Blu-ray Highlights: Week of May 19th, 2013 – Consult Your Physician Immediately

This week’s Blu-ray releases feature a curious convergence of coming and going. A former action icon returns from retirement while an A-List filmmaker calls his career quits.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (5/21/13)?

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New Releases

As we posted about earlier this year, Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh has grown so dissatisfied with the state of filmmaking today that he’s decided to give up on the profession entirely, at least for the time being, to devote his time to painting and other interests. Soderbergh announced that the medical thriller ‘Side Effects‘ will be his last theatrical feature film. Not that you ever would have known that from the studio’s marketing, which neglected to mention the director’s name at all. The movie’s reviews were mostly lukewarm, and it tanked pretty badly at the box office. This seems like an inauspicious end to an important filmmaker’s career. However, before he heads off into the sunset, Soderbergh has one more movie left. His Liberace bio-pic ‘Behind the Candelabra’ will premiere on HBO on May 26th.

Now that his career in politics has finally (some would say mercifully) come to an end, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a bid to return to movie stardom with the goofy action comedy ‘The Last Stand‘. Unfortunately, fans did not embrace his comeback as enthusiastically as hoped. The movie flopped when it was released back in January. The few who saw it mostly reported it to be divertingly silly fun, though.

Speaking of over-the-hill stars, the crime comedy ‘Stand Up Guys‘ teams up Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin as aging gangsters bumbling through one last job. Reviews were not kind.

Beautiful Creatures‘ is the latest ‘tween-focused supernatural melodrama trying to cash in on the end of the ‘Twilight’ series. This one has something to do with witches, I think. A slumming Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson were somehow dragged into it. Based on the poor box office, I don’t expect this to become the powerhouse franchise that its producers may have hoped.

Another failed franchise starter is ‘Parker‘, in which Jason Statham plays the Donald Westlake character previously featured in a couple dozen books and several movies (notably ‘Point Blank’ with Lee Marvin and ‘Payback’ with Mel Gibson). This is actually the first time that the author’s estate has allowed the character’s original name to be used. Sadly, all of the trailers make it look like just another generic Statham vehicle with little to distinguish itself.

Finally, ‘Glee’ star Chris Colfer tries his hand at screenwriting with the high school dramedy ‘Struck by Lightning‘, about an ambitious journalism hopeful who blackmails his classmates into contributing to his literary magazine in order to bolster his college applications. As far as I’m aware, no singing is involved.

Catalog Titles

At the top of the list of interesting catalog releases this week are the Studio Ghibli anime classics ‘My Neighbor Totoro‘ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle‘. Disney’s treatment of Ghibli titles has been kind of hit-or-miss. The studio sometimes neglects to provide lossless audio in the original Japanese language or accurately-translated English subtitles (rather than “dubtitles”). I hope that these two discs fare more like ‘Nausicaa‘ and less like ‘Ponyo‘.

The Criterion Collection gives us Haskell Wexler’s hugely influential ‘Medium Cool‘, which blurred the line between documentary and fiction filmmaking.

Warner Bros. offers two ‘The Ultimate Gangsters Collection‘ box sets. The “Contemporary” version merely contains repackaged copies of ‘The Departed’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Heat’, ‘The Town’ and ‘The Untouchables’. However, the “Classics” box marks the first appearance of ‘Little Caesar’, ‘The Public Enemy’, ‘The Petrified Forest’ and ‘White Heat’ on Blu-ray. All of these can also be purchased separately. Top of the world, ma!

Marvel Comics completists and kitsch aficionados may take interest in Shout! Factory’s release of the 1990 ‘Captain America‘ cheesefest. The distributor’s Scream Factory imprint has the summer camp slasher classic ‘The Burning‘.

Warner Bros. reissues National Lampoon’s ‘Vacation‘ in a new 30th Anniversary Edition along with the first high-def appearance of ‘Vegas Vacation‘. Also notable from this studio is the Richard Gere/Jodie Foster historical romance ‘Sommersby‘, a remake of the French film ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’ that was directed byscripted by Nicholas Meyer (of ‘Star Trek II’ fame).


Need to catch up on ‘True Blood‘ before the new season starts next month? HBO will accommodate with the Complete Fifth Season on Blu-ray.

Meanwhile, BBC delivers the second season of the historical soap ‘Call the Midwife‘.

I’m excited for the all the titles in the ‘Ultimate Gangsters’ classic box. Pending confirmation of their audio and subtitle features, I also look forward to adding both Studio Ghibli discs to my collection. ‘Medium Cool’ will go on my wish list for the next Barnes & Noble Criterion sale. Beyond that, I’ll probably rent ‘Side Effects’ at some point, and wait for ‘The Last Stand’ to turn up on HBO.

What will you spend money on this week?


  1. NJScorpio

    Speaking of Barnes & Noble Criterion sales…from what I hear, starting tomorrow, all Blu-Rays (including Criterions) will be 40% off in store.

  2. William Henley

    After being delayed several times, Europes Most Beautiful Places – 3D is shipping! Had this title preordered for months, as I loved their Mystic Mountains release.

    Tenchi sounds interesting, as does Lego Batman

      • William Henley

        🙂 Not really sure, it should be arriving today. However, the company seems to be Austrian based – Mystic Mountains I believe was all Austrian.

        I don’t think Belgium is in there. The description of this film is:
        Experience a breathtaking Real 3D journey into the wild desert of Middle-Europe and be impressed by the wonderful symbiosis of tradition and natural beauty of the flora and fauna. Be impressed by animals in their real natural environment and experience these unique moments in sharp 3D images. You have the choice to experience this movie as an informative documentary or listening like a relaxing music. Whatever option you choose, this film is an unique experience which was produced in real stereoscopic 3D. This movie can be played in Real 3D and also in the 2D format (Full HD).

        Kinda confused by the description – I lived in Central Europe for a while, and don’t remember desert places. I think there ARE some dryer areas of South-eastern Austria and Northern Italy, but I don’t think those qualify as deserts.

        My guess is that the film focuses on the Accona, Bledowska, Stranja, Oltenian and Oleshky Deserts. Going to go do some more research on them – I honestly did not know there were deserts in those areas before I did the search on Wikipedia.

        • EM

          Technically, a desert is a land area with very precipitation, or whose precipitation largely evaporates. By this standard even Antarctica is a desert, even though it happens to be covered with a lot of water in frozen form.

          In English, desert has also traditionally meant an uninhabited area (e.g., a “desert island”). I wouldn’t use it with that meaning in the context you quoted; but if this is a company based in a non-English-speaking country, then the wordsmithery may be a little suspect anyway.

          • Hmmm, it looks like I confused this company with another small 3D production house, My bad

            This disc is really odd. I am halfway through it. And man, does it have issues.

            First, it is a documentary about ranching on the Hungarian Plains. If it wasn’t for the horseback riders wearing Hungarian Costumes, I would have sworn this was filmed in the Texas Panhandle or Oklahoma – almost the exact same landscape, similar flora and fonna, even similar architecture. Horses are horses, goats are goats, and longhorn cows are longhorn cows no matter where they are. There are even some shots that look amazingly like a field of Bluebonnets and firewheels, although the film does tell what the flowers are.

            There is not a lot of varrience in landscape, either. It looks like the guy who shot the video had a friend who owned some land in Hungry, and asked if he could shoot out there. It seems like an awfully small sampling of an area to title it “Europe’s Most Beautiful Places”. And while I am sure it is pretty low landfall, there is obviously more rainfall there than any other “desert” I have ever seen

            The narration is attrocious (sp?). It felt like I was back in school watching a horrible 1950s educational film. She will put you to sleep. Luckily a Music only track is provided.

            The disc specifications say English / German Audio tracks, but all I saw was English and a music only track.

            The video…. Okay, so let’s start out by saying that the 3D effect is AMAZING! Stuff really pops out of the screen. One of the best looking uses of 3D I have ever seen.

            Now, I am going to get a “I told you so” from Josh, but this is the FIRST 3D release that I have ever seen that…… HAS GHOSTING BAKED INTO THE VIDEO!!! However, it’s not the only visual issue.

            Pretty much, it looks like the entire show was filmed with a Pro-sumer grade 3D HD camera, and an older model at that. It seems that there are quite a few interpolated frames. While this looks fine on static landscapes, the video starts to blur a bit on pans. However, when horses are running across the picture, or sheep, goats or cows are in motion, not only does the picture blur and soften, but there are some very obvious ghosting effects. Pausing on a frame of, say, a horse running, will show what looks to be 2 or three frames composited on top of each other, with your current frame being the sharpest, and what looks like the before frame and the after frame which are semi-transparent. As you can see the horses legs in three very different points of motion, and not what you would expect – a left and right image speration issue, this leads me to believe that the issue stems from a camera that is not shooting a full 24 /25 / 30 frames a second and is in fact interpolating footage. As most of the shots are fairly static, though, this issue only rears its ugly head every now and then.

            There was something else that was really bugging me – just how soft the picture was during camera pans and action scenes. Turns out that the film has a bitrate between 9-13Mbps (the 13 gets hit in high motion scenes)… for a 3D TITLE! Who the heck encodes a movie that tight? The movie is only 53 minutes long, and there are no extras or subtitles, so why such a tight bitrate? The entire disc is just 11.5 gig.

            If this was released by a major studio, I would be screaming for a replacement disc.

            That being said, it’s NOT awful. Like I said, the 3D IS INCREDIBLE, and there are some beautiful shots in here. And the disc is fairly priced at $10.

          • That does sound like a strange disc. Anyway, if the 3D is to your liking, we can at least conclude that it did the bare minimum for a 3D feature.