Blu-ray Spotlight

As many a dedicated FSR reader will note, there has long been a column on this site called This Week in Blu-ray. The operative statement that illuminates the lack of effectiveness in its run is “week,” as it’s never been the most consistent feature we’ve run on this site. So as we do from time to time, we’re going to allow it to evolve into something new. Blu-ray Spotlight, it’s replacement, is a different concept for my coverage of the world of high definition home entertainment. This week, it will look similar to old entries. Reviews of the Blu-ray releases of the day. In coming weeks and months, we’ll expand it a bit to look at Blu-ray technology, news and other topics within the realm of home entertainment. Bigger releases (like the upcoming release of Jaws) will get the more in-depth treatment they deserve and we may even mix in a few giveaways. In the end, it will ultimately still serve the mission of highlighting the best of the world of Blu-ray. So lets get started, shall we?

Pick of the Week

Full Metal Jacket

The Pitch: Stanley Kubrick’s classic Vietnam exploration explodes on its 25th Birthday.

As you’ll see below, it was incredibly difficult for me to not place High Fidelity as my Pick of the Week. I love that movie fully and unabashedly. But the release quality of Warner Bros.’ 25th Anniversary Edition of Full Metal Jacket is far too strong. A brand new HD remaster of the film provides beauty, a package that includes a 40-page booklet filled with production notes, colorful photo spreads and behind the scenes insight provides that full-on collector’s edition feel. On top of the gorgeous transfer, there’s also a 1-hour documentary about Mr. Kubrick and set photos from the private collection of actor Matthew Modine. It’s a release that shows great attention to detail as it brings one of the most influential and important movies of the Vietnam era to vivid life on Blu-ray. Fans of the film will rejoice in this attention, as it’s the kind of thing that makes the price of a 2-disc “special edition” well worth it.

Extras Highlight: The documentary is very cool, as is the commentary (which I believe is not new) by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey is a lot of fun.

Worthy of Consideration

The Lorax

The Pitch: No movie this year hugs a tree quite so hard or quite so literally.

Dr. Suess’ The Lorax is a tale that gets right at the heart of the environmentalist inside some people, yours truly included. And while the message is strong — and we’re talking not-at-all subtle — that kind of execution from the film by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda (both of whom worked on Despicable Me) lives up to the message and strength of message presented in Seuss’ book. And it’s not just the message they get right. The look and feel of The Lorax is bright and brilliant. Especially when seen through the lens of Blu-ray’s full HD. It’s a brisk experience, but one that plays out with a number of fun moments and performances, not the least of which is a group of singing fish and their rendition of the Mission Impossible theme. It’s that kind of playfulness that makes The Lorax fun for the whole family. Yes, I said it.

Extras Highlight: The star of the extras are the 3 mini movies, shorts that feature some of the supporting characters (including crooning bears). There are also a few neat little Blu-ray games. For the kids. Because the kids will be able to figure them out. Unlike yours truly.

High Fidelity

The Pitch: Top five all-time movies starring John Cusack, go…

If paired with Empire Records, this would complete my all-time great double feature of movies about working in a record store that absolutely rule my world. I’m of the opinion that John Cusack has never been quite so charming as he is here, even though his character of Rob — fresh off a break-up and searching for what it all means in this adaptation of a great book by Nick Hornby — isn’t always a great guy. In fact, there are times when he’s a “fucking asshole,” as exclaimed by sister Joan Cusack in one of the R-rated film’s more entertaining moments. Great music (including one of the great closing credits song uses of all-time), great performances from the likes of Cusack, Jack Black (before his schtick became annoying) and Todd Louiso. It’s all in there and wrangled perfectly by director Stephen Frears. The only downside to this release is that it’s not special in the way this film deserves. It’s a catalog release, which means a bare-bones extras selection. A basic featurette, some deleted scenes and an “enhanced” transfer that looks good (this film has aged well), but isn’t mind-blowing. It’s great to have High Fidelity on Blu-ray, but hopefully we’ll get a truly great release. Probably not, but one can hope.

Extras Highlight: … Deleted scenes, I suppose.

Grimm: Season One

The Pitch: Assume that everything in the works of The Brothers Grimm is true. Now add NBC production values.

If you’re like me and you have been watching the Olympics, you’ve already had the ending of season one of Grimm spoiled for you. But don’t worry, it’s not about the destination with this show. It’s about the journey. David Giuntoli plays a Portland detective who discovers that he’s one of the last remaining Grimms, a lineage that allows him to see the monsters that hide behind human faces in plain sight. It’s a wonderful concept, similar to Supernatural, that allows us to assume that fairy tales and mythology are true. That leads to all sorts of room for creativity and fun. The hinderance here is that it’s not quite as playful as a show like Supernatural. And Giuntoli is not exactly a magnetic leading man. It’s often bogged down as more of a straight-forward police procedural. Judged as an entire season, it’s worth a watch. But from episode-to-episode there’s plenty of tedium and lack of ambition. I remain hopeful that it will continue to grow into a show that matches the potential in its concept.

Extras Highlight: The entire Blu-ray box set is geared toward making it easier to identify the show’s monsters. From the packaging to the two monster-focused featurettes, the focus on the mythology is much appreciated.

Friends with Kids

The Pitch: Two platonic, attractive friends decide to have kids without the messy relationship part. Let the learning begin…

Jennifer Westfeldt is easily one of the most underrated writer/directors working in the realm of comedy today. Sure, she makes “girly” movies that are about mushy romance, but she’s got a frank way about her delivery that makes her a unique quantity. Something fresh in an otherwise uneventful sea of Katherine Heigl movies. This alone makes Friends with Kids a must-see kind of romantic film. That’s not to mention great, great performances from Jon Hamm, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and Westfeldt herself. Oh, and Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) does what he does best, stealing every scene in sight. It’s honest, charming and full of surprisingly dirty language and a mostly tolerable performance from Megan Fox. It’s the best of the romantic comedy selection you’re going to see this year, of that I’m sure.

Extras Highlight: A track of ad-libs and bloopers from a cast like this is always worth watching. The one on this disc does not disappoint.

Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition

The Pitch: Director Paul Verhoeven’s wild vision is back to question what is real all over again.

Seeing Total Recall with a transfer this good on Blu-ray reminds us of all the reasons why remaking it could be a wonderful or terrible idea, and absolutely nothing in-between. The effects employed by Verhoeven and team in 1990 were crude by today’s digital standards, but there are some elements in this film that are absolutely mind-bending, to quote the special edition’s proud title. The fat lady mask scene, the massive climactic sequence and all the practical effects that create the world of Mars. The detail is brilliant in the Blu-ray transfer, giving new life to this cult fave. The new life is all about the transfer though, as the extras have been pulled together from previous DVD releases. It’s a catalog release with a bit of extra effort on the transfer, and for good reason. Verhoeven’s wild ride through the mind of Douglas Quaid still doesn’t disappoint.

Extras Highlight: As Jeremy Kirk found in his exploration of the commentary track, this is one of the better ones you’ll find from director Paul Verhoeven. Working in combo with Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t hurt.

Adventures in Babysitting

The Pitch: A “Certified Totally ’80s Classic!”

There’s a sticker on the front of this 25th Anniversary Edition of Adventures in Babysitting calls it a “Certified Totally ’80s Classic.” Which is true, to a great extent. But perhaps there’s something about that sticker that would like to keep your focus on the movie itself, not the “Anniversary Edition” title placed somewhere above it. For a “classic” like AiB, one that features a young Elisabeth Shue as she leads a rag-tag group of babysittees through the wilderness of downtown Chicago, there should be something special about such a release, should there not? Yes, it’s been upconverted to HD and it doesn’t look bad. But there’s nothing in the way of special features. Similar to its DVD release, there are no extras for Adventures in Babysitting. Perhaps no one took any extra footage on the set of the Chris Columbus film? No one documented the brilliance of Columbus in one of his better efforts? I suppose not.

Extras Highlight: *crickets*

The One You Should Let Get Away…

LOL

The Pitch: Miley Cyrus finds love in a world of tweets and pokes.

This movie really did happen. A generation built by The Social Network finally has its opus to love via emoticons and acronyms. Sadly, it will not leave you ROFLCOPTERing (I don’t know exactly what that means, but I believe it has something to do with laughing) or HAYKI (Happy and you know it). It’s really just ASFM (a sappy movie for morons) that never quite rises above its amazing tag-line: “You can change your status, but not your heart.” This would have worked better if delivered with the tongue-and-cheek stylings of Friedberg and Seltzer.

Extras Highlight: Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore bond over their mutual love of Ashton Kutcher. Or something like that.


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