Disc Deals and Steals: Machete and Predictions for 2011

Here at Inside Pulse Movies, we compile all the best deals on new DVD and Blu-ray releases, as well as report on some that are so good they’re criminal. Brick-and-mortar stores include Target, Best Buy, etc. Amazon deals are also in the mix.

A brand new year. 2011 looks to pick up where 2010 left off in terms of Blu-rays taking over the marketplace. If you step inside a Best Buy you know that more and more shelves are being reserved to the high-def format and DVDs are being singled out. But don’t worry, DVDs are and will still be a viable medium and aren’t likely to be phased out any time soon. While my collection of both formats has burgeoned to more than 2700 titles collectively (that includes counting the individual movies that comprise various box sets), I fully support them both. The reason is because I’m sure that most of my DVD collection won’t get the high-definition treatment, if at all.

As I spent my New Year’s Day organizing my collection in an online database, I couldn’t help but realize that I have several double dips, some even triple. Taking the Die Hard series for example, I have the original Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection DVD trilogy release, another Die Hard Collection DVD trilogy with the “Yippee-Kay-Yay” bonus disc, the Blu-ray Die Hard Collection with all four movies released, and two steelbooks – one for Die Hard and another for Live Free or Die Hard in its Unrated form. Now I’m not one of those collectors that will go to extreme lengths to try to collect all the different covers/versions of a release (see picture), but if you have the disposal income to do it then go for it. I’m more than happy with my Reservoir Dogs DVD release with Mr. Blonde cover, thank you very much.

The problem with amassing so many titles is where to put them all. It’s at a point now where I have a lot of my collection in binders and storage cases. For the cases I have made spreadsheets that have the collection organized numerically, with numbers assigned to each plastic sleeve, and alphabetically with number assigned to help locate the title I want to watch with ease. As for the original cases, those are packaged up in cardboard boxes and stored in the attic. In hindsight, I could have saved more space in the cardboard boxes had I decided to keep the slipcovers and cover art and recycled the plastic cases.

There may come a day where I can proudly display my collection, covers and all, but I will either need to win the Mega Millions $330 million jackpot, or find a flying DeLorean and get myself a Sports Almanac.

Since it is the start of a new year, resolutions are to be expected. So should predictions. Last year saw a great deal of classic catalog titles get the Blu-ray treatment. Titles like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Alien and Aliens, and Apocalypse Now made their high-def debuts, as did Robert Zemeckis’ seminal ’80s classic, Back to the Future. Yet there were a number of titles absent, which I think will make their debuts sometime this year.

Steven Spielberg has two new films arriving in theaters this December, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn and War Horse. 2011 is also the 30th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is it outside the realm of possibility that the original Indiana Jones trilogy make its arrival to Blu-ray around the same time Naughty Dog releases Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception on PlayStation 3?

And speaking of Uncharted 3, the latest sequel in the best-selling video-game franchise will draw from the archaeology days of T. E. Lawrence. A great tie-in would be the release of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia on Blu-ray. Though I suspect that Sony Pictures would be more inclined to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary in 2012.

A few notable films will be turning fifty this year. They include West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Paramount may want to pay tribute to the late Blake Edwards), and The Hustler. Maybe someone should let the suits at Buena Vista know, that way they can give Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money a proper release. To this day its lone DVD release is in non-anamorphic widescreen.

You can bet that Warner Bros. will deliver Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane sometime in 2011, since the film turns seventy.

Chaplin’s The Kid and City Lights both celebrate anniversaries this year, so The Criterion Collection may continue its stellar work on the Chaplin library, following last year’s Modern Times.

With the passing of Leslie Nielsen, Shirley we can expect Paramount Pictures to give us Airplane! and The Naked Gun trilogy in HD.

And both Platoon and Stand By Me turn twenty-five years old. These Blu-rays need to happen.

You might have noticed that I left out a certain trilogy, or trilogies rather. I don’t revere Star Wars like some people. Are they entertaining? Yes. To the point that you would be willing to write your religion as being Jedi? No. The fact that George Lucas disavows his original trilogy and only favors the special editions of said trilogy goes a long way in acknowledging that any magic he had as a film-maker has long vanished into thin air. Let the fans decide, George. Be like Peter Jackson and give them the preference of being able to watch both the original, theatrical cuts and the special editions with updated special effects. Granted Steven Spielberg has made some boneheaded decisions when it comes to revisionist history – walkie-talkies instead of guns in E.T. – but nothing as severe as trampling on the legacy of an original film. You don’t see Spielberg redoing the opening of Raiders, replacing the boulder in with a better CGI effect.

Whether or not Star Wars happens this year is to be seen, but if it does, I pray to Yoda that Han shoots first.

Release of the Week: Machete

My Blu-ray pick this week is a title that I wasn’t all that thrilled with when it was released in theaters back in September, but pickings were slim this first week of January. Do I really want to suggest a faux-documentary horror tale starring Professor Lasky from Saved by the Bell: The College Years? Or would I much rather spend dinner with a bunch of schmucks? The first was an okay thrill and the second wasn’t nearly as funny as the French original, The Dinner Game. (Though I will admit director Jay Roach did himself a favor by filming Schmucks instead of Little Fockers.)

All I was really left with was Machete, but consider this a recommendation by proxy as three other Robert Rodriguez films debut on Blu-ray this week: El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Essentially a fake trailer that became a reality, Machete marks the first time Danny Trejo has headlined a picture. He made his debut back in 1985 as a boxer in Runaway Train, starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts. During his twenty-five-year Hollywood career, Trejo’s worked with Sylvester Stallone (Lock Up), Steven Seagal (Marked for Death), Nicolas Cage (Con Air), and both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (Heat). However, most probably recognize him from Desperado as Navajas (Knives).

Machete is pulpy, refried Mexploitation madness that uses gallons of fake blood as it smears the debate over illegal immigration. Some of the violence will make viewers feel suckerpunched, others will audible a “yeesh” at the sight. But it is all done as to be a bloody-good time. Yet, it is also a jumbled mess. What begins as a story of revenge, it then takes on various subplots involving a corrupt U.S. Senator (Robert De Niro), a lawnmower man who became a successful magnate (Jeff Fahey), and a woman who believes that her people didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us (Jessica Alba). Why thank you for that keen observation Mexican X.

Something that isn’t explained is why does the film have a five minute opening full of fake imperfections – lines in the print and cigarette burns – and then lose it. If the objective was to recreate the feel of the grindhouse experience, like the original Grindhouse did, then you might as well keep up the illusion. In the opening, Rouge Federale “Machete” attempts to rescue a kidnapped woman. His weapon of choice to cut down the thugs holding her captive is one that would make Jason Voorhees lift up his hockey mask and smile. When he finds her, she is lying on the bed naked because, as she freely admits, “it’s too hot to wear clothes.” Unfortunately, the woman doesn’t need rescuing. She stabs him in the leg and pulls out a cell phone from her “hey, how you doin'” and calls STEVEN SEAGAL. This is the part of the movie where I tell another person sitting next to me that clearly Machete went Above the Law in his duty and stepped On Deadly Ground when he entered Seagal’s hideout. The good thing about Machete: he’s Hard to Kill.

The opening scene and my abbreviated depiction of it clearly illustrates the ridiculousness that is Machete. Robert Rodriguez and his co-director Ethan Maniquis inability to juggle social satire with straight-up exploitation knocks it down the recommended scale, but if you are watching just for the exploitation experience, Rodriguez has got you covered. Want to see Cheech Marin as a pot-smoking, weapon-toting priest that carries dual-wielded shotguns and deliver Hail Marys the hard way? You got it. How about seeing Machete be like George of the Jungle and swing through the air on a rope swing of intestines? Got you covered. And there’s plenty of explosions, one-liners, and boobies. Everything a growing boy needs. Had I seen this when I was thirteen I would be telling all my friends this is the best movie evar! But I’m not thirteen, and even as a grown up my childishness extends to below PG-13 territory.

Though I can’t recommend Machete outright, I must admit to liking the character. He can kill you as soon as look at you, but he has his own code of honor that he abides while dispensing justice. So I’m all up for a sequel and Rodriguez supposedly as two in the works, if the credits are to be believed – Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again.

Inspecting the bells and whistles of this Blu-ray release, the video quality is strong once Rodgriuz and Maniquis drop the fake grindhouse quality. The picture is close to perfect as one can get. For an idea of how good Machete looks in 1080p just pause it and look at Danny Trejo’s face. Every scar, pock mark and face whisker are present. The audio isn’t nearly as strong as the video transfer, but gets the job done. If you are ever bored by the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix, you can select a Dolby Digital 5.1 “Audience Reaction Track,” which effectively puts you in the middle of a virtual theater crowded with those who are loving every minute of the movie. So if you didn’t get a chance to see Machete in theaters, this is the next best thing.

Robert Rodriguez is a director that embraces the possibilities that DVD and Blu-ray offers in terms of extras. Unfortunately, this release seems rather pedestrian. To tell you how bad the supplementary package is, there is no 10-minute cooking school present. Instead, we get ten deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, the red band theatrical trailer, sneak peeks (for The A-Team, Twelve and Street Kings 2). You can also access an exclusive deleted scene using BD-Live. Give it a while and we’ll probably get a more feature-laden release including a re-cut version of the film with additional subplots, more deaths and more T&A.

Machete with its tongue-in-cheek tone is likely to appeal to exploitation junkies, and lies somewhere between spoof and homage of the genre (but not nearly as good as Black Dynamite). Lacking in the supplements department does suggest an eventual double-dip. You’ve been warned.

Target – $17
Best Buy – $15.99
Amazon – $15.99

Target – $22
Best Buy – $25.99
Amazon – $21.99

Other noteworthy DVD (and Blu-ray) releases this week…

Howl – [DVD / BD]
Case 39 – [DVD / BD]
Catfish – [DVD / BD]
The Last Exorcism – [DVD / BD]
Dinner for Schmucks – [DVD / BD]
Mannix: Fourth Season – [DVD]
Big Love: Fourth Season – [DVD]
Ricky Gervais Show: First Season – [DVD]
Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Complete Series – [DVD]

Noteworthy Blu-ray-specific releases this week…

Ever After
El Mariachi/Desperado
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
My Dog Skip
Hope Floats

Retailer Specials

The retailer is having a sale on various Sony Pictures TV on DVD releases, many selling for less than $10 a piece. Among the shows available are All in the Family, Bewitched, Married with Children, and Party of Five. Offer ends January 17, 2011. Stick with Inside Pulse Movies as we spotlight a few of these titles in Deal Alerts between now and the end of the sale.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – (BD, $7.99)
Kung Fu Hustle – (BD, $7.99)
Leon: The Professional – (BD, $7.99)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – (BD, $8.99
Shoot ‘Em Up – (BD, $8.99)
The Jackal – (BD+DVD, $9.49)
Casino Royale: CE – (BD, $11.99)
Into the Wild – (BD, $12.99)
Insomnia – (BD, $13.99)
Piranha (Roger Corman’s Cult Classics) – (BD, $14.49)
The Fall – (BD, $16.49)
The Bridge on the River Kwai – (BD, $18.99)

New Releases:
*Dinner for Schmucks – (DVD, $16.99 – BD, $25.99)
The Last Exorcism – (DVD, $16.99 – BD+DVD, $22.99)
Case 39 – (DVD, $17.99 – BD, $25.99)
Big Love: Fourth Season – (DVD, $34.99)

*Get a $5 Best Buy Gift Card with purchase on DVD or Blu-ray. Also, if you buy Schmucks on Blu-ray you can get Anchorman (read our review) for $9.99 (regularly $19.99)

Blu-ray on a Budget:
Dumb and Dumber – $9.99
Happy Feet – $9.99
Lethal Weapon – $9.99
The Fugitive – $9.99
2012 – $14.99
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (BD+DVD) – $14.99

Now with this next section of sale prices, I don’t know why Best Buy even bothered to include them, because they are a complete joke, except for maybe the HBO show titles.

TV on DVD:
Weeds: S1 – $12.49
Mad Men: S1 – $17.49
Two and a Half Men: S1 – $18.49
The Sopranos: S1 – $22.49
Deadwood: S1 – $22.49
Prison Break: S1 – $24.49

New Releases:
Dinner for Schmucks – (DVD, $17 – BD, $22)
The Last Exorcism – (DVD, $18 – BD+DVD, $25)
Case 39 – (DVD, $18 – BD, $25)

$7 DVDs:
Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who
He’s Just Not That Into You
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2

$10 DVDs:
Star Trek
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Sherlock Homes
The Dark Knight (Blu-Ray version shown)

Not much in the way of catalog and current releases this week at Target, but if you haven’t purchased The Dark Knight for Blu-ray in the past, $10 isn’t too bad (though for a time it was going as low as $8.99 on Amazon).

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