Blu-ray Spotlight

Blu-ray SpotlightYou’re not the average movie fan. You are the type who is up on technology, pushing the limits of your home theater (and your wallet) with the latest advancements in an attempt to achieve nerdvana in your living room. And the Blu-ray format is your weapon of choice. Come along on a magical journey with FSR Editor Neil Miller as he explores the best, worst and otherwise notable releases in the world of Blu-ray.

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray we take trips around the world, from the car-loving world of the UK to the war-torn lands of 1950s Algeria to the sci-fi wasteland of the American southwest with a stop in the middle ages and perhaps even a little jaunt over to Mars, which apparently needs a little bit more than moms. In a balanced week of releases, we’ve got plenty to buy, a few to rent and yes, even a few real stinkbots to avoid. So lets get to it. Top Gear: The Complete Season 16 Being not a car guy, I have only recently discovered the consistently brilliant world of Top Gear, courtesy of the folks at the BBC. It’s hard to imagine myself enjoying such a show, as I’m not into the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts of what makes a car I will never be able to afford tick. That said, I do love watching crazy people. And more than being a show about cars, this is a show about crazy people who are allowed to drive very expensive cars in very dangerous ways. Enter Jeremy, Richard and James, the three amigos of motor enthusiasm. In series 16, they begin with a trip up the coast of the United States, where they find themselves in situations that allow them to be every bit the snobby, ridiculous Brit stereotypes that would drive Aston Martins. Their subtle prejudices are hilarious, making fun of every Joe Bob and Jim Bob Nascar country has to offer. […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

Back by popular demand, This Week in Blu-ray is here and ready to take on a big week of reviews in high definition. Sine we’ve been away for more than a few good releases, many of them have been included in this week’s entry. The highlights are many as we traverse through a world of major TV box set releases, great animated adventures, raunch comedy from the 70s and 80s, raunch comedy in the modern era, big action, big muscles, charming documentaries and at least one movie you should absolutely avoid at all costs. Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series Seeing as this column has been away for a few weeks and I’m going to be catching up with some of the best and brightest releases we missed, I’m calling for a temporary rule change and allowing myself two — count ‘em — two picks of the week. First, because it would be near impossible for me to choose between the two. And (b), because they fit so well together. The first of these two must-have television sets is Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off about a secret British agency led by a mysterious American named Jack Harkness who has one advantage over the hordes of aliens he comes into contact with: he can’t die. Led by this immortal man, a team of gifted, otherwise ordinary humans work to protect humanity from any threat, be it alien, supernatural or otherwise strange and interesting. Now, you may be thinking to yourself “I […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray, we adjust our own futures, laugh at grumpy gingers, take a business trip with Ed Helms and that guy who said “Sheeiiiitt” on The Wire, fight back for the Wimpy Kid, find love in movies with unmarketable titles, figure out who Liam Neeson really is, and watch Channing Tatum get dressed up like a Roman soldier and make a complete fool of himself. It’s not exactly a busy week, but there’s still plenty to talk about. The Adjustment Bureau In a week that saw its share of competition for Pick of the Week (it really didn’t), it seemed that a ginger comedian would eventually emerge as the winner. Then I popped The Adjustment Bureau into the ole’ Blu-ray player and 106-minutes later, I was sold. This incredibly stylish, meticulously crafted adaptation of work by Phillip K. Dick is well acted, creatively conceived and impressively ambitious. Matt Damon plays a politician who meets the girl of his dreams, then uncovers a secret group of “adjusters” who are tasked with keeping the world “on plan.” Unfortunately for him, that plan doesn’t include him dating this girl (Emily Blunt). Unfortunately for them, he’s Matt F&*king Damon, and he’ll fight for the girl he loves. It’s a stylish love-letter to New York, a taught thriller and a resonant love story all wrapped into one. The Blu gets extra points for its Interactive Map of New York City that plays around with some of the concepts and locations explored in the […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s always a special week for This Week in Blu-ray when I can say that I’m on time. Last week was a mess, but this week we come roaring back with some great titles. It’s made even more special with the release of one of the best movies I saw in 2010, Legend of the Fist. My Donnie Yen addiction kicks into high gear while my lack of interest in big, studio-funded comedy and alien invasion films becomes readily apparent. Plenty to rent this week, a few precious titles to buy and that Red Riding Hood movie from Catherine Hardwicke right where it belongs: bringing up the rear. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen As you are undoubtedly aware, the movie theater is no place for hooting and hollering. Audiences should be present, but unheard. I know this as well as anyone out there, having sat through hundreds, if not thousands of movie with some of the stuffiest people on the planet (other film critics). But there was something about Legend of the Fist. When it screened for the audiences of Fantastic Fest last year, it jumped into our laps and demanded that we cheer. So there I was, alongside fellow critics Drew McWeeney and Brian Salisbury, reduced to cinema fandom’s equivalent of a “woo girl” by the first 20-minutes of this Donnie Yen action opus. It played like Saving Private Ryan, but with a little Asian dude running around killing Germans in the most creative of […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

Welcome back to This Week in Blu-ray, a column that usually runs on Tuesday. Due to a fantastic and relentlessly voluminous assortment of Blu-ray releases this week, it’s a little late. So we’ll dispense with all of the apologies and long-winded lead-ins, as we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Beginning with the best storytelling the small-screen has to offer… Breaking Bad: The Complete Third Season Lets just lay it out there: the final two episodes of Breaking Bad‘s third season could be two of the greatest, most intensely dramatic and incredibly well-written episodes in the era of color. But it’s the build to those two episodes, one that you don’t even notice as it’s happening, that is brilliant. What Vince Gilligan and team have created in the story of Walter White (Emmy winner Bryan Cranston) is one of the fascinating good guy gone bad, but for (sometimes) good reasons stories of all-time. Season three brings in the Mexican cartel, sends Walter’s partner (Emmy winner Aaron Paul) off the deep end and delivers its big guy punch in the end. For those who are experiencing it fresh now on Blu-ray (something you should do, if it’s not clear just yet), count yourselves among the lucky ones. Those who watched it live have been waiting for more than a year to see what happens next. As for the Blu presentation, it’s loaded with more than 10 hours of add-ons, a reward for those who have patiently awaited the release. Three […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s another buy-happy week of Blu-ray selections here on This Week in Blu-ray. Warner Bros. comes correct with a brilliant release of A Clockwork Orange, George Lucas does video commentary and doesn’t talk about Star Wars, vampires and werewolves tear each others’ clothes off, Nic Cage kills just about everyone, Javier Bardem is handsome and someone thought it would be a good idea to put Megan Fox and Mickey Rourke together on-screen. It was not. Reading this Blu-ray column, however, is a great idea. A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition A Clockwork Orange is one of those great films that I’ve had the honor of seeing properly projected. Of course, that was at 3am during a sci-fi marathon and I may have slept through the second act, but the fact remains: I’ve seen what it’s supposed to look like. So when I report that it looks even better on Blu-ray, that’s not something to take lightly. This week’s Pick was an easy one. Warner Bros. has handled Stanley Kubrick’s ultra-violent masterpiece with great care. From the sturdy, book-like packaging to the fresh Blu-ray exclusive features (including one where Malcolm McDowell looks back 40 years later and another that considers the cultural impact of the film’s violent nature), everything is in step with the greatest expectations for what this release should look like. It’s a collector’s item and a wonderful celebration of a film that, even after 40-years, still holds up as a stunning testimony to the greatness of Stanley Kubrick.

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This Week in Blu-ray

Looks like we’ve got another week of This Week in Blu-ray being right on time. After a few bumpy weeks, we’re back on scheduled and its right on time, as we’ve got a lot of great titles to talk about this week. We visit with Charlie Chaplin and one of his finest efforts, we take a walk through the blood-soaked battlefields of the American Civil War, we get closer to two American film icons and when we’re done with America, we follow a South African Kevin Bacon to Thailand to save some drugged-up hookers. Also making an appearance: Natalie Portman, Charlie Sheen, Gnomeo, Juliet and some alien kids with super-powers that will bore you, then excite you. It’s all part of this week’s fully loaded Blu-ray selection. The Great Dictator I spent a greater deal of my childhood than I’d like to admit thinking that Charlie Chaplin simply couldn’t talk. I was good at math, but I was a dumb little kid. Luckily he could talk and he did so in one of his most controversial, subversive and hilarious films. There are some wonderful, classic Chaplin moments of physical comedy and some silly, ambitious moments of what we now consider traditional comedic elements. Some call The Great Dictator his masterpiece, his send-up of the his generation’s most reviled figure. Having been given the Criterion treatment, it is all that and more. Not to hyperbolize, but this is the Charlie Chaplin Criterion you’ve been waiting for. The black and white presentation […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

After a few weeks of hellish uncertainty, This Week in Blu-ray is back to being on time. That is, if you count being available at some point on Tuesday as being “on time.” Which I do, for the record. Moving on, the most important thing to remember is that we’re back with some advice in one of the most diverse weeks of Blu-ray releasing so far in 2011. We’ve got a new one from Criterion, a few classics, action films for people who wish they were Jason Statham, horror films, an animated superhero epic, and a movie starring Kat Dennings. There’s something for everyone this week. Pale Flower (Criterion) I must differ to Roger Ebert for a moment, as he says it far better than I ever could: Pale Flower is “one of the most haunting noirs I’ve seen, and something more; in 1964 it was an important work in an emerging Japanese New Wave of independent filmmakers, an exercise in existential cool. It involves a plot, but it is all about attitude.” What Masahiro Shinoda created in 1964 is an enduring and indelible excursion into Japan’s underworld. It’s also a relentlessly cool film for its time. Criterion, to their credit, has gone to great lengths to preserve it and restore it for HD Blu-ray. They’ve included an uncompressed monaural audio track, brand new video interviews with the director and a new (and allegedly improved) English translation. As this is my first experience with Pale Flower, I can’t say how […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s been a long time since the world has held gaze upon This Week in Blu-ray, that much is true. But it’s back for a Saturday run in a big way — tons of Blu-rays, many of which are worth a rent or better, and a guest appearance by Rob Hunter. Since we’ve been away for the last two weeks, I’m including a few of the notable releases from both weeks. So prepare yourself (and your wallet) for an onslaught of awesome. Get through it this week, as next week appears to be just as good. And that’s where we’ll meet again, but on Tuesday this time. I Saw the Devil A South Korean government agent (Lee Byung-hun) is devastated when his fiance is murdered and dismembered by a madman (Choi Min-sik), but after a brief mourning period he sets out for a twisted and very unorthodox revenge. As in he catches the killer, hurts him severely, then lets him go… only to repeat the cycle over and over again. It’s a brutal game that sees the supposed hero bypass catharsis in favor of the dangerously unthinkable. Director Kim Jee-woon’s latest is easily the darkest, saddest, and most violent of his career but still every bit as fantastic as The Good the Bad the Weird and A Tale Of Two Sisters. Scenes of heart-pumping thrills exist side by side with stretches of excruciating dread. Magnet’s Blu-ray offers a crisp and beautiful transfer as well as an audio track that does […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray we take a look at some new educational material from the BBC in the form of Human Planet, but it’s not without some high drama. We also take a walk with Terry Gilliam through the mind of Hunter S. Thompson. Again, not without some high drama. And there’s a quick sidestep into the world of South Park. High drama ensues. And finally there’s no high drama in the crime thriller Blood Out, not to be confused with the far better Brian De Palma film Blow Out, which also streets this week. It’s a lot of drama and a few laughs this week as we comb through the best and worst of this week’s Blu-ray releases. Human Planet There will be a much more in-depth review of this title coming soon, as I have so much to say about what the BBC has done with Human Planet. For now lets work with the short version. Narrated by John Hurt, Human Planet takes the idea of filming our big blue planet in all the glory of high definition and combines it with the study of man. How do we, the only animal to inhabit every terrain on terra firma, interact with the abundance of nature that surrounds us at every turn? From the wild rivers to the deep oceans to the sky-reaching concrete and steel cities we’ve erected from her upper crust, humanity has a unique relationship with our home planet. And this documentary series captures it brilliantly. […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray, always giving you the latest details on the hottest releases in the world of high definition home entertainment. This week it’s a group of critically acclaimed films, from last year’s Best Picture winner to a bleak tale from the legendary Ken Loach. There’s also a Jack Black movie, which cannot be counted among the critically acclaimed. And there’s one of Nicole Kidman’s finest performances to date. All in high definition, all reviewed as part of this week’s Blu-ray selection. The King’s Speech A lot of strong reactions were had to The King’s Speech taking home the Best Picture award on Oscar Night. But whether you thought it was deserving of the win, or you thought the Weinsteins had pulled off a great magic trick, there’s no doubting the fact that it belonged among the nominees. It’s a lively story of one man’s struggle to become the leader his nation needs, a Royal story that feels grounded and full of characters we are comfortable around, even to the point of liking them. At the very least, the Blu-ray will be beneficial because it contains the R-rated original cut of the film, not the PG-13 abomination that recently played in theaters. It’s also well-stuffed with extras, including a deeper look at the real Lionel Logue, as well as real speech reels that were given by King George. It’s History Channel stuff, but who doesn’t love the History Channel? This is an easy pick in an otherwise dull week.

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s another week of high definition hijinks here on This Week In Blu-ray. Perhaps one of the slower weeks we’ve seen this year, but certainly not one lacking in quality. Besides the big Pixar Pick that you see below, you’ll find something to love when I review the latest Harry Potter flick, one of 2010′s best and most underrated docs, and the latest Criterion release. We’ll also touch on that movie in which Gwyneth Paltrow sings country songs, but only momentarily. The Incredibles Every new release that Pixar has brought to the Blu-ray format has been of a certain quality. Plenty of extras, brilliant transfers and all the little goodies that make Disney one of the better distributors of the format. The same can be said of their back catalog releases, including Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 2. To that end, The Incredibles is perfectly matched to that standard of quality. The 2004 film, not old by any means, looks particularly brilliant in 1080p because of the colorful nature of its story. From the flashy red of the family’s suits to the lush jungle around Syndrome’s volcanic layer, this film pops with every frame. It’s the reason videophiles have been drooling over its potential HD release for some time now. Feel free to celebrate, fair ‘philes, as your day has come. The Incredibles is just as incredible as you’ve imagined it would be. For those with tastes that run behind the arts, there are brand new featurettes in which the […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray, it’s off to the late 70s, early 80s, mid 90s and the future as seen through the mind of a computer. I won’t even dare mention the trip back to the home of The Fockers, as it’s but a slight detour on our road to an excellent week of Blu-ray releases. So get ready for the old, the new and all of the best in-betweens, because it’s time to go shopping. TRON: Special Edition It’s time to go back to where it all began. That’s what Disney did with this wonderful release, they went back to a time when TRON was new and incredible and captured it. We often see releases touting a “restored” or “enhanced” version of a pre-DVD era film, but rarely to we see a release with such a noticeable restoration. There is a vibrancy and pulsing energy to the world of TRON on Blu-ray that was never included on any DVD release. The journey of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) inside the computer has never been so life-like, nor has it ever looked so now. As the cherry, the TRON Blu-ray is lined with special features — several hours worth, to say the least. The best of them is “The TRON Phenomenon,” a look at the pop culture impact of Steven Lisberger’s technoventure. If you found yourself wondering why folks were so emotionally invested in TRON: Legacy‘s release, this featurette helps give you the why. The Blu-ray itself is a big slice of […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s a big week in Blu-ray releases. Perhaps that has something to do with why this week’s column is a day late. For once, it’s an intense amount of writing and not my inherent laziness that has us talking Blu-ray on Wednesday morning rather than Tuesday. Almost 3,000 words died horrific deaths to make this week’s column come to life, and only a handful of them weren’t written by yours truly. The others were written by Rob Hunter, who stops by to give us a look inside a 14-film set of Sherlock Holmes films, none of which include Robert Downey Jr. For my part, I review my favorite film of 2010, a great and fitting pair of Criterion releases, an epic from DeMille, a season of Don Draper, the latest greatest thing from The Wire‘s David Simon, a fun Disney animated adventure and the story of a high school boy who finds out he’s a werewolf. And that’s not even the half of it. This and more in This Week in Blu-ray. Black Swan This week saw some major competition for Pick of the Week. Between the value of Mad Men and Tremé, it could have very easily been a TV season that took it. And Disney unleashed Tangled, which might just have been the best animated film of last year. And Teen Wolf hit Blu — need I say more. But I can’t help but stick with the film I named as number one on my list of the […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

I will forgo the usual intro after a two-week hiatus from writing this column and simply apologize. Beside last week being the week of SXSW, I don’t have a very good reason why this is the first Blu-ray column of March. Well, there was a general malaise about the titles being released in the month’s first few weeks, but we all know that’s no good reason to shirk my duties as chief high definition prognosticator. So we’re back this week with a few really great releases, including March’s best release as Pick of the Week, a spectacular entry into the Criterion Collection and a few really bad movies that I loved. Take that, common sense! Four Lions Any release calendar junkies among you may be quick to cite the fact that Four Lions streeted on March 8, two weeks prior to the writing of this column. You’d be right — it’s not one of this week’s release. But with a dearth of great titles hitting shelves this Tuesday, combined with my absence from this column’s helm for the past two weeks, I thought it to be more than appropriate to celebrate one of last year’s finest comedies. Terrorism. It’s funny when you look at it through the lens of director Chris Morris. It’s hilarious when you strap explosives to crows and dress up in Ninja Turtles costumes lined with C4. It’s enthralling and insightful when it wants to be, as well. It’s the rare kind of flick that has something […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray is all about the unexpected. I expected to put Christopher Nolan’s breakout drama Memento on page one as my pick of the week, but was swayed instantly and heavily by the latest contemporary classic being added to the Criterion Collection. I’ve also found comfort in another season of Weeds, even though it’s not the best work of the Botwin clan. We also dig deep into some intentional schlock-and-awe, pull the rug out from under the latest Galifianakis joint, explore the crisis in America’s public schools and without warning, I sing to you. Yes, dear readers of the high definition affliction, I bet you didn’t expect me to break out into song, did you? Fish Tank Most people know The Criterion Collection for their work in the realm of classic films — restorations, remasterings and the cataloging of cinema history’s most important works. So when they take a contemporary film and add it to their collection, you know that’s something special. Take Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, a tough-as-nails portrait of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, dealing with life in the housing projects of Essex, forced to live in close quarters with Michael Fassbender. In all honesty, I would probably try to sleep with that man if given the chance. Alas, that’s not part of the equation here, so I’ll tell you what is. A quality film, a meticulously crafted presentation (as only Criterion can deliver) and plenty of extras, including three short films from director […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

Consider this: in a week where the best options include a BBC Christmas special and the story of a runaway train that ain’t never comin’ back, I’ve chosen to spotlight as my pick of the week a Blu-ray release that I haven’t even held in my own hands yet. It’s a rather sad week, indeed. So sad that I felt the need to delay my column by two days with the hope that a copy of Network would magically arrive at my doorstep. It didn’t, but I’m still making the recommendation. Why? Because I’m mad as hell and it’s time to review this week’s selection of Blu-ray releases! That’s why. Network We have ourselves a first — a blind pick for the best release of the week. I did not receive a copy of Network to review, but you can be damned certain that I will be picking one up at some point this week. Especially after reading the review from High Def Digest, who praised the transfer and the supplements. I’m mad as hell that I don’t already have this in my collection, and I’m refusing to take it any longer. Please join me in getting up out of your chairs… oh, you get the idea. With a quality transfer, this one is a sure winner.

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This Week in Blu-ray

This week’s entry into the world of Blu-ray punditry is sponsored by the letter W, as in WTF. For those following along at home, that’s the internet acronym for “what the f**k?” It’s usually accompanied with a grammatically incorrect smattering of exclamation marks and a comment about how we should all start building an Ark. Quick, someone grab all of the typing cats. We wouldn’t want to lose those in the flood! Yes, this week is bringing about the apocalypse for plenty of reasons: horror movies that make me want to take a shotgun up the colon, dramedies that use David Bowie in strange ways, a Pam Anderson movie that doesn’t take place on a boat, the birth of internet porn and plenty of rape. WTF, indeed. Barb Wire This week’s big pick should be exemplary of the week as a whole. Because what kind of a week would lead me down the path of picking a mid-90s comic book adaptation starring a mostly nude Pamela Anderson — or more to the point, one of the worst movies of all times or any times, including future times. In a sea of releases, there wasn’t much to choose from, so why shouldn’t you head over to your local retailer’s bargain bin (where you’ll undoubtedly already find this gem) and pick up a movie. On your way home, you can go get a barb wire tattoo around your arm and a tramp-stamp on your lower back. It’s classy all the way, this […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray is back again with a massive slate of releases. You’d think that it’s about to be Christmas time around here with the amount of quality Blu-rays spilling into stores. Everything from a beautiful edition of a Disney classic (seen below in the new Pick of the Week section) to another institutional Criterion release, combined with a chance for home video buyers to see some of last year’s more interesting indies. In column news: I’m taking your comment section silence to mean that you like the new format, so I’m sticking with it. But enough talk, lets make with the recommendations. Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition Call me a victim of nostalgia — or a man of taste — but the bitterness of seeing Tim Burton take the care of a baby rhinoceros in a chandelier shop with the story of Alice in Wonderland this year made me sad. Someday, much to the benefit of movie lovers everywhere, that guy will realize that you can’t just take Johnny Depp, some pastels and a little bit of weird and make a good film. Especially if you do it in mind-numbingly bad 3D. Which brings us to the point — Disney has released their now 60-year old Alice in Wonderland tune on Blu-ray. And like many of its animated catalog titles, the color and detail of the hand-drawn tale is brilliant in high definition. It’s supplemented with great extras, new and old. Among the new are two interactive […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

As you might imagine, This Week in Blu-ray is usually one of my favorite things to write during the week. It’s my chance to wax intellectual about something highly technical and lay down my absolute authority on the world of new-fangled home video releases. It’s an easy job, one that requires watching a bunch of great movies in high definition. Until we get to weeks like this one — weeks that are simply slow and for the most part, uninteresting. So I’m going to use it to debut a new article format. Here’s what is new, for those of you keeping score: we’ll begin with my Pick of the Week, because there is always that one movie that really deserves your attention. We’ll then move on to the usual sections (Buy, Rent, Avoid). Inside these sections you’ll find the titles I’ve had a chance to review (these will be the ones with pictures to accompany the reviews) as well as titles I wasn’t able to review, but feel confident recommending anyway (that confidence will come from having seen the movie in question). And at the bottom, you’ll see the list of other releases that, as always, are to be bought or rented at your own risk. My hope is that the new format will provide even more insight so that you can make informed Blu-ray buying decisions. You’ll have to let me know what you think. Red After seeing this movie for the first time this week, I cannot for […]

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