Bits BD Review – Bill takes a look at Universal's new Spartacus: Restored Edition http://t.co/Ms7prL0nTE
So to start with today, I’ve got a few (non-spoiler-y) words about J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek Into Darkness, which I had the chance to see last night. Now… I should say up front that I knew pretty much all of the twists and reveals of the plot going in, and have for a while now. That was my own choice, it’s just how I decided to roll this time. And yet I still quite enjoyed this film. Much has been made of the fact that there are “surprises” in the film, but I actually think its strength revolves instead around a set of very strong character performances by Chris Pine, Zach Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch and Bruce Greenwood. They deliver in a very big way here and their interactions are really the beating heart of the film. Their performances help carry this sequel through no small amount of mechanical obviousness in the plot and its twists – which will be especially apparent to longtime Trek fans. If you go into this film looking for flaws, you’ll find them. And if you go in having memorized your battered old copy of the Starfleet Technical Manual, you’ll probably have an aneurysm. But like Star Trek (2009), this film is undeniably fun. The set piece action sequences here are many, surprisingly creative and absolutely relentless. This Trek is bigger, bolder and much more aggressively paced than the original. And I actually quite enjoyed it. More than I expected in fact. If you let yourself just go with it, Star Trek Into Darkness is a helluva fun ride... and the 3D conversion is actually pretty nice too. The best thing in my opinion is that, by the end of the film, this “new” Trek franchise is finally where it needs to be. Much like the latest Bond film, Star Trek Into Darkness clears the decks for new (and hopefully completely original) adventures to come. With film three, if the filmmakers play their cards right, this Trek universe can finally be about “boldly going” and “seeking out new life and new civilizations” again. And that would really be something to see. If I’m grading the film, I’d probably give it a good solid B or B+. I’m certainly going to see it a few more times on the big screen, so I guess that probably speaks for itself. By the way, since it’s likely that J.J. Abrams isn’t going to be able to direct the next film (given his involvement in the new Star Wars trilogy), I’d like to submit my suggestion for the ideal director to take his place: Nicholas Meyer anyone?
By the way, for another good and much more in-depth review of the film (though with perhaps a few minor spoilers), I recommend Drew McWeeny’s take on it over at HitFix. I definitely agree with him – I think he pretty well nails it.
Now then… here at the site today, our own Russell Hammond has posted the weekly update of the Release Dates & Artwork section with all the latest Blu-ray, DVD and Video Game cover artwork and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you order from them after clicking through our links goes to help support our work here at the site and we surely do appreciate it!
On to today’s announcement news…
First up, Universal has just set The Host for Blu-ray/DVD Combo release on 7/9, preceded by a digital-only release on 6/25. Extras will include deleted scenes, a Seeker PSA and the Bringing The Host to Life featurette. This is the film based on the Stephanie Meyer book.
Meanwhile, Sony has announced the DVD only release of Damages: The Final Season on 7/16. Extras will include deleted scenes and outtakes.
Fox will release Wedding Band: Season One on DVD on 6/11.
Inception Media Group has set The Unbroken for DVD release on 6/11.
Lionsgate has set The Definitive Guide to the Mob for DVD only release on 7/16, followed by Blaze You Out on DVD on 7/30.
BBC Home Entertainment has set The Royal Collection box set for DVD release on 5/21 (SRP $24.99), including The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, King George and Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued the Monarchy, Queen Victoria’s Children and How to Be a Prince, plus “a replica of a booklet for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, featuring original photography from the ceremony.”
And our friends over at the Warner Archive have made some great new titles available starting this week on MOD/DVD-R, including the Al Brodax-produced Popeye: The 1960s Classics – Volume 1 (2-discs, 72 episodes), Penrod and Sam (1931), Tenth Avenue Angel (1947), The Secret Garden (1949), Duffy of San Quentin (1954) and Without a Trace: The Complete Sixth Season.
Finally today, we really must take a moment to acknowledge the passing of legendary stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who died early this morning in London at the age of 92. Inspired by Willis O’Brien’s work on the original King Kong, Harryhausen proceeded – over the course of his long and distinguished career – to take the art of stop-motion to the next level in such films as Mighty Joe Young, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles from Earth, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years B.C. and 1981’s Clash of the Titans. His final animated work was The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare in 2003. Or course, that list of titles by no means complete. Harryhausen’s work inspired the likes of Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis, Nick Park, Dennis Muren, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, Stan Winston and so many others. For my part, I was fortunate enough to meet him in person on a number of occasions over the years at various appearances and other events. In fact, I had the great honor of chatting with him for nearly 30 minutes during a lull in a DVD signing at the now closed DVD Planet store in Huntington Beach back in 2003. Ray was simply one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever meet and he loved talking about animation, his own work and the works of others he admired. You just got the sense from him that he loved what he did and was truly humbled and honored by how much it had impacted others. As it happens, our own Dr. Jahnke interviewed him for The Bits back in 2005 and I highly recommend you give it a read.
Thank you, Ray. We’ll dearly miss you.
Back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned…
- Bill Hunt