After two straight weeks of very light action on This Week in Blu-ray, here we are. Another Tuesday has come and another round of releases are here seeking my approval. Which is why you’re here — so that you can fill out your after-work new release day shopping list. Luckily for your pocketbook (does anyone really use a pocketbook anymore), this week is another light week. A really strong re-release on Blu-ray, one classic film that demands your attention, and one of last year’s big Oscar winners. Beyond that, we’re stuck waiting for two days until Avatar hits Blu-ray on Earth Day, otherwise known as Thursday.
As you might expect, I don’t have a review of Avatar on Blu-ray just yet. So check back later in the week, as I will have a special report focused solely on the release of the highest grossing film of all-time. My instincts (and the press notes) tell me that Avatar might not be the strongest release, with Fox holding back special features for a later date, but I will reserve final judgment for when I have a copy in my hand. For now though, we’ve got plenty else to talk about.
If I were to give away an award each week for biggest surprise release, this week’s winner would be Minority Report — hands down. As a film, I’ve always enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s “vision of the future,” and Tom Cruise holds it all together with a solid outing. But on Blu-ray, this movie looks and sounds sharp. The film appears to be transferred from the original negatives, giving it a previously unseen crispness. The soundtrack is also transferred perfectly into a 5.1 HD master track. On top of that, we get an exceptional selection of special features, balancing quantity and quality. There’s about an hour of brand new, Blu-ray exclusive features including a interactive commentary track with Steven Spielberg. There is also a featurette about Philip K. Dick, as well as several other specialty featurettes on topics ranging from props to visual effects. It’s absolutely mind-blowing. Studios take note. This is how you release something from your back-catalog.
Perhaps this week’s second biggest release and the movie most likely to be completely overshadowed when Avatar drops in two days, Crazy Heart is certainly worth a look. Jeff Bridges’ Academy Award-winning performance isn’t the only thing that is memorable about this flick. Maggie Gyllenhaal is excellent, and Colin Farrell sings country songs like no Irishman has ever sung country songs. The soundtrack is great and it sounds great in 5.1 surround. The only hiccup is the fact that there isn’t much extra meat on this bone. A few deleted scenes (some of which can only be found on the Blu-ray) and a Blu-ray only featurette complete the extras package, a fact that is entirely to blame for this release ending up in the ‘Rent’ category.
Yet another release to chalk up to fans of the Drawn Together show from Comedy Central, of which I am not one. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever grasped the appeal of this show. It’s lewd yes, but I never found it to be remotely intelligent. Lewd for the sake of it isn’t funny. Lewd and an adherence to intelligent parody is — see: South Park. The good news here is that the Blu-ray is full of extras, including about an hour of featurettes taking fans behind the scenes, exploring the legacy of Drawn Together and dissecting the 3D animated sex scene in high definition. It’s one of those releases that will have high appeal with fans, and low appeal with everyone else. If you’re reading this far down in this week’s column, I have a feeling that you already know where you stand.
It pains me to recommend that you stay away from this movie, as I’m a fan of both Alice Sebold’s heart-wrenching novel and the work of Peter Jackson, but there’s no getting around the fact that this movie was a major disappointment. Pivotal subplots were stripped from the original story, leaving the film’s narrative a hollow, spiritless shell of what made the book so great. It is visually impressive, in a shallow sense. But Peter Jackson has proven himself time and time again to be a much better storyteller than this. The Blu-ray special features follow suit in the long-line of disappointment. There is a BD-exclusive 15-segment production diary, but nothing more. Not even a commentary track. And here, just when I thought I would get some answers for this movie, Peter Jackson is nowhere to be found.
Earlier in this week’s column, I talked about Minority Report being the perfect example of how studios should treat beloved back-catalog titles. Something new needs to be brought to the table. Too often studios simply run through a standard transfer and slap some old special features on it, hoping that brand recognition will drive sales of the Blu-ray. Such is the case with The Basketball Diaries. A great movie, don’t get me wrong. But there’s nothing you can get with this Blu-ray that you can’t get by throwing your old DVD copy into your Blu-ray player. The picture quality isn’t much of an improvement (which is disappointing) and there are no new special features. That’s just lazy releasing. And disappointed. Because as I said, it’s a great movie that deserves a spot in your collection. Just not on Blu-ray.
- 44 Inch Chest (Image)
- Battleship Potemkin (Kino)
- Cheech and Chong’s Hey Watch This (Vivendi)
- A Fork in the Road (Well Go USA)
- Summer Hours (Criterion)
- Vivre sa vie (Criterion)
- The Young Victoria (Sony)