Time travel seems to be a major theme on Blu-ray this week. From mutant superheroes to talking dogs, everybody’s zipping back and forth from past to future, or vice versa.
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past‘ – Director Bryan Singer returns to straighten out the mess of conflicting continuity issues in the ‘X-Men’ franchise with a new entry that ties together his original couple of movies with the prequel timeline established in ‘X-Men: First Class’, all while conveniently writing out the events of lesser installments like ‘The Last Stand’. I wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘First Class’ or many of Singer’s other recent movies outside the ‘X-Men’ series, but I still like the franchise and have heard some good things about this one. Because I don’t get out to theaters much these days, I’ve been waiting to catch up with it on Blu-ray. The movie is available in either 2D or 3D. However, despite shooting the production in native 3D, Singer is known to be extremely conservative with his use of 3D depth. Pretty much every report I’ve read has said that any 3D effect was barely visible in theaters and completely wasted. Maybe it will translate better on home video?
‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman‘ – A mischievous boy and a brilliant scientist (who happens to be a dog) hop in their WABAC Machine and bounce around through history having adventures in this feature film spin-off for a couple of ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ supporting characters that that no contemporary child has ever heard of. No surprise, the family flick did disappointing business at the box office despite generally favorable reviews from post-middle-age critics who actually remember ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’.
‘Mercenaries‘ – As the producers of the ‘Expendables’ franchise spin their wheels trying to develop an ‘Expendabelles’ spin-off for girls (yes, that’s a real thing in the works), this low-rent DTV knock-off beats them to the punch by teaming up Zoe Bell (‘Death Proof’), Kristanna Loken (‘Terminator 3’), Vivica A. Fox (‘Kill Bill’), Brigitte Nielsen (‘Red Sonya’) and Cynthia Rothrock (numerous low-budget action flicks from the ’80s and ’90s). Could this be much worse than the real ‘Expendables’ movies? Hard to imagine.
Responding to the popularity of its horror titles, which frequently sell out quickly, Twilight Time has expanded its Limited Edition run for the 1988 remake of ‘The Blob‘ to 5,000 units (as opposed to the typical 3,000). Word is that this one is selling briskly so far.
Other new Blu-rays from Twilight Time (with the usual 3,000-unit limit) include the Fritz Lang WWII spy thriller ‘Man Hunt‘, Robert Wise’s spooky horror fantasy ‘Audrey Rose‘, John Schlesinger’s religious cult thriller ‘The Believers‘, Nick Nolte and Ed Harris as journalists wrapped up in the Nicaraguan revolution of 1979 in ‘Under Fire‘, and George Sluizer’s 1993 Hollywood remake of his own prior Dutch thriller ‘The Vanishing‘. That last one is notorious as a pretty crappy movie, but it should make an interesting comparison with Criterion’s upcoming Blu-ray release of the original 1988 version.
Speaking of Criterion, the Collection has just one disc this week, the John Ford Western ‘My Darling Clementine‘ starring Henry Fonda.
Another specialty label, the Warner Archive offers what is reported to be a stunning new restoration of the James Cagney musical ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy‘.
Last week, Universal got into the yuletide mood with Bing Crosby’s ‘Holiday Inn’. This week, Paramount follows that with a Diamond Anniversary Edition of the semi-sequel ‘White Christmas‘.
Universal’s box set release of the ‘Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection‘ bundles together the existing Blu-ray releases of ‘Jaws’, ‘E.T.’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Lost World’ with new-to-Blu titles ‘Duel’, ‘The Sugarland Express’, ‘1941’ and ‘Always’. It seems obnoxious to force fans to rebuy a bunch of movies they already own to get a few new ones, but I’m sure the rest will all be broken out separately eventually.
Kino embraces 1980s comedy with Madonna’s acting debut ‘Desperately Seeking Susan‘ and Jonathan Demme’s delightful farce ‘Married to the Mob‘.
I could have sworn that both Ben Stiller’s ‘Zoolander‘ and the Farrelly brothers’ ‘Kingpin‘ were already released on Blu-ray, but I guess their release dates must have been pushed back.
Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda investigate a dangerous accident at a nuclear power plant in the 1979 conspiracy thriller ‘The China Syndrome‘.
Cameron Crowe’s problematic sci-fi-ish mystery ‘Vanilla Sky‘ is a remake of a marginally superior Spanish film called ‘Abre los Ojos’, but is perhaps most notable as the movie that wrecked Tom Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman when he cheated on her with co-star Penélope Cruz. Ironically, Cruise and Cruz have zero chemistry together in the film, whereas real sparks fly in the scenes Cruise shares with Cameron Diaz. [‘Vanilla Sky’ has been delayed until December 9th. Sorry for the confusion.]
Finally, odds are that you’ve probably never heard of ‘Dragonfly Squadron‘, a mostly-forgotten 1954 B-movie whose biggest name in the cast was pro baseball and pro basketball player Chuck Connors (later star of TV’s ‘The Rifleman’). However, the movie’s release on Blu-ray this week is very important, as it marks the first restoration from the 3-D Film Archive (distributed via Olive Films). Although photographed in native 3D during the original Golden Age of the format, the movie was in fact only released to theaters in 2D by its distributor. This Blu-ray is the first time the film’s true 3D has ever been seen. 1950s 3D movies are famous for their much more aggressive and dynamic use of stereoscopic depth than modern, conservative 3D productions, and this particular film – a Korean War adventure featuring a lot of tank warfare and aerial combat – provides many opportunities for exciting 3D action. Just be sure to keep your expectations in check as far as story and acting quality go.
TV offerings this week include first season collections for FX’s excellent ‘Fargo‘, Showtime’s gonzo horror series ‘Penny Dreadful‘, and NBC’s weird ‘Dracula‘ reboot. I seem to be in a minority in enjoying the ‘Dracula’ show, but I won’t miss it much now that it’s been canceled and don’t feel a great need to own its only season.
As I said, I’ve been waiting to catch up with the new ‘X-Men’ movie. The other titles going on my wish list are ‘My Darling Clementine’, ‘Man Hunt’, ‘Dragonfly Squadron’ and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’. Will you pick up anything this week?