Another week has gone by, and once again we find ourselves in a familiar situation with This Week in Blu-ray. After a lackluster week of titles last Tuesday, we get a week where there are at least eight films worth of renting, a good percentage of which are also worth buying. Everything from cinematic classics like The Ladykillers and Ran to modern indie winners like Black Dynamite and Women in Trouble, this week is stacked. I would like to say that putting together my recommendations was easy this week, but it certainly wasn’t. In the interest of not destroying your credit scores, I held back a few titles in the rent section. But rest assured that all eight of the following titles are worth your time — and if you’re the right kind of Blu-ray collector, they’re also worth your money.
Not having seen this movie since it played Sundance last year, I had forgotten how funny it was. And a year’s worth of other people saying “I think you overestimated Black Dynamite” had gone to work on me. But upon getting a look at the Blu-ray, I was resold. Black Dynamite is a tour-de-laugh, featuring a relentlessly charismatic performance from Michael Jai White. Not only does he kick ass, he strikes the perfect wry tone that makes this an essential parody of the blaxsploitation action of the 70s. On Blu-ray, it features a moderate amount of extras. A Comic-Con featurette, a making of featurette, commentary and numerous delete and alternate scenes make it worth sticking around after the funky credits roll. If you buy one movie this week purely on my word, buy this one. You shant be disappointed, sucka.
Goodfellas: 20th Anniversary Edition
Sometimes it comes down to transfer and packaging. And in this regard, Warner Bros. has released a frickin’ gem with the 20th Anniversary Edition of Goodfellas. Not only does the movie look sharp and clean in 1080p, it also comes complete with a metric ton of special features. And a 34-page booklet dedicated to the history behind the film. Two commentary tracks and three featurettes, a storyboard-to-screen comparison and a series of classic gangster themed cartoons (some really awesome Jersey Bugs Bunny action, indeed) round out the first two discs of this set. But wait, there’s more. There is also a third disc with the feature-length documentary Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film. Right to my top shelf went this disc, right next to the best of my classic film collection.
Women in Trouble
It makes me very sad to have to put this release in the second section and designate it as rentable, at best. The movie is a fantastic look at the lives of several women — many of whom are played by great actresses, some of whom are scantily clad — and it achieves a level of humor and honesty that is rare these days. That said, the Blu-ray release is a disappointment. Screen Media thought it best to include only a few deleted scenes and several teaser trailers. Oh, and Spanish subtitles. Now you can watch Adrianne Palicki and Emannuelle Chriqui prance about in their underwear, and know what they’re saying — in Spanish. Es una locura. This movie deserved much better. However, you should still rent and enjoy.
Law Abiding Citizen
Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx spar in a crime thriller that our own Dr. Cole Abaius called “smart and smartly acted.” “Whereas most revenge films are fairly stupid,” he explained. “Here is one that fits somewhere in the center of a Venn diagram between revenge, drama, and murder mystery.” I’m not sure about the rest of you, but that’s a pretty strong selling point on at least seeing this movie. On top of that, the special features on this disc are okay — audio commentary and a few featurettes. But most interesting is the Blu-ray exclusive unrated director’s cut. This works best for those who saw the movie and wanted more, or those who are curious to see what F. Gary Gray had in mind before studio and rating became a factor. Either way, it’s a safe rent.
There has been a lot of chatter in Criterion-loving circles about the recent selection of Studio Canal releases from Lionsgate, of which this is one. Many connoisseurs were right to question the transfers of these Blu-rays and their special feature assortments, as no one takes such care as Criterion. And by and large, these should have been Criterion titles. However, I can say without a doubt — based on my first hand experience with all three of this week’s titles (two more below) — that these are delivered at a level that is very nearly Criterion. The Ladykillers looks great, with the exception of a few small, washed out sections of the film. And the special features are plentiful. My personal favorite is the “Forever Ealing” documentary included on the Blu-ray. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Trust me, this is worth seeing — and if you’re a collector, don’t be afraid to give it a buy.
I can’t claim to have any great depth of knowledge when it comes to the filmography of Akira Kurosawa, nor was I around to see an original print of Ran back in the 1985. Well, I was around, but I was two years old. Not exactly heading out to see R-rated Japanese epics. But I do know a bit about King Lear, upon which Ran is based, and I do know a good transfer when I see one. This is a good transfer. Also, just like The Ladykillers above, Ran is loaded with some intuitive, insightful special features. Among them are an interview with a Japanese Art-of-War expert and a very fascinating mini-doc about Kurosawa himself. The presentation is vibrant, colorful and compelling as ever. Collectors would do well to pick this one up and add it to their collections, while stiffs such as myself (whose cinematic educations are “in progress” at all times) should at least rent.
Above, there was mention made of my lack of experience with the work of Kurosawa. Just as embarrassing is my lack of experience with the work of Jean-Luc Godard. Somewhere Culture Warrior Landon Palmer is smacking himself on the forehead, wondering why he takes editor’s notes from such a cinematic dolt. However, as I am moving forward in my leveling-up, you should do. Most notably because once again, we’re presented with a film from 1963 that looks great in 1080p. Godard’s meditation on the position of the filmmaker in the world of commercial cinema is bright and beautiful in HD, and the special features on this disc serve to support the the movie quite well. It has me thinking that I should be writing up a more in-depth exploration of these titles, just for the collectors among you. What say you? Alright fine, I will see what I can do. In the mean time, don’t hesitate to give this title a look.
Coco Before Chanel
This Audrey Tautou led period drama was met with solid positive praise from critics, and for good reason. As a performance piece for Tautou — a seriously talented lady — it works. Her splendid performance mixed with a moderately brisk pace and a fascinating backstory elevate this from forgettable to well worth seeing. On Blu-ray, Sony delivers a few decent special features (most of which are also shared with the DVD release). And there’s Blu-ray live for those of us who are sticklers for BD exclusive extras. It is certainly worth seeing for Tautou’s lovely performance, and is interesting enough to keep your attention. You could very easily find worse things to do with 110 minutes of your week.
Also Out on Blu-ray This Week:
Hey, look at that… no movies got the axe this week. Perhaps there are a few titles in the list below that you should avoid. Unfortunately I won’t be able to warn you, as they weren’t made available to me for review.