This is a big week for reissues and repackagings on Blu-ray, but not so much for recent theatrical features. However, if you dig through the release slate, you might find some pretty interesting catalog titles worth taking a look at.
The only notable day-and-date title this week is the ‘Veronica Mars‘ movie, which reunites pretty much every important character from the cast of the short-lived but beloved cult TV show. As I explained in my review back in March, the film (which was significantly financed through a Kickstarter campaign) really exists only to please the diehard fans, and doesn’t offer much to draw in new viewers. If you’ve never seen the TV series, I wouldn’t recommend starting here. Fortunately, the Veronica character herself (played by Kristen Bell) remains a very appealing heroine. Marshmallows should be satisfied to see all their favorite characters brought back together again.
Oh What a Beautiful Morning!
The studio’s press release for the Amazon-exclusive ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection‘ announced a street date of May 6th, but apparently Amazon actually started shipping preorder copies last week. The box set contains six classic musicals: ‘State Fair’, ‘Oklahoma!’, ‘Carousel’, ‘The King and I’, ‘South Pacific’ and ‘The Sound of Music’. Those last two titles are the same movie discs released on Blu-ray previously. (If you already own ‘The Sound of Music’, you may want to hold onto your old copy for the supplement disc, which isn’t included here.) The other four movies are new to Blu-ray.
From early reports, the showstopper of the set is ‘Oklahoma!’, provided in both the Todd-AO 70mm and CinemaScope 35mm versions. (The movie was actually shot twice, using alternate takes and slightly different editing.) In order to preserve the original 30 frames-per-second photographic speed of the Todd-AO version, that one had to be encoded on disc in 1080i format, because Blu-ray doesn’t support 30 fps at 1080p. However, that issue aside, I’ve heard nothing but raves about the movie’s picture quality. (The CinemaScope version has not been as extensively restored, and just looks OK.)
Unfortunately, results for the other four movies appear to be mixed. ‘The King and I’ reportedly suffers from serious coloring issues that have left much of the movie doused in a heavy shade of blue for no discernable reason, even though older video copies (including DVD and streaming) have better colors.
Given the price of the box set, fans may prefer to wait until all of the movies are released individually in order to selectively choose which ones to buy.
Other Catalog Titles
The great Billy Wilder is having a pretty good run on Blu-ray lately. His noir masterpiece ‘Double Indemnity’ was just released a few weeks back, and now Criterion offers ‘Ace in the Hole‘ (also known as ‘The Big Carnival’). Kirk Douglas stars as a ruthless newspaper reporter who sensationalizes a story to revive his failing career. The film was not well received in its day, when critics had trouble believing that a journalist could ever behave so unethically. Over time, as the profession has steadily deteriorated to the sorry state it’s in now, Wilder’s vision has been increasingly embraced for its prescience.
Samuel Fuller’s WWII epic ‘The Big Red One‘ was heavily cut during its 1980 theatrical release down just 113 minutes. The film was restored to its original intended 162-minute length in 2004. Even though the Blu-ray contains both versions, unfortunately the Reconstruction is only provided in standard definition. This seems like a major failing by Warner Bros. I have trouble endorsing the disc.
Also on the WWII theme is the 1990 bombardier drama ‘Memphis Belle‘, featuring an all-star pretty boy cast including Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz and Harry Connick, Jr. It’s not a great movie, but the flying and special effects sequences might be worth watching in HD.
DreamWorks hopes that Steven Spielberg still has enough fans willing to buy even some of his lesser efforts, such as the preachy, dramatically inert slavery drama ‘Amistad‘ and the just plain atrocious Tom Hanks comedy ‘The Terminal‘. And yet still no sign of ‘Munich’, which might actually merit revisiting.
In the mood for a good weepie? Warner has them both classic (George Cukor’s 1939 ‘The Women‘) and contemporary (Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Bridges of Madison County‘). OK, maybe 1995 isn’t really “contemporary,” but it doesn’t feel like that long ago to me.
Unsurprisingly, a whole bunch of old ‘Godzilla‘ movies are getting dumped on the market as double features in anticipation of the new reboot, some from Sony and some from a label I’ve never heard of called Section 23. I wouldn’t expect much in the way of quality out of these. I believe most of them are the dubbed American cuts of the films.
If you were patient enough to pass over that “Heavyweight Collection” box set from a couple months ago, Fox has finally split out the remastered edition of the original ‘Rocky‘ to its own separate release. (None of the other movies in the box were remastered.)
The next time you’re fishing around in a Best Buy bargain bin, have yourself a good chuckle that Fox actually bothered to release ‘Speed 2: Cruise Control‘ on Blu-ray. You think it will sell half a dozen copies?
In the mood for some raunchy ’80s comedies? Brace yourself for the trifecta of ‘Revenge of the Nerds‘, ‘Bachelor Party‘ and ‘Weekend at Bernie’s‘. Radical!
Ever fond of double-dipping popular titles, Warner has a new 40th Anniversary Edition of Mel Brooks’ hilarious Western spoof ‘Blazing Saddles‘. Knowing the studio, I would expect this to recycle the old video transfer from the 2006 Blu-ray release (which looked pretty good, to be fair) with some new bonus features on a separate disc. If we’re lucky, the audio might get upgraded to a lossless format, for as little as that might make a difference on this particular movie.
Here’s a movie I honestly never expected to see on Blu-ray. In the 2001 suspense thriller ‘The Deep End‘, Tilda Swinton plays a desperate mother who believes that her son has murdered his gay lover. When she tries to protect him by disposing of the body, a twisted tale of blackmail and revenge ensues. The movie is a remake of Max Ophuls’ 1946 noir ‘The Reckless Moment’ (or, technically, re-adapted from the same original novel), updated with more explicit themes. I remember liking this when I saw it theatrically, especially Swinton’s performance.
Finally, the latest wave of comic book-styled SteelBooks from Universal is poised to ugly-up retailer shelves.
Classic TV comedies make a strong showing this week, with newly remastered box sets for ‘I Love Lucy‘, ‘The Andy Griffith Show‘ and ‘The Honeymooners‘. I think it’s kind of great that stuff like this is available.
Lionsgate also follows through with the second season of ‘Little House on the Prairie‘.
‘Ace in the Hole’ is a definite buy for me. I feel like I ought to expand my musical education with the Rodgers & Hammerstein movies, but I don’t know that I can bring myself to spend the money on the whole box set. As a Kickstarter backer, a copy of ‘Veronica Mars’ is already en route to me.
Where will your dollars go this week?