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Thursday, April 14, 2011

5 things I want on Blu-ray already... dammit

So we're in an exciting age of frightening high-def picture quality that risks uncovering all the hideous flaws long hidden by past formats. Still, it's a little surprising to me how reluctant studios have been to release a lot of catalog titles on the new format. That's especially in light of how DVD let them make some major bank on a lot of them. Blu-ray has been badly afflicted with slow catalog releases as well as a lack of special features on a lot of them. Sometimes I wonder when the studios saw Blu-ray won the format war they didn't understand; just because BR is Sony technology doesn't mean all releases have to be like Superbit.

So here are 5 of 10 titles that frankly, I'm sick of waiting to see on Blu-ray. Some of them are big gaps and others are chances to make up for a botched prior release. Some are just me wishing for something that may never come out since nobody else cares.

1.) The Iron Giant (1999) Warner Bros. Feature Animation

I've got this poster and it's an original. But it's single sided and has a tiny, tiny little rip that drives me insane

In the age of the internet you'd pretty much have to have lived on the moon by this point not to have heard about this. So it begs the question: Warner, why not plug the one marketable animation you have with a connection to Pixar? 'The Incredibles' just came out on Blu-ray, and pretentious haters suggesting it's the only good super hero movie aside, it'd be some slick synergy to just coincidentally have released this on the same day. 

I remember waiting the whole of summer to go watch this movie. The trailers were terrible and the other marketing was pretty soft; I still don't know who dropped the ball on that. Still, the internet buzz on it was huge and I was a true believer despite the agonizing marketing campaign. It came out in August, on the same weekend as 'The Sixth Sense' and there was absolutely no question as to which one I was more interested in seeing. I dragged my Dad and my sister to the theater at the far end of where we lived (picked because I called ahead to check which places had it in the largest house). I was 14 at the time and my Dad thought I was way too old to be excited about something like this, no matter what I'd told him I heard.

The "Ultimate" Iron Giant. He's 18 inches tall which may still be the largest figure I own. I've never put him and Fin Fang Foom next to each other to check.
 3 months later we went to Canada and he bought this for me in the Silver Snail the moment he saw it. Big deal in light of how much he hated buying stuff in there. Yes, I know it's over a decade old now but it's still the best thing Trendmasters ever made.

Anyway, I'll quit showing off.

'The Iron Giant' was one of the first movies I had on both DVD and VHS as well as being one of the first movies I gladly payed for when they went back and bothered to give it special features. Admittedly Warner made it a little easy by releasing the special edition with a really low MSRP but I never hesitated either way.

Ah, justice is served
I wish more studios had followed suit with the cheap double dips but it seems that was next to impossible for most of them. That's neither here nor there though: I know Warner's aware of the popularity of this film (they helped to create it by running it on Cartoon Network non-stop Thanksgiving during one year) so I'm not entirely sure why they're hesitating. There's no time like the present guys and while Brad Bird fans will probably all be checking out 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol' I don't know if slinging this out then will be quite the cross-marketing dream you could have already had.

BTW, everyone should check out The Ultimate Iron Giant site as it's truly staggering! This piece in particular is a special kind of mind-blowing.

2.) The Blues Brothers (1980) Universal Studios
Never has a movie featured as many different posters that are all basically the same image

As much as people love 'An American Werewolf in London' I'd still try and make a convincing argument that this is John Landis' best movie; either way, it's definitely my favorite. I can't help it as I'm pretty biased. 4 non-animated movies made up the majority of my first 5 years: 'Amadeus', 'Ghostbusters', 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', and this. That's partly because they were the only movies my family owned on VHS and partly because my Dad had excellent taste in an era where VHS tapes could set you back some major cash. I've got a lot of memories with this movie, from my Mom pointing out Steven Spielberg and Frank Oz (despite me being 4 and having no clue who they were) or my Dad telling me the context of the music playing as the Nazis' car plummeted down and through the street.

It was often a point of debate as to who this belonged to in my family. I maintain I paid for it.

I'm bamboozled by Universal's seeming lack of interest in their library catalog, especially in light of how they were a lot more reliable than other studios with their DVD releases right out of the gate. Fox was basically terrible until they released 'Fight Club', Warner refused to give up on the snapper case, Sony was glacial in their releases and Paramount was the most expensive despite a lack of features. Yes, most of the features on the Universal discs were just laserdisc ports and they were among the higher end price wise, but you got what you paid for. I was always confident in buying one of their movies with the 'collector's edition' gold band on the top and bottom even if 'Tremors' and 'The Thing' weren't anamorphic! The extended footage on the original DVD release was a treat even if it spoiled some gags and this is something begging to be a demo disc for people's sound systems. You could even try and license all the SNL performances of the characters as a lazy new special feature!

This is a huge movie and it just seems goofy for it not to be on Blu-ray; they already have a gimmick ready with the name of the format! While I'm making demands, Universal why don't you spruce up 'Tremors' 'The Thing' and 'Darkman' for me?

3.) Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006-2008) Produced by Sunrise Inc. and domestically licensed by Bandai Entertainment
Japan got a sweet season 1 box with original art by CLAMP.

It's a tragedy that it never created the foothold here that it did in it's native territory. Why do I love this show? Because it's insane. No twist isn't thrown at you, no emotion undisplayed and no character defect left buried. The show goes from an episode that's essentially a zany Scooby-Doo style huge chase scene to another that's solely about someone's desire to kill themselves in the most spectacular fashion imaginable. Crazy politics are thrown at you like a homeless person given a liquor store gift card and the justifications the characters make for their actions are a thrill unto themselves. It does have a terrifyingly large Slash fiction fanbase. It may veer into some bizarre and goofy territory. It might take some time to really get the motor running. It could even be interpreted as a little naive philosophically. But there's no question that when it finds its place, it is enormously entertaining.

Sure the pictures were at all different angles but the construction was really nice... and all the extra stuff didn't hurt
It's also a chance for Bandai to make up for sort of hosing those of us who stuck with the US releases and their multiple SKUs. Why? In America we got that pretty nice looking box above for Season 1. Below is what we got for Season 2.

The only picture in this article presented at scale.

That's right. Nothing.

Wow, Japan also got a season 2 box with sweet CLAMP original art. Here? We got jack. Thanks fans for buying the cheap SKUs
That would probably be a little less irksome if they hadn't also changed the number of volumes for the second season release. Season 1 had 6 volumes that would end up being released as either 3 sets of 2 discs each or a trio of limited editions that would include a CD, little art books and a volume of the (somewhat superfluous) manga. Season 2 had 4 individual volumes available as standard or limited editions. So if you were like me and planned to just buy two of the season 1 boxes, you'd be left with a big two DVD sized gap in there. Irksome. Also, the LE's this time around only had the manga which were not only available seperately anyway, but also not as interesting as the translated drama CDs or art books.

So Bandai, why not fix this with a complete series Blu-ray with a nice box akin to the R2 releases? I wouldn't even mind if you split them into 2 seasons as long as you included all the season 2 drama episodes you left off!

4.) The Devil's Backbone (2001) Canal + and Sony Pictures Classics (Domestic Distributor)

Guillermo Del Toro's surprisingly underseen ghost story (even next to something like Cronos but I blame Netflix Instant for that) does not seem to have a lot of street cred. I haven't met a ton of people who've seen it (in fact most of the ones I have were people that I lent my copy to) so if that's a reflection of people not liking it, I have no clue.
Review typos always make me laugh. What's an allergory?
Either way, this film exists in a kind of sticky wicket; it's from a director that's well known but not a proven seller and this is one of his least popular films. That didn't stop Sony from releasing a special edition when 'Hellboy' came out but since 'Pacific Rim' is a few years off, there aren't many chances for synergy anytime soon.

This is probably as good as it gets for cover art here

The movie itself deserves a much wider audience; it's not typically scary the way a lot of stuff is but it plays like Del Toro doing an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' (and we all know how much I'm a fan of that). All the characters stay with you and the setting is pretty unique; even Federico Luppi is in it, so there's already a treat here for Del Toro fans. It's on Netflix streaming so dig it up; hopefully it won't need to refresh or find the server too much...

If you're interested in buying, you'll probably have better luck finding this version

As for the movie's legacy, Jacinto is still one of the most vile characters I've ever seen in a movie despite never showing up in any lists of great cinema villains. I blame that on how no one's watched it. Still, there is an audience out there for it judging by all the mockup Criterion Collection cover arts I see for it. I hope these guys know something I don't, because it'd be nice for the movie to finally get some decent looking cover art.

This is an adaptation of the original spanish poster. I like that Jacinto's there but it's still kind of busy

Like a lot of things on this list (at least #'s 3 and 5) this is actually ON Blu-ray in one region. Check out this sweet box they have in the UK.
Yes, that is Mike Mignola art. Cuz they're pals.

Beflustering. Don't leave us hanging Criterion or whoever!

Look it has a pop-up thing in it! Get jealous already!

5.) Planetes (2003) Produced by Sunrise Inc. and domestically licensed by Bandai Entertainment

Alright, this is basically me being extremely selfish.
It's like Cowboy Bebop but minus all the things that you love about Cowboy Bebop. Or maybe like Robot Chicken without the pop culture glad handing of cartoon characters raping each other. I'm bitter.

This is far and away the least renowned thing on the list so I'll give some background.

Planetes is an anime from the early 2000's about debris disposal in space, adapted from Makoto Yukimura's titular Seinen Manga. It primarily concerns the trials of Hachirota 'Hachimaki' Hoshino of the Technora Debris Collecting section, referred to by it's other members as "half section". From the get-go this show departed in some subtle ways from the source material but they're both great and I think the anime actually trumps the manga for tonal consistency. They're both great though, so don't let that discourage you from trying to find either; it's just some things work well as stills and others as motion. I'll leave it at that.

The show was directed by Taniguchi and written by Okouchi but obviously preceded the huge success they'd have with Code Geass. I don't know how popular the property is in Japan (not for a lack of looking while I was there though) but it never made much of a splash here; the combination of a realistic style, lack of overt action and a relaxed pace probably didn't help its case with some viewers out there.

There's not a lot of hard sci-fi to enjoy outside of novels now and most of those are getting older or get too diluted with high concept cyberpunk aspects. The idea of what motivates people to explore the reaches of outer space is drifting away into the cracks between the next great futurist attempting to outdo Dick or Gibson.

I'm drifting off on a tangent, aren't I? Sorry.

Telling someone a show is "a drama about space junk collectors" doesn't really sound like a goldmine of riveting thrills. To each their own I guess.

So how indifferent are people to this series? So indifferent it's practically impossible to find some decent quality pictures of the Complete Collection DVD release you see up there. So much that whenever I meet someone else who's watched it (or read the manga) there's an immediate bond. So much that I have two copies of the Complete Collection, just so I can have a lender if people ask. That even extends to the Manga which is going out of print as we speak.

Buying this and syncing the english audio may be my only option someday. *shudder*

Yeah, I'm pretty crazy about this series. It's more comical than the manga but that doesn't mean you shouldn't check either out as they each have their respective powerful moments. Plus I'm dying to hear from someone who experienced a key moment in the anime first.

This is my big sell on the list as you're probably never going to be called cool for seeing this unless you run into me or Jas in person sometime. So since I'm trying to lay out the feel for this to anyone, watch the intro here on Youtube! You can even turn the volume off if you're more comfortable without the inaccessible theme music as long as you note how cool it is to have the keynote visual history of space travel compressed into about a minute and a half!

Show me the love somebody

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