Blu-ray Highlights for 9/7/10. What Are You Buying?

We’re finally out of the dog days of August. As September rolls in, so perhaps do a few Blu-ray titles actually worth buying. Let’s take a look.

First off, I feel the need to admit the error of my ways. In last week’s post, I said that there was nothing to buy and that I’d be sitting out the week. Well, it turns out that I made my way to Best Buy and picked up a few discs after all. Thanks to the correction from one of our fine readers, I learned that the “Rich Mahogany” Blu-ray edition of ‘Anchorman‘ is in fact a notable improvement over the old HD DVD release. The Best Buy exclusive version also comes packaged with a very funny copy of Ron’s Private Diary and some goofy trading cards. That was certainly worth a purchase.

Best Buy also has an exclusive early release window on several Lionsgate titles that won’t hit general retail until October. I mentioned ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ last week. (I didn’t buy that one.) At the time, I wasn’t aware of the other discs such as ‘Bad Lieutenant‘, ‘High Tension‘, ‘Open Water 1 & 2‘ (double feature), ‘Secretary‘, and ‘Wonderland‘, most of which are very reasonably priced around $9.99.

Of those, I wound up with ‘Secretary’ and ‘Bad Lieutenant’. Funnily, I didn’t even like ‘Bad Lieutenant’ when I saw it in the theater back in 1992. But for $9.99, I figured it was worth a second look. ‘Secretary’, on the other hand, is a very kinky and entertaining black comedy that I’m quite happy to own on Blu-ray.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the new release slate:

The week’s two big day-and-date titles are ‘MacGruber‘ and ‘Killers‘. I haven’t seen either one. I’ve heard that ‘MacGruber’ is funnier than expected, but I have an aversion to watching 3-minute ‘SNL’ skits stretched out to feature-length movies. I’ve been burned too many times in that regard. This one might be worth catching up with by rental, though. I also have an aversion to watching pretty much anything starring either Ashton Kutcher or Katherine Heigl. Word of mouth on ‘Killers’ has been especially scathing, so that should effectively rule this one out.

On the TV front, we’ve got several notable box sets, including ‘Chuck‘, ‘Smallville‘, and ‘Supernatural‘. Our contest results for that copy of ‘The Office: Season 6‘ that we’re giving away will be posted later today, so stay tuned for that.

Science fiction dominates the catalog titles this week. Warner has finally gotten around to porting its excellent HD DVD edition of the sci-fi classic ‘Forbidden Planet‘ over to Blu-ray. No elaborate collector’s tin packaging this time, unfortunately.

At the time ‘Mars Attacks!‘ was released to theaters, I was a huge Tim Burton fan. This was the first of his movies that I found crushingly disappointing. As I recall, I laughed exactly once during the entirety of the alleged comedy. (The Martian spy girl bit is fairly inspired.) But the movie has its defenders, so maybe I should give it another shot.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, we have ‘Lost in Space‘, which is almost universally reviled but I find passable enough in a guilty pleasure sort of way. I suppose it helps that I have no attachment to the original TV series. It’s certainly not a good movie by any means. It’s quite stupid, and some of the CG visual effects (like that dumb monkey thing) are astoundingly shoddy. Yet other of its VFX are really well done, its Euro-flavored production design reminds me a little bit of ‘The Fifth Element‘, and the movie was made in good goofy spirits. It’s worth checking out for Gary Oldman’s entertaining performance as Dr. Smith, if nothing else. Perhaps not a purchase, this one, but maybe a rental.

Then we have ‘THX 1138‘, the feature directorial debut of a little guy named George Lucas. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? This minimalistic, dystopian sci-fi drama started out as a 15-minute UCLA student film (found as a supplement on the disc). Lucas later remade the story with a new cast and expanded it to feature length. Its success allowed him to make ‘American Graffiti’ and (eventually) ‘Star Wars’. The Blu-ray unfortunately contains only “The George Lucas Director’s Cut.” Is there another phrase in all of filmdom that can fill movie lovers with more dread than that? The changes Lucas imposed on this are not quite as severe as the atrocity he inflicted on ‘Star Wars’, but he’s certainly foisted on it a fair amount of mediocre videogame-quality CGI that doesn’t even remotely blend with the live action footage shot in 1970. It all stands out like a sore thumb, and does absolutely nothing to enhance or improve the movie in any way. I wish Lucas would learn to leave his old movies well enough alone.

That’s enough sci-fi for one week. In other news, Warner is re-releasing ‘Poltergeist‘ in a standard keepcase for those of you Digibook haters. Sony has also granted ‘In Cold Blood‘ its own individual Blu-ray edition. (The movie was previously only available in a double feature with ‘Capote‘.)

After establishing his auteur credentials in the 1970s, Robert Altman spent a long decade lingering in near-obscurity on the fringes of the art house circuit. His scathing “bite the hand that feeds him” Hollywood satire ‘The Player‘ finally brought the director back to prominence in 1992 and launched a very successful career comeback. I prefer Altman’s next film ‘Short Cuts’ over this one by quite a considerable margin, but ‘The Player’ is still a very good and entertaining movie.

Also of note is Ken Russell’s psychedelic freak-out adaptation of The Who’s rock opera ‘Tommy‘. Appreciation for this one will be greatly aided if you were a teenager in the 1970s and dropped a lot of acid. I fit neither description, so we’ll leave it at that. Russell is a very visual filmmaker, however. I might be interested to see how well his work translates to high definition.

Finally, there’s ‘Stardust‘. Ugh. The fantasy concoction based on a book by Neil Gaiman has a tiny but positively rabid cult following that will countenance no disagreement with their rapturous love for the movie. I found it to be a cinematic embarrassment, personally. Robert De Niro’s swishy gay caricature is cringe-worthy and offensive. I’m amazed that the movie even made it to theaters in the first place, much less played for a whole week. My negative review of the HD DVD edition was greeted with about 30 pages of pure vitriol in the site’s forums. Someone else on staff here will be reviewing the Blu-ray. May God have mercy on his soul if he doesn’t looooooooooove it enough to satisfy Gaiman’s fans. And he if does love it… well, may God have mercy on his soul for entirely different reasons.


  1. jgslima

    I really like Skeleton Key. It’s a fantastic movie. But I don’t think it is the case to buy it and keep watching it many times.
    Indeed, this movie is really worth of watching a second time. It is that kind of movie that you only understand all things when you already know the end. I simply do not believe anyone would be able to get why characters do what they do and say what they in its entirely watching the movie by the first time.
    But even so, after this second time watching, this is it. So I think about buying this movie, but if I do that, it would be just to increase the collection in the shelf, probably I will not even watch all the movie a single time.

  2. My Lost In Space should be arriving from Amazon today. I’m sorry, but I LOVE this movie. It probably helps that I saw this about 8 years before I saw any of the original tv shows, and in my opinion is a great reboot. I was really hoping for sequels and a spinoff modern tv series, and was shocked that it was recieved so poorly.

    I already have Forbidden Planet on HD-DVD. Only picked it up as it was $4.99 as I had never seen it before. Now I love it. Highly recommend it for Sci-Fi buffs who do not own this already on HD-DVD

    I LOVE Poltergeists and bought it the day the Digibook came out. Seems awfully soon to me, though, to be releasing a double-dip on a catalogue film, though. That being said, I doubt the costs of repackaging this into a standard keep case was all that much. Use the same discs, slap them into a keep case, shrink the artwork down to slide into the plastic sleeve. I love the Digibook though.

    • So, on Lost In Space, I watched the first 20 minutes at home. The CG REALLY looks like modern video-game material here, and looks really hoaky. But this is probably all due to the early CG and not as a result of the transfer. The live-action elements are very sharp, detailed, and spot on. I saw no crushes in black areas, and film grain seems to be present, so it doesn’t look like any major DNR made it into play in the transfer. My only complaint is that the image is SO sharp, you can see flaws in the special effects. There are some shots where you can see green-halos around the actors from badly-done green-screen effects.

      The DTS-MA 5.1 track seems to accurately reproduce the track. That being said, most sound is thrown at the center channel, with only the film’s aggressive sound effects thrown in anything else. As such, dialouge sounds very strange, as it is blasting out of the center channel with no depth perception or anytihng coming out of the sides or rears. Like I said, this was only the first 20 minutes of it.

      The cover art seems to be consistant with earlier VHS and DVD releases. The case is a standard keepcase with the big recycling symbol punched through it. The case feels flimsey.

      On a plus side, my copy from Amazon did not have that annoying Security Sticker on it. Took off the VERY easy to open outer layer of plastic and popped the case right open. Bet it took less than 10 seconds for the whole ordeal.

      As I said, I love this movie, and am very pleased with the presentation here on Blu-Ray