It’s been a while since This Week in Blu-ray has been so late. But traveling got the best of me this past week, and here we are. Sure, it’s Thursday. But my most loyal readers will have waited, especially in a week like this, when it could very well go either way on so many of the new releases. From Legion to Daybreakers, there are question marks all over the place with this week’s Blu-ray offering. But with the help of my two Blu-ray loving compatriots Rob Hunter and Robert Fure — who were kind enough to take several of these off my hands — I am here to sort things out for you.
The Karate Kid
Such an endearing story of rising to the occasion. There’s a soft spot in me somewhere for The Karate Kid, a film I’ve celebrated since seeing it as a kid. And it’s wonderful to see it get a decent Blu-ray release. Decent being the operative word. The transfer looks good and the film is as vibrant as it has ever been. It’s nice to go back to a world where Ralph Macchio is the world’s foremost underdog and Pat Morita is the guide of guides. The Blu-ray features a Pop Up Video track that flows through the movie with tidbits of trivia and informative thought-bubbles that detail some of the highlights of the production. Beyond that, the special features selection is pretty pedestrian. Though the commentary track with the director, writers and two stars is especially enjoyable. If you’re a fan (as I am), then you should pick this one up.
Mel Brooks’ third funniest movie (after Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein of course) is a hilarious mix of wacky gags and deadly suspense. Well, maybe it’s more comical suspense than deadly, but it’s still a fun mix of laughs and mystery as Brooks takes on the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The movie follows a renowned psychiatrist (Brooks) who takes over the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous and quickly discovers that the inmates are running the asylum. Brooks takes solid aim at many of Hitchcock’s more most iconic scenes and films including Psycho‘s shower stabbing and North By Northwest‘s aerial assault… both parodied to absolute perfection. The Blu-ray exclusive featurette, Hitchcock and Mel: Spoofing the Master of Suspense, includes some fun anecdotes and memories from many in the cast. And the cast including Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman are the main reasons this is worth buying. Hilarious stuff. - Rob Hunter
If you can get past Dennis Quaid (and the rest of the cast’s) awful accent(s), this movie is rather entertaining. It’s a contained thriller that has a few cheap gags up its sleeve, as well as several interesting action pieces. And once Paul Bettany and Kevin Durand begin to go at it, things get fun. It’s by no means a good film, but certainly one that fits into a “waste your Saturday” agenda. The archangel Michael and a few country bumpkins fending off the wrath of God? Sure. The Blu-ray sports a wicked picture-in-picture commentary track and enough special features to make the after-movie experience enjoyable, should you choose to pursue it. From where I’m sitting, there’s no shame in adding this flick to your Netflix queue, and even less shame in enjoying your time spent with these characters. That, and your vacation from logic, reason and quality dialog delivery.
Ethan Hawke stars as a conscious vampire working on a synthetic formula to simulate human blood, providing a food source to his fellow vampires while saving the human race from being cattle. Opposing him is evil corporate America, personified (vampirified?) by Sam Neil. Along for the ride is vampire hunter Willem Dafoe who wants you to know he’s the guy with the cross bow. From the Spierig Brothers (Undead), this flick is stylish and based on an interesting premise, but dotted with spotty CGI and it ultimately fails to fully engage in the exploration of this new world. The idea that most of the 6 billion people on Earth are vampires and Starbucks now serves 20% blood coffee is awesome, though by the hour mark the film is trying to figure out how to end rather saying anything interesting. It’s good enough for a rental, but you won’t want to spend the bucks on this one. Blu-ray exclusive special features include a Digital Copy, Feature-Length Making-Of Documentary, Directors’ Short Film, BonusView Storyboard and Animatic Script-to-Screen Comparison, BD-Live, and BD-Touch. - Robert Fure
Edge of Darkness
It is simply that time of year. The time for relatively mediocre films to be released on DVD and Blu-ray. That isn’t to say that Edge of Darkness is a mediocre film. Alright, maybe it is. It earned middling marks from critics and delivers an experience that feels tried and true. It is vintage Mel Gibson doing what vintage Mel Gibson does best, spilling blood in the name of righteous vengeance. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not to me. To some, this film will be a bland thriller with a few ounces of bite, but nothing more. For others, this is a return to form for Gibson the badass. Either way, the safe call is the best one for this reviewer — rent it and see for yourselves before buying. If for no other reason than the disc’s vacant special features section.
History of the World: Part I
One of the biggest teases in Hollywood history is the promise of a sequel to this movie. Where’s my Jews In Space and Hitler On Ice goddammit? That glaring absence aside, Brooks’ look at world events through a comedic lens is a bit uneven at times but still manages plenty of laughs. The musical bit on the Inquisition? Priceless. And Gregory Hines was a tap dancing national treasure who deserves to be remembered as much for his comedic skills as for his wolf-hunting abilities witnessed in Wolfen. The disc looks great and includes two fun HD extras, Musical Mel: Inventing the Inquisition and Making History: Mel Brooks on Creating the World, that feature lively interviews about the making of the movie. - Rob Hunter
Legend of the Tsunami Warrior
I had never heard of this movie before watching it, but the fact that it’s a Thai flick didn’t exactly instill me with confidence. They make some fantastic action movies to be sure, but their films outside of that strict genre are usually ridiculously bad. Luckily this epic adventure has enough action at its core to keep the entertainment value high enough to warrant a rent. It’s basically a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean and Jackie Chan’s Project A movies… although not nearly as good as either of those. Marauding pirates in cahoots with evil factions are attempting to take down a peaceful kingdom ruled by three sisters. One of the interesting things here is that there are two hero characters leading the good fight… one uses old school Thai martial arts, and the other blows whales. And no, I’m not going to explain that last bit. Give it a rent for a goofy adventure, big budget (for a Thai movie) special effects, and some solid fight scenes. The extras here are identical to what you’ll find on the DVD so either version is fine for a single watch. - Rob Hunter
The Karate Kid II
In this slightly cheesier, but still intensely entertaining sequel, Mr. Miyagi takes Daniel back to his home in Okinawa, where he finds the love that he left when he immigrated to the United States. As it turns out, his former love has a darling niece for whom Daniel will surely pine. She also has man to whom she was supposed to be married. That man has a vicious nephew. The conflict it one. In the end, part II turns up some of the brutality of the final fight and is as excessively sentimental as the first. But again, there’s something endearing about it, nonetheless. The only deduction given in the scoring of this release is the lack of special features. The Pop Up Video elements are there, but the commentary and featurettes that make the first film worth buying are sadly absent. Completists will accept this release, but casual fans should stick to the rental block.
South Korea follows the Roland Emmerich model here by mixing broad emotional strokes with epic CGI destruction, and it actually works for the most part. An earthquake out at sea sends a giant wave heading toward the Korean coastline and the resort city of Haeundae. The first half of the movie is pure setup as we meet the characters at risk and decide who we think will live and die. Once you have that list in hand go ahead and toss it out… because you’re wrong. Heavy amounts of melodrama compete with competent CGI and practical effects. If you need any more reason to check it out you should know that it’s one of Peter S Hall’s favorite films from last year. (FYI, Peter S Hall hated this movie.) The disc features several extras, all of which are also available on the DVD. - Rob Hunter
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Miller will disagree with me here, but this stinker is a definite Avoid. Brooks’ high point was throughout the seventies, he began to lose his touch in the eighties, and by the nineties he was basically little more than a precursor to the Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer type movies of the last decade. Yeah, I said it. The gags are limp, the comedy lifeless, and everything is just too obvious. The commentary and one of the featurettes are available elsewhere, but Funny Men In Tights: Three Generations of Comedy is a Blu-ray exclusive. Is it worth buying just for that? Good god no. Save your dime and watch it when it shows up on TBS… which is just about every other weekend. - Rob Hunter
Also on Blu-ray, but not reviewed due to lack of review material:
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