Blu-ray Highlights for 11/30/10: What Are You Buying?

It’s the last day of November. There are officially only 25 shopping days left until Christmas. The studios know this. You’d think they’d release a more interesting batch of movies to buy on Blu-ray today.

Here’s the week’s slate:

I guess Mrs. Z and I were among the few people who actually went to see ‘Knight and Day‘ in theaters this past summer. The movie was savaged by critics and disappointed at the box office. I think that has a lot more to do with the public’s impatience with Tom Cruise as a pompous celebrity jackass than with the movie itself. Honestly, while it’s not a great movie by any means, it’s a reasonably diverting action-comedy. And Cruise does a really good job poking fun at his usual action hero persona. (Drew liked it well enough too.) I don’t know that I need to own this one, but I don’t regret seeing it. It’ll make decent rental fodder, if nothing else.

Jason Friedberg and Adam Seltzer have a deal with the devil. That’s the only way to explain how they continue to churn out such dreadfully unfunny “comedies” such as ‘Epic Movie’, ‘Disaster Movie‘, and ‘Meet the Spartans‘. Their latest is an alleged spoof of the ‘Twilight’ franchise called ‘Vampires Suck‘. Do you get it? That’s like what they call double entrée or something like that. ‘Cuz vampire suck blood, and also they’re saying that vampires are sucky and stuff. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!! Do you get that yet? “Suck”? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!! If you think that’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard in your life, you might just be in this movie’s target audience. I would hope that everyone else is smart enough to skip this dreck.

Another of this summer’s box office duds was ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice‘. Nicolas Cage needs to stop making movies like this. That’s all there is to it. You couldn’t pay me to sit through this. Drew found it pretty middling.

If the live action ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ serves no other purpose (and it doesn’t), at least Disney is using it as an excuse to release the psychedelic animated classic ‘Fantasia‘ on Blu-ray as a tie-in. Yes, it will undoubtedly still be the censored version that removes some un-PC imagery. Regardless, this is definitely worth owning. The studio is bundling it in a double-bill with the inferior sequel ‘Fantasia 2000’, which is still worth a watch even if it’s not nearly as good.

What else do we have? Well, there’s the first season of the cheesetastic ’70s sci-fi series ‘Space: 1999‘. Those models and miniatures might be fun to see in high definition, especially if you grew up with the show. It was a little before my time, personally.

There’s also ‘The Wiz‘, that “urban” spin on ‘The Wizard of Oz‘, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. I can’t say that I expected to ever see this one hit Blu-ray.

Kill Zone‘ is the generic English retitling for the Hong Kong action flick ‘SPL’. It’s a pretty fantastic little movie in which Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung get to beat the living hell out of one another. Unfortunately, I don’t trust the quality of The Weinstein Company’s Blu-ray releases (via current distributor Vivendi). I’m sure that this disc will be stuck with only standard Dolby Digital audio, like many of the studio’s others. I had a chance to chat up a couple of Vivendi reps recently, and I asked them about the lack of lossless audio on discs like ‘The Killer‘ and ‘Grindhouse‘. They placed the blame squarely back on the Weinsteins, claiming that Vivendi only distributes whatever Weinstein gives to them. Whatever the case, I’d advise skipping this disc and purchasing the Hong Kong import of ‘SPL’ instead.

Finally, if you see a listing there for ‘Avatar 3-D‘, don’t get your hopes up too high. The disc is an exclusive bundle pack-in with Panasonic 3-D TVs or Blu-ray players. If you already own any other brand of 3-D Blu-ray equipment, you’re out of luck until the disc hits general retail sometime next year.


  1. I have heard some pretty good reviews of Sorceror’s Apprentice. I’ll put it in my rental que.

    My Fantasia came in yesterday. Yes, it is the “censored” version, but other sites have stated that this is the same as it has been since 1969. I cannot verify this, but its like 2 seconds of the entire movie, and as I have never seen the “uncensored” one, this is fine for me.

    My impressions:
    Fantasia – Video 5/5, Audio 4.5 out of 5
    Josh is going to hate me for using this phrase, but the live-action moments “look like it could have been filmed yesterday”. For real, the 70 year old technicolor print is BEAUTIFUL. The live-action sequences really do look amazing and life-like. The animated sequences have color that just pop off the screen, and may rival the quality of other Disney animated classics such as Snow White and Pinnochio. There is a nice film grain texture to it that is quite nice, and not at all distracting. But more than this, the animated sequences seem to have a texture to them I have never seen before – some of the backgrounds look like they were created on a thick parchment or something. I cannot point out for sure what this is, but it was quite nice.

    The audio luckily hasn’t been tinkered with too much, which is a good thing. The first Fantasia movie was one of the first (may have been THE first) to make use of multi-channel sound and new recording techniques, and this seems to be preserved quite well (well, I honestly wasn’t around in 1940, but, while the sound filled my surround sound system, it seemed to use same spacial surround use as previous versions). The voices are a bit tinney, but as that makes up only a small part of the movie, this is forgivable. All in all, Fantasia sounds fantastic.

    Fantasia 2000: Video 5/5 Audio 5/5
    The movie was originally released for the IMAX, and there was some very fine details in many of the scenes, particularly in Bethoven’s 5th Symphony (the flying triangles). This was a muddy mess on the initial DVD release. I must say that, while there are still tons of tiny objects flying around the screen, on Blu-Ray, they are well defined and not the muddied mess.
    Pines of Rome has some beautiful CGI animation that really pops off the screen. The detail on the whales is AMAZING.
    Rhapsody in Blue uses a subdued color pallet, and while it looks great, I doubt many people will see a huge upgrade from the DVD.
    Pomp and Circumstance was the sequence that REALLY stood out for me. I do not remember the colors and shadowing being that amazing! Demo material here!
    The movie looks like it might have been scrubbed of all film grain, but I have to remind myself that this movie was SHOT on IMAX, not an IMAX upconversion. If there is grain, it was too fine to see on my screen.

    Audio is amazing, and easily demo material. The surround use has always played well with the senses, and I do not see anything unusual here. Pieces such as Rhapsody in Blue and Pomp and Circumstance sound WONDERFUL when played LOUD! And the LFE is EXTREAMELY active.

    Fantasia is a must-own!

    • Josh Zyber

      While I haven’t watched the disc yet myself, I wouldn’t be concerned about a lack of grain on Fantasia 2000. That movie would have been animated using the CAPS system, by which the original artwork was scanned and then composited digitally. That creates a Digital Intermediate, which is printed out onto film stock (in this case 70mm and IMAX).

      I’d assume that the Blu-ray should have been transferred straight from the DI without a film step, and thus wouldn’t have any grain.

      • I was thinking that might me the case, but wasn’t sure if they were using that ten years ago. However, I also don’t recall seeing grain in the live-action sequences. But, once again, I think the fact that this was an IMAX movie probably has a lot to do with that.

        I’m not too worried about it. Even when Disney does scrub grain, their process seems to be superior to other studios. Disney has NEVER disappointed me in the quality department on any release, be it VHS, Laserdisc, DVD or Blu-Ray (okay, I take that back, the ORIGINAL Mary Poppins DVD release, back before the studio really kicked into high gear backing DVD, left a lot to be desired).

        • Josh Zyber

          The Little Mermaid was the first movie to use the CAPS system, but only for selected scenes. From The Rescuers Down Under forward, all of Disney’s animated movies were 100% CAPS until the studio discontinued traditional animation in favor of CGI in 2004.

          With the return of traditional animation in The Princess and the Frog, Disney is now using a new system called Toon Boom that works along the same lines as CAPS but is more advanced.

          IMAX had very little to do with the production of Fantasia 2000 other than the fact that the digital animation files were printed out onto IMAX stock for distribution. The artwork was drawn a little more detailed than usual with this in mind, however.

  2. ilovenola2

    I’m on my way to pick up FANTASIA/FANTASIA 2000 at my local target, where I’ll get a 5%discount (probably a dollar) for using my Target Visa, $10.00 off the store price ($27.95) for a Disney upgrade coupon. With tax I should pay a bit over 18 bucks!! No complaints here!

    By the way, I have seen the uncensored segment in the theatre several times as a kid. I can assure you that the cut on the later releases is so short it is negligible– so everyone quit worrying about it!!!
    I have owned this movie on CAV Laserdisc (great set, still have it), the DVD box set (I’m keeping it so as not to go online for extras…bad!!) and will now have the two on Blu Ray. Teriffic!

  3. Callenby

    Friedberg and Seltzer are meta-comedic geniuses…or cons. Their comedies are so unrelentingly stale and flat that the joke couldn’t purposefully be in the movie, but instead must be on the audience that grinningly pays to eat the cinematic equivalent of shit.

    The great ambiguity of their genius is whether they are holding up a mirror to this coprophagic ill of society or actively reinforcing it.

    I am writing my thesis that will solidify their status within the cinematic canon as great satirical auteurs.

  4. that1guypictures

    Just wanted to clarify that the Panasonic Avatar 3D disc is not a pack-in. You can buy the disc bundled with two pairs of the newly redesigned USB rechargable Panasonic Glasses for $399 at any retailer. Or, if you already bought a Panasonic TV earlier this year, you get a free copy by mail. If you buy the TV after December 1st you get the Avatar kit for free. The disc will not be free with the purchase of any Blu-ray player. However a free 3D blu-ray player is included with the purchase of a 3D tv. I bought the kit, and I’ll get a free copy since I bought the TV earlier this year. I’ll be selling it on eBay!