Duhnuh…. Duhnuh… Just when you thought it was safe to go out and buy some Blu-rays, here comes another Blu-ray Spotlight with a look at this week’s most prized and wallet-worthy releases. As our own Rob Hunter accurately tagged it on Tuesday, this is a wallet-busting week of new releases. And it all starts with the big guy. The Great White King of all summer blockbusters. The movie that has long been heralded as the first great summer movie. The one that birthed a sun-scorched blockbuster tradition that lives on today. He’s the reason you’ll never see me more than knee-deep in any large body of salt water. You know him as Jaws, and he’s back. With this edition of Blu-ray Spotlight, we take a look at the triumphant return of Jaws as well as one other movie worth adding to your collection. You may have heard of it. It’s a little action film out of Indonesia.
Back in 2008, MGM release the original Bond movies on Blu-ray with all new, completely restored editions. The release of Dr. No, originally released in 1962, was taken from the original negative of the film and carefully restored to a brilliant state for Blu-ray. That was the greatest Blu-ray release this reviewer has ever seen. Crisp, colorful and perhaps even more vibrant than it ever was on the big screen. Four years later, we have another release to enter into that very elite company. With Jaws, Universal shows its intense commitment to the preservation of its greatest films by bringing the big shark back to life. One featurette, simply titled Jaws: The Restoration, chronicles the work of various companies who put countless man-hours into tracking down the original negatives of the film in the Universal vault and importing that negative into a high-quality digital format. But that’s not where it ended. From there, we watch as color is corrected to bring out the vibrant backgrounds and crystal blue of Jaws’ watery home. We also see lines removed from the film’s well-earned several decades of imperfections. It’s clear that what we’re seeing on the Blu-ray is, as director Steven Spielberg describes, better than what you may have seen in theaters back in the late 70s. The truth is that unless you saw it during its original run in 1975, any print still in existence has a significant amount of wear and tear. And it’s not exactly delivering the vision intended by the filmmaker. With this new digital version, the Jaws of Spielberg’s mind has finally come to life. And then there’s the kicker — with the restoration complete, including a brand new 7.1 surround sound mix, Uni has cut a few brand new prints for preservation purposes. What I wouldn’t give to see this version of the movie projected on the big screen. For now though, this Blu-ray is one hell of an addition to my collection.
Extras Highlight: In addition to featurettes about the restoration, deleted scenes and a 2-hour making-of doc, there’s also a brand new feature-length documentary called The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws that’s completely engrossing. Essentially this Blu-ray set isn’t giving you one movie, it’s giving you three.
Click here to buy Jaws on Blu-ray
“An expertly crafted explosion of good old fashioned hand-to-hand-to-machete-to-fist-to-head-to-wall brilliance.” I’m still quite proud of my own work in devising that quote, as it exists in my original review from SXSW 2012. At the time, The Raid came with a great amount of hype. Friends and colleagues had screened Gareth Evans’ follow-up to Merantau (another personal favorite) months before in Toronto and everyone who took part was in some manner of awe. “It’s the best action movie of the year, hands down,” they told me, well before the year had even started. As it turns out, they were not even remotely kidding about the quality that lie within this otherwise simplistic tale. A rookie cop and his more experienced brothers in arms, a SWAT team of badasses, descend upon a low-income high rise that serves as base for one of the city’s most feared drug lords. At the top sits the bad guy, at the bottom stands our heroes. In between is about 14 floors of absolute hell. From moment one, The Raid is raw and relentless, using the tempo of a Mike Shinoda score to accelerate from wonderfully choreographed action beat to wonderfully brutal action beat. It’s absolutely electric, and perhaps one of the most highly recommended action movies in a long time from the court of people who know a lot about action movies. So your charge to seek it, rent it, buy it, collect it on Blu-ray is a great one. And the Blu-ray pays you back in spades. Not only does the film maintain its gritty looks and its bone-crunching oomph sound design on Blu, it also hands over a number of special features. This includes some featurettes, several on-set video blogs and a killer director’s commentary track with the astute Evans. It’s a big ball of awesome wrapped in a box, stuffed with padding made of awesome, tied up with a bow made of barbed-wire. It would be heresy to recommend this over Jaws, so I’ll say this: if you don’t pick up both, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Extras Highlight: The Blu-ray release includes the Mike Shinoda score, which was seen on the US theatrical cut of the film. It also includes the original music, which was seen by some festival audiences before the film was picked up by Sony Pictures. This is unexpected, as studios often let those original soundtracks die with the deal, but the original score is available on Blu-ray. Kudos to Sony for including it, as it makes this Blu-ray feel like a complete experience for those who have followed the film.
Click here to buy The Raid on Blu-ray
Here are a few quick notes on some of the other titles that debuted on Blu-ray last week and this upcoming week.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Criterion) – Criterion continues their Wes Anderson love-fest with another strong release. Highly recommended.
Dexter: The Sixth Season – If you ask me, this show ran out of steam when they killed off you-know-who in the final moments of season four. Since then, a great deal of intrigue has been lost.
Bernie – The tale of Texas Jack Black and his surprising range. He should work with Richard Linklater more often.
The Dictator – The story of Sacha Baron Cohen and his dry well of ideas for feature films. I’m thinking shorts next, Ali G.
House: Season Eight – This one’s for the completists. It includes the end-of-series special that was rather endearing.