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.