Blu-ray Highlights: Week of September 4th, 2016 – Pumping Iron

Welcome to September. Did you have a nice holiday weekend? In terms of Blu-rays, the new month looks more promising than the last one. This week starts off strong with a long-awaited catalog title.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (9/6/16)?

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New Releases

Now You See Me 2‘ – The fact that the idiotic, magic-themed crime caper flick ‘Now You See Me’ got a sequel at all is puzzling to me. Even though it made a fair amount of money, did anyone actually like it? Apparently not, given that the follow-up was a box office flop. Problems start with the title. That the producers failed to name the movie ‘Now You Don’t’ demonstrates a tragic lack of even rudimentary imagination. Even if the studio marketing execs were worried about franchise branding, they could have called it ‘Now You See Me: Now You Don’t’. Instead, we get ‘Now You See Me 2’, the lamest of all possible options. Regardless, pretty much nobody had any interest in seeing this in theaters. The studio must have expected it to be a hit when making home video plans, though. In addition to the basic Blu-ray version, the movie also gets a fancy SteelBook edition and a UHD.

Money Monster‘ – With stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts in front of the camera, and respected actress-turned-filmmaker Jodie Foster behind it, plus the very topical subject matter of economic class warfare and Wall Street corruption, how is it that their new hostage/siege thriller looked so bad? The trailers had me groaning right from the beginning. Reviews were mixed-to-negative, but I’ve heard a few people defend the movie, claiming that the marketing just sold it poorly.

Love & Friendship‘ – I’ve never warmed to the films of Whit Stillman. In fact, I found his ‘Barcelona’ kind of insufferable when I saw it in the theater. Now that movie’s in the Criterion Collection, so maybe my opinion of the guy is just way off-base. Here he adapts the Jane Austen novella ‘Lady Susan’, and even I have to admit that Stillman and Austen seem like a perfectly matched couple. Critics loved the movie, but audiences were less enthused. A common complaint is that the source material is one of Austen’s earliest and weakest works and the movie does little to improve it.

Equals‘ – Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart star in one of those generic dystopian futures where everybody wears white jumpsuits and all human emotion has been outlawed – as if that were in any way plausible. That peculiar genre pretty much ran its course over 40 years ago after ‘THX 1138’. Reportedly, director Drake Doremus dives straight into the clichés and brings nothing new to the table.

Hard Target 2‘ – After subbing for Jean-Claude Van Damme in one of the ‘Universal Soldier’ sequels, Scott Adkins tries to turn another old JCVD movie into a direct-to-video franchise. The original ‘Hard Target’ was never a great movie, but was notable as the first film John Woo directed in America. I can’t imagine that this one has his stylistic flair, but word is that it’s an efficient actioner.

A Bigger Splash‘ – Released not long after the death of David Bowie, Tilda Swinton plays a very Bowie-like androgynous rock star in a drama that reunites her with ‘I Am Love‘ director Luca Guadagnino. The premise, about a famous musician recuperating from vocal surgery at an Italian villa, sounds like your typical European art film stuff, but Ralph Fiennes (discovering a gift for comedy in recent years) is said to be hilarious as Swinton’s companion.

The Darkness‘ – I totally get Radha Mitchell starring in a low-budget horror flick about a family tormented by the ghosts of dead Native Americans whose cultural artifacts they’ve unwittingly stolen, but I guess I assumed that Kevin Bacon was above this sort of thing.

The Meddler‘ – In between bouts of annoying the hell out of everyone on both ends of the spectrum with her outspoken blathering about politics, Susan Sarandon still occasionally makes a movie every now and again. In a comedy from ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ director Lorene Scafaria, the actress plays a pushy mother driving her neurotic daughter (Rose Byrne) batty. Despite generally favorable notices from critics, I’m a little saddened that Sarandon has hit the stage of her career where this is the only type of role anyone would consider her for anymore. The way Hollywood discards talented older actresses is a terrible shame.

Catalog Titles

Why it took this long for Brad Bird’s much-beloved animated adventure ‘The Iron Giant‘ to come to Blu-ray is inexplicable. To help make up for the delay, Warner offers the movie in either a standard Blu-ray or one of those shelf-hogging Ultimate Collector’s Edition box sets packed with art cards, a figurine and other swag. Both options represent the new Director’s Cut of the movie that adds back two scenes that didn’t previously make the final cut. I’m usually wary of that kind of revisionism, but I’m told that the additions here feel organic, as if the movie should have always had them.

As part of the franchise’s big birthday milestone, Paramount’s ‘Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection‘ bundles all three seasons of ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ with the six “original crew” movies into one big, expensive package. While I’m sure that most fans already own all of that, the selling points of the box set are a new documentary and (more importantly) the exclusive Blu-ray debut of the short-lived 1973-4 ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series’. I would hope that the latter will get its own standalone Blu-ray release eventually.

Tying in with its new sequel, Lionsgate would also like to get some extra mileage out of the original ‘Now You See Me‘ with a Best Buy exclusive SteelBook.

Criterion rides the ‘Night Train to Munich‘ for director Carol Reed’s WWII espionage adventure thriller.

Digging back into the 1980s, Kino hires ‘My Bodyguard‘ to protect its Blu-ray catalog, while Shout! Factory makes a return stop to the ‘Road House‘ to drop off a new Collector’s Edition reissue of Patrick Swayze’s guilty pleasure classic.

Before Kiwi director Lee Tamahori made one of the worst James Bond movies (‘Die Another Day’), and before star Temuera Morrison begat a thousand clones in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels, the two actually started their careers with the highly acclaimed Maori drama ‘Once Were Warriors‘. Way back in the day, the film was released on the Laserdisc format by the Criterion Collection, but its video rights have moved around a lot since then and the Blu-ray comes from Film Movement.

Television

The FX network’s very successful true-crime drama ‘The People vs. O.J. Simpson‘ is technically the first season of an anthology series called ‘American Crime Story’. The show scored big ratings and lots of acclaim, but I couldn’t get more than a couple episodes in. I just wasn’t interested in reliving the Simpson trial, and I found John Travolta’s incredibly mannered, almost kabuki-like performance as attorney Robert Shapiro to be hugely distracting.

The wildly uneven second season of ‘The Flash‘ was a major letdown. I hope the show can recover for its third.

Also available are the eleventh season of ‘Supernatural‘, the nineteenth season of ‘South Park‘, a couple of classic ‘Peanuts‘ specials, and HBO’s telemovie adaptation of the stage play ‘All the Way‘, in which Bryan Cranston plays Lyndon Johnson.

My $.02

The standard edition Blu-ray of ‘The Iron Giant’ will do nicely for me. I don’t need the oversized box set. ‘Night Train to Munich’ will also go on my wish list, while I’ll wait for the eventual standalone release of ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series’.

What new discs will you put on your shelf this week?

24 comments

  1. Mike Attebery

    My wife and I got stuck seeing ‘Love & Friendship’ this summer when the theater schedule got switched around unexpectedly. One of the most painful movie experiences of my life. I detested it.

    • Bolo

      I’ve enjoyed most all of the mainstream Jane Austen films, but skipped this one because it was Stillman adapting it. I saw one movie from him (‘Metropolitan’) and found it impenetrably dull. I’ve seen movies about people from all walks of life and usually managed to find something I can relate to, but with ‘Metropolitan’ I really felt like I was just not getting it because I’m not an upperclass New Yorker.

    • ScoobySnack

      I love whit Stillman films. And since people are always using Rotten Tomatoes to support their arguments for movies all the time, I will too: LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is the best reviewed movie of all the summer movies. Look it up. ; )

  2. Dang. Is it September already? I’ve forgotten to pre-order The Iron Giant. But that’s one I’ll definately get. I’ll probably wait two more weeks, and throw in the new Beauty and the Beast blu-ray in the same order, so I can save a bit on shipping.
    I’m not sure about The People vs. OJ Simpson. I just watched ESPN’s documentary OJ: Made in America, which I thought was very interesting. I actually wouldn’t mind even more OJ, but I worry American Crime Story won’t be anywhere near as good.

  3. Chris B

    I’ve never even seen The Iron Giant but with so much praise from everyone I’ll blind buy it at a cheap price. Nothin else this week though.

  4. Thulsadoom

    I never understood the love for The Iron Giant, if I’m honest. I’m curious to see Love & Friendship. It’s a good cast and I enjoy a bit of Austen. Can’t say I’m fussed about much else. The only other one I’d make an effort to see some time is Hard Target 2, but only when it comes to Netflix/Amazon. I enjoyed the original as silly fun back in the golden age of the best Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme action movies.

  5. Hey Josh, ‘Now You See Me 2’ made $324 million. The budget was $90 million, so even with the applied logic that a movie has to make 2.5 its budget to break even, it scored a solid $100 million profit. That’s not exactly a flop, right? At least a lot of people saw it?

  6. William Henley

    Well, I chose other, but then double checked the release date. Looks like Shout Factory shipped my package ridicoulously early
    https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/action-adventure/bill-ted-s-most-excellent-collection-with-exclusive-limited-edition-action-figure

    I got that in Saturday, but it doesn’t release until the 27th

    This looks like a good week for anime fans. I can’t believe Fairy Tale is up to part 21 – I wonder if it has surpassed Dragonball yet in the number of episodes. Also some Gundam and some High School DxD. I didn’t vote for these, though – I rarely pick anime up on Blu thanks to Hulu, Crunchy Roll and the Funimation channel, but I do ocassionally, so I always look and see what is out.

    If Star Trek: The Animated Series ever releases on its own, I will pick that up. I don’t need another expensive box set of material that I already own.

    I am excited to see more Peanuts cartoons on Blu-Ray, but truth be told, these are the two weakest of the bunch I will probably pick these up when they hit the bargain bin

  7. EM

    I’ve ordered the way cheaper edition of The Iron Giant. I’ve seen the newer director’s cut, branded the “Signature Edition”, theatrically a couple of times. The new scenes fit in well, but the film is so familiar that they still jar me a bit. They were intended for inclusion in the original film but were dropped because of budget or deadlines or something. Supposedly the Blu-ray offers both the original and Signature Edition cuts via seamless branching.

    I’ve also preordered A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Neither it nor Snoopy, Come Home is a TV special: both were theatrical feature films, albeit films that continued in the vein of the specials. (Confusingly, A Boy Named Charlie Brown is also the name of a Peanuts/Charles M. Schulz documentary that was made for TV circa 1963 but did not air; nevertheless, behind the scenes it led to the creation of the first Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, in 1965.) From what I can piece together, both films were produced in 4:3 ratio, like the TV specials, but were exhibited in theaters matted at a ratio that’s been hard to pin down. Most home-video releases have been open-matte, but the DVDs were in widescreen, albeit at a questionably framed 16×9—and with Snoopy, Come Home’s credits at 4:3. I like both films and have them on DVD; but for Blu I’ve ordered just A Boy…, which is the purest of the Peanuts films, not just in fidelity to the strips and specials specials, but also as a work of art. Parts of it remind me of Fantasia—really! Reportedly both Blu-rays are in 4:3, but Snoopy, Come Home allegedly has its credits suffering a “quadraboxing” presentation.

    The Digital Bits’ Bill Hunt has been telling us to expect Star Trek animated on Blu as a standalone release in November. Fingers crossed…and parted between middle and ring fingers.

  8. EM

    Also, I wish to point out that Now You See Me Too would have been an even lamer title than Now You See Me 2. On the other hand, Now You See Me 2: Electric Boogaloo, would have been hip, in a hip-to-be-square, failing-so-hard-at-being-hip-that-you-somehow-end-up-being-hip-anyway sort of way. I can understand a studio exec avoiding the title Now You Don’t; it probably felt taboo to give a film a title implying that no one would see it (even if no one seeing it was what was going to happen anyway).

  9. photogdave

    Once Were Warriors is an amazing film. Looking forward to the review. I’m not sure how often I could re-watch it but if the price is right it will be worth a purchase to watch at least one more time.
    It also starts a skinny Cliff Curtis who has gone on to play a wide variety of TV and film roles. It was pretty shocking to see him show up as a Latino gangster in Training Day!

    • Chris B

      He also played Pablo Escobar in “Blow”. I
      once lost a bet to my brother-in-law because I didn’t beleive they were the same guy….

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