Blu-ray Highlights: Week of March 26th, 2017 – Finders Keepers

Magic is in the air with Blu-ray this week. A number of notable titles will hit the format. Trouble is, those little suckers like to hide. Let’s see if we can help you find them.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (3/28/17)?

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New Releases (Blu-ray)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them‘ – It’s both a ‘Harry Potter’ spinoff and a big-budget ‘Pokémon Go’ adaptation in one! Set decades before The Boy who Lived… ummm… lived, Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne stars as a nerdy wizard who travels to 1920s New York City and accidentally lets loose a host of magical creatures into the Muggle (or “No-Maj” this time for some reason) world. Now he has to scour the city for these pocket monsters and collect ’em all before bad wizard Colin Farrell can get his hands on them. Directed by David Yates (who did the last four ‘Potter’ pictures) from a screenplay by J.K. Rowling herself, Warner Bros. intends this to be the launch of a major five-part franchise. ‘Potter’ fans came out in force, though critics’ reviews weren’t quite as enthusiastic for the spinoff as they were for the original series. Now on video, you can get the movie in a variety of flavors, including 2D, 3D, UHD, and several retailer exclusives. The Best Buy SteelBook has UHD and Blu-ray discs in it, but no 3D. If this one’s photographed as crushingly dark as Yates’ ‘Potter’ movies, I doubt 3D will be of much benefit anyway.

Patriots Day‘ – Following ‘Deepwater Horizon’, this was the second (and arguably more offensive) of Peter Berg’s two 2016 movies that turn real-life tragedies into Hollywood action schlock. This one focuses on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and stars Mark Wahlberg as a (totally fictional) beat cop who single-handedly takes down the Tsarnaev brothers and saves the rest of New England from being eradicated in a giant multi-state fireball of explosive destruction. Fuck yeah, Marky Mark! Boston Strong, baby! YEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

Why Him?‘ – Bryan Cranston returns to comedy as a frustrated father whose young daughter brings home a hippie-dippy boyfriend (James Franco) that he absolutely loathes. It’s not exactly an original premise (if you subscribe to Amazon Prime streaming, the British sitcom ‘Cuckoo’ is basically the same thing with Andy Samberg in the Franco role), but the cast is said to bring some decent laughs to it.

A Monster Calls‘ – J.A. Bayona, director of ‘The Orphanage’ and ‘The Impossible’, adapts a popular fantasy novel about a young boy who copes with his mother’s terminal illness by befriending a giant tree monster voiced by Liam Neeson. Reviews were mostly favorable and some viewer response was even over-the-moon for it, but the movie didn’t get much of a theatrical release and faltered at the box office. Phil liked it for the most part, but described it as “Guillermo del Toro-lite.”

20th Century Women‘ – Despite a last-minute surge of awards buzz, Annette Bening failed to secure an Oscar nomination for her performance as a mother with some unconventional parenting choices for her teenage son in the late 1970s. The film is an autobiographical coming-of-age drama from ‘Beginners’ director Mike Mills. It was well-received, but got lost in the year-end shuffle.

Silence‘ – Martin Scorsese’s long-in-development passion project stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as a pair of 17th Century Jesuit missionaries whose faith is tested when they travel to feudal Japan, where their Christianity is outlawed, in search of a mentor (Liam Neeson) who has renounced his religion. With ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ and ‘Kundun’, this forms an unofficial trilogy about faith for Scorsese. And like those two movies, it was little seen aside from critics, many of whom rapturously praised it, while others (and the few audiences who bothered with it) called it a dreary slog. Any Oscar hopes also fizzled when the movie was only nominated for Best Cinematography, which it lost to the much cheerier ‘La La Land’.

The Handmaiden‘ – Park Chan-wook caused a bit of a sensation on the festival circuit last year with a naughty period piece about a young maid in 1930s Korea who secretly plots to swindle her employer, an heiress, until erotic complications and revenge machinations ensue. Hopefully this is more of a piece with his ‘Oldboy’ and less of his ‘Stoker’. Because ‘Stoker’ sucked, is what I’m saying.

Planet Earth II‘ – British naturalist Sir David Attenborough returns to narrate a sequel to his famous documentary miniseries showcasing gorgeous nature photography from around the world. This time, the production ups its game by shooting in 4k.


The Ultra HD scene is quite busy this week, with day-and-date editions of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them‘, ‘Patriots Day‘, ‘Why Him?‘ and ‘Planet Earth II‘.

The last four ‘Harry Potter‘ movies also move up to 4k to piggyback off ‘Fantastic Beasts’. Reportedly, the earlier entries will follow later this year.

As promotion for the impending theatrical sequel and reboot, respectively, we also get the last two ‘Fast & Furious‘ flicks and 2011’s ‘The Smurfs‘.

Catalog Titles

Last released by the label back in the Laserdisc days, Michelangelo Antonioni’s arty mystery thriller ‘Blow-Up‘ finally rejoins the Criterion Collection. David Hemmings plays a photographer who discovers a terrible secret hidden in an innocent photo he snapped in a park. The film was Antonioni’s first English-language production, one of his most mainstream-friendly efforts (let’s be honest, one of his very few mainstream-friendly efforts), and a genuine masterpiece.

If you’re not on board the UHD train yet, Universal has also bundled all of the first seven ‘Fast & Furious‘ movies into a new box set called the Ultimate Ride Collection. This is gonna seem a lot less “ultimate” when Part 8 hits Blu-ray later this year and we get an Even More Ultimate Collection shortly afterwards.

The Warner Archive digs up another cheeseball 1950s B-movie. Advertised as “CinemaScope’s first science-fiction thriller,” ‘World without End‘ finds a team of square-jawed American astronauts accidentally propelled into the distant future, where they discover a post-apocalyptic Earth ruled by mutant beast-men. Rod Taylor stars, because of course he would. Featuring model rockets on strings, oversized puppet monsters, and a bunch of sexy ladies in short skirts, this looks all kinds of amazing.

Fans of vintage 3D can savor another fabulous restoration from the 3-D Film Archive. Released in 1960, the treasure-hunting adventure picture ‘September Storm‘ was both the first 3D film shot underwater and in full color, and also the last dual-strip 3D feature from the 1950s 3D craze. Our reviewer Matthew says it’s undemanding but fun. For added value, the Blu-ray’s supplement section also throws in a couple of unrelated 3D short films from the era.

The FX network’s new ‘Feud’ miniseries may have revived some interest in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’, but that movie’s been available on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. for a few years already. In its stead, Scream Factory has pulled out the 1972 knockoff ‘What’s the Matter with Helen?‘, starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters as crazy and eventually murderous dance school teachers.

Lionsgate expands its Vestron Collector’s Series with the ‘Wishmaster Collection‘, which compiles not just one, not just two, but four Wishmasters. Who knew there were so many evil genies that needed vanquishing? I’ll be honest, I assumed that this entire movie series was from the 1980s, and was kind of shocked when I looked up the details and found that the first one was made in 1997. Doesn’t this stretch the purpose of the Vestron series? The actual Vestron Video closed up shop in 1992.

For some genuine ’80s cheesy, Vinegar Syndrome conjures up ‘Witchtrap‘. With a title like that, I imagine that the plot has something to do with trapping witches, perhaps? A copyright notice on the original VHS release actually felt the need to explicitly state that the movie is not a sequel to the same director’s earlier ‘Witchboard’, which of course means that it totally is.

My $.02

‘Blow-Up’ is my must-buy title of the week. I also put in an order for the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ SteelBook. I’ll try to rent ‘Silence’ and ‘The Handmaiden’ at some point. ‘World without End’ sounds like a fun guilty pleasure.

Which of this week’s titles do you find the most interesting?


  1. Chris B

    I’m debating on blind-buying “Silence”. I’m a big Scorsese fan and missed the movie whike it was in theatres. I’ve wanted to watch it since last fall and am hesitant about streaming it because the PQ can be lackluster (I rented “Live By Night” on Saturday and there were visible compression artifacts in the darkly-lit scenes). I also haven’t bought a BD on release day in what seems like forever…

  2. Bolo

    ‘Silence’ will be a renter. The subject matter interests me, but the film sounds very gruelling and so it will likely be a movie I will only ever want to watch once.

  3. Csm101

    I’m picking up Fantastic Beasts in 3D, although it has come to my understanding that the 3D version won’t include Atmos. Major bummer, especially since they’re charging premium $$$. I’m guessing by the time Skull Island makes it to the home market, they’ll probably do the same if they even bother to release it in 3D. I hope I’m wrong. September Storm is on my wish list. I really like the first Wishmaster, but have little interest in the others. Witchtrap looks like cheesy, sleazy fun. I’m interested in renting before buying Silence and When a Monster Calls.

  4. Lord Bowler

    I’ll be picking up ‘Dakota’, another John Wayne catalog release.

    And, ‘Wishmaster Collection’, even though the first one was probably the best one. I really liked the first one, and saw through the third. Never knew there was a fourth.

  5. For what it’s worth, the 3D for ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is fantastic (and I’m saying this as a near-sighted guy who doesn’t get any enjoyment out of most 3D titles). Especially the beasties are wonderful to experience in the third dimension, some come in and out of the frame, from left to right, with fluent and elegant cinematography.

    ‘No-Maj’ apparently is the American word/equivalent for the British ‘muggle’. I’d say it’s like ‘elevator’ and ‘lift’.

      • Timcharger

        What would be more American for a fictional term?
        No-Magroes? No-Minks? No-Millbillys? No-Mednecks? No-Magslims? No-Maxicans?

        Strange to be fixated on this point. Of all the unbelievable things in this film, this is what bothers you?

  6. Timcharger

    Hey Josh, HDD had its first Digital HD review. So will the Bonus View be getting a weekly segment of new Digital HD releases, too?

      • Timcharger

        But the industry wants us to go that way. You’ll be talking about releases that are a month old, the Digital HD version came out 4 weeks ago. You’ll be highlighting the classified ads or circulars of a print newspaper, when everyone already got it off Craigslist or Amazon.

        So nothing directed yet from your corporate overlords?

        • Josh Zyber

          Look at this pragmatically, Tim. There is no comprehensive resource that provides a list of all new titles being added to (or removed from) digital streaming across every platform.

          When we did the recurring VUDU articles, a VUDU PR rep provided us a weekly list of all new titles being added to the service. When they stopped providing that list, our articles stopped.

          On the other hand, new Blu-ray titles can be identified via Amazon preorders. We also get press releases from the studios promoting their disc releases, whereas Digital HD press releases are erratic except for major new titles (where it’s almost always tied-in with the Blu-ray/DVD announcement).

          • Timcharger

            Just trying to decipher the handwriting on the wall.

            You may want to get ahead of the curve. Because by the time the studio PR gets organized to mainly blast out Digital HD press releases, they may have a Jane Zoomer whippersnapper at the top of the list, because she was already blogging about Digital HD releases.

            I’m not an advocate for this. Just noting that the handwriting (the 1st Digital HD review) wasn’t there yesterday.

          • Josh Zyber

            Tell you what. You do the work* of compiling a list of every movie hitting streaming across every known platform each week, and I’ll write the copy.

            *BTW, you won’t be paid for this. Strictly a volunteer effort.

  7. Expensive week for me this week.

    First is Planet Earth 2 on UltraHD. Looking forward to this eye candy!

    Then there is Fantastic Beasts. I have the 3D version on preorder, but since it did not include the 4k version, I picked that up off of Vudu last week to test out Dolby Vision and streaming Atmos. So I pretty much spent $60 on a single movie – so I paid more than I did for Planet Earth. How sad.

    Tenchi Muyo is also on my list – there are not too many animes I pick up (even though I love anime, as they are usually available in 1080p streaming before the Blu ever gets released), but Tenchi will be one.

    I will also eventually pick up the Harry Potter movies in UHD. Which means I am buying them yet AGAIN! Bought them on DVD, then on Blu-Ray, then I got 3D of movies 6 and 7, the British release of the first one, the HD-DVD of the first couple of movies (or at least the first one, I don’t remember if they released any more on HD-DVD), etc. I don’t think I am going to get them today though – will probably wait for a sale.

    • Harry Potter I, II, III, IV and V were all released on HD DVD. I was secretly hoping for HD DVD releases of VI and VII too – I know these came out after the format war ended, but, well, you know, OCD-wise. I now have 5 brown cases, and 3 blue ones. Warner did release all 8 movies on UMD, by the way – I have these in a nice boxset.

      Totally unrelated, but worth to mention: the UK HD DVD editions of ‘Harry Potter I’ and ‘V’ have Dutch AND Flemish audio tracks on the HD DVD (in addition to all the usual languages), whereas the British HD DVD of ‘II’, ‘III’ and ‘IV’ don’t even have Dutch subtitles. What were they thinking!?

      • My first thought is that HD-DVD was region free, but Belgium and the Netherlands are in the same region as Britain, so go figure. The only thing I can think of is that they expected the HD-DVD to have a much smaller audience, so authored the discs for a much wider audience, whereas the Blu-Ray was expecting more sales, so they released more regionalized copies with fewer languages.

        But that is just a guess.

        I understand the OCD – I had the trunk of 1-5 on Blu-Ray. And I bought the Bond 50 before Spectre was released, so there is no spot for it in the collection.

          • Josh Zyber

            The purpose of the Bond 50 set was to collect the first 50 years of the franchise. Spectre falls outside of that and doesn’t need a slot inside.

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