It’s been a hard day’s night preparing this week’s Blu-ray and Ultra HD update. The massive list of new titles may be so overwhelming that you’ll either call out for “Help!” or decide to just let it be. If you’ll let me, I wanna hold your hand to guide you through it.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Yesterday – The filmmakers behind Trainspotting and Love Actually don’t seem like a particularly natural pairing in my mind. Nevertheless, Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis collaborated on a rom-com fantasy about a struggling singer (Himesh Patel) who wakes up after an accident to find himself in a world where no one except him remembers the Beatles. By playing their music, he becomes a huge superstar, but has to decide whether the success and fame are worth the guilt he feels over his plagiarism. Critics were mixed on the film, but good will engendered by all the Beatles songs on the soundtrack propelled it to be a strong box office hit.
Anna – Reeling from the tremendous failure of his sci-fi opus Valerian, Luc Besson retreated to familiar territory with an action thriller that in many respects appears to be a remake of his own La Femme Nikita. Russian model Sasha Luss plays a sexy assassin who kills a whole lot of people. Sadly, reviews were very poor, criticizing the film as derivative and uninspired. Audiences didn’t have much interest in it either. Even with a fairly modest budget of just $30 million (compared to the $200 million for Valerian), the movie lost money.
Shaft – Officially a direct sequel to both the 1971 Blaxploitation classic and John Singleton’s quasi-reboot from 2000, the new Shaft is the fifth entry in a franchise of which three have the exact same title. How’s that for confusing? Richard Roundtree and Samuel L. Jackson both return, joined by Jesse T. Usher to investigate a case that requires not one but three generations of Shafts to crack. With a jokey script by sitcom producer Kenya Barris and direction by the uninspired Tim Story (2005’s Fantastic Four and its sequel), word of mouth on the movie was positively toxic and it tanked in theaters.
Child’s Play – A complicated rights dispute allowed MGM to produce a full remake of the 1988 killer doll horror flick even while Universal continues to crank out sequels to the original (and is currently developing a TV spinoff for Syfy) under the Chucky banner. Even without involvement from any of the original creators or stars, the remake was met with surprisingly positive response and solid business. The studio’s clever release strategy of opening it directly against Toy Story 4 with a marketing campaign showing the new Chucky slaughtering the Pixar characters no doubt drummed up a lot of interest.
Skin – Jamie Bell, covered in lots of fake tattoos, plays a Neo-Nazi who reforms his ways and tries to stop being so racist. I’m surprised nobody informed the filmmakers that Nazis are actually “very fine people” and there’s actually no need for a movie like this anymore. In any case, the Oscar bait drama had a mixed reaction at festivals and faltered in general release.
Yesterday and Anna take aim at Ultra HD day-and-date with their regular Blu-ray debuts.
Shaft was announced to do the same, though Amazon and other retailers appear to have pulled their listings for the 4k copy. Best Buy still has an active page showing no cover art. I’m inclined to think that the UHD release was canceled and Best Buy simply hasn’t updated its system yet.
Disney prepares for the impending sequel by upgrading the 2014 Maleficent to 4k. Best Buy has a SteelBook.
Now that Disney owns Fox, the studio is reissuing all the movies in the Star Wars saga under its own banner. As far as I’m aware, this amounts to just a packaging change and the discs inside should be the same copies released previously. Fans hoping for 4k remasters or restorations of the original theatrical cuts will have to keep waiting.
Meanwhile, Disney is also pulling its animated classics Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians out of the vault for Signature Collection reissues. Each has a SteelBook at Best Buy or a Target exclusive that comes with a mini storybook.
Criterion adds a little more Charlie Chaplin to the collection with 1928’s The Circus. Next from the label is Bill Forsyth’s delightful 1983 culture clash comedy Local Hero.
Arrow Academy has another classic with Billy Wilder’s 1942 romantic comedy The Major and the Minor, starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland.
The Warner Archive is having a busy week with a trio of new releases. These include the 1940 Bette Davis drama The Letter, Robert Wise’s 1949 noir thriller The Set-Up, and a reissue of the 1988 Carl Weathers star vehicle Action Jackson.
Kino’s Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection box set contains new restorations of the famed actress/director’s Not Wanted (1949), Never Fear (1949), The Hitch-Hiker (1953), and The Bigamist (1953). Standalone copies of each are also available separately.
Bing Crosby won his only Oscar for playing a priest in Leo McCarey’s 1944 comedy-drama Going My Way. That film reaches its 75th anniversary with a Shout Select Blu-ray. Also joining the line is George Roy Hill’s 1975 aerial barnstorming adventure picture The Great Waldo Pepper, starring Robert Redford.
Coming out through the Sony Choice manufactured-on-demand program are the sports comedy sequels Major League II (1994) and Major League: Back to the Minors (1998), as well as the 1979 Scott Baio disco comedy Skatetown, U.S.A.. The latter marked the screen debut for a young Patrick Swayze.
Paramount notes the 20th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow with a Digibook repackage.
Roger Corman’s 1959 horror comedy A Bucket of Blood gets a 4k remaster for the Olive Signature line.
The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition double-dip for Vampires (a.k.a. John Carpenter’s Vampires) has not been remastered, but our reviewer Matthew says that the transfer holds up pretty well.
Arrow Video previously released Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) in a trilogy box set and then later as a standalone SteelBook. If you’re a fan and didn’t buy either of those copies, you get another chance with the new Special Edition reissue. The first sequel, 1988’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II, is also available. No sign of a breakout copy for Hellraiser III yet, but honestly, who would buy it?
Arrow then has even more horror with Wes Craven’s 1985 The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 and the bizarre 1988 cult B-movie In the Aftermath, which mashes together excerpts from the 1985 Mamoru Oshii anime film Angel’s Egg with new live-action footage.
The fourth season of the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow makes its way to disc this week.
Perhaps a couple weeks too late to ride the coattails of the theatrical release for It: Chapter Two, Paramount brings the 1994 TV adaptation of The Stand (or Stephen King’s The Stand, if you must) to Blu-ray. Those of us who sat through it originally may remember that the miniseries was really not very good. We can hope that next year’s CBS All Access remake will be better. Honestly, it kind of has nowhere to go but up.
Finally, I don’t normally mention Blu-ray Audio releases here, but I felt it worth noting that Capitol Records offers a swanky, deluxe box set for The Beatles: Abbey Road timed to coincide with Yesterday. The album has been remastered with new stereo, 5.1, and even Dolby Atmos remixes.
This week has a lot going on. I have some mild interest in Yesterday and Anna, but can wait to catch them on cable or Netflix.
I’m not sure that anything strikes me as an immediate need, but Local Hero, The Circus, The Letter, The Set-Up, The Major and the Minor, The Great Waldo Pepper, and the Ida Lupino box set will all go on my wish list.
I also find that Abbey Road box set tempting, but will probably pass because I’m just not the sort of person who sits and listens to music in my home theater.
What catches your fancy today? Will you purchase anything tomorrow?