This Week in Blu-ray, always giving you the latest details on the hottest releases in the world of high definition home entertainment. This week it’s a group of critically acclaimed films, from last year’s Best Picture winner to a bleak tale from the legendary Ken Loach. There’s also a Jack Black movie, which cannot be counted among the critically acclaimed. And there’s one of Nicole Kidman’s finest performances to date. All in high definition, all reviewed as part of this week’s Blu-ray selection.
The King’s Speech
A lot of strong reactions were had to The King’s Speech taking home the Best Picture award on Oscar Night. But whether you thought it was deserving of the win, or you thought the Weinsteins had pulled off a great magic trick, there’s no doubting the fact that it belonged among the nominees. It’s a lively story of one man’s struggle to become the leader his nation needs, a Royal story that feels grounded and full of characters we are comfortable around, even to the point of liking them. At the very least, the Blu-ray will be beneficial because it contains the R-rated original cut of the film, not the PG-13 abomination that recently played in theaters. It’s also well-stuffed with extras, including a deeper look at the real Lionel Logue, as well as real speech reels that were given by King George. It’s History Channel stuff, but who doesn’t love the History Channel? This is an easy pick in an otherwise dull week.
Trust me when I tell you that nothing will jumpstart your mid-week routine like the gray tale of a boy and his bird. In this ode to gray, legendary director Ken Loach tells a coming-of-age story set to a background of gray, full of all the brilliance of shades of gray. Jokes aside, coal is more of a black than a gray. So why should you buy it if I’m going to make jokes about it? Because it’s an important film. And it’s been given very important film-like treatment by the folks at Criterion. A highly detailed digital transfer, a documentary about the film and its influence over the changing landscape of British cinema at the turn of the decade in 1970, and an early television feature by Loach, among other reasons. The entire package is a bit of a history lesson. As in, if you were to combine the special features on this release with the nice selection on the King’s Speech Blu and watch them all together (along with the films, of course), you might turn into a down-trodden, foul-mouthed British historian. And that could be fun, right?
Nicole Kidman gives a destructive performance as she and Aaron Eckhart play a couple that is feeling the full weight of losing their child. It’s a remarkably well-acted film with a strong, dynamic and emotional story based on a Pulitzer Prize winning story by David Lindsay-Abaire. It’s hearbreaking, honest and often shows some wit. One of the better movies of last year, as is the theme this week. If I could dedicate my Pick of the Week to something very worthy of your time, regardless of Blu-ray release quality, it’s this film. The problem is that Lionsgate has saddled the film with an exceptionally bland BD release. A commentary track, a few deleted scenes and *gasp* a trailer round out the experience. Do yourself a favor and give this title a rent, you’ll be happy that you put yourself through the emotional trauma. But don’t buy the Blu-ray just yet, as it has no interest in being anything more than a hollow shell inside of which a great film is housed.
If you think that Sofia Coppola makes interesting movies, which I do not, then you will probably enjoy Somewhere. If you find her tales of the turbulent lives of the wealthy, privileged of our society to be annoyingly pretentious and superficial, as I do, then you probably won’t enjoy Somewhere. It’s a relatively simple equation that will lead you to salvation either way. Even simpler is the decision about this Blu-ray release. It’s void of any HD-specific extras, or supplements of any substance, for that matter. Except for one lone “making of” featurette that clocks in at about 17-minutes. Best yet is the fact that the featurette, like the film, is artsy and pretentious. Sofia Coppola really is creating an ecosystem of smug around her. Good for her, and those who like watching. You should rent this. Me, I’m moving on.
Fubar: Balls to the Wall
I don’t expect you to be familiar with the original Fubar, seeing as this is a sequel. I wasn’t and it didn’t stop me from at least enjoying this booze-infused comedy that slings together tropes from Wayne’s World to Anvil! The Story of Anvil, except far more Canadian and far more intolerably juvenile. It might feature two of the dumbest characters ever created in a drunken stupor, but it gets some laugh. Riotous, ridiculous laughs. Like Strangers with Candy, if they wanted to open for Motley Crue. Needless to say, it’s worth taking a look at if that sounds like your jam. When it comes to extras, this Blu-ray is shooting blanks, so I’d strongly recommend against a blind buy. Then again, if you’re going to be into this movie, you’re really going to be into this movie. So go ahead, knock yourself out. Just like the characters in this film.
The Way Back
If Peter Weir really tried (and probably hired a better editor), he could have made The Way Back into a blistering tale of survival and human resilience. Instead he made an expertly crafted, incredibly well-acted story of survival and resilience that isn’t blistering in any way. It’s very slow, but it’s also at times very good. Performances from the likes of Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Jim Sturgess and Colin Farrell are strong, the wilderness that surrounds their characters is intense and frightening and their journey is arduous. That said, there’s something problematic about the Blu-ray: where the film falls short (in feeling far longer than it is), the Blu-ray succeeds (or fails, in this case) in feeling like it’s over too quickly. One lone behind the scenes featurette is accompanied by a the film’s trailer, and that’s all. Not exactly a cornerstone piece for your wilderness survival thriller section, but it will make a solid rental.
When I first laid eyes upon the trailer for Gulliver’s Travels, I was convinced that I was seeing an extra feature from the Tropic Thunder DVD, another one of those silly movies that Jack Black’s character had starred in. Soon after I realized that it was not a work of life-reflective parody, but a part of real life. That’s when things began to get dark for me, and they’ve been dark ever since. Now the treachery has followed us home, my dear reader, and it wants to worm its way into our Blu-ray collections and take its rightful place next to all of those other Jack Black movies we won’t admit to owning. But it’s not deserving. There’s nothing redeeming or charming or subversive about this stupid film. There’s no smart wizard behind a curtain, pulling the strings that turned the likes of School of Rock into delightful surprises. If Jack Black has accomplished anything here, it’s to have finally made the movie he appears to be making: something inanely dumb. Simply dumb. If you buy this Blu-ray, we can’t be friends. Seriously. Not friends. Maybe even enemies. I haven’t decided yet.