In this edition of This Week in Blu-ray, we’re going travelin’. We will take a trip to Mars, where a resourceful astronaut has been stranded and must breath with the aid of yellow rocks. We will head out west, where the story for Avatar was birthed by Kevin Costner. We will head back in time, when things were simple and Facebook didn’t rule our lives. And we will travel to a miscellaneous Spring Break destination, where a bunch of agitated pre-historic Characiformes are waiting to take a bite out of our favorite porn stars’ silicon implants. And Jerry O’Connell’s junk. Of course this will all make sense, as long as you hit ‘read more’ below and check out this week’s Blu-ray slate.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Criterion)
At first, Byron Haskin’s imaginative sci-fi adventure film doesn’t seem like the kind of upper-echelon material you’d expect to see with the Criterion Collection’s logo on it. But after only one viewing, it’s not hard to see why they would consider this a significant accomplishment in the history of cinema. It’s a boldly crafted vision filled with blazing color and inventive special effects. It is out there, I tell you, and the presentation from Criterion is excellent, as always. This release continues my streak (now up to 8 straight release, I believe) of buy recommendations for Criterion titles. They are simply given so much care and consideration, delivered with the finest and most meticulously crafted transfers and filled with the most relevant and interesting supplements. And while it might not feel like it from a distance,Robinson Crusoe on Mars fits into the collection perfectly.
Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary Edition
Just in case you didn’t get enough of this story the second time around when James Cameron used it for Avatar, here’s another shot at Kevin Cosner’s big Oscar winner. The good news is that it’s a loaded affair: the film has never looked better than it does in HD. It looks and sounds great. The extras are there as well: 55-minutes of additional scenes, including an extended cut of the film. Two audio commentary tracks, one of which (the one with the DP and editor) is interesting. And two interactive in-film features, both exploring some of the real history vs. the fictional elements of the story. And that’s all on just the first disc. There’s a second disc of featurettes. It’s actually quite impressive, and a definite buy for those who enjoy the film and would like to have it in their collection.
Raging Bull: 30th Anniversary Edition
Another excellent catalog title. Eight Oscars were earned by Marty Scorsese’s De Niro-led boxing drama, and each of them well-deserved. It seems fitting that in a year when a mediocre boxing film (The Fighter) is getting tons of critical acclaim, that one of the greatest sports dramas of all-time would be getting its big anniversary release in clean, crisp high definition. It’s worth saving money on that ticket for the Mark Wahlberg movie and investing the money in a Blu-ray copy of Raging Bull. Especially when the extras on this 2-disc set are both plentiful and to-the-point. Three commentary tracks, four featurettes, a 4-part feature-length documentary and a shot-by-shot comparison of Robert De Niro and Jake La Motta’s in-ring performances. It’s a masterful anniversary edition for a true champion of a film.
The Social Network
Not quite as addictive as the website created by the man upon which this movie is based, The Social Network feels genuinely like 2010’s most impressive once-over movie. While every critic from here to The Daily Bugle is telling you that it’s the definitive movie of a generation, I’m here to say that it’s worth seeing, but I didn’t experience any David Fincher-induced levitation while watching it in HD. The power of the holy spirit did not pass through me while nothing was happening in the world of Mark Zuckerberg. The good news for the rabid fans of this movie: the extras on the Blu-ray are spectacularly in-depth and endlessly impressive. It makes me wish that the movie and I would have connected on that next level, as it did for so many others. Either way, I’m not sad to have it in my collection and you won’t be either — if you’ve seen and have already enjoyed the film. For the rest, it’s an easy rent and one of those must-see Oscar time flicks, as it will be among the major contenders come the big night.
If you are anything like me, and a trip to a local theater around midnight for a blood-bath of the ill repute variety is right up your alley, then you are going to have a lot of fun with Piranha. Or at least most of it. Definitely the spring break massacre scene that I would describe as a boob-filled “Beach of Normandy” sequence, if nothing else. It’s quite epic. And if you’ve got a 3D TV and Blu-ray player, it’s one of the more fun 3D flicks to come out in last year’s barrage of third dimensional cinema. If not, it’s still ridiculously raunchy and devious. The supplements on this disc are a little light, but again, I’m only pitching you a rental here, so don’t get so bent out of shape about it. The movie is worth a weekend rental if you plan to have a house full of (adult) guests, copious amounts of alcohol and the desire to watch Jerry O’Connell get his penis bitten off by an angry pre-historic fish. Yes, it happens. And it’s a fantastic little moment.
Alpha and Omega
Either someone finally decided to make an animated movie from Playstation 2 game cut-scenes, or the money ran out on this project, which sadly will go down as Dennis Hopper’s last role. It may only be his voice, but it’s not the sort of project that any respectable talent should attach their name to (I’m looking at you, Justin Long). The film’s energy is dead on arrival, the story is the blandest of the boring and the animation is choppy and lifeless. At that point, extras on the Blu-ray don’t even come into play. The movie is so painfully bad that I couldn’t get it out of my Blu-ray player fast enough, because heaven forbid it soil something while inside. If Lionsgate is trying to churn out animation that can compete with the big names, it is going in the wrong direction.
The list of films that can be rented or bought at your own discretion: