Blu-ray Highlights: Week of March 6th, 2016 – Happiness Is a Warm Puppy

This week, we go flying with a World War I ace, hunt for an evil whale, and bring the dead back to life. Also, if we can find some time between all of that, we might watch a few Blu-rays.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (3/8/16)?

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New Releases

The Peanuts Movie‘ – On the face of it, updating the beloved Charlie Brown comic strip into a 3D CGI animated feature seemed like a terrible idea doomed to failure, especially in this age when even the simplest of children’s properties get puffed up into overwrought blockbuster spectacle events. Somehow, this one appears to have survived largely unscathed. The movie was a solid hit and most critics applauded it for maintaining Charles Schultz’s original spirit of gentle whimsy. However, a few outliers, including our own Phil, found the film a little too reverent to its source material. On disc, the picture is available in 2D, 3D or Ultra HD options. (Well, Amazon claims that the Ultra HD copy will be released this week. I haven’t found any other confirmation of that.)

In the Heart of the Sea‘ – Thar she blows! Ron Howard does for ‘Moby Dick’ what he did to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch with a gaudy eyesore of an adventure tale allegedly (and very loosely) based on the true story that inspired Herman Melville to write his literary masterwork. Reviews of the movie were almost universally scathing and it was a huge box office flop. With an omnipresent puke-and-piss color scheme, it also must be the most hideously photographed motion picture ever made. Just to make you extra nauseous, it’s been run through a 3D conversion as well.

Victor Frankenstein‘ – Universal’s plans to create a shared cinematic universe out of its classic monster franchises (which started with 2014’s ‘Dracula Untold’ and has so far gone nowhere) got thrown for a loop when Fox moved forward with its own, unrelated ‘Frankenstein’ reboot. In what was surely intended as a subversive twist, the film is told from the perspective of the hunchback henchman Igor, a character not even found in the original Mary Shelley novel. The end result was simultaneously one of the worst reviewed and biggest box office bombs of last year.

Macbeth‘ – Michael Fassbender essays the role of Shakespeare’s famed Scottish thane, in the latest of the play’s 700 or so cinematic adaptations. In accordance with modern fads, the story has been given a ‘Game of Thrones’ makeover with an emphasis on gruesome violence. Word-of-mouth was generally mixed, praising Fassbender and Marion Cottilard (as Lady Macbeth) as well as the look of the piece, but comparing it unfavorably to prior versions of ‘Macbeth’ by such masters as Roman Polanski and Akira Kurosawa.

Victoria‘ – The idea of staging an action thriller as a 138-minute continuous single take, complete with a bank heist and shootouts, and actually shot that way without any digital editing trickery, is certainly a bold conceptual gimmick. Some audiences were enamored with the technique, while others (including Shannon in his Blu-ray review) found the complete product to be less than the sum of its parts. As it turns out, editing is a critical component in making an action movie exciting.

The Tribe‘ – Speaking of daring conceptual gimmicks, this Ukranian crime drama set in a boarding school for the deaf is acted out entirely in sign language with no subtitles, forcing viewers who don’t know the language to follow the story through context. As with ‘Victoria’, the story itself is said to be disappointingly thin.

The Forbidden Room‘ – Oddball Canadian auteur Guy Maddin delivers his latest slice of cinematic insanity, which Phil describes as a collection of “some of his most bizarre ideas to date.” Coming from the director of movies like ‘Brand Upon the Brain!’ and ‘My Winnipeg‘, that’s saying something.

Catalog Titles

Is this for real? How is George Lucas’ notorious cinematic disaster ‘Howard the Duck‘ slipping out on Blu-ray without any fanfare? I was inclined to assume that our site had a bogus listing, but multiple retailers confirm it, with cover art and everything. For a certain audience of bad movie devotees, this will be very exciting news indeed.

Also dredged up from the forgotten depths of the 1980s is Steven Spielberg’s whimsical sci-fi fantasy ‘*batteries not included‘, in which toy-sized alien spaceships save a bunch of elderly apartment tenants (including Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy) from being evicted by evil land developers. Yeah, it didn’t take a whole lot to get a movie greenlit in the ’80s.

The Criterion Collection’s only title this week is ‘Paris Belongs to Us‘, the 1961 feature directorial debut of French auteur Jacques Rivette (‘La belle noiseuse’).

Exclusive to the Disney Movie Club is ‘The Absent Minded Professor‘, the original 1961 version starring Fred MacMurray.

Shout! Factory released a box set of Penelope Spheeris’ three ‘The Decline of Western Civilization‘ documentaries last year. This week, the label breaks out the first two into standalone editions. I’m not sure what happened to the third (which focuses on homeless teenagers rather than musicians), except that perhaps it was judged not marketable enough to sell on its own.

Television

The only notable TV release this week is the second season of the WGN network’s ‘Manhattan‘.

My $.02

I’m ambivalent about most of this week’s releases. I have a passing interest in eventually seeing ‘The Peanuts Movie’, ‘Victoria’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘The Tribe’ and ‘The Forbidden Room’, but none excites me enough to run out and blind-buy a copy. I can wait for them to show up on cable or Netflix.

What am I missing out on here? Are you more eager for something on this list than I am?

19 comments

  1. Bolo

    ‘The Tribe’ was a well-made movie, but very disturbing. Much along the lines of ‘Lilya 4-ever’, it’s a very bleak slice of life. It does tell a story. Could the same story have been told with teenagers who were not deaf? Probably. But the film would still be pretty unique even if it employed a cast of characters who could hear and communicate by speaking.

  2. Bryan

    Believe it or not, I imported “Howard The Duck” about 6 months ago. I believe (from what I’ve read of the extras) that this is the same disc that they’re now releasing in the US.

  3. Csm101

    Peanuts 3D. My daughter loved it. In the Heart of the Sea 3D. At 14.99, Macbethb is enticing. Howard the Duck, and Species II. I always thought the male species creature was pretty frightening and odd looking. I hope the blu looks good.

  4. photogdave

    I’m with Julian regarding *batteries not included. Do I risk ruining a pleasant childhood memory, or will it be a nice trip down nostalgia highway?
    I’d like to watch the Decline of Western Civilization docs again. I remember seeing them on Much Music and being especially impressed by a drunken Ozzy Osbourne trying to eat breakfast in front of the camera. I think he was starting the day with Screwdrivers.

  5. Chris B

    I really want to see Macbeth, a friend of mine is blind-buying it so Ill just borrow his copy I suppose.

    Victoria sounds really interesting actually, might have to see if its available for rent.

    I really want to watch The Forbidden Room but can’t risk a blind-buy. I’d like to embrace Maddin fully as a director but the fact that he lifts so much of his aesthetic from silent films is a little off-putting to me personally. Still, he has enough crazy ideas to make his movies interesting for the most part. I read a quote from someone recently that made me laugh, something like “Guy Maddin makes David Lynch look like Steven Spielberg”.

      • I’d certainly agree that Tarantino does the same thing. In his case however I’m more fond if the source material. Personllay I could never get into silent films for the most part. I think part of the reason is the use of classical music which I abhore.

        I didn’t mean to imply that Maddin was “ripping off” silent films. Only that they’re clearly a heavy influence in his own work.

        • Chris B

          Speaking of Tarantino lifting things, I was watching Le Samourai last night and noticed something interesting. During the scene in which the police inspector is attempting make Jef Costello’s girlfriend jealous, he says a line of dialogue like “Yeah, him and the girl from the club have been inseparable since that night…sounds like True Romance to me.” And I was like “Boom! so that’s where Quentin got his title…”

  6. CC

    Kind of strange (given the PC climate) that this new version of Macbeth completely robs Lady Macbeth of all the deliciousness that is normally present in the role.

  7. *batteries not included was a preorder, but with everyone else, I’m afraid seeing it now will ruin some childhood nostalgia.

    Peanuts 3d I will probably pick up soon. If the 4k disc includes 3d, I’ll pick that up.

    Absent Minded Professor I’m waiting on a review. I grew up with this movie in color, and was shocked that they desaturated the movie for the DVD release! How dare they tinker with the way I had always seen it! No color version, no sale!

    • Dimwit

      >>Absent Minded Professor I’m waiting on a review. I grew up with this movie in color, and was shocked that they desaturated the movie for the DVD release! How dare they tinker with the way I had always seen it! No color version, no sale!<<

      You're joking, right?

      • Half-joking. I didn’t know it was filmed in b&w until the DVD came out. Still – just like Miracle on 34th Street – no colorized version, no sale. The colorized version is how I have always seen it, so it’s the version I want

        • William Henley

          So from the cover art on Blu-Ray dot Com, the back of the box not only has color screenshots, but it clearly says Technicolor on the package. According to Wikipedia, the film was shot in B&W and was not colorized until 1986 for its home video release (probably why I always saw it in color), but if it was colorized in the 80s, it wouldn’t be Technicolor. However, on the Disney Movie Club website, it says Available in Black and White. DMC representatives have been telling customers that it is the colorized version.

          A viewer in the forums over at BR dot Com got the disc and confirmed that the disc has only the B&W version, even though the cover clearly says Technicolor.

          I also just found out that on DVD, Disney released both the B&W version and the color version, so I might pick up the DVD

  8. EM

    Peanuts (3D) for me.

    The Tribe’s western-like story might be a little thin (kind-of like Macbeth’s story is thin: guy seeks power, guy gets in over his head, guy gets his comeuppance, the end—couldn’t you see that coming?), but it serves. Yes, The Tribe thrives on technique (in addition to the sign-language gimmick, there’s also the use of relatively long takes—there are maybe a couple dozen shots in the whole movie), but I’d rather see a simple story well told than a complex story not well told. That said, I’m not in a hurry to see The Tribe again soon. Some of it is quite ugly—the ugliness of corruption, the ugliness of violence, the ugliness of abortion—but there is beauty in the performances and the construction.

    As for The Forbidden Room, Josh, I assume you have a fair idea of what you’re in for, to the extent that is possible with a Maddin film. Have fun, and good luck.

  9. My review for ‘The Peanuts Movie’ Blu-ray should be up sometime today. I like how they totally avoided dating it with any sort of pop-culture nonsense. It feels like story that could exist at any time because it isn’t populated with what studio executives think kids want to see. The fact that they never inserted a Peanut-ized version of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber is actually a minor miracle given the state of things these days.

  10. Csm101

    I went to pick up Peanuts and Heart of the Sea at best buy tonight , but unfortunately couldn’t find Macbeth. Anyways I stopped at target and they had a bunch of movies in the 5.00 section for 4.75. Among those was the 3d Sin City sequel. Not a bad deal for anyone who might be interested.

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