It used to be that the release of a new Star Wars movie to either theaters or home video was a major event. Has Disney’s plan to churn out new Star Wars content non-stop in perpetuity already triggered franchise fatigue among fans?
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Solo: A Star Wars Story – As was extensively publicized, the long-gestating Han Solo origin story suffered some pretty serious behind-the-scenes turmoil. Original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord got canned halfway through production, and Ron Howard was brought in at the last minute to reshoot almost the entire movie from scratch. By the time it hit theaters, the film’s already-high budget basically doubled and audiences didn’t seem terribly excited by the results. Many felt that star Alden Ehrenrich simply couldn’t fill Harrison Ford’s shoes. (One thing most people did like, however, was Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian.) This is the first live-action Star Wars movie to be a box office disappointment, and Disney is already re-evaluating its plans for other spinoff projects outside the main Episodes. Now that the movie arrives on video, I suspect it may also struggle to be embraced as home theater demo material. Reports from theaters widely criticized the film’s aggressively dark and murky photography. In this case, 4k HDR may essentially be a requirement to get a watchable picture out of it. As a Disney release, you should also expect it to have a lackluster soundtrack with poor bass. A SteelBook and a Target exclusive are available for collectors, but if you’re a 3D fan, you’ll have to look overseas.
Gotti – John Travolta stars in a bio-pic about notorious mobster John Gotti. Travolta’s star power may not be what it once was, but you’d still expect a project like this to get a decent theatrical release and an Oscar campaign. On the other hand, once you note that the film was directed by Entourage star Kevin Connolly, perhaps it’s not so surprising that didn’t happen. Critics basically laughed the picture off the screen during its premiere at Cannes, some declaring it the worst Mob movie ever made. It barely played in theaters at all and will surely also go ignored on video.
Things are really buzzing on Ultra HD this week. In addition to Solo: A Star Wars Story, other new (though much lower profile) day-and-date titles include the basketball comedy Uncle Drew and the horror reboot Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
I hope that Lionsgate will use the excuse of a new 4k edition to finally provide a decent copy of American Psycho, which had a very problematic Blu-ray release.
John Carpenter’s Halloween has likewise had a troubled history on home video. Even the last filmmaker-approved Blu-ray had a controversial video transfer that messed around with the movie’s color scheme. At present, I’m not sure whether the UHD is based on that master or has been given a fresh makeover. If the studio brought cinematographer Dean Cundey in again, there’s no telling what he’ll do with it this time. [Update: Sadly, our reviewer E. has confirmed that the UHD disc comes from the same source as the 35th Anniversary Blu-ray with the unnaturally desaturated colors and flat contrast.]
For some reason, Lionsgate also decided to bump both The Punisher (the 2004 version with Thomas Jane) and Punisher: War Zone (the one with Ray Stevenson) to 4k this week. Is another season of the Netflix reboot coming up soon or something?
Fox’s X-Men: 3-Film Collection seems like a devious way to trick fans into purchasing another unwanted copy of The Last Stand.
Whovians can say goodbye to star Peter Capaldi one more time with an Ultra HD version of the Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time Christmas special.
Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky’s medieval period drama Andrei Rublev exists in several versions, from long to really long. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray includes both the original 205-minute cut that was suppressed from release in the Soviet Union and Tarkovsky’s own preferred 186-minute cut.
Also new from Criterion is the 1961 film adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee reprising their roles from the groundbreaking Broadway play.
Sony welcomes Todd Solondz’s darkly comic coming-of-age dramedy Welcome to the Dollhouse to high definition, so that poor Dawn Wiener can get humiliated all over again.
Arrow takes aim at two films from 1973: Fred Zinneman’s assassin thriller The Day of the Jackal and the bizarre cult horror flick The Baby.
Shout! Factory gives the Tom Selleck Western Quigley Down Under another shot at glory by inducting it into the Shout Select line.
Scream Factory hopes perhaps to rehabilitate the image of John Boorman’s misbegotten sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic with a Collector’s Edition that remasters two different versions of the film.
More horror from Scream Factory includes the 1985 Frankenstein reworking called The Bride with Sting and Jennifer Beals, and a 4-film collection of all the entries in the Spanish zombie franchise [rec].
Mill Creek’s much-delayed “Psycho Biddy Double Feature” of William Castle’s Strait-Jacket and Berserk seems to be back on track again. However, don’t be surprised if it gets pushed back again by the time you read this post.
Schlock is the order of the day at the Warner Archive, from the cheeseball horror of 1957’s The Cyclops to the campy sci-fi in 1958’s Queen of Outer Space and the straight-up dopeyness of Irwin Allen’s 1978 killer bee disaster epic The Swarm.
Back in 1967, who could have guessed that the director behind the goofy Sonny & Cher comedy Good Times would later go on to make movies like The French Connection and The Exorcist? Kino digs up William Friedkin’s feature directorial debut.
By its third season, the writers of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow have more-or-less given up any pretense that their show will make any sense. That can be incredibly frustrating. However, every time I’m on the verge of giving up on the show, it’ll do something super-weird and hilarious to keep me watching. The Beebo episode in the middle of the season is incredibly dumb but also very, very funny. The finale has several moments that made me laugh my butt off. Also, fans of NBC’s short-lived Constantine series from a few years ago should note that Matt Ryan reprises the character in several episodes here and is scheduled to be a regular cast member in Season 4.
Finally, Sony delivers a Complete Series box set with all five seasons of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the show was shot on standard-def video and will need to be upconverted to HD. I suppose that may explain the surprisingly reasonable list price.
I blind preordered the Zavvi 3D SteelBook for Solo while it was still available. I think my collector mentality must have overcome me, because everything I’ve heard is that the movie’s excessively dim photography makes for a lousy 3D conversion.
Having covered all the franchise’s previous releases, I’ve been forced to suffer through Exorcist II again to review the new disc. Expect that article soon.
A Raisin in the Sun, Andrei Rublev, The Day of the Jackal, and Welcome to the Dollhouse are all going on my wish list.
What’s on your agenda this week?