That’s right friends, two weeks in a row here for the Blu-ray Report. I would like to tell you that I’ve turned over a new leaf in my duties as Blu-ray watchdog, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The good news is that I am here this week and ready to spread some Blu-ray knowledge all over your minds. Also good news — we’ve got Jean-Claude Van Damme on Blu-ray this week. That friends, is a win. We’ve also got our good friend, Managing Editor Cole Abaius swooping in to review The Uninvited.
And now on to our breakdown of this week’s Blu-ray releases, starting with those that I have nominated as the Creme of the Crop. As always, please support your local Reject Stimulus Fund by clicking on the titles of the movies and picking them up over at Amazon.
Creme of the Crop
Star Trek: The Original Series (Season 1)
This is the gem of the week. With the release of J.J. Abrams’ awesome new Star Trek film hitting theaters at warp speed in a week and a half, it is time to revisit some of the glory days of Star Trek: TOS in glorious high definition. It is time to go back to those first episodes, when Spock was sometimes a little greener than normal and the set pieces were awful, but it all worked. But of course the most exciting thing about this Blu-ray release — save for the excuse to go back and watch season one again — is the fact that the Blu-ray release comes with two versions of every episode. One is the original episode, as aired in the 60s, cleaned up beautifully for HD.
The other version of each episode comes with enhanced visual effects. The folks behind the release have gone back through and added some CGI to the episodes, creating an incredibly different vision of the original series than we’ve ever seen before. This really brings a lot of the exterior shots to life, those that show the Enterprise flying past planets, etc. But trust me when I say that this is a brilliant touch, giving us a fresh new way to experience the maiden voyage of the USS Enterprise and her crew. As well, there are loads of behind the scenes featurettes — almost too many to mention here — including some amazing rare home movies and special memories from behind the scenes in “Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest.” As a fringe Star Trek fan, I was more than delighted with this release. I have a feeling that if you’re a true die hard or a sucker for some nostalgia that you will love this box set up as well.
Having not seen this when it came out in theaters, I was ready for the stock and trade Korean horror remake treatment. Which is pretty much exactly what we get, although with much more Emily Browning looking like a twelve year old in her underwear. Seriously. If you’re down for some slightly environmental thrills, an average horror tale, and the chance to totally legally ogle the pre-pubescent body of a twenty year old, this Blu-Ray is a great pick up.
Truth be told, it’s a beautifully shot movie which suits the HD really well. Some of the scenes look down right breathtaking. And it’s not a bad movie – it’s just not that great a movie. Some really solid acting, a decent amount of good dialog, but just a really average story. But, Arielle Kebbel in a bikini for the entire run time, David Strathairn bringing the dramatics, and Elizabeth Banks acting gorgeously creepy are enough to balance that out. Unfortunately, the extras are several lacking on the disc. There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette that comes standard with every disc these days as well as some deleted scenes and an alternate ending that is really unfulfilling (so it’s really good that it wasn’t the actually ending). So make no mistake – you’re buying the disc for the movie and the movie alone, but that’s not such a bad thing. – Cole Abaius
Hotel for Dogs
This Don Cheadle and Emma Roberts driven family comedy tells the story of a pair of orphan siblings who find an old abandoned hotel where they set up shop rescuing dogs that would otherwise be euthanized by Animal Control. They enlist the help of other local dog loving kids and set off on a fun adventure, filled with aggressive (in a good way) cinematography, a surprisingly solid soundtrack and yes, even some life lessons. And of all the dog movies from the past year or so, this one has the ending that is most easily digested — sure, it gets a little sappy and tugs on those heart strings, but not to the extent that we saw with Marley and Me.
On Blu-ray, Hotel for Dogs is a really solid choice for the family. There are no two ways around it — the way this film moves and plays to the canine-loving audience, kids are bound to eat this shit up. It also has a solid amount of special features, just in case you’re taking the little ones on a car ride that last more than 2 hours and you need that DVD player to stay on in order to maintain your sanity. This is something that I’ve found with quite a few kid-friendly releases on Blu-ray lately, the special features are always pretty solid. To be honest, I was going to stick this release in the “Rest of the Pack” section this week, then I decided to watch it, resisting the urge to be a terrible reviewer. As it turns out, this movie was fun. So damn you, Hotel for Dogs, you have warmed my heart. You get to play amongst the picks of the week.
After its debut in France and subsequent internet-driven buzz, this Jean-Claude Van Damme driven movie is finally here and ready for consumption by the masses of action fans in America. Sadly I’ve not been able to catch this one just yet, but I assure you that I’m heading out today to pick it up on Blu-ray. Because as my strong film-loving logic tells me, there is no bad day that two hours of JCVD kicking people in the face can’t cure. And in high definition, the cure is even more potent.
In the Realm of the Senses
For those interested, I would recommend checking out Rob Hunter’s recommendation in this week’s DVDs I Bought This Week. He seems to be all about this one. That and Criterion has done very well with their Blu-ray releases.
The Rest of the Pack:
And now the rest of this week’s Blu-ray releases:
Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson in a movie that was, by any standard, just okay. Rent at your own risk.
The Da Vinci Code (Special Edition)
I don’t think that I would have recommended you buy the not-so-special edition.
What Doesn’t Kill You
Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke, in a movie that you’ve never heard of before. Might be worth a rental, but probably not.
Until next week, stay classy Blu-ray buyers.