This Week in Blu-ray

Hey look, it’s an edition of This Week in Blu-ray. We’d bet you didn’t see that coming, did you? Anyway, it’s back to the grind with plenty of great new Blu-ray releases to talk about. Everything from one of the best shows on television to Brad Pitt revolutionizing the game of baseball to a few releases from previous weeks that we’re sad to have missed. This includes, of course, a release from last week that has us developing a severe case of mysophobia.

Blu-ray Pick of the Week

Boardwalk EmpireBoardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season

It has taken HBO something like forever to get their premiere drama out on Blu-ray and DVD, but the story of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and his power struggles at the top of 1920s Atlantic City is more than worth the wait. From an all-star cast led by Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon and Kelly McDonald (alongside Paz de la Huerta’s naked body), Boardwalk is one show that does not fail to keep its audience glued from episode to episode. Which makes it the perfect title for a Blu-ray purchase, as you’ll want to keep watching until you hit the end. And with its beautiful menus, well-designed and sturdy packaging and decent assortment of extras, the Blu-ray set feels right at home in the stylish world of Nucky and friends. It’s the collector’s item that you’ll want to have on your shelf for years to come.

Blu-rays Worth Buying

MoneyballMoneyball

The Pitch: Brad Pitt reinvents baseball with a little help from Jonah Hill.

Why Buy? Who knew that this movie would produce a Golden Globe nomination for the otherwise award unworthy Jonah Hill? And who knew that he’d actually be deserving, as is Brad Pitt for his performance as Billy Beane, the ambitious and inventive General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. Beane and his sidekick Peter Brand (Hill) used math and statistical analysis to buck age-old baseball management trends and turn their small market team into a contender among giants like the New York Yankees. With the help of a script from Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin and director Bennett Miller’s ability to give the whole thing a big scale, Moneyball is a real winner. One of my personal favorites of last year. It’s a perfect buy to kick off the New Year as well, as it does not disappoint on Blu-ray.

Blu-rays Worth Renting

ContagionContagion

The Pitch: Steven Soderbergh assembles a bunch of big name actors and infects them with a virus.

Why Rent? Because buying this movie will probably make you want to watch it multiple times, which would make you want to wash your hands a lot, which may turn you into a crazy germaphobe like Howie Mandel. And no one wants to be a weird bald man who hosts an endless string of stupid gameshows. Especially not because of a movie starring Matt Damon. That said, this viral outbreak story is one of Soderbergh’s biggest efforts yet, showing the ferocity of public panic as a vicious disease rips through the world’s population. It’s an interesting film that will make you very uncomfortable around other people and a Blu-ray that delivers impressive sight, sound and a few little extras. Too bad it doesn’t come with a bottle of Purell. Otherwise it would be Deal or No Deal, here I come!

Fright NightFright Night

The Pitch: Colin Farrell will bite you, damn it.

Why Rent? In August during its theatrical release, our own Dustin Hucks called Fright Night a slick, sinister and playful thriller. He also proclaimed that it was a worthy remake, something rare in this day and age. Why it has taken me so long to get around to seeing it, then, is a complete mystery. Anton Yelchin stars as Charlie Brewster, a young man who discovers the fact that his neighbor, a good-looking night owl named Jerry (played by Colin Farrell) is a vampire. This discovery, as you might imagine, piques his curiosity and draws Charlie closer to the danger zone, which inevitably lands him in the crosshairs of a dangerous member of the undead community. It’s fun, sometimes bloody and Colin Farrell delivers a wicked performance, as does David Tennant as Peter Vincent. I should have listened, as I would have enjoyed seeing this in theaters. That said, the Blu-ray more than satiated my appetite for blood. It also came in 3D, which wasn’t so bad, even on a much smaller screen. The only holdback on the Blu-ray is that it’s light on supplements, despite being heavy on enjoyment.

Hangover 2The Hangover Part II

The Pitch: It’s basically The Hangover, but with more Thai people.

Why Rent? This is one of the aforementioned titles that I missed somewhere along the lines in December. To say the least, there’s nothing that happens in this movie that won’t feel at least a little familiar to those who saw The Hangover. What’s important to remember, however, is that repetition does not preclude a film from being funny. Sure, it’s not discovering new comedic territory, but The Hangover II is also not leaving any stone unturned or any laugh unearned. The old gang is back — Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, a monkey and Ken Jeong’s penis — and they are doing all they can to survive a torrid night in Bangkok. It’s worth a few laughs and on Blu-ray, it goes so far as to have a decent assortment of extras. At the very least, it will help you kill a few hours and forget about the stresses of life.

Blu-rays to Avoid

Killer EliteKiller Elite

The Pitch: It’s an action movie with Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen’s porno mustache.

Why Avoid? Where to begin with this helpless bore of an actioner. Perhaps its a major loser of the expectations game, as it was being sold as a non-stop action thrill ride, or perhaps its just a completely undercooked tale of a bunch of washed up assassins who set out to sort of almost maybe kill people. Never in our wildest dreams could we dream up a situation that pits Clive Owen against Jason Statham only to deliver absolute boredom. But here it is in the form of a convoluted tale of ex-spies who get tangled in a web of lies only to end up trying to kill each other for a completely undefined and totally irrelevant reason. When the action finally drops, there’s no one around to watch it. Which begs the question: if action happens and no one is awake to watch it, does it still have a soundtrack?

Final Destination 5Final Destination 5

The Pitch: Terrible architectural design tries to kill nubile young people.

Why Avoid? Because like the characters in this movie, death is stalking you. Except for most of us, death will come in the form of heart disease, cancer or old age. It will not be quite so clever — and surprisingly unclever — as death, the character in this fifth installment of the Final Destination franchise. The visuals are crisp, the CGI is surprisingly seamless and the soundtrack absolutely screams in Dolby 5.1 HD, but it’s all just fodder for distraction away from the fact that after all these years, you’re still watching the same death gags over and over again for no good reason. In a world of Saw, Hostel, Human Centipede and A Serbian Film, we’ve become desensitized to all this twenty-something carnage. And once there’s no more shock value left, what does a franchise like Final Destination have? I’ll let you answer that one for yourselves.

Also on Blu-ray this week

  • 1911: Collector’s Edition (Well Go USA)
  • Billy Elliot (Universal)
  • Fever Pitch (20th Century Fox)
  • Film Socialisme (Kino)
  • Greece: Secrets of the Past (Image)
  • The Hellstrom Chronicle (Olive Films)
  • Higher Ground (Sony)
  • John Tucker Must Die (20th Century Fox)
  • Just Married (20th Century Fox)
  • Just My Luck (20th Century Fox)
  • Looney Tunes Showcase: Volume One (Warner Brothers)
  • Nature: The Animal House (PBS)
  • Never Been Kissed (20th Century Fox)
  • Proof (Echo Bridge)
  • Shallow Hal (20th Century Fox)
  • Sinners and Saints (Starz/Anchor Bay)
  • That ’70s Show: Season 1 (Mill Creek)
  • There Be Dragons (20th Century Fox)
  • What’s Your Number? (20th Century Fox)

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