Blu-ray Highlights: Week of May 22nd, 2016 – Movies, Now More Than Ever!

The two best Blu-rays this week are actually reissues of movies previously released on the format. That either speaks toward how badly these titles deserved a do-over, or how uninteresting everything else is.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (5/24/16)?

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New Releases

Zoolander 2‘ – The original ‘Zoolander’ had precisely one funny scene, involving a bunch of bimbo male models throwing a “gasoline fight.” But the movie was the first major comedy released after the 9/11 tragedy and people really needed a mindless laugh to distract them from the miserable state of the world. The film made decent money at the time but was quickly forgotten afterwards – by everyone except writer/director/star Ben Stiller, anyway. Still hanging onto that past glory, he brought the original cast back together for a sequel 15 years later. This is not a thing anyone wanted. Curiously, it seems that Stiller and the studio couldn’t even figure out what to call the movie. It’s titled ‘Zoolander 2’ on screen but ‘Zoolander No. 2’ in most of the marketing materials. From the accounts of most people who bothered to see it, it’s a big, stinky number-two all right.

How to Be Single‘ – Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie headline an overstuffed rom-com that looks so painfully generic I’m surprised Garry Marshall didn’t direct it.

The Finest Hours‘ – Chris Pine better hope that this summer’s new ‘Star Trek’ sequel is another hit, because he has yet to find any success outside that franchise. In this attempt, he trades captaining a starship for captaining a Coast Guard boat through a daring rescue mission during a terrible blizzard in 1952. Loosely based on a true story, the movie is said to have pretty impressive action set-pieces but pretty bad everything else. From the trailers, the photography appears to be 100% teal with no other colors used at all.

Risen‘ – Joseph Fiennes is Roman military tribune tasked with locating Jesus’ missing corpse in that brief window between the Passion of the Christ and Easter. From the director of ‘Waterworld’, the movie was marketed as though it were ‘Passion 2: Return of the Christ’ but is reportedly much closer to amateurish faith-based productions like ‘Fireproof’ and ‘Courageous’. Phil called it “church basement Christploitation.” Ouch. Also available in UHD so you can see the shoddy production values in extra clarity.

Catalog Titles

Way back in 1993, the Criterion Collection issued a very nice Laserdisc edition of Robert Altman’s biting-the-hand-that-feeds-him Hollywood satire ‘The Player‘. Unfortunately, the label lost the rights to the title for most of the DVD and Blu-ray era. Warner Bros. put out an adequate if unexceptional Blu-ray in 2010. With another six years passed, the studio has finally loosened its grip on some of its properties and allowed Criterion to license Altman’s film again. The Criterion edition sports a newly remastered video transfer and a superior selection of bonus features.

Although overshadowed in popular culture by ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, its crappy sequels, and (more recently) the ‘Hannibal’ TV series, many fans will argue that Michael Mann’s superlative serial killer thriller ‘Manhunter‘ is still the best Hannibal Lecter movie (even if the film changes the spelling of the character’s name to “Lektor” for no particular reason). The picture appeared on Blu-ray as a bare-bones disc from MGM back in 2009 as part of ‘The Hannibal Lecter Collection’, bundled with ‘Lambs’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘Hannibal’. That same disc was later repackaged as a standalone copy. The new Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory offers both the original theatrical cut (allegedly… Michael Mann has a frustrating habit of making changes to the movie every time he looks at it) and the inferior “Director’s Cut.” Due to limitations in the available source material, the latter is cobbled together from a mix of high-definition footage (from the theatrical cut transfer) and standard-definition footage for the added scenes. Also included is a pretty impressive selection of new supplements.

Rob Lowe may be firmly entrenched as a TV star today, but in the late 1980s his career was in freefall following his Oscar telecast musical debacle and his sex scandal. The 1990 erotic thriller ‘Bad Influence‘ was the first stage in his comeback. While not a box office success, the film playfully toyed with Lowe’s image as a naughty bad boy and showed that he had a sense of humor about his own failings. Certainly no great lost masterpiece, it’s essentially a formulaic B-movie thriller, but it’s slickly put together by future ‘L.A. Confidential’ director Curtis Hanson and has one really suspenseful and blackly-comic set-piece in the middle. A few years ago, I caught a streaming version of this on VUDU that looked pretty lousy. I’d hope that the Blu-ray has a better transfer, though I’ll admit that I’m not really inclined to buy this movie in any case.

After the failure of his disco nightclub drama ‘54‘ (set in the infamous Studio 54), director Mark Christopher claimed that studio interference forced to him hack out the core of the movie. He later held private screenings of a bootleg cut that reportedly added about 45 minutes of new footage, reinstating a significant storyline in which Ryan Phillippe’s lead character was revealed to be bisexual. The Amazon listing claims that the new “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray has a 103-minute run time, which (if accurate) appears to be a compromise that’s about 10 minutes longer than the old theatrical version. Whether any of this really makes the widely-panned movie worthwhile now is unknown to me.

Best Buy stores have an exclusive window on several star-driven comedies from the 1980s, including Tom Hanks in ‘The Money Pit‘ and ‘The ‘Burbs‘, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy in ‘The Great Outdoors‘, and Michael Keaton in ‘The Dream Team‘.

Also dredged up from the 1980s is the Scott Baio classic ‘Zapped!‘, in which the former Chachi and future Charles in Charge plays a high schooler who gets telekinetic abilities following a failed science experiment. The only part of this movie I remember at all is a scene where he uses his power to rip off a girl’s clothes from across the room – which at the time was considered hilariously ribald but today clearly marks him as a sex predator.

Finally, it seems that the Cohen Film Archive’s release of the 1964 Jean-Luc Godard infidelity drama ‘A Married Woman‘ (which I first mentioned back in March) was delayed to this week.

My $.02

I’m currently working on a review of ‘The Player’. (Short version: It’s a very worthy upgrade.) The new copy of ‘Manhunter’ is also a must-buy.

I enjoy ‘The Money Pit’ and ‘Bad Influence’, but not enough that I need to own them. I know that ‘The ‘Burbs’ has a cult audience, but I never got into it.

What’s on your docket this week?

17 comments

  1. Csm101

    The Money Pit was a childhood favorite and it gets even funnier in my grown up years as now I understand and better appreciate the grown up jokes. A must have. Manhunter looks very appealing, although I do have the barebones blu and the first DVD before the director’s cut double dip. I’ve always been curious about that version. A very strong maybe. If I don’t pick up Manhunter, maybe I’ll pick up The Great Outdoors for 10 bucks. I’ve never seen it. I’ve always wanted to see Bad Influence, but my mom was always present whenever the movie aired on HBO or Cinemax. Watching sexy thrillers with moms ( especially my mom ) is no bueno. I might get around to picking this up. The Player could be interesting for a B&N sale. If UK releases a 3d version of Finest Hours, I’d pick it up.

  2. William Henley

    So does anyone know anything about the Ranma release? This is the standard edition, the previous Blu-Ray was a special edition. But this edition is also being released by WB where as the former one was Viz Media. I do know that Warner Home Video distributes for Viz, but Viz has always still had their studio logo on it before. It looks like from the box art that they have on Amazon has both the VIZ and the Warner Brothers logo, and the special features listed on the boxes are identical to the previous release. The only difference seems to be that the previous one came in a box that included an episode guide and a manga. I have been debating on whether or not to pick them up – I REALLY like this series, but with 7 sets at $40-$50 each, I have been holding out. I find it odd that any anime is popular enough to justify a double-dip on Blu-Ray – even the most popular of anime series may only sell a few thousand copies is my guess. Now Ranma is popular, but I am still surprised.

    So I hit the Nothing For Me This Week option too fast – it looks like my first 4k disk will be arriving this week. Risen is an interesting movie. The first hour or so of it is fantastic – hands down one of the best low-budget Christian films I have seen -mainly because they took such a unique take on it, and it was very well written, acted and directed. Actually has a few extremely funny moments, and I don’t mean like bad-Christian movie jokes, I mean some really funny stuff in it, really well written and the actors sold the comedy. However, then you have the third act of the movie, and it falls apart. It pretty much felt like they made shot and edited the first 2/3rds of the movie, then had a screening of it, and were like “Uh, its too short”, and then had someone else write a new ending (because there is an ending about 2/3rds of the way through the movie that feels like it is where the movie should have ended), and went out and shot it last minute on a very tight schedule. Literally, the first 2/3rds of the movie is like a 4.5 star movie, and the last third is like 0.5 stars, which sadly balances the movie out to about a 2 star movie overall. However, this movie is at least enjoyable and rewatchable, so I am picking it up.

  3. Shannon Nutt

    I never got all the love for ‘The Burbs’ either…or ‘The Money Pit’, for that matter – although I think I like it more than ‘The Burbs’. There was a whole string of movies in the mid to late 80s that were supposed to be scripts for Steven Spielberg’s ‘Amazing Stories’ series that Spielberg thought were good enough to be standalone films…I can’t remember if ‘The Burbs’ was one of them or not, but maybe. Or maybe ‘The Money Pit’ was and ‘The Burbs’ wasn’t. 🙂

  4. HuskerGuy

    “The original ‘Zoolander’ had precisely one funny scene” – strongly disagree

    “From the accounts of most people who bothered to see it, it’s a big, stinky number-two all right.” – strongly agree

    I loved the first one, but the second one is pure garbage.

      • Csm101

        I think it’s pretty funny, but what really makes it work is when he references it in the eulogy saying something like,” Just because we have chiseled abs and stunning features, doesn’t mean we can’t not die in a freak gasoline fight accident.” That’s funnier than the fight itself.

    • The funniest bit in Zoolander 2 was Benedict Cumberbatch’s transgendered model “All”, and the way the scene toys with today’s uber-PC climate. Other than that, yeah it was pretty bad…..although Penelope Cruz did look amazing in it.

  5. Never seen The Player but will probably pick it up in November. Never seen Manhunter either but as a big fan of the director’s work I’ll be blind-buying it in the next few months. I’ll have to check out my local BB to see if that liscensing agreement carries over into Canada. I like The Money Pit and The Great Outdoors but The “Burbs is an absolute classic in my family, and endlessly quotable. It must be mine!

  6. Josh, as a big fan of David Lynch you may want to go out of your way to see “The Chase” that’s coming out this week. It’s a rather peculiar film noir that toys with the ideas of dreams and fractured memories. A lot of people have compared it to movies like Blue Velvet and Memento. I wathched it on a shitty copy DVD I own and still found it really entertaining….

  7. Deaditelord

    Will pick up Manhunter when it goes on sale, but otherwise I don’t see anything worth owning this week.

  8. Lord Bowler

    One must buy for me this week is:
    ‘The People That Time Forgot’ (Scorpion Releasing)

    I love Doug McClure and Dinosaurs so The Land That Time Forgot was a favorite and this sequel was just as entertaining!

    ‘The Finest Hours’ (Disney) – is a possible blind buy…

    I may pick up some or all of these catalog releases in the coming weeks, particularly ‘The Great Outdoors’!
    ‘The Money Pit (Best Buy Exclusive)’ (Universal)
    ‘The ‘Burbs (Best Buy Exclusive)’ (Universal)
    ‘The Great Outdoors (Best Buy Exclusive)’ (Universal)
    ‘The Dream Team (Best Buy Exclusive).’ (Universal)

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