Blu-ray Highlights: Week of March 12th, 2017 – Don’t Fence Me In

This week on Blu-ray, we get an Oscar winner, some Oscar nominees, a failed piece of Oscar bait, and a big-budget sci-fi flop. Guess which one’s likely to sell the most copies.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (3/14/17)?

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New Releases

Fences‘ – For his third directing effort (after ‘Antoine Fisher’ and ‘The Great Debaters’), Denzel Washington adapts the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play by August Wilson about a working-class black family in the 1950s. Washington and Viola Davis reprise the roles that they’d already won Tonys for on Broadway. The film version was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, which is impressive considering that even the positive reviews for it didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic. Davis won the Oscar for her role, but Washington failed to claim a third statue even though last-minute awards buzz suggested that momentum was swinging his way. Despite a lot of praise for its powerhouse performances, the movie was also criticized for failing to break away from its stage origins.

Passengers‘ – Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are very attractive stars, and all of the expensive visuals in their big space movie sure looked pretty in the trailers (even scoring the film an Oscar nom for production design). Unfortunately, reviews were downright brutal and the picture was a box office dud. A lot of complaints centered on the fact that the plot has a very discomforting rapey aspect that the movie tries to pretend is romantic. I’m sure it’ll make some nice eye candy in 4k UHD, though.

Elle ‘ – Needless to say, cinema provocateur Paul Verhoeven takes a more direct approach when dealing with a rape theme. Working in France, the director’s return to international theater screens after a decade-long absence is an unconventional revenge thriller (frequently described as a black comedy) about a successful businesswoman’s unexpected reaction to dealing with a sexual assault. Isabelle Huppert won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar, and the movie became something of a cause célèbre when it played at film festivals. Sadly, that notoriety didn’t translate to ticket sales. No doubt, the subject matter turned a lot of viewers away.

Collateral Beauty‘ – Oh dear. The title alone is ridiculous and nonsensical. Will Smith unsuccessfully guns for more award nominations by playing a grief-stricken man who believes that he’s being visited by human personifications of the abstract metaphysical concepts of Love, Time and Death. If you’ve read any spoilers for the movie (and Phil was unafraid to divulge them in his review), you know that its big plot twist is offensively stupid and absurd. Critics howled in derision. Domestic audiences had no interest in it, but the picture did well enough overseas to eke out a profit

The Love Witch‘ – Indie filmmaker Anna Biller has a reputation as a one-woman production studio who writes, directs and edits all her movies in addition to composing the music, making the costumes, and designing and decorating the sets herself. Her particular fascination is with campy sexploitation movies of the 1960s and ’70s. In this case, she’s made a painstaking recreation of garishly-colored, badly-acted Euro-sleaze horror flicks that’s so convincing it’s not entirely clear whether the film is supposed to be a parody or not. Many years ago, I had a passing acquaintance with cinematographer David Mullen (I guess Biller can’t do everything on her own). I’m sure he must have had a lot of fun working on this.

Catalog Titles

The Criterion Collection brings the 1976 Mexican docudrama ‘Canoa: A Shameful Memory‘ to Blu-ray. The film details the tragic circumstances surrounding a mob of villagers incited to violence and murder by a corrupt priest.

In what could be read as a political statement given current events, Shout! Factory decided that right now would be a good time to revisit the dopey Russians-take-over-America action flick ‘Red Dawn‘ (the 1984 original, of course, not that awful remake).

I expect that Scream Factory’s motives for double-dipping the Stephen King horror thriller ‘Firestarter‘ have less mischievous intent.

The Warner Archive unearths the bizarre 1977 sci-fi horror film ‘Demon Seed‘, in which an evil A.I. supercomputer kidnaps and impregnates Julie Christie in order to conceive a human/computer hybrid baby. Yes, the plot description sounds like trash. Being based on a lesser novel by Dean Koontz doesn’t help. However, the movie is of interest for being made by Donald Cammell, an artist and co-director (with Nicolas Roeg) of the surreal cult film ‘Performance‘. Cammell had ambitions for the project that were unfortunately not fully realized due to studio interference. Nevertheless, even in its compromised state, the movie has more on its mind than you’d expect.

Also excavated from the Warner Archive is Ray Harryhausen’s cowboys-vs.-dinosaurs extravaganza ‘The Valley of Gwangi‘.

Starz/Anchor Bay prepares for the impending live-action remake by reissuing the original 1995 anime film ‘Ghost in the Shell‘. It’s the same underwhelming Blu-ray first released a few years ago, but comes packaged now in a new SteelBook with art from the Mondo collective. I’m not a fan of Mondo, but this one looks a little better than most of their work.

From Kino comes ‘The Lovers on the Bridge‘, a 1991 French film by Leos Carax starring Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant as a homeless artist and a street performer who fall in love under difficult circumstances.


TV product this week includes the first season of something called ‘Six‘ (which I gather is a military drama about Navy S.E.A.L.s), the fourth season of ‘Doctor Who‘, and breakout copies of the fifth and sixth seasons of ‘Nash Bridges‘.

My $.02

The title I’m most interested in this week is ‘Elle’. I’m also curious enough about ‘Passengers’ and ‘The Love Witch’ to rent them. I wouldn’t mind revisiting ‘Demon Seed’, but I’m not sure that I really feel the need to own it.

How does this week look to you?


  1. Bolo

    I wouldn’t say Chris Pratt’s actions in ‘Passengers’ are romanticized. It’s actually the main conflict of the movie. I guess the fact that his motivations (loneliness) are treated with some sympathy is enough for outrage bloggers to milk a good rant piece or two out of the film. The film does present an interesting and even fairly original morality play and develops it well up to a point. But the film is ultimately a failure because it doesn’t know how to keep developing that conflict into its third act, and instead opts for a series of contrived action movie problems with convenient solutions.

  2. Csm101

    I’ll probably pick up Passengers uhd/3d combo. I also really want The Valley of Gwangi and am curious about Demon Seed. Drive-In Massacre looks like sleazy fun and maybe The Love Witch as well. Fences could be a good Redbox rental and Elle sounds interesting especially for Verhoeven’s involvement, maybe a Netflix?

  3. Blind buying Marco Polo – sounds interesting, and it has a bargin bin price right now, so yeah, I will pick that up.

    I never was a fan of Red Dawn – it just always seemed too goofy of a concept for my taste.

    I did choose other, mainly because I picked up a 4k TV over the weekend. I will probably pick up a 4k Blu-Ray player in a few weeks (I got content I can watch now – I got an NVidia Shield and a PS4 pro, plus there is 4k stuff on Youtube, Netflix, Amazon and Vudu, so I can wait a few weeks to get a player). I got a few 4k discs now, but I will probably pick up a few more soon. I will probably for sure be picking up some content from Vudu. We will have to see how things go – the TV is for the bedroom (I got a projector in the living room and don’t have $8000 for a 4k projector), so a lot depends on how much difference I see in the bedroom.

  4. Chris B

    Nothing this week but ny copy of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia should be in my mailbox in the next few days. I picked it up at half price as part of Twilight Time’s march madness sale. Anybody else get anything?

    • I really wanted ‘Cutter’s Way’ from the Twilight Time sale, but shipping is $15.50, which is more than the disc’s asking price, That’s quite outrageous, and a huge price increase (in the past, I bought TT titles with a $7 shipping charge). So, sadly, a no-sale 🙁

    • Csm101

      My most desired title that’s on sale is John Huston’s Moby Dick, but I’d also love to pick up Romeo is Bleeding, Mississippi Burning, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Theatre of Blood. I’ll probably just wind up with one or two of those.

        • Csm101

          A long time ago, but I remember really liking it. Oldman plays a crooked cop who falls for this crazy hit woman. It’s like a sleazy film noir. My brother actually owns it and I’ve been meaning to borrow his copy, but I might just get my own. I’ve been itching to revisit this one. YouTube has some scenes from the movie if you want to get a taste of what it’s like.

          • Chris B

            Yeah I actually went and saw a screening of it last month at my local indie theatre. It’s a decent movie, not without it’s flaws but enjoyable enough. I loved the ending though, it was perfect.

  5. Thulsadoom

    Red Dawn is a no brainer. I love it. 🙂 I’ve also got Passengers 3D on pre-order. My other half and I really enjoyed it. It’s not perfect, but we thought it was pretty good. As for any ‘controversy’, I think that’s just made up by people so they have something to sound righteously aggrieved by. God help the people who were upset by Passengers, if they ever made the Oedipus trilogy into big Hollywood movies! 😉

    Valley of Gwangi is a definite pick up, but maybe further down the line. As a Verhoeven fan, I’m tempted by Elle, but that might be a rental rather than a blind buy.

  6. Lord Bowler

    I’m picking up ‘SIX’ and ‘Red Dawn: The Collector’s Edition’. I loved the original Red Dawn and look forward to revisiting it.

    Also, I may pick up the Marco Polo Mini-series, not to be confused with the Netflix series.

  7. Only thing I am absolutely getting this week is Passengers – Best Buy UHD Steelbook.
    Wishlist: Demon Seed, Elle, Firestarter, Red Dawn, Six – Season 1, Valley of Gwangi, Wolf Chldren.

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