This Week in Blu-ray, we get one of the most exciting and diverse slates of HD releases that we’ve seen all year. From the definitive event film of 2010 to a few beautiful additions to the Criterion Collection, there is a lot to be excited about. I might as well call it the big director edition of TWiBD: Christopher Nolan, David Cronenberg, Guillermo Del Toro and Brett Ratner. Wait, all but that last one. Even my own predisposition to like below-the-line action movies can’t lead me to become victim to the siren song of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Especially when there are so many wonderful releases to talk about, instead. So grab your credit card and mounting debt and lets go shopping for a slew of new Blu-rays.
My colleague Cole Abaius recently took time on an episode of Reject Radio to call Inception “the movie that saved the summer of 2010.” Aside from Pixar’s most recent trip down Delightful Drive with Toy Story 3, Christopher Nolan’s dreamscape crime thriller was the definitive cinematic event of the summer. It had the big visuals, the awe-inspiring sound design and score, the big names and of course, a narrative that was equal parts complex and simply spell-binding. It’s exactly the sort of mammoth experience that we’ve come to expect from Nolan, a man who has delighted us on so many levels ever since Leonard Shelby was writing stories in his skin. The best part about this whole ordeal is that Inception works wonders on your home theater system via the high-quality video and audio that only Blu-ray can offer. Just as impressive as it was when it was 100-feet tall in IMAX. Add to that the “Extraction Mode” on the Blu-ray, a feature that runs along with the movie and moves in and out of featurettes and behind the scenes tidbits, and we’ve got ourselves a very easily identifiable must-own Blu-ray. A comic prologue, a featurette about Hans Zimmer’s score, a nice little BD-Live featurette, a copy of the DVD and a Digital Copy for your portable devices all complete the experience. As if you needed anything more than the “Extraction Mode” and the movie itself.
Aside from being one of the most insanely original and provocative movies to be released on Blu-ray this or any other year, the Criterion release of David Cronenberg’s mind-melding film Videodrome might just be one of the coolest BD packages that I’ve seen in a long while. The outer slip-cover includes details of the movie and some stunning poster art, while the actual plastic case that houses the disc is made to look like a Beta tape, with the words “Long Live the New Flesh” written on its label. The disc itself presents Videodrome wonderfully. The transfer is very clean, considering the film’s year of production. The mono audio track is perfectly tweaked. And the warped vision of David Cronenberg comes sprawling out into your living room, ready to grab you and drawn you into the very cerebral, often visceral world of Videodrome. Sure, this is a VHS cult movie if there ever was one, but this Blu-ray feels like the way Videodrome was meant to be seen. Long live the Criterion Collection, I always say. In addition to a great presentation, Videodrome gets a wide array of extras. From a booklet of critical essays about Cronenberg’s work to two commentary tracks, to a short film that Cronenberg directed in 2000 called Camera and a long line of featurettes that explore the deviant splendor that is Videodrome, this release is filled to the brim with things that go beyond the film. Trust me when I say that this Blu-ray could very well become the one you take to bed with you.
Want to see where it all began for director Guillermo Del Toro? Better yet, how about seeing where it all began for director Guillermo Del Toro with the glossy veneer of a Criterion release? That’s what we get with Cronos. It’s yet another example of how Del Toro has carefully mastered the world of dark fantasy, and he’s been doing so for years. It also represents the first team-up between Del Toro and Ron Perlman. With his now patented make-up effects brilliance and his dark sensibility, Del Toro weaves and unforgettably haunting tale. The best part, as always, is the fact that it looks great, it sounds great and the extras are plentiful. It’s proven to me that it’s hard to review two Criterion releases in one column without reusing the same adjectives over and over again. Marvelous, detail-oriented, fantastically and meticulously crafted. Every moment of movie and bit of supplemental features on Cronos are cast in this mold, just as those movies that have come before in Criterion’s ever-wonderful collection.
Here’s the toughest call of the week. On one hand, the fourth Shrek movie was the least of them all. So by itself, it’s not worth going out and spending Blu-ray money. However, if you do not already own any of the Shrek quadrilogy on Blu-ray, this is a good way to make it happen. The first two films in the series are fun, with the second two being nothing more than hollow cash-grabs with the occasional enjoyable quip. On the whole, it’s a franchise that the kids like. And if you’ve got kids to entertain, this box set isn’t a bad one to have in your collection. Special features are healthily spread among the films, creating hours and hours of emotions that range between smiles and outward laughter. But the kicker is that just about every retailer out there is selling this four film set for around $40, a worthwhile price if I’ve ever seen one. Especially for four movies on Blu-ray. So take the deal and suck it up, that fourth movie isn’t the worst thing you can spend your money on. There’s always Rush Hour…
Nothing up for rental recommendation this week. As you will see in the “Also Out This Week” section below, there were quite a few titles that didn’t hit my desk. Taking a chance on any of those is at your own risk, but not necessarily a bad idea.
You may have wondered to yourself one cold, wintery night, why you would ever need a copy of Brett Ratner’s seminal work Rush Hour on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. does not answer that question with this release. The teaming of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker for a no-holds-barred action romp wasn’t necessarily a bad one. In fact, many a moviegoer (including yours truly) had a good time with this movie. Just know that I was 15 years old and still completely clueless when I first saw it. That said, I do own it on DVD. The reason why I wouldn’t recommend you pick it up on Blu-ray: while there are a good amount of special features (including a long-awaited isolated score track with commentary from composer Lalo Schifrin), this is not the kind of movie that demands to be seen in high definition. And the extras — including the likes of the Dru Hill How Deep is Your Love? music video — can all be found on previous DVD releases. So unless you are that rare bird known as a completist with money coming out of your ears, your dollars are better spent elsewhere this week. I would suggest buying groceries.
A big list of titles that didn’t quite make it to my desk this week…