price. (Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from buying the disc elsewhere if the case is worth $7 to you on its own.)

New Releases

With that out of the way, this week has it own selection of fresh discs vying for your attention. Perhaps the biggest title would be Steven Spielberg’s mo-cap animated ‘The Adventures of Tintin‘. While the movie was a pretty big hit overseas (in countries where the Tintin character is already beloved from his roots in popular Belgian comics), it underperformed in North America and failed to lock down the hoped-for Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature (though it did nab a nomination for John Williams’ score). Reviews were generally mixed-to-positive, with a few raves here and there. The Blu-ray is available in both 2D and 3D editions.

Oscar showed more love this year for ‘The Descendants‘ (five nominations, with a win for Best Adapted Screenplay) and ‘My Week with Marilyn‘ (acting nominations for Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh). If you missed these in theaters – and, be honest, you probably did – now is the time to catch up.

‘Juno’ writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman reunite for the dark comedy ‘Young Adult‘, starring Charlize Theron as an alcoholic teen-fiction writer who returns to her home town and sets her sights on reclaiming her old high school boyfriend, despite the fact that he’s now happily married to someone else. Luke here thought that this movie was a giant pile of crap, while Aaron liked it a lot more than he did. The film had supporters among some other critics, and received a bit of positive buzz for the supporting performance by Patton Oswalt.

I have a soft spot for the schlocky movies of director Paul W.S. Anderson, but even I couldn’t bring myself to see his steampunk reboot of ‘The Three Musketeers‘ in theaters. This is the sort of guilty pleasure I wait for video to watch. Our Blu-ray reviewer Steven Cohen thought it was pretty weak even by Anderson’s standards. I have a feeling that I’ll eventually check out the 3D disc anyway.

Frankly, I’m still in shock that the first ‘Happy Feet‘ actually won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature back in 2007. Did the Academy voters not watch it all the way through? That’s the only explanation I can fathom. Even though the first movie grossed a lot of money, its audience apparently drew a line at the imaginatively-titled ‘Happy Feet Two‘. The sequel was a huge critical and box office failure last year. I’m glad that I don’t have kids who might force me to buy this for them.

Next, we go from happy to sad with misanthropic Danish director Lars von Trier’s latest exercise in calculated misery, ‘Melancholia‘. The filmmaker is a very polarizing figure, with both ardent supporters and detractors. He was tossed out of the Cannes Film Festival last year for behaving like an ass, yet his movie still won an acting prize there for Kirsten Dunst and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Personally, I have loathed every one of his films that I’ve tried to watch, and expect no different from this one.

Catalog Titles

Today’s batch of catalog releases contains a very weird mix of titles.

In anticipation of the latest theatrical sequel due in April, Universal gives us the three previous ‘American Pie‘ features. You know, the ones with the original cast that people actually paid to see in theaters, not the countless DTV spin-offs. While I enjoy these raunchy comedies, I’ve never felt the need to own any of them, not on DVD and not on Blu-ray. Your mileage may vary.

The Criterion Collection upgrades its previous DVD edition of Martin Scorsese’s controversial religious drama ‘The Last Temptation of Christ‘ with a new Blu-ray edition. This will make for a very surreal double-bill with the director’s recent ‘Hugo’, don’t you think?

Perhaps a more fitting co-feature for ‘Last Temptation’ would be the 1954 religious epic ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators‘, which was a sequel to ‘The Robe‘. This one’s available as a limited edition release by indie label Twilight Time, which also offers the 1975 Western ‘Bite the Bullet‘, directed by Richard Brooks and starring Gene Hackman.

Finally, Fox has a new 35th Anniversary Edition of Ralph Bakshi’s post-apocalyptic animated fantasy ‘Wizards‘, in which magical elves fight Nazi warlocks… or something. Bakshi’s movies don’t often make a lot of sense.


We’ll wrap things up to day with a look at the TV scene, which gives us the complete first season of AMC’s murder mystery thriller ‘The Killing‘, a show that seems to have pissed off about 90% of its audience with a cliffhanger season finale. I still don’t understand what all the furor is about. TV shows end seasons on cliffhangers all the time. What’s the big deal about this one? Whatever the reason, I’ll be very surprised if the series makes it all the way through a second season.

On a bit more of an upbeat note, ‘Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention‘ finds the beloved clay-animated duo hosting a ‘Mr. Wizard’-style TV show, in their own inimitable style, that introduces children to basic concepts of science and engineering.

Which of this week’s titles will you buy?


  1. I will probably blind-buy Tintin and Three Musketeers simply because I am hurting for 3D titles. As for Happy Feet, though, I learned my lesson after blind-buying the first one because I was hurting for HD content. The first one was horrible, and I cannot believe they made a sequel. No matter how badly I want 3D content, there is no way I am picking up Happy Feet 2.

      • I stuck it in to see how it looks – I got about 15 minutes in, and must say, the 3D is amazing! I cannot believe how much depth there is! This rivals some of Disney’s 3D CGI. My issue with it is that the CGI is a bit too realistic – something is just not right. I prefer my CGI to look a bit more cartoonie – this is almost freaky how detailed the faces are. But it looks amazing in 3D, and I highly recommend it. So far, no issues with crosstalk or ghosting or the picture being too dark or any of the other issues you normally hear about associated with 3D material.

          • EM

            I wasn’t sure whether William was really experiencing the uncanny valley or was just surprised by the realism of the craftsmanship. I was surprised but felt the characters were a tad too cartoony (e.g., caricaturesque noses) to feel I’d entered the uncanny valley, though I can see how others might react that way. Still, I consider Tintin the most frightening film of 2011, for its technology’s implications for photographic fraud.

          • The way the characters acted was indeed cartoony, but the 3D craftsmanship was indeed creepy. I had this odd moment at the beginning of the movie where I went “Whoa, I thought this was a Cartoon”.

            I think the worst for me was Beowoulf. I watched the entire movie through thinking it was live action, and how cool it was, then I went back and watched the making. Now that I know its CGI, I can’t bring myself to get more than 5 minutes into the movie, its just creepy.

            Final Fantasy: Spirits Within didn’t bother me too much, but I certainly had the Uncanny Valley effect with Polar Express.

            Tintin is borderline for me. There are some creepy moments, but for the most part, the movie is pretty enjoyable.

            You know, this may be my issue with RPG games. Like in the Final Fantasy series, my favorites are 7 and 9. I didn’t care for 8 at all, and 10 and everything since borderlines on annoying. It could be story or play control, but I do think my issue, at least with FF8, was that I didn’t like the character design. In fact, in the past 10 years or so, I have pretty much given up on the Final Fantasy series and became a fan of the Tales series. Now that you bring up the Uncanny Valley, that may be why I left the Final Fantasy series.

          • EM

            My copy arrived yesterday; watching it, I did notice a few fleeting moments of the dead-eye effect that I don’t recall from my three theatrical viewings. I don’t know why that is. One possibility is that the graphics play more harshly in 2D than in 3D (my theatrical viewings were all in 3D; my at-home viewing was not); indeed, I occasionally thought that other graphic aspects looked a little off in a way that they hadn’t in the theater. But these are minor complaints; overall, I still very much enjoy the film, even in 2D.

  2. JM

    I just can’t bring myself to watch ‘Tintin.’ Not even for $1.

    ‘Young Adult‘ and ‘Melancholia‘ I’m excited to netflix.

    Based on Aaron’s persuasion, I will skip ‘The Descendants‘ and invest those two hours of my future life in something classic I’ve never seen. Perhaps it’s time to discover ‘The French Connection.‘

      • JM

        ‘Tintin’s story premise doesn’t interest me, I find the art style ugly, and I haven’t enjoyed a Spielberg film in 19 years.

        My indifference is well-founded.

        • Fair enough. Maybe you’ll catch it on a movie channel some day, for free 🙂

          P.S. I loved “Minority Report” and “Catch Me If You Can”. Both excellent Spielberg flicks.

  3. Josh, I’m not really a Lars von Trier fan either, but there’s something different about ‘Melancholia.’ It’s oddly engaging and does sport a very brave performance from Dunst.

  4. EM

    I’ve preordered The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in 3D. This will be my first 3D Blu-ray, not that I will watch it in 3D anytime soon. I have a 3D-capable player but no 3DTV and no plans to purchase one imminently; I’m buying the 3D disc simply as an investment in a 3D future. I saw the movie three times in theaters, always in 3D; and it might be a bit of an adjustment to watch it flat!

    I’m looking forward to watching Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention; I’m #1 on the hold list at my local library. The Blu release of The Last Temptation of Christ is reminding me that I’ve been meaning to take a look at that movie too.

  5. besch64

    Just picked up the last copy of The French Connection remaster at my local BB. Phew.

    I’ll grab The Last Temptation of Christ at some point.

    I’m more excited for next week, when The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Criterion’s release of Letter Never Sent hit. Megahyped for those two.

  6. I’m another who can’t be bothered with Tintin. I just find everything about it looks bland and uninteresting. Doesn’t help that I’ve never been a fan of Tintin though.

    EM, I picked up Musketeers the other day (Thought it was good silly action packed fun at the cinema), my first 3D film. Again, I’ve got a 3D capable player (really just because it has an easily updateable firmware to make it multiregion) and no 3D TV. In my case, though, I have no interest in the 3D. I just grabbed it because it was a good priced impulse buy with the normal Blu Ray included. Probably do the same some time for Transformers 3 (when it’s a bargain bin price), because the 3D set is the one with all the extras.

    • EM

      I preordered Tintin from Amazon, where the 3D Blu-ray was only about $6 more than the 2D-only Blu-ray. For me, this was a sufficiently reasonable premium. On the other hand, I’ve been eyeing the 3D Toy Story trilogy, but $66 is too rich for my blood when I already have all three films on 2D Blu-ray and cannot take immediate advantage of the 3D. This will have to be a bargain-bin purchase.

      I had a vague interest in The Three Musketeers when it played in theaters but did not end up going. I may check it out now that it’s on video.

      • Well, I just watched the first 10 minutes of The Three Musketeers in 3D, and must say, it looks incredible as well. If this is a post-conversion, its one of the best post-conversions I have seen (up there with Captain America). Once again, I don’t really have time to watch the whole thing – things are very hectic right now, and just do not have time to watch movies, but from what I have seen, it looks great!

  7. Drew


    ‘The Three Musketeers’ was not converted to 3D during post-production. It was shot natively using 3D equipment. You should check out if you want to keep up on which films are accomplished in which fashion.

    The 3D blu-ray does look spectacular! It is quite possibly one of the five best 3D video transfers released on the format so far.

    • Thanks for the info! I was thinking that if this was a conversion, than Disney needed to lease out their conversion facilities. The Three Musketeers is incredible, from what I have seen so far, and it makes really good use of the technology. I was very happy with what I saw

  8. Drew

    As a matter of fact, it is likely that this week gave us two of the top five 3D video transfers released on the format thus far! ‘Tintin’ was also given a positively reference quality transfer.