The Meg

Blu-ray Highlights: Week of November 11th, 2018 – There’s Always a Bigger Fish

Between Blu-ray and Ultra HD, a deep selection of nearly a hundred movie and TV titles hit disc this week. That’s a lot to go through, so let’s dive right in.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (11/13/18)?

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New Releases (Blu-ray)

The Meg – Jason Statham fights a giant shark in a monster flick promoted by the studio as a spiritual successor to Deep Blue Sea. Many viewers complained that the actual movie’s tone veers awkwardly between taking its goofy premise seriously and embracing the camp, as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide which way they wanted to go. Nevertheless, it hit at the right time with the right marketing and made a pretty big pile of money. Now you can bring it home on Blu-ray, UHD, or even a 3D edition (which is getting to be a rarity these days).

Alpha – Evoking movies like The Clan of the Cave Bear and Quest for Fire, Albert Hughes (of the Hughes brothers from Menace II Society and The Book of Eli) directs a prehistoric adventure drama with dialogue entirely in a fictional subtitled language. Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a young hunter who is injured and stranded in the wild, where he encounters and bonds with a wounded wolf, which essentially becomes the first domesticated dog. The film was praised for its striking visuals and a compelling, if simple, story.

Juliet, Naked – Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, Rose Byrne plays a woman who gets entangled in a love triangle between her boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) and the washed-up former rock star (Ethan Hawke) he’s obsessed with. Reviews for the indie dramedy were generally favorable, but not enthusiastic.

Mile 22 – Mark Wahlberg reteams with director Peter Berg for the fourth time. However, unlike Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon or Patriots Day, this one’s a purely fictional action thriller with no pretense of being based on real events. Audiences didn’t have much interest, while critics complained that the plot is a dumb mess and Berg’s shaky-cam action sequences are even more incoherent than usual.

UHD

The Meg leaps out of the water and onto Ultra HD. Best Buy has a SteelBook.

With another (and allegedly last) sequel scheduled for release next year, Studio Canal (via American distributor Lionsgate) upgrades the first three Rambo movies to 4k. The original First Blood, in particular, was in dire need of a remaster. Even though Lionsgate has rights to the fourth movie, Studio Canal does not, which is why it’s not included in this selection.

Also available is the animated Justice League: Throne of Atlantis from Warner Bros.

Catalog Titles

Billy Wilder’s classic comedy Some Like It Hot rejoins the Criterion Collection almost three decades after a Laserdisc release on the label. (Sorry, looks like this is actually coming out 11/20.)

Warner Bros. reissues discs previously sold separately through the Warner Archive and bundles them into a package called Bogart & Bacall: The Complete Collection. The set contains To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo.

From the Warner Archive itself comes the Hammer horror The Satanic Rites of Dracula with Christopher Lee.

Unfortunately, Cary Grant did not return for the 1941 comedy sequel Topper Returns. Having released the original film on Blu-ray last year, VCI jumps straight to the third movie, skipping over 1938’s Topper Takes a Trip.

Shout! Factory has licensed Kevin Costner’s Best Picture winner Dances with Wolves for a Collector’s Edition SteelBook. This marks the first time the film’s original theatrical cut (the one that actually won all those Oscars) has appeared on Blu-ray. The extra-bloated extended cut is also included.

After the huge success of his directorial debut Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper dragged a crew down to Peru for a very meta project in which he stars as a Hollywood stunt coordinator working on a Western in the country. A self-consciously arty and unconventional film, The Last Movie was not at all what the studio, critics, or audiences of the day expected or wanted. It was a big flop at the time that only started to be reappreciated many years later. After decades of unavailability on any home media, a label called Arbelos Films presents a new 4k restoration.

A notable work from the indie explosion of the early 1990s, Arrow Academy offers Allison Anders’ Gas Food Lodging, starring Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk.

Now that BlacKkKlansman has returned Spike Lee to the cultural conversation, Sony remembers his college comedy School Daze on its 30th anniversary.

Disney delivers a third volume of its Pixar Short Films Collection. Among the eleven shorts in this batch is the Oscar winning Piper.

Kino serves up Harold Ramis’ 2005 crime comedy The Ice Harvest, as well as Sydney Pollack’s mystery thriller The Interpreter from the same year, plus the John Grisham adaptations The Chamber and The Gingerbread Man.

MVD adds a couple of major box office bombs to its so-called Marquee Collection. The Ultimate Edition of John Woo’s 2002 war epic Windtalkers contains both the theatrical cut and an extended version that’s supposedly better. Sadly, I doubt anything will ever be able to redeem the dreadful Basic Instinct 2.

A little late for Halloween, Scream Factory scares up a little more horror with the 1992 thriller Single White Female, while Arrow Video dishes out the 1970 Herschell Gordon Lewis splatter-fest The Wizard of Gore.

Television

Don’t panic! Even though the 1981 television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally shot on standard-definition video, BBC promises a restoration that should eke out better picture quality than the old DVDs. The 3-disc set also comes with over five hours of supplements.

If, like me, you refused to subscribe to CBS All Access just to watch Star Trek: Discovery, you can catch up with the show’s first season on disc now. Best Buy even has a SteelBook edition.

Audiences that paid to see Pixar’s Coco last year just about lost their minds being forced to sit through the interminable 21-minute “short” Olaf’s Frozen Adventure before the proper movie started. It was received little better when it aired as a TV special a few weeks later. Frozen completists can now add it to their permanent collections.

Other TV product this week includes the second season of The Crown, the third season of Preacher, and the fifth season of The 100.

My $.02

The Meg is the type of thing I’ll sit down to watch when it hits cable, but not before. Alpha, on the other hand, I might be open to renting.

I’d also very much welcome an improved copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If I had any money for them (which I don’t right now), I’d love to pick up the First Blood UHD (I don’t care about the sequels), The Last Movie, and School Daze.

What discs are you fishing for this week?

16 comments

  1. Chris B

    Not much of interest for me tbh. I do like the pitch-black comedy The Ice Harvest though, I’ll grab a copy if it’s reasonably priced. Nothing else this week.

  2. I have The Meg 3d on hold for in store pick up at Best Buy tomorrow. I’m thinking all three of the aforementioned Rambo movies might be really cheap on Black Friday. Like 7.99 or 8.99 cheap. I will try my luck with those then. The Satanic Rites of Dracula will go on my wishlist. Maybe Single White Female at a good price. Alpha is also a title of mild interest.

  3. Deaditelord

    Holding off for Black Friday, but will definitely pick up the Rambo films in UHD, Cowboy Bebop and Dances with Wolves. Will rent the new Justice League movie first before deciding on a purchase. I’m still going to hold off on Star Trek until I can stream it first on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      You can stream Star Trek: Discovery through Amazon if you subscribe to the CBS All Access channel, but there’s no way of getting around the CBS subscription fee. The advantage to doing it this way is better streaming quality with 5.1 audio. The CBS All Access app is limited to stereo.

      Unless or until CBS All Access fails, they’re going to hold onto exclusive streaming rights to their original content. You might as well say you’re holding off watching Stranger Things until you can stream it on Hulu. Never going to happen.

      • Deaditelord

        Probably true although I still think Netflix is a possibility since they helped finance the first season of the show. To be honest, I don’t expect CBS All Access to stick around all that long. Even if it takes a year or two, I don’t see them surviving with so many better options out there.

        • DaMac80

          CBS has the money and content to keep going for a long time, trying to create the breakout hits needed to boost their numbers. Everyone expects all the non-Netflix and Disney streaming services to collapse, but that seems very optimistic. I fear we’re headed to a future where there’s a dozen or even more streaming platforms.

          • Deaditelord

            I think short-term that is what is going to happen, but I can’t see people (especially cord-cutters) being willing to sign up for multiple services because at that point streaming stops being a cheaper alternative to cable. Outside of Disney making available all their vintage cartoons for streaming, I won’t be signing up for these new streaming services even if that means I miss out on some high quality shows.

          • Deaditelord

            Long-term I think two things that could/will happen:

            1. Many of these new streaming services will end up folding due to low subscriber numbers.

            And/Or

            2. Greedy corporations like Spectrum, Comcast partner up with these streaming networks to bundle them into one big package – essentially replicating what is offered with cable. This is the scenario I fear the most since it would allow the corporations to dictate what streaming options were offered and what we would have to pay to access them.

          • William Henley

            The sad thing is, I don’t see CBS failing per say, but rather that they just won’t have enough subscribers to justify the production costs for a series like Star Trek. Luckily, outside the US, it IS a Netflix show, who is probably paying quite a bit for it, and CBS also lets you watch the show in iTunes and Blu-Ray, but I am sure that Netflix partnership is what is keeping the show profitable.

            But yeah, I am burned out on streaming services other than the big 3. No subscription to CBS, and while I like Anime, I never subscribed to Crunchy Role or Funimation – there is enough content on Hulu and Netflix to entertain me. Amazon I rarely use because of its horrible user interface. Hulu’s new user Interface doesn’t display right on half of my devices – looks like horribly written CSS code that someone was like “Damn, that’s not what I wanted, but I ain’t doing it again, let’s leave it and someone will probably think its cool.” Then I don’t know what Netflix did to the My Library feature, but it is like I now get an option for the last two shows I watched (and even then I have to scroll through a menu to find it), and search for everything else. So annoying

            What were we talking about?

  4. amtt

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve had it on preorder from Amazon for months.

    It’s a treasured memory of childhood that I haven’t seen in many years. One of the best parts of the movie was that they worked the TV theme into the score.

  5. William Henley

    So I got HItchhikers about 2 weeks ago from the UK. Brief review.

    Yes, it does look and sound better than it has before, but that is not saying much. The BBC has really impressed over the past couple of years with their SD upconversions on Classic Doctor Who, and I was expecting this to be among the same lines. It’s not. There is still ghosting around text, still significant black crush and artifacting in black areas (this is problematic as it is a series set in space), horrible banding (especially around letters, and as a good portion of the show is the book talking…). The live action / non-special effects shots do not fair much better – a sharpening filter would have been nice, maybe some edge enhancement (I am thinking about doing exactly that in Adobe Premiere). Even a bump in saturation would have been welcome, but no, it pretty much looks the same as it always did, with the exception of being deinterlaced and upscalled. A real missed opportunity.

    The “new soundtracks” seem to be a joke. Apparently you have the original mono, a stereo, and a 2018 5.1. I cannot tell the difference between any of the soundtracks, to the point that I wondered if there is an authoring issue on the disc (and I think there is – I ripped the episodes and there seems to be actual panning in one of the TWO 5.1 tracks that is on the disc. In fact, there seems to be at least six tracks in addition to the commentary tracks).

    I have not had a chance to look at the extras yet.

    I will say, though, that the packaging is amazing, as well as the included booklets. However, at least in the UK version, it is easy to miss the third disc – if I didn’t know there was supposed to be a third disc, I would not have went looking for it. The case is a clamshell style VHS case, with one disc on each side. You have to pry out the plastic tray on the right hand side, and underneath that is the hub housing the third disc.

    As I didn’t own the previous DVD release (although I have seen it), I am happy to have this set. However, I am just a bit disappointed that the Beeb did not clean up picture and audio better, or do better quality control on the disc.

    • William Henley

      Speaking of SD Upconversions, I see Yanni, Live at the Acropolis got a release on Blu. Interesting. The blurb says “digitally restored and remixed”. I am assuming they mean the audio portion, but I will bite. I got it on laserdisc and I bought the concert on iTunes (actually, I should look and see if I got an upgrade before buying the Blu). I am certainly interested in this one.

  6. EM

    The Adventures of Prince Achmed is my #1 release this week. Achmed is the earliest extant animated feature film—from the silent era! It’s a fairy tale told through cutout animation. The tints should be beautiful in Blu.

    Can your heart stand the shocking facts about Take It Out in Trade? I can’t help feeling curious about this formerly lost film of Ed Wood’s, veering into John Waters territory. I’ll have to watch it sooner or later.

    I wish I were a little more enthused about the Pixar collection. There’s some good stuff there, but I already have most of what I want of it on other discs. I’ll be keeping an eye out for a sale.

    And I wish I’d found the Star Trek: Discovery premiere compelling when I viewed it on (cable-fed) broadcast, even though there was no chance I was going to subscribe to CBS All Access. Still, decades of Trekkiedom has me a little curious, and so I’m interested in watching a loan copy at some point. Maybe the show’s better than it seemed. I doubt it, but maybe.

    • William Henley

      Discovery is a bit odd – you almost have 3 different stories going on in the first season, and its not a long season. If you just watch the first 2 or 3 episodes – you have the back story to Michael going on, and the start of the war with the Klingons. Then we get to Discovery, and that story arch lasts a few episodes until we jump to the mirror universe. THAT is when Discovery, in my opinion, really gets good!

      Like any Trek series, the first season is certainly the show trying to find its sea legs, and there are some rough moments. The Klingons are growing on me although I will admit they are shocking at first – but now that I am used to them, I really like them, mainly because they now actually do seem alien and myseterious. You can have entire scenes that will last for several minutes that are shot entirely in Klingon, which brings those scenes to life.

      So yeah, the first one or two episodes, I was like “not impressed, don’t like it”. After that, I was like “well, its keeping me interested, but its my least favorite series”. The last few episodes in the series, I am like “Dang! That’s awesome!”

      • EM

        Trying to find its sea legs? For the Great Bird’s sake, Discovery in its first two episodes couldn’t even find the setting enshrined in its own name. Not exactly a confidence builder.

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