This Week in Blu-rayI will forgo the usual intro after a two-week hiatus from writing this column and simply apologize. Beside last week being the week of SXSW, I don’t have a very good reason why this is the first Blu-ray column of March. Well, there was a general malaise about the titles being released in the month’s first few weeks, but we all know that’s no good reason to shirk my duties as chief high definition prognosticator. So we’re back this week with a few really great releases, including March’s best release as Pick of the Week, a spectacular entry into the Criterion Collection and a few really bad movies that I loved. Take that, common sense!

Four Lions

Any release calendar junkies among you may be quick to cite the fact that Four Lions streeted on March 8, two weeks prior to the writing of this column. You’d be right — it’s not one of this week’s release. But with a dearth of great titles hitting shelves this Tuesday, combined with my absence from this column’s helm for the past two weeks, I thought it to be more than appropriate to celebrate one of last year’s finest comedies. Terrorism. It’s funny when you look at it through the lens of director Chris Morris. It’s hilarious when you strap explosives to crows and dress up in Ninja Turtles costumes lined with C4. It’s enthralling and insightful when it wants to be, as well. It’s the rare kind of flick that has something to say, even if that something is accompanied by absolute absurdity. If you don’t have this in your collection, you’re missing out. I know that the lack of high-def extras may bother, and you’ll come running back to me saying “why did you make me buy that?!” And I will simply respond with, “watch the movie.” It’s a great film. It was made for next-to-nothing, released for next-to-nothing and out of all that comes something. Something worth watching over and over again.

The Times of Harvey Milk (Criterion)

There’s something so elegant and beautiful in the way that Criterion releases movies, be it on DVD or Blu-ray. But with The Times of Harvey Milk, it’s not hard to see how Blu-ray has helped them take things to the next level. From the clean delivery of Rob Epstein’s groundbreaking documentary to the classy, gentle touch given to every detail right down to the menu, watching this disc gives the owner an instant sense of the care that went into bringing this product together. From the dense selection of extras to the enriching experience of flipping through the accompanying booklet, The Times of Harvey Milk feels less like a Blu-ray you bought at the store and more like a collector’s item. It’s designed that way. It once again represents Criterion’s dedication to taking important films and giving them serious home video releases. It doesn’t hurt that the life of Harvey Milk is an endlessly fascinating one.

Skyline

In the beginning, there’s something loathsome about Skyline — it takes far too much time trying to set up a story and not quite enough time doing things that are actually interesting. Eric Balfour, the nurse from Scrubs, Angel from Dexter — they are all having a party in a Los Angeles high rise. Then the blue lights come along and start snatching them up. That’s when it all gets real and the Brothers Strause show off that which they were born to do: create wicked creatures and incredible special effects. From there the movie wobbles, never finding footing anywhere near a coherent (or interesting) story, but it does deliver the flash. All the way up to it’s wildly absurd ending. I loved about 53 of its 94 minutes. Every effects shot is vibrant and unique, and their aliens are pretty badass. It’s more than enough reason to give this one a rent. That, and you just have to see that ending to believe it. As a Blu-ray, Skyline is passable. For your time, Universal has tossed in a commentary track, some extra scenes, some pre-visualization featurettes and D-Box code for the real nuts among us (like me). All worth it, I assure you.

Yogi Bear

I was the guy who gave Yogi Bear a B grade. I will repeat, so that we’re all clear as to where I’m coming from: I was the guy who gave Yogi Bear a B grade. As talking CGI animal movies go, Yogi Bear is the most restrained and spirited I’ve seen in a long time. It exudes a silliness and personality that feels ripped directly from the source material, doing justice to everything you loved about Yogi and Boo Boo “back in the day.” Sure, it’s got some obvious gags and some base-level humor, but it ultimately strikes a childish nerve when it needs to. Combine that with a Blu-ray release that isn’t half bad — plenty of extras, featurettes, games, a ridiculous love song sung by Tom Cavanagh are among the special features. And to boot, there’s a brand new Looney Tunes short included. The only thing missing is the viral video that mashed Yogi Bear with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. That would have propelled this release into the “buy” category.

How Do You Know

How do you know if you should buy the latest James L. Brooks film? Here’s the litmus test: do you understand basic punctuation? Does the title of this film follow said rules? If you answered “no” to either of these questions, you’ve found your answer. Hint: it’s no. But enough jokes, in the grand scheme of things this film is very lightweight fair from James L. Brooks. But it’s not completely unworthy of your time. It’s got some Paul Rudd, some Owen Wilson, some Reese Witherspoon and a few little bits of Jack Nicholson. You can’t go too wrong with a gathering like that. Probably your best date night option this weekend, unless your lady is really into Zack Snyder movies, I can’t do much but recommend that you give How Do You Know a rent. Because why not. Question mark.

The Tourist

“Extremely limited and poorly presented action; situation feels lightweight and inconsequential; the silly ending you dread is the silly ending you get.” That’s the way Rob Hunter presented the downside of The Tourist in his theatrical review. And with apologies to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and his very famous cast, I simply couldn’t buy into everything they did well without my mind wandering back to everything that was going so unnervingly wrong. No one knows how to chew scenery like Angie Jolie, and this might be her shiniest scene-chewing performance. Seemingly in chomp competition, Johnny Depp presents one of his most useless performances, perhaps of his career. One can only hope that the vacation he got out of the deal was worth it, because he didn’t do anything in this film to make it worth our time.

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