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.
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 likes of Brad Bird and other talented Pixar folk look back at the making of this milestone film. Then it’s short films, storyboards, tales from within the walls of Pixar and even a sneak preview of The Lion King Blu-ray release. If there isn’t enough value in that to fork over some Blu-ray money, I don’t know what to tell you. This one is among the must-own category, as you might expect from Pixar.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (Available April 15th)
The second to last Harry Potter film has arrived on Blu-ray, and if there’s one thing that is clear, it’s that I can smell a “collector’s edition” release coming sometime around Christmas, when Warner Bros. is ready to release Deathly Hallows Part II right before the big holiday sales rush. It’s not as much a slimy tactic as you’d think though, more of a logical choice. They must put out a release of the first one to satisfy the demand created by its release last fall, but they also have a great opportunity to hold back some special features and work a bit harder on the Ultimate Edition release of one complete final “book” in the Potter franchise. It will be a fitting end to a franchise that has long been their golden child. That said, no one who buys this Blu-ray release is going to be disappointed by it. They may be disappointing when temptation to rebuy comes up later, but for now this is more than enough. WB has transferred the film well to HD, they’ve put together a very elegant and interesting Maximum Movie Mode — in which cast and crew walk you through the making of the film while it plays in the background (I love this feature) — and they’ve even included the opening scene of the next movie. When you wrap that Blu-ray in with a DVD and a Digital Copy for all those popular little tablet devices, it makes for a set worth keeping in any Potter fan’s collection. My recommendation is to go get this one, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t the only copy of Deathly Hallows Part I you own by the end of 2011.
White Material (Criterion)
There’s something invariably frustrating about Claire Denis’ White Material. For all its success in creating a visually stunning experience that allows the audience into the center of one woman’s tumultuous world. For all the brilliance and ferocity that exists within the performance of Isabelle Huppert, whose character’s sanity is effectively eroded away, a striking metaphor for contemporary British colonialism in Africa. Even with all that, I found there to be an overwhelmingly dreary tone to the entire affair. And in turn, there’s a bleeding tedious pace to it all. But maybe that’s just me, living in an ADD world, not able to wait for the revolution to start. On the whole, Denis’ film is a fascinating, vigorously inventive visual experience, with a splendid performance at its heart. And as they do with their Blu-ray releases, Criterion has given careful attention to both the film and the story behind it. New interviews with Denis and her cast provide the background, a meticulously crafted transfer bring it to 1080p as it should be seen, and everything else — including one of Denis’ short documentary about it’s Ecrans Noirs Film Festival premiere — feel like icing on top of the cake. If you’re a collector, this one fits. For everyone else, the forceful style of Claire Denis is not to be missed.
We named this film one of the five best films you didn’t see in 2010. Here’s your chance to make it one of the best films you see in 2011. Robert Levin explains: “After a vicious beating robbed him of his memory, Kingston, N.Y. resident Mark Hogancamp devised his own unique form of grief therapy: projecting his hopes and fears onto the figurines occupying Marwencol, an enormous 1/6 scale World War II era Belgian village he built in his backyard. The documentary about this complex, fascinating man and the world he created is a portrait of true courage, rife with the thrill of watching an artist being [re]born.” The Blu-ray is full of life and best of all, plenty of supplements. I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t strongly encourage you to check this one out. On DVD, on Blu-ray, however you can.
I have nothing to go on here, as I’ve somehow managed to steer completely clear of everything related to this film (including it’s trailer) and Sony wasn’t brave enough to send over a copy for review. However, when Kevin Carr eviscerates a film as he did in his theatrical release, that’s cause for concern. Buy or rent at your own risk on Gwyneth Paltrow’s southern sing-a-long, as Carr isn’t the only critic to give this one a lashing. Just check out it’s 21% (rotten) rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Although, the 61% rating from users has me curious…