It’s time to trek through the stars once again. This week’s high-def releases bring us a curious mix of intrepid space explorers and supernatural serial killers. Read all about them in today’s Blu-ray roundup.
Space, The Final Frontier
I wasn’t overly impressed with ‘Star Trek into Darkness‘ when I saw it in theaters earlier this year, and a second viewing on Blu-ray didn’t do much to improve that impression. I fear that J.J. Abrams’ reboot has already lost its steam. I explained my feelings pretty extensively in my Blu-ray review, which of course has led to a heated debate in our site’s forums. You’re free to either agree or disagree with me on that, but I’m sure we’ll all agree that Paramount’s decision to split the bonus features up among several retailer exclusives is a real dick move on the studio’s part. (If you haven’t already, be sure to vote in our poll on that subject.) For what it’s worth, the video and audio quality of the Blu-ray are both pretty nice, though I found them to be somewhat less than so-called “reference quality.” I also think that the movie plays better in 2D than the post-conversion 3D.
As a convenient tie-in with this, Paramount has also released the ‘Star Trek: Stardate Collection‘, which repackages the first ten of the franchise’s movies (from ‘The Motion Picture’ to ‘Nemesis’) in one big box set. Previously, these were available both individually or in smaller boxes split between the original and the ‘Next Generation’ crews. Abrams’ 2009 ‘Star Trek’ reboot is not included.
Further, Paramount offers ‘Star Trek: The Original Series – Origins‘, a collection of five ‘Original Series’ episodes. Our reviewer Shannon describes this as a shameless double-dip to bilk fans into repurchasing episodes they already bought in the earlier complete season box sets. I’m not sure I see it that way. This seems to me to be aimed more at casual viewers who might be interested in selected highlight episodes from the show, but who don’t want to pony up for the more comprehensive box sets. As a fan who already owns all three seasons of the series, I certainly don’t feel a need to buy this.
Other New Releases
‘Star Trek’ steals so much of this week’s thunder that the only other notable day-and-date title to go up against it is the comedy flop ‘Peeples‘. I enjoy Craig Robinson on ‘The Office’, but the guy’s clearly not yet ready to be a breakout movie star. With that said, I expect that this will probably play better to the much less demanding expectations of television syndication when it hits that in a few months.
Ch Ch Ch Ah Ah Ah…
The 13th happens to land on a Friday this month. What better excuse could there be to release ‘Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection‘? Previously, ownership of the slasher movie franchise was split between Paramount (which controls everything through ‘Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan’) and Warner Bros. (which has everything afterwards as part of its New Line label). However, Warner’s recent agreement to distribute Paramount’s back catalog finally brings all the Jason movies together under one roof. Many of these discs are simple reissues, but a few are new to Blu-ray. Unfortunately, fans have already started griping that most of the movies are only the R-rated theatrical cuts when gorier unrated versions exist on DVD. Also, the 3D version of ‘Part 3’ (one of the reissues) is only a crummy anaglyph transfer, not a proper frame-packed 3D remaster. This seems like a missed opportunity, but then again, the ‘Friday’ franchise has always been a low-rent horror property, so treatment like this isn’t unusual.
What is a little unusual, however, is the monumental labor of love called ‘Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th‘. Based on the book by former High-Def Digest writer Peter Bracke, this epic seven hour documentary offers ‘Friday’ fans everything they could possibly want to know about all twelve movies and the ’80s TV spin-off series.
Other Catalog Titles
Disney reissues both the 2D and 3D versions of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas‘ in new 20th Anniversary Editions. I’m inclined to assume that these are simple repackagings of the old discs until either the studio sends review screener copies or somebody buys one and confirms whether it has any new content.
The Criterion Collection adds the John le Carre Cold War thriller ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold‘ and the French comedy farce ‘La Cage aux Folles‘. The former seems more Criterion-worthy than the latter to me, personally.
Twilight Time gives us limited editions of the early John Ford Western ‘Drums Along the Mohawk‘ and the 1985 Louis Malle drama ‘Alamo Bay‘.
“Is it safe?” You’ll never go to the dentist again after watching the classic thriller ‘Marathon Man‘, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by John Schlesinger. When I went to film school, the William Goldman screenplay for this was taught as a defining example of the genre.
Although he’d already picked up his screenplay Oscar for ‘Good Will Hunting’ a couple years earlier and had emerged as a pretty boy star, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley‘ is arguably the first movie where Matt Damon proved his versatility and range as an actor. Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel is a fascinating and beautifully-lensed serial killer drama.
While I wouldn’t say that it’s a great movie, I have a soft spot for the 1992 suspense thriller ‘Jennifer 8‘, in which Uma Thurman does the ‘Wait Until Dark’ thing as a blind woman terrorized by a killer. The movie’s kind of messy and suffered from studio interference, but I remember being entertained by it. (Admittedly, it’s been a while since I saw it last.) Not that you could really guess this by watching it, but the film was written and directed by Bruce Robinson, famed for the blistering black comedy ‘Withnail & I’.
Fresh off her star-making turn in ‘Basic Instinct’, Sharon Stone leapt straight into the similar-but-nowhere-near-as-good erotic thriller ‘Sliver‘, also scripted by notorious sleazeball Joe Eszterhas. This proved to be a mistake. Even though I could argue that the movie isn’t quite as bad as its reputation, it’s certainly not good either. It’s pretty vapid and has a laughably stupid ending (reshot at the last minute from a reportedly even worse initial version). Most disappointingly, the movie lacks an insane genius like Paul Verhoeven at the helm to counterbalance Eszterhas’ raging misogyny with the pure giddy fun that he brought to ‘Basic Instinct’. Instead, director Phillip Noyce (of ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Clear and Present Danger’) takes the material far more seriously than the trashy script deserves.
With Brian De Palma’s ‘Passion’ now in theaters (and VOD), MGM has chosen to reissue the director’s ‘Carrie‘ while Warner brings his ‘Snake Eyes‘ to Blu-ray for the first time. One of these is a classic, and the other is ‘Snake Eyes’.
In addition to the ‘Friday the 13th’ content mentioned above, horror fans can look forward to the original 1958 version of ‘The Fly‘ and Dario Argento’s ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage‘.
As we continue to wait for a proper Region A release of David Cronenberg’s telepath shocker ‘Scanners‘ (which is currently available via region-locked UK import, but is rumored to be in the works from the Criterion Collection), we’ll have to content ourselves with a double-bill of its two crappy direct-to-video sequels, produced without involvement from Cronenberg. Or we can just wait it out for the original. That’s probably a better idea.
I find myself frequently amazed at the obscure cult titles that somehow make their way to Blu-ray. This week brings us Tim Thomerson in the goofy C-movie (to call it a B-movie is too generous) classic ‘Dollman‘. Something would just feel wrong to me about watching this in better than VHS quality.
“Cumberbitches” are having a good week. In addition to his role in the aforementioned ‘Star Trek’ sequel, Benedict Cumberbatch also stars in the British period soap ‘Parade’s End‘.
In other TV dramas, we welcome the second season of ‘Homeland‘ and the eighth season of ‘Supernatural‘.
Among sitcoms, we have the eighth season of the hilarious ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘, the fourth season of the even more hilarious ‘The League‘, the sixth season of the middling ‘The Big Bang Theory‘, and the second season of the just-plain-atrocious ‘Anger Management‘.
As you can see, this is a very busy week.
Despite my issues with ‘Star Trek into Darkness’, I’m a ‘Trek’ completist and already have a screener of the Blu-ray in my collection. Other titles that grab my eye include ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’, ‘Marathon Man’, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ and ‘The Fly’. I also wouldn’t be averse to watching ‘Jennifer 8’ again to see how it holds up.
What has your attention this week?