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DVD Shopping Bag: Warner Brothers Blu-ray Bonanza

A Sci-Fi trip worth taking

By Robert T. Trate     July 17, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Last week there was a slew of titles from Warner Brothers to arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time. There were several that I hadn’t seen since my days of being a video store clerk. Ah, the days of free movies played out on beat up VHS cassettes. There were four in particular that I waned to see for the first time and revisit. They were: Coma (1978), Outland (1981), Altered States (1980), and Brainstorm (1983).

Outland
Being raised in a house where you would have sworn Sean Connery was a member of the family based on how often I saw him on TV, I’m shocked I never saw it. This was my first title to watch. I had recently found Jerry Goldsmith’s brilliant score at a record store (yes, a real record store) and played it to death. I do remember my father saying the film was not very good but, nonetheless, I wanted to see it. Old Dad was right, it’s not very good. Basically the film is a western set in our not too distant future. Connery is a Marshall on a mining moon orbiting Jupiter. There is corruption everywhere and he is just the last good man in the universe, apparently. The miners feel as if it’s his job to get rid of the trouble but do nothing to help him out. Director Peter Hyams (Time Cop, 2012, and End of Days) puts the setting of a space station to good use but there is really nothing here you haven’t seen before or since. Besides Goldsmith’s brilliant score and a few more great Connery one-liners to add to your imitation, it was seeing Cliff Caven’s (John Ratzenberger) head explode that made Outland worth the watch. 

Brainstorm
Here was another one I had never seen before. Christopher Walken is one of two scientists that develop a way to record and playback memories. Yet it isn’t just the memory you witness, it is the full emotional experience. He finds a way of repairing his relationship with his estranged wife by sharing his memories and emotions of their previous life together. However, as it is with any new technology, the government wants his device for military purposes. Walken becomes obsessed with witnessing another scientist’s final moments in the device and then the plot(s) just start to run everywhere. There are a lot of great ideas here and a brilliant score from James Horner (Titanic, Aliens, and The Rocketeer), however it’s the miscasting of the female leads where the film falters. Natalie Wood plays the estranged wife and Louise Fletcher plays Walken’s scientific partner. The hard part about getting into the film is not the sci-fi aspects but the relationships of these women to Walken. Why did the marriage fall apart? Are Fletcher and Walken a couple or just very close? Mix that with an ending that feels hollow and yet another bad hair piece by Cliff Robertson (in 1080p no less) and Brainstorm is only worth lwatching for the score and discussing the ramifications of the device.

Coma
After watching Jurassic Park in 1993 I suddenly became aware of this author called Michael Crichton. It was as if his name appeared on every book that summer... I wonder why. I picked up a few, but then I started to hit the back catalogue of earlier adapted Crichton movies. I probably watched this one late at night and slipped into my own coma because I didn’t remember much about the film. The paranoia holds up extremely well (which is why a mini series is coming soon based on the book). Yet, it is Genevieve Bujold that ruins the entire movie. I cared nothing for her and she is supposed to be the protagonist. I understand that Michael Douglass’ character is supposed to remain a mystery as we don’t know whose side he is actually on. However, with each forced love scene that Douglass over works I found Bujold to be even more of an uncaring bitch. How can I root for her or even sympathize? The best part of Coma, yes there is one, is all the cameos of actors you’ll recognize. Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.), Rip Torn (Men in Black) Lance LeGault (Col. Decker from The A-Team) and Ed Harris (Apollo 13) to name just a few. I hope the remake is better.

Altered States
This was one that I watched before and remembered distinctly from the old video store job. The ending of the film however completely escaped me. The visuals and the ideas here are great. They seem a bit dated and William Hurt’s make up as a Cro-Magnon man is better at a distance than in 1080p (still far better than Cliff Robertson’s hair piece in any light). As the film ended, which I won’t forget this time, I remembered why I never revisited the film. It is too open ended. The what, where, and why are more “WTF?!” than anything else. Hurt is good with the various facets that the character has to go through. Trippy visuals and that performance make Altered States a good one time watch. 

The Blu-ray Experience
So what about the transfers? Warner Brothers included the “best visuals available” statement at the front of each of these four films. I expected the worst and was plesently surprised. Each film looked great and, despite being dated by special effects of the era, was visually fun. Outland had some bad outlines but the miniatures and bigatures they used were refreshing compared to the soulless CGI of today. Brainstorm had the worst sound transfer of the four. I should never have to play with the remote while watching a movie. Up and down I went as the sound in the movie kept changing. All in all, if Hollywood needs some more established properties these films are ripe for the picking (well, Coma is already coming soon). I don’t think too many people will be up in arms or claiming, “you robbed me of my childhood” for these titles.

 

 

Top 5 Picks of the Week:

1. First of the Few [Blu-ray]
2. The Blood Beast Terror (Remastered Edition) [Blu-ray]
3. Camelot [Blu-ray]
4. Singin' In The Rain: 60th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [Blu-ray]

ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS

4:44 Last Days on Earth [Blu-ray] Starring Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh

Assassination Starring Stephen Elliott, Charles Bronson, Randy Brooks

Cellular [Blu-ray] Starring Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, Jason Statham and Jessica Biel

Code of Silence [Blu-ray] Starring Ralph Davis, Chuck Norris, Henry Silva and Bert Remsen

Deserter Starring Tom Hardy, Kate Maberly and Paul Fox

First of the Few [Blu-ray] (2012)

Get the Gringo [Blu-ray] Starring Dean Norris, Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare and Kevin Hernandez

Get the Gringo Starring Dean Norris, Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare and Kevin Hernandez

Hard to Kill [Blu-ray] Starring Steven Seagal, Kelly Le Brock, Frederick Coffin

Just Cause [Blu-ray] Starring Sean Connery, Kate Capshaw, Ed Harris

Lipstick & Bullets [Blu-ray] Starring Samantha Jane Polay, Paul Gordon, Amber Crawford

Next of Kin [Blu-ray] Starring Patrick Swayze, Adam Baldwin, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton

Perfect Murder [Blu-ray] Starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen

Snowtown [Blu-ray]

ANIME

Fractale - The Complete Series (Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Starring Yu Kobayashi, Kana Hanazawa and Minami Tsuda

Girls Bravo: The Complete Series S.A.V.E. Starring Hunter Mackenzie Austin, Megan Hollingshead, J-ray

Psychic Squad Collection 2 Starring Aya Hirano, Haruka Tomatsu, Ryoko Shiraishi

CARTOONS

Dan vs.: The Complete First Season Starring Curtis Armstrong, Dave Foley, Michael Gross

CLASSICS

Camelot [Blu-ray] Starring Richard Harris (i), Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave

Camelot Starring Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris

The Conspirators (1944) Starring Hedy Lamarr, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet

High Noon: 60th Anniversay Edition [Blu-ray] Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell and Lloyd Bridges

High Noon Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell and Lloyd Bridges

Mean Streets [Blu-ray] Starring Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval

Nobody Lives Forever Starring John Garfield, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Walter Brennan

Singin in the Rain 60th Anniversary [Blu-ray] Starring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'connor and Gene Kelly

Three Strangers Starring Sydney Greenstreet, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Peter Lorre

The Way Ahead Starring David Niven, Stanley Holloway, James Donald and John Laurie

COMEDY AND LOVE Mania Style

Casa de Mi Padre Starring Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna

Casa de Mi Padre [Blu-ray] Starring Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna

The Three Stooges: The Movie Starring Will Sasso, Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos

Three Stooges [Blu-ray] Starring Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso and Jane Lynch

Criterion Collection

Down by Law (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni

HORROR

Burke & Hare (Remastered Edition) Starring Derren Nesbitt and Glynn Edwards

Burke & Hare (Remastered Edition) [Blu-ray] Starring Derren Nesbitt and Glynn Edwards

The Blood Beast Terror (Remastered Edition) [Blu-ray] Starring Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng, Wanda Ventham

The Blood Beast Terror (Remastered Edition) Starring Peter Cushing and Robert Flemyng

Darkness [Blu-ray] Starring Iain Glen

Doomsday Prophecy Starring Jewel Staite, A.J. Buckley and Alan Dale

Doomsday Prophecy [Blu-ray] Starring Jewel Straite, A.J. Buckley and Alan Dale

Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker [Blu-ray] Starring Doug Bradley and Dean Winters

Midnight Son Starring Zak Kilberg, Tracey Walter, Arlen Escarpeta

Vij Starring Leonid Kuravlev, Natalya Varley, Alexei Glazyrin

MODERN CLASSICS on BLU-RAY

Murder in the First [Blu-ray] Starring Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman

SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY

Butterfly Effect Director's & Theatrical Cut [Blu-ray] Starring Ashton Kutcher

Butterfly Effect 2 [Blu-ray] Starring Eric Lively, Erica Durance and Dustin Milligan

Extraterrestrial Starring Michelle Jenner, Julian Villagran, Carlos Areces

Impostor [Blu-ray] Starring Vincent D'Onofrio, Mekhi Phifer, Tony Shalhoub

Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Blu-ray] Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones and Larry Gates

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones and Larry Gates

Lockout Starring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare and Vincent Regan

Lockout [Blu-ray] Starring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare and Vincent Regan

Renaissance [Blu-ray] Starring Ian Holm, Daniel Craig and Jonathan Pryce

TV LAND

Alphas: Season One Starring Warren Christie, David Strathairn and Ryan Cartwright

Bonanza: The Complete Official Third Season Starring Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker

Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete Third Season Starring Conrad Bain, Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato

Eureka: Season Five Starring Joe Morton and Colin Ferguson

The Inbetweeners - The Complete Series Starring Simon Bird, Will McKenzie, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas

Leverage: Season Four Starring Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane

Lockout [Blu-ray] Starring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare and Vincent Regan

BOX SETS

Singin' In The Rain: 60th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Starring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'connor and Gene Kelly

Spiderman Trilogy [Blu-ray] Starring Tobey Maguire

Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 6 of 6
1 
jedibanner 7/17/2012 5:32:23 AM

Drag...I wanted Brainstorm...now I'm not sure anymore.

redhairs99 7/17/2012 7:57:37 AM

 Mentioned this on the TV Wasteland thread, but bears repeating here:

"One thing I find interesting is that they are releasing season 5 the final season on DVD Tuesday. Why the heck doesn't anyone else follow this awesome idea!? It makes no sense to me why a studio would release the previous season of a series a week or even THE week the new season preimeres. That leaves extremely little time to catch up and refresh you on the series at hand and trust me, some shows need a refresher...especially when those shows have breaks that are nearly a year long."

RobertTrate 7/17/2012 10:31:04 AM

 redhairs I completely agree with you. I need to catch up on the walking dead and Fringe. If only they had all the episodes of Hulu, AMC online, or Netflix. I guess they assume we'll just record the news and catch up. 

hanso 7/17/2012 1:40:42 PM

 Amazon has the first 6 star trek movies on blu ray for $40.

keithdaniel 7/17/2012 4:47:17 PM

Robert, I have to disagree with your blasphemy regarding your review of Outland!!  I thought it was an excellent sci-fi thriller with some terrific suspense and excellent FX for it's day.  I agree that the overall plot wasn't anything new but I believe the sum of it's parts outweighed that weakness if it is that.  I also enjoyed the cast, the score, and the pacing of the movie.  The set designs felt like a very lived in and believeable environment, and also giving a rather foreboding and gloomy atmosphere like Alien before it.  Jerry Goldsmith's score of course contributed to both movies.

Robert, I was considering hunting you down and taking you out for putting down Outland, but since you've reviewed it here as I was hoping (and you said you would) I decided to forgive you so consider yourself lucky!  LOL!!

Wyldstaar 7/17/2012 7:55:41 PM

I'm also unhappy with the Outland review.  Robert seems to have completely missed the fact that Outland is a sci-fi remake of Gary Cooper's western classic High Noon, and not just "a western set in our not too distant future." 

1 

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