If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Marvel is kind-of touting this direct-to-dvd animated movie as a prequel to the theatrical film. But don't be fooled. Not a heckuva lot of thought went into connecting this story to the film. How can I tell? Sure, it's about the young, cocksure godling pissing off people and driving daddy Odin up the wall with his disobedience. Of course, here, he doesn't get sent to Midgard, just to his room. The real problem is how it brazenly disregards the entire spirt of the Norse pantheon's traditional regard for war in favor of kiddy friendly tact. Thor thinks he's a total bad ass, regularly defeating the toughest warriors in Asgard during practice combat in front of his adoring fans, but his friend Sif points out in mere seconds using only a farm tool, that these warriors let Thor win every time. Confronting his father, it turns out that Odin has no interest in a warrior son (!) and needs him to be more 'princely'. Wait...stop...what weird parallel Thor universe are we living in here? Not to mention the Warriors Three, Thor's loyal friends who regularly go off on trips to the land of the Frost Giants for battle and glory...except as Thor and his loyal brother Loki (!!) discover when they stow away on their ship, the trio never actually go there at all. The idea of them ducking battle to sit around, get drunk, to get tales for retelling later that they overhear from other bar patrons is downright bizarre. Fortunately, once you get past all that nonsense having no place in the Thor universe, "Tales of Asgard" picks up quite a bit. Thor convinces the crew to journey on to Jotunheim, to search for the legendary Sword of Surtur. Of course, they end up pissing off the local Frost Giant b-boy crew, which leads to war and, ultimately, I'd guess, Thor being grounded at least until the theatrical film is released. Even with my initial disdain for the concept and the television quality animation (there are even obvious breaks for commercials for whenever it ends up airing that way), I really liked the last third of the film, as the surprise baddie is revealed, and the Frost Giants attack Asgard. It was also a neat juggling trick to give everybody, even the Frost Giants and the surprise baddie, at least a somewhat sympathetic point of view. As it turns out, the real villain here is teenage disobedience, making "Thor: Tales of Asgard" the least punk rock movie ever made. But it's still kind of fun anyway.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Thor: Tales of Asgard (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
THE TERMINATOR (Blu-Ray)
Now that MGM has entered the Digibook format market, certainly the preferred method of blu-ray releases if you ask me, I was excited to see them starting off with a blu re-release of James Cameron's still-amazing science fiction film, "The Terminator" to start it out with. Sure enough, it's a lovely package, with the disc neatly slipped into the hardback accompanied by a bound 26 page glossy color booklet. On the downside, it's the exact same, way-imperfect blu-ray disc that shipped with the previous release. Sure, it's the best quality that you can currently purchase the film in at this juncture, but I'd have to suspect that some kind of more glorious re-release, possibly as an entire set, is going to be on the way at some point, and probably soon. Often the tidied up repackaging like this is stronger sign than anything else that the film company in question is trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the earlier, left-over copies, before they enter the market with the big enchilada. I hope that's the case, anyway.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Terminator Digibook Blu-Ray
THE USUAL SUSPECTS (Blu-Ray)
And sure enough, the other film in the list of digibook re-releases from MGM this week that had me really excited ends up being exactly the same disappointing deal as "The Terminator". I'd easily say that Bryan Singer's "The Usual Suspects" is one of the finest crime films ever made, and here MGM is just slathering pretty make-up to cover up the black eye it gave it with such a lackluster initial HD release. I mean, it's a decent enough transfer, but really, only a trailer for bonus features? The color booklet hardbound into the book is nice and all, but I'm just gonna say it: please don't put out these hardback HD releases of films unless the disc included is worth it as well. MGM cheapens the entire market by these kind of practices. Even so, I love this movie SO much, and it is the nicest version of it currently available. But I certainly wouldn't double-dip if you already have the previous version.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Usual Suspects Digibook Blu-Ray
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (Blu-Ray)
If you pay even the vaguest amount of attention to American politics (and I assume, if you have more than 15 or so friends on your Facebook account, you don't have much choice), that you've heard someone toss around the term 'manchurian candidate' in comparison to some group or the other, and perhaps didn't understand what it meant. Watching the 1962 John Frankenheimer thriller is so required viewing, that most pundits just assume that you've seen it. And you wouldn't want to let down pundits, would you?. Frank Sinatra is Major Marco, an ex-platoon commander from the Korean war who discovers that one of his soldiers isn't what he seems. When questioned about the Medal of Honor winner Sergeant Shaw (Lawrence Harvey), Marco and any soldier from his troop give the same autonomic response: "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." The truth is, the guy is kind of creepy, a loner, and no one seems to be able to actually remember the details of what he did to win the medal. Further investigation starts to uncover a major conspiracy of brainwashing and assassination that goes to the top. "The Manchurian Candidate"is breathtaking and gutsy filmmaking that still (obviously) resonates today. Don't hold against it that it's been the bread-and-butter of conspiracy theorists ever since its original release; it's a major classic. The new HD release isn't perfect, but it's a huge increase in quality of the previous DVD, and it ports over all of its bonus features as well as adding a few more. A must-own.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Manchurian Candidate [Blu-ray]