Blu-ray Highlights: Week of March 16th, 2014 – Let It Go, Let It Go

New to Blu-ray this week are a bunch more Oscar movies, including the most popular Disney musical in quite some time. What will you buy?

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (3/18/14)?

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New Releases

Frozen‘ – Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, ‘Frozen’ is both a revival and subversion of the Disney princess musical. After ‘The Lion King’, it’s also only the second Disney animated film to crack $1 billion at the worldwide box office (third if you count Pixar’s ‘Toy Story 3’). It’s still in the box office Top 10 even as it hits home video this week. So, yeah, people really liked the movie, and a whole lot of them paid to see it in 3D. Yet Disney has decided to only release a standard 2D Blu-ray in the United States. 3D fans will either have to settle for lower-quality digital streaming or will have to import from another country. The UK Blu-ray release will include 3D, is region-free, and can be easily imported from Amazon UK. I’ve opted to preorder the 3D SteelBook edition from Zavvi.

Saving Mr. Banks‘ – No, it’s not a sequel to ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Ever fond of mythologizing fairy tale characters, the Disney studio mythologizes itself with this sugar-coated, whitewashed account of the making of ‘Mary Poppins’. Tom Hanks plays Uncle Walt and Emma Thompson plays curmudgeonly author P.L. Travers. Despite its blatant attempt to pander for awards, Oscar took little notice, nominating only Thomas Newman for Best Original Score.

American Hustle‘ – David O. Russell’s con artist caper is the only of last year’s Oscar nominees that I actually managed to see in the theater, so of course it was completely shut out from winning any awards. Although I wasn’t too fond of either of Russell’s prior two films (‘The Fighter’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’), I found this one to be a big improvement that reminded me more of his earlier work. Even so, most of the Oscar hype was undeserved, in my opinion. It’s a fun little distraction with hilarious 1970s costumes and hairstyles (the opening scene is a riot), as well as plenty of appealing side-boob from stars Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, but it’s also very unstructured, over-long and unfocused, and is basically a pastiche of ‘Boogie Nights’, ‘The Sting’ and a lot of other, better movies. Christian Bale spends most of the movie doing such an obvious Robert De Niro impersonation, that when the real Robert De Niro actually shows up in the second half, it feels like the universe is folding in on itself.

Kill Your Darlings‘ – Still desperate to break away from being typecast as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe plays famous Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this recounting of his college years, during which Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs became wrapped up in the murder investigation of hanger-on and stalker David Kammerer. The plot summary almost sounds like it must be fictionalized, but this is a true story. Reviews were generally favorable, especially for Radcliffe’s performance.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom‘ – The second bio-pic about Nelson Mandela in recent years (the other being Clint Eastwood’s ‘Invictus’), this one focuses on the man’s early life. The film was completed and had its first screenings just as Mandela passed away in December. Not to be too cynical, but that should have made it surefire awards bait. Reviews, however, were mixed, many calling the movie by-the-numbers and dull.

Catalog Titles

The Criterion Collection has a very strong week, bringing to high definition both Akira Kurosawa’s samurai adventure tale ‘The Hidden Fortress‘ (the plot of which was famously one of the inspirations for ‘Star Wars’) and Errol Morris’ superb adaptation of Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time‘. These are both must-own titles.

The 1923 silent version of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘ was at least the fourth film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. More would follow, but Lon Chaney’s performance in the title role remains the most famous and iconic. Unfortunately, the film’s original camera negative and 35mm elements are long since lost, leaving only 16mm reduction prints from which to base restoration attempts.

Also notable this week is Carroll Ballard’s visually-arresting childrens’ film ‘The Black Stallion‘.

As I mentioned above, I’ve preorded the UK SteelBook for ‘Frozen’. I’m also on board for both of the Criterions and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. Where will your dollars go this week?


  1. Ryan M

    My bet is that we will see a Frozen 3D version stateside, just not now. This movie has proven to be such a cash cow that Disney likely will double-dip and provide a more comprehensive release down the line. Of course, I base this on nothing more than speculation and cynicism towards the Evil Empire.

  2. William Henley

    Wow, Josh, you have made me a steelbook fanboy, and I buy from Zavvi all the time now (even non-steelbooks), but you are seriously going to pay 25 pounds to import a movie (plus shipping)? I get that there is no state-side 3D release, but after shipping, you are paying about $45 for one movie. That’s steep!

  3. Chris B

    I’ll grab both Criterions and probably rent Frozen, my daughter has just reached the age where she can be occupied by cartoons for a full 90 minutes, thus giving me and her mom a much appreciated break.

      • William Henley

        Call the grandparents and let them know you guys need a few hours without the kids. They should be thrilled to take them, and you don’t have to pay a sitter.

      • Chris B

        She’s just over a year and seems entranced by animation, we started her on baby einstein DVDs when she was even younger so that probably helped…

        If you’re boys are sleeping through the night already you’re one of the lucky ones, mine only started around the 10 month mark.

        • Josh Zyber

          They started sleeping through the night a couple of weeks ago. Since then, they’ve slept a good 6-7 hours every night. The problem is that those 6 to 7 hours usually start about 1AM, and up until that time they cry inconsolably for about 3 hours straight.

          • Chris B

            Inconsolably eh? Hmmm yeah that’s tough man. To my knowledge, when infants cry for extended periods of time like that, a lot of the time it’s something within their diet that’s the source of the problem. They’re either getting something that doesn’t agree with their stomach or there’s something they’re not getting and they never feel full/satisfied which can lead to extended periods of crying….

            Try experiementing with their diet, either supplement with formula or change the formula altogether etc. One of my wife’s closest friend’s had this problem when she was nursing and once she eliminated dairy from her diet her kids stopped screaming every night (maybe they were lactose intolerant). You may stumble upon the solution with a little experiementation.
            Hang in there though man, I know how rough one fussy kid can be to deal with..never mind two!

  4. Timcharger

    Let it go, let it go,
    Can’t you release 3D once more?
    Let it go, let it go,
    On fans, Disney you slammed the door.

    Let it go, let it go,
    I am done with your marketing try.
    Let it go, let it go,
    Making 3DTVs cry.

    Let it go, let it go,
    I leave the disc on the shelf and go on.
    Let it go, let it go,
    This consumer is gone.

    Here I stand,
    Before my 3D display,
    My anger rages on,
    Your greed bothers me in every way.

  5. John

    Josh, exactly! Our two-year old daughter will watch a Disney film (like Snow White) she is very particular about which ones, for a significant amount of time. We’re just now getting ok with that. We limit the TV she can watch, but that being said, she has become a fan of both Peter Pan and Snow White (the classics). The breaks are few and far between!

    • Josh Zyber

      I had a hard-fought battle with the twins last night, trying to get them to take a nap for an hour so that I could watch The Walking Dead. I had to go rock them back to sleep every 5-10 minutes. Took two hours to watch the show on the DVR. Of course, as soon as it was over, I went back into their room and they were both out cold, and slept through the rest of the night without a peep.

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