Blu-ray Highlights: Week of October 4th, 2015 – I Am Spartacus!

Are you looking for another exciting blockbuster movie to own on Blu-ray? This week brings us the biggest box office hit of the year… assuming that the year we’re talking about is 1960, that is.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (10/6/15)?

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New Releases

Magic Mike XXL‘ – Strange. Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 drama about male strippers didn’t exactly call out for a sequel. Soderbergh did not return to direct the follow-up (his producing partner Gregory Jacobs took over for that), yet he is back behind the camera as cinematographer. I guess that’s the sort of stunt you’d expect him to pull. The original film drew complaints about being a bit of a bait-and-switch. While the trailers promised a scandalous, non-stop clothes-ripping party, the actual movie was a subdued and even arty character drama. By most accounts, the sequel gives audiences what they expected the first time around. Is that a good thing?

Insidious: Chapter 3‘ – I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the ‘Insidious’ franchise is even about. Ghosts, I think. And it comes from the people who made the first few ‘Saw’ movies. That’s as far as my interest in this goes. From what I understand, this third chapter is a prequel and even fans of the first two found it disappointing.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl‘ – This Sundance festival favorite initially drew rave reviews, but was almost instantly slammed by a backlash of complaints about its perceived regressive treatment of female and minority characters as tools to help the narcissistic white male hero become a better person. I can’t speak to that (though the trailers sure do look like an art house version of some John Green story). Personally, I’m more bothered by why Olivia Cooke keeps getting typecast as dying girls.

Manglehorn‘ – In his theatrical review, Phil says that Al Pacino actually puts in some effort to deliver a real performance (a rarity for him these days) as an aging locksmith trying to start his life over. Unfortunately, the film around him by director David Gordon Green lets him down.

When Marnie Was There‘ – In what may be the final animated feature from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli, ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ director Hiromasa Yonebayashi returns to helm a gentle ghost story about a young girl whose new friend has a tragic past. Officially, the studio is taking a “hiatus” after this. Hopefully it won’t be a long one.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief‘ – Alex Gibney, Oscar winning documentarian of ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ and ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’, aims his lens at the most controversial religious organization in the world – and kind of whiffs it. The film doesn’t reveal much of any information that hadn’t been covered by various TV news magazine shows. I think it was a mistake to focus almost exclusively on allegations of abuse from former church members, few of which can be substantiated and many of which sound implausibly outlandish. If you want to scare people away from Scientology, all you really need to do is describe some of the batshit nutso things that are part of the religion’s official dogma. I’m talking Xenu, thetans, and all the other stuff that’s held back from new members until they advance up the church’s ladder. ‘South Park’ did a far better job of deconstructing this religion in a single half-hour episode than Gibney does in two hours.

Escobar: Paradise Lost‘ – Do you remember that storyline on ‘Entourage’ when Vinnie made a Pablo Escobar bio-pic that turned out to be a huge flop and almost derailed his career? Well, Benicio Del Toro has now actually made that movie for real, and it kind of sounds even worse than the fictional one.

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!‘ – With Los Angeles and New York already in ruins, the latest deadly sharknado tracks Ian Ziering and family to Washington, D.C. If I may make a suggestion to the goofballs at The Asylum, set the next on in Chicago. I dare you to try to make that work.

Final Girl‘ – Not to be confused with the more comical ‘The Final Girls’, Abigail Breslin stars as a teen assassin who targets bullies and psychos. The actress was 16 when she made this, and it sat on the studio shelf for a few years before being dumped on VOD. I would not imagine that’s a good sign.

Road Hard‘ – Adam Carolla funded his latest directorial effort (he co-directed, if you want to get picky about it) through Kickstarter. He also stars in the semi-autobiographical tale of a comedian burned out from his life on the road, and created roles for some of his buddies including Jay Mohr, David Koechner and David Alan Greer. Word-of-mouth is that the movie starts out with some funny observational humor but devolves into a lame love story in the second half.

Alleluia‘ – I wrote about this French horror thriller a couple weeks ago. I guess the release got pushed back.

Catalog Titles

Universal’s botched 2010 Blu-ray edition of Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal epic ‘Spartacus‘ is widely regarded as one of the worst discs ever released on the format. After a long wait, the studio finally tries to correct that error with a brand new restoration supervised by Robert Harris, the man behind the stunning ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ Blu-ray and an authority on this film. This is one of the most necessary Blu-rays of the year, and hopefully will turn out to be one of the best.

Also righting past wrongs is Sony, whose previous Blu-ray for Francis Coppola’s visually dazzling adaptation of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘ was a weirdly miscolored, overly dark mess. The two new Supreme Cinema Series editions (both are the same disc, but the “Limited Edition” has more elaborate packaging and a booklet) sport a new and improved 4k remaster and Dolby Atmos sound. The cover art is pretty hideous on both, unfortunately. If anything, the cheaper copy looks slightly preferable.

The Criterion Collection’s latest high-def upgrade is Gus Van Sant’s surreal drama ‘My Own Private Idaho‘, which loosely reworks Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV’ into the tale of two young street hustlers (River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves) in modern day (for 1991) Portland, OR. At the time, this seemed like it was the director’s masterpiece. I haven’t seen the film in years to judge whether that opinion still holds true. His career certainly took some strange and unexpected turns afterwards.

Warner Bros. celebrates the legacy of England’s Hammer Films with the ‘Hammer Horror Classics‘ box set, which bundles copies of ‘The Mummy‘, ‘Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed‘, ‘Dracula Has Risen from the Grave‘ and ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula‘ (all also available separately).

At the same time, Warner also shows Jackie Chan a little love with ‘First Strike‘ and ‘Rumble in the Bronx‘ (neither among his best movies, sadly).

Among the week’s repackagings are new releases for ‘Home Alone‘ and its first sequel as well as the ‘Rocky‘ franchise.


The ‘Freak Show’ season of ‘American Horror Story‘ is probably the show’s weakest to date, though completists will no doubt still find some things to enjoy in it.

I didn’t watch a single minute of the Spike network’s six-hour ‘Tut‘ miniseries. The ads for it looked completely ridiculous. If I’m not mistaken, the real child pharaoh Tutankhamun did not live a particularly eventful life before he died around the age of 18. He’s more famous for his tomb than his short life. Nevertheless, the miniseries is stuffed with epic battles and intrigue and other nonsense to justify the budget and pad the running time.

The 1988 ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special‘ is a standalone breakout from the Complete Series box set released last year.

Other TV offerings include the first season of ‘The Leftovers‘, the second season of ‘Penny Dreadful‘, the third season of ‘Vikings‘, and the 18th season of ‘South Park‘.

My $.02

The two must-own titles of the week for me are ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (standard edition). I’ll also add ‘My Own Private Idaho’ to my ever-growing Criterion wish list.

‘When Marnie Was There’ looks like a rental. I’m sure I’ll catch the ‘Magic Mike’ sequel when it inevitably plays on HBO, which is how I saw the first one.

What grabs you this week?


  1. Chris B

    I’ve never seen My Own Private Idaho but have always wanted to. I love some of Van Sant’s movies (Drugstore Cowboy, Good Will Huntinh) and really dislike others (Elephant, Paranoid Park). I’ll probably pick it up during the sale next month and hope for the best. I was actually thinking about how devastating the 90’s in particular were for yound celebs dying to soon. River Phoenix, Brandon Lee, Kurt Cobain etc. I know every era has it’s casualties but…damn.

    Speaking of movies I’ve never seen, same goes for Coppola’s Dracula. I dig Gary Oldman a lot and FFC’s work from the 70’s but I never found the time or the will to watch this one. I always though Keanu Reeves would most likely ruin the thing…is it relly worth seeing?

    • Csm101

      You’ve never seen Bram Stoker’s Dracula?! Drop what you’re doing and go see this immediately! At least wait til tomorrow when the new disc comes out. There is an extremely laughable scene of dialogue with Keanu attempting a British accent, but most of his work is physical. It doesn’t ruin the movie one bit. It’s such a great movie, especially for the Halloween season. Even if you’re not blown away by the movie itself, you’re definitely going to appreciate the way it was made.

    • Bolo

      My sister used to watch ‘Dracula’ a lot during the VHS era. I haven’t seen it since. I remember Oldman being awesome and some crazy visuals, but mostly bad stuff sticks out in my mind like some hokey performances and some of the sets looking cheap and stagey. The film seems to have a big fanbase of people who love it for its oldschool effects and cinematic techniques. So I’m tempted to revisit it and see if maybe I’ll have a newfound appreciation for it.

      • Csm101

        Like I said, even if the movie itself doesn’t do it for you, you could definitely appreciate the production itself. Last night I hung out my sister and she says she hasn’t seen it since we saw it in theatres. I’m hoping to have her over with my nephews for a watch.

        • Deaditelord

          Well I hope you at least let your sister put a coat on before you hung her outside the window. Nights are starting to get a little cooler. 🙂

        • Chris B

          I’m confused, did the supreme cinema series Dracula cone out in the states yet? I can’t find it up here and is listing the release date as either oct. 20 or oct. 27. Did it get pushed back everywhere? What gives?

          • Csm101

            Yes, it’s here. It has been here since the 6th. Although Best Buy didn’t have it the first week it was out. I got mine from Moviestop/Hastings. I’m not sure if you have those up there. For shits & giggles I checked the best buys in my area this week online and it said they had them, but when I went to the store, they werent out on the floor. One of the workers went to the back and dug them out (along with Christine) Whatever you do, I think it would be best to get the regular bluray case version. I read on a blog post one of the readers here opened his up and the binding came undone in the fancy book. They’re charging like 32 US dollars for that version and that’s just for packaging. The contents of the disc are the same as the cheapo one which is 14.99. Just my thoughts. I believe on the 27th here they’re releasing supreme cinema series for Leon, The Professional and The Fifth Element.

          • Chris B

            Thanks for the info CSM, I guess its just been pushed back in Canada for some reason, I’ll have to pick it up on the 27th I spose. Yeah like you said I’m gonna get the cheaper release. All the “limited edition” has is an extra booklet and they’re asking a lot more money which I don’t feel like paying TBH.

  2. I really really really want that ‘Home Alone’ elaborate collection (it’s packaged in a paint can, so we can whack the Wet Bandits), but I just found out it includes the crappy sequels. Don’t need those. May buy the can, and give away/sell/destroy the unwanted discs.

  3. Lord Bowler

    I held off buying Spartacus on Blu-Ray, and after reading the reviews am glad I did.

    That being said, Spartacus is a must buy for me. Also, Vikings Season 3 is also a must buy on the TV Front.

    Tut is a Rental (and a possible buy).

    And, I may just end up buying the Sharknado franchise if there’s a really good deal. They’re bad movies, but are a great movie you just have yell at the screen while you’re watching it, or just get the RiffTrax for it!

  4. Bolo

    I’m buying ‘Rumble in the Bronx’. Maybe I have more affection for it because it was my introduction to Jackie Chan as a performer, but I find it a blast to watch.

    ‘When Marnie Was There’ will get a viewing from me one way or another.

  5. Csm101

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Preferably the regular version, but I’m willing to get the fancy version if its all I can find. It doesn’t look look like Best Buy will have it in stock, but more than likely Moviestop/Hastings will. I definitely want to pick up Spartacus as well. The Hammer Horror pack would be great, but a little pricey. I’m debating about picking the movies up separately little by little. My daughter loves the Sharknado flicks and maybe I’ll pick one up if there’s a deal for buying one with the other. I’d like to delete it from my DVR to free up some space.

  6. NJScorpio

    I would jump on the Jackie Chan Blu-Rays, but I’m trying to save money, and I imagine the prices won’t vary much over the next few months.

  7. Deaditelord

    Yeah at $10 a piece I wouldn’t expect the Jackie Chan movies to drop much in price until perhaps Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

    While I fully expect WB to do a better job than Echo Bridge did with the Jackie Chan films they released on blu-ray (someone needs to rescue those films and give them a proper release), I’m still going hold off purchasing First Strike and Rumble in the Bronx until I hear something about the transfers. I’m also on the fence on blind buying Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I liked the movie when I saw it in the theater, but I haven’t seen it since that time and wonder how well it holds up.

    • I was wondering the same thing, but then I remembered. It’s similar to Amazon’s Disney issues. I think they’re putting pressure on Fox to lower the bulk prices.

      • itjustWoRX

        Yup. I wanted to preorder “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl” but that was a no-go because it was a Fox title. This dispute seems a bit more ridiculous though, it’s been going on for a solid 3-4 weeks now.

  8. William Henley

    Tomorrowland for me. Dispatched from on Sunday, so should have it sometime next week. LOVED this movie – possibly my favorite movie of the year so far!

  9. Csm101

    Unfucking believable! I couldn’t find Spartacus anywhere so I ordered it online for 14.99 which is very reasonable. My buddy goes to BJ’s wholesale and found it there for 7.99 !!

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