This is such a slow week for the Blu-ray format that I wouldn’t be surprised if most people haven’t even heard of many (or any) of the new releases. A few catalog titles might be worth a look, fortunately.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Nerve‘ – ‘Catfish’ directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost first segued into fiction filmmaking (assuming you believe ‘Catfish’ was non-fiction) with a couple of ‘Paranormal Activity’ sequels. Here, they’ve made a thriller in which Emma Roberts and Dave Franco play a pair of teens (yes, Franco is actually 31 and Roberts isn’t far behind) who get sucked into playing an Augmented Reality cell phone game that drives them to perform risky and dangerous dares for the benefit of a voyeuristic audience. That premise has some potential, but the movie’s plot is said to turn increasingly preposterous as it goes.
‘Lights Out‘ – Teresa Palmer stars in a horror flick about a ghost that only exists in the dark and disappears when the lights come on. Turn the lights off and OH MY GOD SCARY GHOST IN YOUR FACE!!!! Lights on: Whew, it’s gone! It seems to me that a simple nightlight would be enough to ward it off, right? Am I missing something here? The movie got some decent reviews and made a fair bit of money when it was released in July, but does anyone even remember it now?
‘Captain Fantastic‘ – A bearded Viggo Mortensen is a hippie survivalist nutbag determined to raise his family of six children in the forest, off the grid of modern society. That goes swimmingly until the kids’ mom dies and the whole clan is forced to enter civilization for the first time. These fish, as you can imagine, might be a little out of their water. The movie’s one of those quirky indie comedies made for the express purpose of playing at Sundance. Normally, I find these things insufferable, but this one’s supposed to be pretty good, mostly due to a strong performance from Mortensen.
‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople‘ – Speaking of quirky comedies about bearded survivalists, Sam Neill plays a crotchety New Zealand bushman forced to go on the run and avoid a national manhunt with his city-raised, hip-hop-loving foster child. Phil described this movie as “like a version of ‘First Blood’ as directed by Wes Anderson.” In fact, it was directed by Taika Waititi, the director/star of the hilarious ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, as a lark to keep himself occupied before getting to work on next year’s ‘Thor’ sequel that Marvel improbably hired him to make. Despite nearly universal critical acclaim, Sony almost didn’t bother to release the movie on Blu-ray. (It came out on DVD a month ago.) The disc being released this week is a burned BD-R as part of Sony’s MOD program.
‘Men & Chicken‘ – Mads Mikkelsen, famous for playing such serious and intense characters in ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Hannibal’, segues into goofy slapstick, sporting a silly mustache and bad teeth in a Danish dark comedy about a pair of socially-challenged brothers who learn late in life that they were adopted. By seeking out their real father, they discover that they have a whole family of misfits and weirdoes living in a dilapidated building overrun by farm animals. Reviews, which were largely positive, describe the movie as a bizarre mix of warm-hearted and grotesque.
‘Mr. Church‘ – His career in freefall these days, Eddie Murphy tries to make another respectable movie by teaming up with ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ director Bruce Beresford for a similar type of feel-good but actually kind of racist period piece about a black servant who dedicates his life to helping his white employers become better people by teaching them the value of subservience. Critics absolutely tore this to shreds, but the movie has an improbably high IMDb rating. Hilariously, almost every one of the alleged user reviews is an obvious studio plant. Actual example: “After working 15 years in the Television & Film industry as a member of the Screen Actors Guild as an actor, body double, stuntman and stand-in I have never experienced a movie with such grammatical perfection and emotional humanitarian articulation!” Yeah, sure, buddy.
The only 4k release this week is a triple-feature bundle of ‘Batman v. Superman‘, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘ and ‘San Andreas‘. Other than the fact that they’re all Warner Bros. titles, these movies have nothing at all to do with one another. At current prices, buying them this way is actually $5 more expensive than buying their individual UHD releases separately. Great job there, Warner!
As I type this, Amazon still claims that its exclusive $239.99 copy of the ‘Mad Max: High-Octane Collection‘ – which includes all four movies in the franchise, the so-called “Black and Chrome” edition of ‘Fury Road’, and a bust statue of Max’s car – will be released on October 25th. I have some doubts about this. The standalone Black and Chrome disc and a more reasonably priced version of the High-Octane Collection (minus the statue) aren’t scheduled until December 6th. I will not be surprised if Amazon adjusts the date on this one to match by the time this post runs.
A hugely underrated sequel, ‘The Exorcist III‘ was released on Blu-ray by Warner Bros. back in 2014, both on its own and as part of the ‘The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology‘ collection. That older disc had a so-so video transfer and no bonus features other than a trailer. Scream Factory improves on that considerably with a Collector’s Edition reissue that includes both the original theatrical cut plus a newly-assembled Director’s Cut, much improved video on the theatrical cut, and a bunch of new supplements. If you like the movie at all, this is the version to get. Be warned, however, that the original film elements for the Director’s Cut were lost and all that remain are terrible-looking VHS dupes. That version of the movie swings wildly in picture quality from good to borderline unwatchable, and can really only be considered a curiosity. The theatrical cut should remain your first and primary viewing option.
Arrow celebrates the recently departed master of schlocky gore with ‘The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast‘, a box set collection of 14 of the director’s movies including such notorious titles as ‘Blood Feast’, ‘Two Thousand Maniacs!’, ‘She-Devils on Wheels’ and ‘The Wizard of Gore’. A limited edition version of this set with more elaborate packaging, a paperback book and peripheral items (barf bag provided!), called ‘Shock and Gore: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis‘, appears to be sold out already.
Criterion’s sole release this week is a 1963 Spanish film called ‘The Executioner‘, a dark comedy about capital punishment.
Olive Films expands its premium Olive Signature collection with newly restored editions of John Ford’s Oscar-winning ‘The Quiet Man‘ and the Western (not by Ford) ‘The Night of the Grizzly‘.
Another classic comes from The Film Detective, which has Frank Sinatra’s noir thriller ‘Suddenly‘. (Note that all of Film Detective’s discs are burned onto BD-R media.)
The Will Ferrell comedy ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby‘ was an early launch title for the Blu-ray format, and was widely criticized at the time for its lousy picture quality. Sony has finally remastered the movie for a Big Hairy American Winning Edition, which promises a new 4k film scan for the film’s theatrical cut. Why now? You got me. The movie still airs so frequently on cable that I’m not sure many fans were pining to buy another copy.
Are any of you music fans still jazzed about Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize for Literature? Give Martin Scorsese’s documentary ‘No Direction Home‘ a spin.
A couple weeks ago, Mill Creek released the complete run of ‘Miami Vice’. I have no doubt that iconic show has a fan base eager to own it on Blu-ray. But is anyone really nostalgic for Don Johnson’s follow-up series ‘Nash Bridges‘? A label called Visual Entertainment Inc. hopes so. Its package of the 122-episode series runs a steep $144.44. That’s more than double the asking price for the far superior ‘Vice’.
I’m in the process of reviewing ‘The Exorcist III’ now. I plan to rent ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ and put ‘The Quiet Man’ on my wish list for later.
Does anything appeal to you this week?