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.
After seeing this movie for the first time this week, I cannot for the life of me believe that so many commenters took its Golden Globe nomination so poorly. There was a sense of disdain across the web, even more so than usual, for the HFPA for nominating this Bruce Willis-led action comedy. I don’t get it — the movie’s an absolute blast. Willis brings the spirit he left out of his role in Cop Out and the supporting cast around him is solid gold. Director Robert Schwentke keeps the pace up, the explosions big and the dialogue sharp on his way to helping us forget that he’s the guy who directed The Time Traveler’s Wife. Upon second viewing, I discovered the rewatchability factor on Red to be through the roof — just as much fun the second time around, complete with audio commentary from a retired CIA agent, several deleted scenes and in-movie featurettes that complete the experience. The film looks clean and vibrant in HD, John Title’s sound design rips through the 5.1 DTS mix and Red comes away as one of the most buyable Blu-rays we’ve seen so far in 2011. Buy it, watch it, watch it again. That’s what it’s all about.
Read on to see what else I’m picking this week…
Remember back in the day when Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey were wide-eyed actresses, just trying to make it big, long before either of them were hosting your mom’s favorite afternoon talk shows? I don’t either, but apparently there was such a time. During that time they both starred in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, an 11-time Oscar nominated film that won absolutely nothing on the big night. Can you believe that? It has to be some sort of record. Then again, it did go up against Out of Africa. Alas, The Color Purple may not have won multiple Oscars, but it’s still celebrated as a classic. A fact that is apparent in Warner Bros’ handling of the Blu-ray release. A 40-page color booklet, a beautiful high definition transfer and special features aplenty are exactly what you might expect for such a lovely film. It’s more than worthy of a spot in your collection.
Enter the Void
Gaspar Noe’s brilliant first-person film is truly an experience. So much so that you’re going to wish you’d seen it in theaters. At 160-minutes though, you may also be glad that your Blu-ray player has a pause button, as it makes bathroom breaks easier during a movie that demands you watch every single moment.
Broadcast News (Criterion)
Criterion delights once again to the surprise of absolutely no one. This time it’s with James L. Brooks’ infectiously funny and razor-sharp political news office politics dramedy Broadcast News. Just prepare yourself to walk away from this experience completely in love with Albert Brooks, if you’re not already.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It’s sort of a disappointment to see Universal not giving this fantastic film a better Blu-ray release — they didn’t include any new special features — but I want to own it so desperately on Blu-ray, despite its faults. If you’re like me, I’m sure you’re already planning on doing the same.
It’s hard to knock too hard on the ever-expanding Disney slate of “impossible and inspiring true story” films like Secretariat, especially when I hold Miracle among my favorite films of all-time. Each of these films are put together on a level of quality that elevates them beyond what you might see on Lifetime or ABC Family, but none of them quite escape the stigma of being safe, emotionally manipulative family-oriented fair. It’s that fact that makes them an assured rent every time. Not good enough to light the world on fire, but not terrible either. They exist, as this Diane Lane-led drama does, in that sweet spot of rental bliss. A completely safe film for any audience. For those who connect deeply with the film, the extras on this disc aren’t bad and the combo pack does include the DVD as well. Perfect for your grandmother who promises to one day own a Blu-ray player. Unless of course your grandmother is really into the Saw movies. In which case, please scroll down.
For our own Saw expert Cole Abaius to say that this “final chapter” (if you believe such a thing can exist) “lives somewhere in between quality and crap” doesn’t exactly ring out as a glowing recommendation. But consider this: he scored it far higher than previous entries into the franchise. Which should be encouraging to those of you who have made it this far. Because lets face it, if you’re not a Saw fan already, now isn’t the time and this isn’t the movie to be jumping in head first. That said, fans will get exactly what they pay for with this Blu-ray release (which is also available in a 3D version). It’s got the movie, that’s always important, and a few behind the scenes featurettes that it shares with the DVD release. The bonus for Blu-ray buyers is the exclusive “52 Ways to Die” featurette — a retrospective on the creative kills that have littered the landscape of the seven Saw flicks. It’s a nice little package for the “final” movie, a good send-off for fans — or at least those fans who aren’t convinced that another Saw film will eventually come around. Because you know it’s happening.
The story of John Lennon’s teen years, in which he became a rebel, connected with a mother he was never supposed to know and met Paul McCartney. If he wasn’t going to grow up to be one of the most influential musicians of all-time, I’d say he was nothing more than a little shit. At least that’s what I gathered from Aaron Johnson’s excellent portrayal.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The final shot in the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy takes the series out not with a bang, but a whimper. I often wonder how it’s possible that such an acclaimed series of films can get such lame-duck Blu-ray releases.
A Beautiful Mind
Unless you absolutely must own this one on every format in order to feel that your life is complete, there’s nothing new to see here.
Open Season 3
If you knew of the existence of Open Season 3 (or for that matter, Open Season 2) prior to reading this week’s column, I don’t know if I can help you unlearn that information. This is one of those times when I wish I had one of those Men in Black memory eraser gadgets, so that we could all forget that movies like this exist.
And now, the rest of the story…