Back in January, we asked in the Roundtable for the Holy Grails you’re still waiting for on Blu-ray. This week, let’s do the opposite and take a look at movies whose existence on Blu-ray is frankly inexplicable. Seriously, we can’t have ‘Jaws’ in high definition, but we can have ‘Barb Wire‘. What’s that about? How did these movies get released and who would buy them?
This week, we also welcome back our friend Chris Boylan from Big Picture Big Sound. We’ll get to him momentarily.
- ‘Ishtar‘ – Too obvious? Maybe, but this is the movie that made me think up this topic in the first place, so I had to pick it. Why did Sony release ‘Ishtar’ on Blu-ray? Has even one copy sold since its release in January? This is not only a legendary movie flop, it’s a legendary movie flop that everyone (and I mean everyone, including – and especially – the people who made it) just wishes to forget ever happened. Many box office bombs build cult audiences on home video. Hell, you guys should know by now that my favorite movie is ‘Dune‘. There are people out there (small in number though they may be) who legitimately think that ‘Hudson Hawk’ and ‘Howard the Duck’ are hilarious movies. Even ‘Heaven’s Gate’ has its defenders. But ‘Ishtar’? No one’s defending ‘Ishtar’. Despite the talent involved in its making, this is a tedious, unfunny, and utterly forgettable movie. Sony still hasn’t given us ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on Blu-ray, but ‘Ishtar’ is available on store shelves now? That just ain’t right.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘Troll 2‘ – Just a recap if you need it: Blu-ray’s fifth anniversary is lurking right around the corner, and there’s no ‘Jaws’, no ‘Sunset Blvd.’, no ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, no ‘Star Wars’ (at least for a little while longer), and the list keeps rambling on and on from there. Oh, but don’t fret: you can watch Troll 2 on a shiny new Blu-ray disc, and that’s kind of amazing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining even a little bit. It seems like such a given to me that the big marquee draws will make their way to Blu-ray one of these days. It’s the out-of-left-field releases like this that really get me excited. You couldn’t get feed a family of four at the Sizzler on Troll 2’s budget, the screenplay was written in Italian and translated by someone who didn’t speak English at a library in Utah, and…well, some of the movie’s most memorable set-pieces revolve around peeing on a spread of pastries, a popcorn-fueled love scene, and a Stonehedge-shuddering double-decker bologna sandwich. There’s also not a single troll in the entire movie, so there’s that too. Even more astonishingly, MGM struck a brand new transfer of ‘Troll 2’ for this Blu-ray disc, and it’s gorgeous. Who knew? ‘Troll 2’ has topped my list of the all-time Best Worst Movies for right at twenty years now. Even though I can’t imagine there’s much of a market for it in high def, I’m still thrilled to have this Blu-ray disc on the shelf.
- ‘Chain Reaction‘ – This is a real puzzler. As far as I’m concerned, Andrew Davis made one good movie. Just one really good movie, then he returned to making insufferable garbage. As if trying to regain the mojo he ever-so-briefly snagged by helming a Chicago chase film, he made another Chicago chase film three years later. Only this one was, is, and always will be very silly and utterly forgettable. If you bothered to see it, do you remember it? I remember a chase scene up an icy, elevating drawbridge. Other than that, I just recall an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Why this movie ever made its way to Blu-ray, especially in the early years of the format, is an utter mystery.
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
- ‘Dragon’s Lair‘ – The classic Laserdisc-based videogame from the ’80s was one of the most surprising early Blu-ray Disc releases. If you’re a fan of the original arcade game, you’ll appreciate the opportunity to guide Dirk the Daring through untold perils in his quest to rescue Princess Daphne using your Blu-ray player remote as the controller. But this time you can do so without dropping buckets of quarters in the process. If the action is too awkward or unsatisfying (which it may well be), then you can play the disc in “story mode,” passively watching the action unfold with Dirk making all the right choices, all the way to that final rescue of the buxom princess. You can also view the many ways in which Dirk meets his demise along the way, some of which are quite creative. The hand drawn animation by Disney graduate Don Bluth is top notch – just about up to feature film quality – and the 1080p HD transfer is brighter, more detailed and more colorful than I remember from the arcade version. Ultimately, the novelty only lasts so long, and the disc has little replay value, so it will probably end up on the shelf as a curiosity and conversation piece after an hour or two.
- ‘Soylent Green‘ – ‘Soylent Green’ is due out March 29th, and I for one will not be picking it up. This falls into the category of movies I never need to see again, mostly because Charlton Heston’s overly dramatic realization is etched firmly into my memory. Am I missing a big market for this movie? Will NRA members buy this en masse? Or perhaps people want to celebrate Edward G. Robinson’s 101st movie (there will be a tribute on the release)? I just don’t get it.
- ‘Dungeons & Dragons‘ – When the first ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ movie came out, I was working at a Wizards of the Coast retail store and played third edition ‘D&D’ on a regular basis. The entire staff of the store went on opening night to see the live action movie based on the game we love so much, and we left the theater confused and upset. Though the makers had so much material to pull from, they ended up creating absolute garbage. The fact that ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and its sequel ‘Wrath of the Dragon God’ are out on Blu-ray is beyond my understanding. The ‘D&D’ episode of ‘Community’ was more interesting, more exciting and more related to ‘D&D’ than this movie, and it didn’t need $35 million or Jeremy Irons to do it.
- ‘Blood into Wine‘ – There are few movies that come out on Blu-ray that downright baffle me. It’s more about the stuff that isn’t on Blu-ray (hello, ‘Bright Star’, I’m looking in your direction) that really scrambles my brain. I must admit that a certain confusion washed over me when I saw a movie called ‘Blood Into Wine’ on the shelf of a local video store. (Yes, we still have “local video stores” in Connecticut – shocking, I know.) The cover makes it look like some kind of shit-kicking action movie in the tradition of ‘Walking Tall’, but what it really is, is far stranger. It’s a documentary chronicling the adventures of Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of industrial rock band Tool (and marginal spin-off A Perfect Circle), as he enters the high stakes world of Arizona wine production. Yes. That’s right: forget about groupies and illicit drug consumption – he’s making his own wine! Whew. Not that I watched this, mind you, but I really wondered, even with the fan base of his two bands out there, who the hell would buy this on Blu-ray?
Let’s do it. Tell us in the Comments about which movies you’re astounded to find actually got released on Blu-ray.
One thing that I would love to see is the different versions of films. For instance, I can’t believe they only released the Director’s Cut of Amadeus when it was the Theatrical Cut that won all of the laud, praise, and shiny bald dudes. On a less auspicious note, I can’t get the extended cut of Tombstone or the theatrical cut of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (sue me, I love both), but the inferior cuts are available. Would it have been so hard or so terrible to include both cuts on the disc, or even charge me an extra five bucks and include two discs? I would pay, I really would, if it gets me the version of the movie that I love.
Wow. I’m almost speechless right now because I agree with you 100% on both of those movies. Those were two of my favorites growing up and yet I can’t get the best versions on blu-ray. It’s a shame really.
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter: I love this low-budget cult movie, but on a technical level its picture and audio are hardly worthy of even DVD quality, let alone Blu-ray. I’m delighted to have it in my disc collection, but there’s no way I’m ever buying this on Blu. Retro vade, JCVH!
The Blu-ray release of JC:VH looks much, much better than the dingy, muddy DVD.
Not surprisingly for anyone who knows anything about me, I have this one on Blu-ray and kind of love it.
The Blu-ray could look better than the DVD and still not be up to DVD quality…or even VHS. 😛
Josh, “Ishtar” isn’t on blu-ray.
Sony “indefinitely delayed” (cancelled) it the week of release. It’ll presumably show up as a Best Buy exclusive or something at a later date, but as of right now it isn’t on BD.
Well…that would explain why he can’t believe it!
I caught ‘Blood Into Wine’ on Netflix instant download and loved it. I’ve since recommended it to many people and I’d imagine that the southwest scenery would look beautiful on Blu-Ray. You may be surprised by this one.
Granted, I am a fan of Tool, and now Puscifer, and have a history of brewing my own beer.
James and the Giant Peach. But I don’t believe it in a good way.
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is a good pick. BIRDEMIC is another, and i don’t care if it counts as a “new release,” as most titles here are catalog.
if i may say, the two Rest Stop films are among the worst films i’ve ever witnessed.
i’m sure we’ll get plenty of street fighter (and soon to be mortal kombat) comments, too.
I think we can probably agree that with demand for blu-rays outpacing production, it’s unconscionable to allow Troma to release anything which Ben-Hur has yet to be released.
No, no we cannot agree on that. I’m very happy that Tromeo & Juliet, Poultrygeist and Class of Nuke ’em High are available on Blu. I am a little put off that Surf Nazis Must Die was released so early though, and ahead of the likes of Toxic Avenger, Cannibal! The Musical, Terror Firmer and Redneck Zombies no less.
agreed. i LOVE Troma films. if we’re going to single out a company, go for the Asylum, Paramount, or just the entire Hong Kong market.
I can’t really jump on board with this roundtable. Adam sort of summed up my feelings above, any of the “Holy Grails” we’re all waiting for are guarantees at some point, but the weird culty stuff is anybody’s guess. So even if I could give two shits about an oddball catalogue choice, it’s existence gives me hope for some of my favorites (I’m looking at you Doom Generation, Nowhere, Creating Rem Lezar, Earth Girls are Easy, and yes Josh, Howard the Duck.)
Just to drive my point home further, the fact that Troll 2 exists on Blu Ray has me chomping at the bit to see Valerie Vomit in the Garbage Pail Kids Movie and the dog shit eating scene in Pink Flamingos in glorious high definition. Am I right guys? Anyone?
Yeah, I can’t really jump in either. I have been so into looking at movies I actually care about, that I really do not know much about the crap that is out there. I must admit, though, I do have D&D, but it is because I saw it at the theater and remembered it being so much better than this. However, the movie is SO bad, I am actually enjoying watching it, just like any bad movie from the 60s or 70s you may watch and laugh at. This movie probably deserves a Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary on it.
If Creating Rem Lezar gets a BD release I will eat a pair of jorts.
Hate is contagious, and you’ve caught it. You have to believe!
We have various “budget” movies at my store on Blu Ray and I don’t understand why. They don’t sell for $2 on DVD why would they sell for $5 or $10 on Blu Ray? Movies like “Spreading Ground” and “Border Warz” and other various movies no one has ever heard of aren’t worth the discs they are taking space up on. Any chance we’ll see “Death Bed: The Bed That Eats” or “The Room” on Blu Ray next????
The Room has enough of a cult following that it’s certain to hit Blu-ray eventually. In fact, I believe Wiseau said as much recently.
ANY sci-fi, fantasy or action film shouldn’t be a “big” surprise when it comes to Blu-ray, as studios know the primary demographic for Blu-ray owners is still that male 18-45 range. Therefore, I’m not shocked at all that CHAIN REACTION, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and yes, even TROLL 2 are available on Blu-ray – as horrible as they all may be.