Blu-ray Highlights for May 22nd, 2012 – Watch Your Six

As a consequence of my hectic travel schedule these past few weeks, I find myself writing yet another of these Blu-ray posts on a plane. Oddly, this one happens to coincide with a week where the biggest new release is all about airplanes – specifically, about a bunch of planes that crash or blow up or get shot out of the sky. This is a little unsettling, honestly. The film in question was also a big box office failure earlier this year, which leaves phrases like “bomb” or “crash and burn” rattling through my head. I’m glad that I don’t have any more trips planned for the immediate future. I’m a nervous enough flier as it is.

The following discs street today:

New Releases

Poor George Lucas. He’s been complaining for years about how the ‘Star Wars’ franchise has consumed his life, when all he really wants to do is make “small, personal” films. Yet despite having $876 quadrillion dollars in his personal petty cash fund to do with as he sees fit whenever he pleases, he hasn’t made a damn bit of progress towards producing those little arty movies that he claims to be so passionate about. (He could finance a dozen or so of them with the money he spends at Starbucks on a weekly basis.) Instead, his first non-‘Star Wars’ project in years was the big-budget WWII aerial combat action flick ‘Red Tails‘, which Lucas has sworn will be his last blockbuster movie. Heh… George Lucas honestly believed that ‘Red Tails’ would be a blockbuster. Heh… Well, it wasn’t a blockbuster, mainly because, according to every single person who bothered to see it, the movie is a total piece of crap, which was completely obvious from every trailer. And now it’s on Blu-ray for everyone to ignore again. For whatever it’s worth, I’m sure that it will make for very nice eye- and ear-candy while your brain lapses into catatonia. Is that worth a purchase to you?

Poor Daniel Radcliffe. The young actor made his first attempt to step beyond the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise and play an adult role in the period ghost story ‘The Woman in Black‘, and no one went to see it. I guess he’s doomed to be Harry Potter forever. (That’s called “Mark Hamill Syndrome.”) The movie received mixed reviews. Luke here thought it sucked, but other critics were more caught up in its old-school vibe. I might rent this.

Poor McG. After the inexplicable success of the first craptastic ‘Charlie’s Angels’ movie, everyone quickly realized that he’s a lousy hack. His latest attempt to pretend that he’s still an A-List director, the action-comedy ‘This Means War‘, was a big ol’ flop. That’s probably because no one could believe the premise that super-studly super-spies Tom Hardy and Chris Pine would actually find themselves fighting for the affections of Reese Witherspoon. Also, everybody already saw ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’. It’s been done, and this retread doesn’t have that combustible Brangelina chemistry working for it.

Studio Ghibli

It’s a shame that the charming children’s films from the famed Japanese anime house Studio Ghibli can’t seem to make any traction in North America. Nevertheless, despite repeated audience disinterest, Disney remains committed to releasing the studio’s product on these shores. Chalk that up almost entirely to the passion of John Lasseter, who takes every opportunity to let it be known that he’s the world’s biggest Ghibli fan.

The studio’s latest production, ‘The Secret World of Arriety‘, is an adaptation of the classic children’s book ‘The Borrowers’, and was scripted (though not directed) by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Most Ghibli films are worth watching, though I decided to wait for video on this one because Disney only released a dubbed version to theaters. I strongly believe in watching all foreign films, even animation, in their original language.

To coincide with ‘Arriety’, Disney also offers up two classic Ghibli titles on Blu-ray, ‘Castle in the Sky‘ and ‘Whisper of the Heart‘. The former is my favorite Miyazaki film.

Catalog Titles

The remaining catalog titles span the quality gamut from the latest zero-budget rip-off from the schlockmeisters at Asylum, ‘The American Battleship‘, to the latest pretentious art film from Criterion, ‘Certified Copy‘. I probably shouldn’t be so dismissive of ‘Certified Copy’. I’ve heard many good things about it. But has anyone else felt that the quality of Criterion’s cover art has taken a steep nosedive in recent months?

[Update: It appears that I missed mentioning the ‘Lethal Weapon Collection‘ when I first published this post. This box set (which was released in Europe a year before we got it here, for some reason) contains remastered transfers for the first two films, that previously had flawed Blu-ray releases. I’d be a lot more interested in this if I could buy those two entries separately. I have no interest in ever owning the third or fourth movies in the series.]


On the TV front, we have the complete first season of AMC’s brooding Western ‘Hell on Wheels‘ (which starts off a little shaky but picks up steam [pardon the railroad pun] as it goes), and the second season of the modern-day Sherlock Holmes update, simply called ‘Sherlock‘. (Could there possibly be a better name for someone playing Sherlock Holmes than Benedict Cumberbatch?)

Go ahead. Tell us what you’re buying this week.


  1. EM

    Heh. When flying, I actually like to watch Airplane! and Airplane II: The Sequel, as well as the Twilight Zone episodes “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “The Odyssey of Flight 33”. Flight makes me nervous, and watching such movies and episodes somehow provides me relief; for I am, in a way, taking control of my anxiety by choosing to be entertained by such anxieties. (Airplane!, incidentally, itself contains a scene in which the in-flight movie depicts a fiery airplane crash.)

    I went to see The Woman in Black, and I even took a buddy along. I would not call the film a classic nor would I call Daniel Radcliffe’s performance a revelation; but I thought the film was largely competent (or better than competent) and Radcliffe effectively inhabited his character, who was clearly not Harry Potter. If you’re interested in this sort of tale, I don’t think it’s a must, but I think it’s worth trying out once at least.

    • William Henley

      I agree, I quite liked The Woman in Black. I also wouldn’t put it as a must-see, but I am planing on purchasing it (I actually had it preordered, but had to cancel because my spending fund and part of my bill fund got ate up Friday by emergancy computer repairs). But yeah, if you like ghost stories, The Woman in Black is actually a pretty good movie.

      As for Red Tails I wouldn’t call it a piece of crap, but I won’t be buying it either. I would recommend it as a rental. I mean, it was entertaining enough. Maybe it was because I went into it with such low expectations.

      I am debating on Hell on Wheels. If I can find it for a good price, I may pick it up.

  2. Unfortunately, the Disney release of “Castle in the Sky” has some problems. The biggest being that the subtitles are in fact “dubtitles,” which was apparently also a problem on the last DVD re-release. None of their other Miyazaki releases have this problem, so I’m not really sure why they would do this to Castle in the Sky.

    Also, the English dub has been altered to include the original music score and less “extra chatter,” making it closer to the original sound design. The redone score (which was given the stamp of approval by Miyazaki) is not included. Personally, I’d rather have the original Japanese audio and the completely redone English version– I figure if you’re going for an alternate audio version, you might as well go all the way.
    If all you care about is the original Japanese with correct subtitles, go for the Hong Kong import. If you want correct subtitles AND the rescored English dub, you can go with the UK version (region B locked) or the Japanese version (very expensive).
    Personally, I’m just sticking with my 2003 DVD for now.

    • William Henley

      Yeah, they have been doing something similar on Dragonball. Truthfully, with as much space as Blu-Ray has, I don’t understand why they can’t have both English audio tracks. Same with subtitles, give me both the subtitles plus the dubtitles. The subtitles should be defaulted to if I choose the Japanese track, and the dubtitles should be defaulted if I choose the English track.

    • EM

      One of the most revolting subtitle tracks I’ve ever seen is on a DVD of The City of Lost Children, a French-language film (la Cité des enfants perdus). Not only do the French subtitles badly match the French dialogue, they actually appear to be a translation of the English subtitles. (For example, the original French dialogue establishes the name of the Ron Perlman character as the English word One; the French subtitles call him Un, which is the French name for the number 1.) The English subtitles may or may not be a good match for the English dub on the disc; I cannot stand watching the movie with that dub long enough to make a determination. (I think the disc also has Spanish dubbing and Spanish subtitles, but I haven’t investigated either.)

  3. August Lehe

    SOMEBODY PULEEZE TELL AMAZON to stop changing the process for ordering blu ray discs…I used to order a disc every few days and enjoyed the process. Now I check every few days and find out I ordered extra copies I did NOT want and have a minor nervous breakdown, first trying to change, then cancelling the order(s) altogether.

    • William Henley

      When did they change the process? It is the same for me as it has been for the past six years.

    • EM

      I’ve been ordering Blu-ray discs and other products from Amazon for years and never plunged into the hell you describe. Maybe your mouse button has gotten oversensitive…?

  4. Drew

    I picked up ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ this week. It arrived on 5/21, after only being released overseas a week prior. I think it’s ridiculous that it isn’t going to be released here in the states for another month, when it was released theatrically the same day as ‘M:I-GP’, and that film hit blu-ray two months before ‘Sherlock’ does, despite the fact that ‘M:I-GP’ was way more successful!

    Anyway, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I picked it up from the UK. I’ll say this much — the audio track is quite impressive. It’s best feature is reference quality LFE.

  5. Drew

    I also added ‘The Woman in Black’ to my collection this week, mostly based on E.’s review on the main site.