Like Vanilla Ice, I’m back again with new smooth sounds for This Week in Blu-ray. This week I finally deliver my Blu-ray advice on a Tuesday, the day of release for many of these titles. But don’t be fooled, a few of the titles below are catch up from the past few weeks — which I like to call my TWIBD vacation time. Don’t worry though, as I will be back strong (and on-time) next week with my review of the Watchmen Director’s Cut and Coraline. To keep you busy in the mean time, I do have some really swell picks that you can get in stores this week.
Pitch: An incredibly detailed look at the Apollo space program, in glorious high definition.
Why Buy? As an unabashed space nerd, I would be way out of line if Al Reinert’s brilliant documentary wasn’t at the absolute top of this week’s list of picks. It is perhaps the definitive feature documentary on the United States’ Apollo space program, and in its remastered form on Blu-ray it is quite possibly one of the most important high def discs on the entire 2009 release schedule. The Criterion special edition soars, with amazing picture and sound quality, as well as enough special features to pass the time that it would take you to fly to the moon. It includes a behind the scenes documentary as well as “On Camera” interviews — additional footage — with fifteen of the Apollo astronauts. It’s a nerdgasm of epic proportions, if I ever saw one.
Blu-ray Exclusives? All of the special features are available on both DVD and BD, but trust me… the picture quality on the Blu-ray is totally worth it.
Pitch: Nicolas Cage knows when the world is going to end, sort of.
Why Buy? Probably one of the most underrated sci-fi films of the past few years, Knowing pits Nicolas Cage against the world’s ultimate demise and gives him only an odd numbered code with which he can try to stop it. It’s a mediocre film made better by some wicked disaster action sequences — including one epic one near the end — and the not-so-suprisingly solid acting of one Nic Cage. Director Alex Proyas (Dark City, I, Robot) once again delivers a movie that is perfect for the HD medium, as it is loud, vibrant and full of jaw-dropping visuals. On the special features front, the disc delivers audio commentary (which Proyas makes interesting, as always) and two HD featurettes, both of which are focused on the look of the film. Excellent video and audio reference quality plus solid slice of sci-fi and some cool special features — that’s a win in my book, friends.
Blu-ray Exclusives? BD-Live is the only real Blu-ray exclusive.
Pitch: It’s the 20th Anniversary of Spike Lee’s most famous film — time to celebrate with a big, awesome Blu-ray release.
Why Rent? Director Spike Lee has been all around the world and for the most part, he’s always been a striking and sometimes controversial figure. And while his activism has taken the front seat in the most recent years of his career, it was the simple tale of the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn back in 1989 that put Lee on the map. With great performances from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Aiello, Ruby Dee and John Turturro, Do the Right Thing is probably a movie I’d recommend owning even if it wasn’t accompanied by some awesome special features. But with 4-hours of extras — 4 actual hours of extras including a full-length documentary, not just 3 commentary tracks — this is a must own Blu-ray title. Anyone who owns the 2-Disc Criterion DVD that was released several years back knows what I’m talking about — there are tons of special features here, making this disc well worth the price.
Blu-ray Exclusives? The disc features BD-Live content, which just takes you to the Universal Portal where trailers for other movies await. Also, it has the “My Scenes” feature, allowing you to bookmark your favorite scenes.
Pitch: One of television’s best dramas gets another great Blu-ray release.
Why Buy? If you’ve watched AMC’s period drama Mad Men, then you probably don’t need me to tell you that it’s a must-own. It would be a must own if the Blu-ray transfer were half as good and if the special features were half as bountiful. The show, on its own merit, is worth a spot in your collection. However, on Blu-ray it is taken once again to the next level. The BD release comes with two full-length feature commentaries, one with series creator Matt Weiner and a second on each episode (except for “The New Girl”) and another with various cast and series directors. There are also several full-length featurettes, including one dedicated to “An Era of Style” (the look and feel of the 1960s) and another dedicated to season two’s main story line, “The Birth of an Independent Woman.” All-in-all, this show is one of the most rewarding experiences on television — and the Blu-ray release fits the bill perfectly.
Blu-ray Exclusives? You don’t think a DVD can hold 22 hours of audio commentary, do you. Seriously, buy the Blu-ray.
Pitch: Dakota Fanning and Chris Evans use mind powers to stop “an evil government organization,” in HD.
Why Rent? Push is a movie that I liked very much personally, but would have a tough time highly recommending to every one of you. Why? Because overall, it is simply a somewhat fresh story executed solidly with a mediocre, but up and coming cast. The visual effects are cool and the film, overall, impresses for being such an under-the-radar, unmarketed and underestimated sci-fi thriller. I would equate it to TV’s Heroes, but with more action. On Blu-ray, Push gets no help in the special features department. It features an audio commentary track, three minutes worth of deleted scenes and one behind the scene featurette about the “Science Behind the Fiction.” It just isn’t enough to push this in the buy column, but I would urge you to give this a shot as a rental.
Blu-ray Exclusives? The only ‘exclusive’ Blu-ray feature is BD-Live, which Warner Bros. doesn’t exactly do well (their user interface is clunky and not friendly at all), but the film does look nice in HD.
Pitch: Odette Yustman tries to exercise her demons, all while wearing her tightest fitting underwear.
Why Rent? Our own Rob Hunter — a fan of all things horror and ass — called The Unborn “a strong argument for David Goyer’s abortion.” I don’t know if I’d like to second such a remark, but I will say that this is not a movie worth buying — especially on Blu-ray. Fans of Odette Yustman’s cotton-clad behind (seen in the film’s theatrical poster) may want to rent it, but overall its not the best release. Combine the film’s questionable horror cred with a lacking in special features, and we’ve got ourselves a release that tows the line between rent and avoid. Due to lack of other options this week, I say rent — but do so at your own risk.
Blu-ray Exclusives? BD-Live only.
Pitch: A surreal triptych that addresses the timeless question of whether we shape our cities, or whether our cities shape us.
Why Rent? Sadly, this is the one major Blu-ray release this week that I would’ve liked to review in advance, but was unable. However, with directors Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-Ho all lending their own unique visual styles to this project, I’m definitely putting it at the top of my Netflix que — and I would urge you to do much of the same.
Blu-ray Exclusives? There appear to be plenty of special features — one complete featurette for each of the three films within this release, but none of these features are unique to the Blu-ray disc.
Pitch: The Jonas Brothers show off their abstinence rings, in HD.
Why Avoid? I am perfectly able to handle the inevitable backlash here.. At least, the backlash that exists in my mind from the Jonas Bros. fan base who, also in my mind, browse this site every day. In reality, if you like the Jonas Bros. you really shouldn’t be anywhere near FSR. Which is why this falls into the avoid category. Another reason to avoid: this release is painfully light on special features. It does sport an 89-minute extended edition of the film and (on Blu-ray) it is in 3D — a gimmick in this case — but overall it only comes with one behind the scenes featurette and no real Blu-ray exclusives beyond the 3D. For my money, I’m sticking with the Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Blu-ray and giving the Jonas Bros. one abstinence ring free finger as a salute. You can guess for yourselves which finger I’ll be using.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Four pairs of 3D glasses, a 3D edition of the film and a wicked headache should you decide to use them.
Pitch: That girl from Smallville tries to show off her ass-kicking skills, in HD.
Why Avoid? Easily the worst movie of the year thus far, The Legend of Chun-Li is one of the most aggressive failures I’ve seen on screen in a long time. There are moments when we, the unfortunate souls sent to behold this mess, can see that the filmmakers had some cool ideas in mind, but their are strung together with abysmal fight sequences, epically bad dialogue and a overall story arc that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It doesn’t matter that the Blu-ray release has a ton of special features and it has a solid audio mix — the movie is that bad. If you choose to buy this title, there is nothing I can do for you — you are beyond the point of help.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Three discs worth of extras, a few of which are BD-Exclusive. Enough to make you almost forget about the awful film you just watched, but not quite.
Pitch: A young man dying of cancer begins to see some weird shit, in HD.
Why Avoid? Our own Robert Levin compared this film to an FX artist’s demo reel when he reviewed it theatrically, saying that is was nothing more than a series of decent practical effects that fails to ever deliver the slightest tangible, lasting effects. And to disagree with his assesment would be a crime, as he’s right — The Haunting in Connecticut is a very flat horror experience, one that never gets anywhere near you, let alone under your skin. The BD release comes with a few solid special features, but once again, there is no salvation in bonus features here.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Features Lionsgate-Live functionality that allows you access to widgets — that you don’t really need on your damn Blu-ray player. It also sports a digital copy, which makes up the second disc. Le sigh…
What are you buying on Blu-ray this week?