It stands to reason that the week leading up to Halloween will find a lot of horror movies released on Blu-ray. What’s perhaps surprising this year is the breadth of other films, including several really appealing titles (all catalog product), available at the same time.
Unfortunately, the latest day-and-date titles are a bunch of crap, but let’s get them out of the way first.
‘Pixels‘ – The real shame here is that the movie actually has a pretty clever premise: Aliens invade Earth by taking the form of classic videogame characters (Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, etc.), and the only people who can stop them are old-school arcade champions. The short film it’s based on is fairly clever. How the hell this wound up in the hands of Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison team, with Chris Columbus directing, I will never understand. I can hardly think of a crew less suited for the material. By all accounts, the result is more of Sandler’s typical lazy dreck. To spruce it up on the technical front, the movie played in selected theaters with High Dynamic Range projection and Dolby Atmos surround sound. The Blu-ray includes the latter. A 3D version is also available, if that makes it any more appealing for you.
‘Southpaw‘ – Director Antoine Fuqua’s stock in trade seems to be taking really overplayed genre formulas and making hyper-violent versions of them – from the dirty cop movie (‘Training Day’) to the ‘Die Hard’ knockoff (‘Olympus Has Fallen’) to the revenge flick (‘The Equalizer’). This time, he regurgitates the underdog sports hero picture with a blatant ‘Rocky’ clone. About the only interesting thing about this is star Jake Gyllenhaal’s absolutely insane physique. What he must have had to do to get in that sort of shape terrifies me. Beyond that, every single line uttered in the trailers was a hoary sports movie cliché: “The more you get hit, the harder you fight,” “This is your time. It’s your moment!”, etc. The hero’s name is literally Hope. Ugh.
‘Max‘ – A military dog is shipped home to America after his master is killed in action. He bonds with a mopey teen and rescues the kid from trouble he’s gotten into with gun-runners. Everybody has a good cry. Yes, that’s really the plot. Yecch.
‘The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence‘ – If you somehow made it through the first two of these and still wanted more…
The last time Paramount released the classic Audrey Hepburn musical ‘My Fair Lady‘ on Blu-ray back in 2011, the studio notoriously screwed it up with a dreadful video transfer. To make amends, the 50th Anniversary Edition features a sparkling new 4k restoration (from an 8k scan of the original negative) supervised by respected film preservationist Robert Harris. Throw the old copy in the trash, because this is the one to own.
More reissues come from Sony, which expands its Supreme Cinema Series line with new editions of ‘The Fifth Element‘ and ‘Léon: The Professional ‘, both featuring new video transfers (this will be the third for ‘Fifth Element’) and Dolby Atmos audio remixes.
Not remastered (to my knowledge) are a couple of 40th Anniversary Editions for ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail‘. One of them has a ridiculous package that looks like a castle. I’m still happy enough with the Blu-ray from 2012, but if you don’t already have that one, here’s another chance to own the movie.
Criterion’s collaboration with director David Lynch on ‘Eraserhead’ was fruitful enough to bring his ‘Mulholland Drive‘ into the collection as well. The film is frequently described as a masterpiece. Although I’m not high enough on it to go quite that far, it’s certainly the last good movie he has made to date.
After a short delay, Twilight Time’s new limited edition of John Carpenter’s ‘Vampires‘ should begin shipping this week. Anticipating a high demand, the label expanded its availability from 3,000 to 5,000 copies. That may have been optimistic. Even among the director’s fans, this is regarded as a lesser work. Pre-orders opened a couple weeks ago and it’s still available, which is a stark contrast to how quickly his ‘Christine’ sold out.
As far as I can tell, it may never be possible to assemble a truly definitive collection for Sam Raimi’s ‘Army of Darkness‘. Scream Factory does its best with a new Collector’s Edition that compiles no less than four versions of the movie in various states of quality based on the sources currently available. The International Cut has been newly remastered and reportedly looks the best.
Warner’s generically titled ‘Special Effects Collection’ box set bundles new high-def editions of the classic monster movies ‘Son of Kong‘, ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms‘, ‘Mighty Joe Young‘ (1949) and ‘Them!‘. Each is also available separately.
With the so-called ‘Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cats‘, Arrow Video pairs up a double-feature of two adaptations of Poe’s story ‘The Black Cat’, one by Sergio Martino and one by Lucio Fulci.
Olive Films has once again licensed a very eclectic selection of movies. Among this week’s batch are the Vincent Price chiller ‘Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors‘, Saul Bass’ killer-ant horror flick ‘Phase IV‘, the goofy Cheech & Chong stoner comedy ‘The Corsican Brothers‘, the ridiculous Charles Bronson flop ‘Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects‘, and the controversial exploitation drama ‘Mandingo‘.
Finally, defying all categorization is the bizarre Oingo Boingo cult musical ‘Forbidden Zone‘.
I already have a copy of Criterion’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ disc in-hand for review. Other titles that will go on my wish list include the new editions of ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘Army of Darkness’, ‘The Fifth Element’ and ‘Léon’.
What treats will you indulge yourself with this week?