Well, folks, it appears that we have another week where catalog titles dominate the Blu-ray scene. In fact, the release slate as a whole is a lot smaller than usual. Fortunately, there’s some quality wheat hidden among the chaff, if you look for it.
These are the discs being released today:
- ‘Anton Chekhov’s The Duel‘ (Music Box Films)
- ‘The Big Bang‘ (Starz/Anchor Bay)
- ‘The Big Country‘ (20th Century Fox)
- ‘Burning Palms‘ (Image)
- ‘The End of Poverty?‘ (Cinema Libre)
- ‘Gettysburg: Director’s Cut‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘Gnomeo & Juliet‘ (Disney/Buena Vista)
- ‘Gnomeo & Juliet – 3D‘ (Disney/Buena Vista)
- ‘Gods and Generals: Extended Director’s Cut‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘Grand Prix‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘The Great Dictator‘
- ‘Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘I Am Number Four‘ (Disney/Buena Vista)
- ‘I Am Number Four (Combo Pack)‘ (Disney/Buena Vista)
- ‘Le Mans‘ (Paramount)
- ‘Papillon ‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘Platoon‘ (MGM)
- ‘Quigley Down Under‘ (20th Century Fox)
- ‘Samurai Champloo: The Complete Series‘ (FUNimation)
- ‘Solaris (1972)‘ (Criterion)
- ‘Soul Eater: The Meister Collection‘ (FUNimation)
- ‘Tigerland‘ (MGM/UA)
The two major day-and-date titles are easily the least interesting things up for offer today, so let’s get them out of the way first. Does the sound of animated garden gnomes singing Elton John songs while desecrating Shakespeare get you excited? What if I told you that they did this in eye-gouging 3D? No? Then I guess you weren’t among the audiences that made ‘Gnomeo & Juliet‘ an inexplicable box office hit earlier this year. I certainly wasn’t, and won’t be contributing to its further fortunes on video either. Nor will I give a dollar to the ‘Twilight’-for-boys teen sci-fi claptrap ‘I Am Number Four‘. That one was a bomb, and from most accounts, deservedly so.
In better news, the Criterion Collection leads the way among the week’s catalog titles with high-def editions of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece ‘The Great Dictator‘ and Russian filmmaker Andrey Tarkovskiy’s original 1972 science fiction mind-bender ‘Solaris‘. (Although it wasn’t very popular, I kind of liked Steven Soderbergh’s remake too.) I consider both of these essential purchases.
I got my wires crossed last week when I thought that Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winner ‘Platoon‘ had been released. It turns out that the disc was delayed to this week. Here’s what I tried to say about it earlier: Despite star Charlie Sheen’s recent “Winning!” antics, I think most people will acknowledge that this is a phenomenal movie with a terrific cast (including a very young Johnny Depp). Unfortunately, advance word has it that MGM’s Blu-ray is sourced from a pretty dated master.
I admitted in a recent Roundtable that I’ve somehow never seen a single movie starring cinema icon Steve McQueen, despite having several of them sitting unwatched in my movie collection. Warner and Paramount have decided to shame me further with the new Blu-ray releases of ‘Papillon‘ and ‘Le Mans‘ this week.
Speaking of classic racing movies (like ‘Le Mans’), Warner has also finally ported John Frankenheimer’s ‘Grand Prix‘ (which was formerly only available on HD DVD) to the Blu disc format. At three-hours, this is a long movie, and the plot is a little soap opera-y, but it’s pretty damn entertaining and those racing sequences are nothing short of amazing. Remember the days when car racing movies had real cars actually racing, without any CGI bullshit? This is the real deal. The HD DVD looked stunning, and our reviewer Steven was really impressed with the Blu-ray too.
The civil war epic ‘Gettysburg‘ was a passion project for producer Ted Turner, who poured $25 million into it. That may not sound like a lot for a feature film, but keep in mind that this started life as a cable TV miniseries that got too big for its britches. The 1993 theatrical cut was already over four-hours long, and the Director’s Cut adds about another half hour to that. The movie has some issues and is a little stilted in places, but overall it’s a very well-made and fascinating history lesson. It also has excellent production values, save for one major failing – all those fake beards. Dear lord, they’re atrocious. I fear that high definition will just call even more attention to this problem. Warner is releasing the movie in a Digibook package alongside a reissue of the vastly inferior follow-up ‘Gods and Generals‘, which is getting its own Extended Director’s Cut.
Fox seems to be in a Western mood this week. The studio gives us William Wyler’s epic ‘The Big Country‘, and Simon Wincer’s considerably less epic but kind of fun ‘Quigley Down Under‘.
Finally, while it may be hard to believe, even an atrocious filmmaker like Joel Schumacher is capable of putting together a watchable movie every once in a blue moon. At least, I’ve heard that ‘Tigerland‘ is pretty decent. I’ve just been a little too skeptical to risk it myself. I’ll leave it to you to tell me whether I should give it a shot.