We don’t have any new mega-hits on par with last week’s ‘Black Panther’ arriving on Blu-ray this week, but a couple of classic blockbusters get upgraded to Ultra HD. That is, if calling a 25-year-old movie a “classic” doesn’t make you feel ancient, which it kind of does for me.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Game Night‘ – Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play a hyper-competitive couple who mistakenly believe that the very real kidnapping of Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler) is part of a role-playing mystery game and blithely set out with their friends to solve riddles and crack the case, unaware that real danger is afoot. Playing off its leads’ likeable screen personas, the comedy received generally favorable reviews and was a solid box office hit. That’s something of a vindication for co-directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, whose reboot of the ‘Vacation’ franchise a few years ago flopped pretty badly.
‘Red Sparrow‘ – Have you ever watched ‘The Americans’ on FX and thought the show could really use some graphic nudity? Jennifer Lawrence and her ‘Hunger Games’ director Francis Lawrence (no relation!) apparently did. The actress stars as a deep-cover Russian operative who uses her sexual wiles to seduce a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton). Although based on an acclaimed novel by an actual former CIA agent, the film version didn’t much impress critics, who complained about its turgid pace, excessive length, and sordid fixation with rape and sexual violence. Audiences didn’t have a lot of interest either and the movie was a box office disappointment.
‘The 15:17 to Paris‘ – I didn’t realize the military now teaches drama classes in Basic Training. Clint Eastwood tries to parlay some of his ‘American Sniper’ cred into another bio picture about American heroism. This one tells the true story of two American servicemen and their friend who foiled a terrorist attack on a train while vacationing in Europe. Hoping for some sort of verisimilitude, Eastwood cast the real men as themselves to re-enact this terrible trauma, which I’m sure did great things for them psychologically. Warner Bros. lost faith in the movie early and refused to screen it for critics. Those who did see it condemned its amateur acting and clumsy execution. Because the studio barely advertised it at all, most audiences weren’t even aware that it existed. Now 88-years-old, it’s uncertain how many more movies Eastwood will be able to make, but he seems determined to keep at it until he drops. We’ll see if he can bounce back from this failure with the next one.
‘A Fantastic Woman‘ – This year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film is a Chilean drama about a trans woman struggling with societal bigotry when her older boyfriend dies and she’s prevented from mourning him properly by a family that wishes to write her out of the man’s life and by local police who seem determined, for no other reason than prejudice, to prove that she must have had something to do with his death. The subject matter is certainly topical today, and trans actress Daniela Vega was widely praised for her sympathetic performance.
‘Early Man‘ – ‘Wallace & Gromit’ creator Nick Park hadn’t directed anything in about a decade. He returns with a new Aardman Animations stop-motion comedy about a Bronze Age caveman who has to defend his home by challenging an invading tribe to a game of soccer… err, football. (You see, the title is a pun about early Manchester.) By most accounts, Park seems a little rusty at feature-length storytelling and the movie loses its way when it turns into a straightforward sports picture, but still has enough delightful bits to keep viewers entertained.
‘Wonderstruck‘ – Todd Haynes, the art house auteur behind such coldly intellectual films as ‘Safe‘ and ‘I’m Not There’, tries his hand at making a kids’ movie. Well, sort of. Naturally, it still has plenty of his pretentious artistic flourishes. Adapted from a book by the same author as Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’, the story follows two narratives in different timelines 50 years apart, as a young girl in the 1920s and a young boy in the 1970s each run away from home and their respective quests to find an absent parent intertwine with one another. Reviews were mixed to positive.
The only day-and-date title to debut in 4k is ‘Red Sparrow‘, which also gets a SteelBook at Best Buy. The catalog front is a lot more active, however.
Our reviewer Michael was hugely impressed with Warner’s Ultra HD edition of ‘The Matrix‘, which boasts a new and improved video transfer and a rocking Dolby Atmos soundtrack. (The standard Blu-ray in the case is remastered as well!) Something tells me that if the sequels ever get upgraded, you’ll have to rebuy the first movie in a trilogy box set to get them.
Universal takes the opposite approach with ‘Jurassic Park‘, forcing fans of the first movie (the only good one!) to buy three of its sequels with it in a so-called 25th Anniversary Collection. Expect an even bigger box later this year to add ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ too. If we’re lucky, a standalone copy of the original will follow at some point.
Also from Universal is a SteelBook repackage of Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’ follow-up ‘Serenity‘, which first hit UHD last October.
Sony focuses on historical war adventure with Mel Gibson in ‘The Patriot‘ and Brad Pitt in ‘Fury‘.
Now entering the Criterion Collection are Paul Schrader’s acclaimed 1985 bio-pic ‘Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters‘ and the 2012 Romanian drama ‘Beyond the Hills‘.
Twilight Time revisits one of the most “problematic” movies in history with D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent epic ‘The Birth of a Nation‘. The film is a technical masterpiece and a seminal building block in the foundation of motion picture language, and also a repugnantly racist celebration of the Ku Klux Klan. Griffith himself came to regret the movie and apologized for it later, but it’s too important a work to dismiss outright.
Other Twilight Time limited editions include the 1956 melodrama ‘Hilda Crane‘, Paul Mazursky’s autobiographical 1976 dramedy ‘Next Stop, Greenwich Village‘, and Walter Hill’s 1993 Western ‘Geronimo: An American Legend‘.
Kino double dips on the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western ‘A Fistful of Dollars‘. Be warned that, unfortunately, the video transfer is based on a recent “restoration” from L’Imaggine Ritrovata, which imposed the same sort of weird yellow tint on it as the controversial 2014 Blu-ray edition of ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly‘.
Finally, Universal repackages old Blu-ray editions of ‘The Blues Brothers‘, ‘The Game‘, ‘Children of Men‘ and ‘Serenity‘ into new SteelBooks.
Note: A Collector’s Edition copy of David Lynch’s ‘Wild at Heart’ from Shout! Factory that was scheduled for this week has been pushed back to August 21st due to an authoring problem with the disc.
‘Game Night’, ‘Red Sparrow’ and ‘Early Man’ all seem like things I can wait to catch when they eventually hit cable, which probably won’t be too long for any of them.
I’d be inclined to buy the UHD of ‘The Matrix’ just to get the remastered Blu-ray with it, but the current price seems excessive and I think I’ll wait for a trilogy box set. Conversely, I’d wait for a standalone edition of the first ‘Jurassic Park’. (Note: I am not sure if the Blu-ray packaged with that one is also remastered – probably not.)
‘Mishima’ will go on my wish list along with ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (for its historical value). I saw ‘Geronimo’ in the theater and don’t recall especially liking it, but would be willing to give it another shot sometime.
Will you buy anything new this week, or are you content to just watch ‘Black Panther’ again?
I want to pick up the Matrix, but didn’t pre order it. Last week, best buy screwed up every single one of my pre orders, so I might just try to walk in and get it, or try other retailers. I’m thinking about blind buying Red Sparrow, but still on the fence. I didn’t vote for it, but I eventually will pick up Of Unknown Origin. Early Man, Game Night, I Kill Giants are titles of interest. If the price is right, I may get the uhds for Patriot and Fury. Death Smiles on a Murderer is also a title of interest along with the remastered A Fistful of Dollars.
Much as with Die Hard, I can’t decide if I want to pick up The Matrix now or wait for the (likely) box set to avoid double-dipping. I’ll pick up the Jurassic Park box set when it goes on sale. Red Sparrow is a definite rental and possibly a potential purchase if I end up liking it.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I know A Fistful of Dollars has the unfortunate yellow tint transfer, but didn’t The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’s transfer get fixed later on? I thought I read something about that.
Yes, MGM’s release had a yellow tint to it. Kino used the same transfer as MGM as their starting point, but made their own tweaks on it. According to this very site, the yellow tint was fixed with the Kino release. You can read about it here:
The release of ‘Fistful of Dollars’ this week is also from Kino.
It’s very confusing that Kino would try to “correct” the yellow tint (to mixed results) on Good Bad Ugly but decided to leave it as-is on Fistful of Dollars. Perhaps they tried and couldn’t get this one to look right, or perhaps they’re planning a double-dip for later on.
They got a lot of crap for their color correction of TGTBATU too, so I think it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t thing. Probably a wise choice to just go with the already finished restoration this time.
That’s probably it. Their release of ‘TGTBATU’ got a reception that was mixed at best. I noticed the price on it dropped pretty quickly, so maybe it wasn’t selling so well either. These films have all been double, if not triple dipped, on blu ray already. Kino probably secured the rights to all these Leone films at once, thinking the source material would be easier to get good results out of and that the sales would be solid on these well-loved classics. Maybe they’re finding out differently. (pure speculation)
So Kino maybe just gave up on putting out definitive releases of these films. Now they’re going to try and recoup a few bucks on the rights without expending effort on remastering that would only be met with disapproval anyway.
I’ll probably pickup the ’15:17 to Paris’, or wait for it on Cable first.
I definitely will be picking up Geronimo: An American Legend (Twilight Time)
Expensive week if you are a 4k person. Jurassic Park and The Patriot should arrive tomorrow. I am waiting on The Matrix because I am assuming they will eventually release the sequels, and am going broke right now on double dips, triple dips, quadrouple dips as it is. Serenity I may pick up at a later date – I like Firefly, but I wasn’t as crazy about it as most of my friends, and while the movie tied up some loose ends, there wasn’t enough there for me to ever justify watching it again (the show I would watch again, the movie, probably not).
I always loved the idea of Firefly but never the execution. The movie is a good bit better though, IMO. Odd to see it listed here as a new release though because I’ve had that UHD for months. Maybe it was a store exclusive?
Sorry, you’re right. Serenity was released on UHD in October. The new copy is just a SteelBook repackage. I’ll add a note to that paragraph.
I think you hit the nail on the head – it was a great idea, just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. A few more years, and the time may be right for a reboot – the next series to find new life on streaming providers!
Game Night is a much better movie than expected.
It owes much of it’s DNA and style to RISKY BUSINESS.
Solid, very funny movie.
(And I didn’t even notice until afterwards, that they are actually playing nods to board games within the actual action).
A Chilean movie AND ‘Jurassic Park’ in the same week? This calls for Chilean sea bass on the menu!
Red Sparrow does not have “graphic nudity.” Game of Thrones season one arguably had graphic nudity, but Red Sparrow has some brief shots of breasts and buttocks, nothing major. It does involve sexual violence and such plot-wise though, yes.
Anyway, huge week for me because of UHDs. Red Sparrow, Jurassic Park set, Matrix and Fury. I’m the weird guy who loves The Lost World other than the brief gymnastics “joke” and 3 and World are okay time wasters if you collect fantasy as I do.
I was actually okay with The Lost World for the first 2/3rds of the movie, as it followed the book pretty well up to that point. But at some time during the making of the movie, someone thought “Hey, you know what would make this movie much better? Godzilla!”
IMHO World was the best since the original. 3 was the weakest, but I still like it.
It definitely descends into cheese, I guess I just was the right age to get into it anyway. Also it has that Spielberg touch which makes it work just a bit better than it should. I enjoyed World as a fun romp but when it gets cheesy it gets REALLY cheesy, and that Raptor “bro-nod” at the end just kills me.
My pick would be “The Matrix” and Jurassic Park”.
I have Kino’s Blu-ray of Birth of a Nation so pass on the TT version. I may upgrade Mishima at some point. I’d like to get Geronimo since I like the movie a lot however friends of mine contend that it’s the most boring western ever made.
For those of you who dislike the craptacular sequels, all ‘Jurassic Park’ movies are available individually in the UK. £70 for all four Steelbooks is ah, eh, steal, and just the first one (the excellent one) will cost you £25. Here’s a link! https://www.zoom.co.uk/product/jurassic_world_steelbook_4k_uhd_bd_uv_limited_edition_zoom_exclusive_uhd