All hell appears to be breaking loose. Think about all of the critically acclaimed films of the year, then think about the ones that the internet (and more specifically Twitter) has been talking about all year. Films like In the Loop, The Hurt Locker, Moon, The Brothers Bloom, Post Grad and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Then consider this: they are all out on Blu-ray this week! Prepare to see what your brains look like on the floor in front of you as I blow your minds with another awesome round of This Week in Blu-ray…
Note: Due to no column last week, I’ve mixed in some of last week’s releases, for good measure.
Chances are that you’ve been waiting for Moon to hit Blu-ray for a while. That, or you ordered the UK version that works on Region 1 Blu-ray players and have been watching it for months. If you’re the former, this is your lucky day. One of the most talked about movies of the year (by me, and other bloggers) is on BD and looking great. It is also set with two commentary tracks and a few very cool behind the scenes featurettes. It’s a pretty well rounded release, complete with BD-Live and the promise of more downloadables to come (we’ll see). On the whole, it is probably the best thing Sony has done for this film yet.
What it lacks in HD-exclusive bonus features, this release makes up in Criterion charm. Once again, Criterion has delivered a superb transfer on a movie made in 1963. I’m gathering this of course, from Josh Zyber’s review over at High Def Digest. My copy of 8 1/2 must have been lost in the mail. Thanks Criterion. Lucky for you though, I’m still recommending. Because no man is an island, and no reviewer is a man if he takes out frustration with a studio in his review. The fact is that 8 1/2 looks like another clear winner from Criterion. And if you’re a collector, an auteur enthusiast or someone with a thirst to see films that other people seem to bring up when they’re challenging your “knowledge of cinema,” you should own this.
Rian Johnson’s excellent sophomore effort has been in rental circles for a while as part of some new attempt to piss off the fanboy contingent on the web (seriously, that has to be the reason). But don’t let that fool you, the movie is quality. The Blu-ray release is a plentiful mix of extras, including a great commentary track. And this transfer is one worth owning. It is a movie that pops with style and energy, and an experience on Blu-ray that is worth having more than once. It is frustrating to think that Summit Entertainment was too busy worrying about Twilight to properly market this film. And instead of repaying fans, they delayed the purchase release of the Blu-ray. All is well now though, as you can skip merrily away from your local Best Buy, Bloom in hand.
Speaking of places where Summit Entertainment almost shit the bed. When I first read that The Hurt Locker Blu-ray was void of any high def. extras, I was livid. How is it possible for arguably the best film of the year to get such a lame-duck BD release? It seemed almost fitting, in this sick scenario that is my life as a Blu-ray reviewer. Not everything is Star Trek or District 9, I told myself. Not everyone is Paramount or Sony. But lo and behold, there was light in this tunnel. Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s commentary track is engrossing, and the transfer on this visceral flick (and the wicked sound mix) will blow the goddamn walls off of your house.
For the first time, The Simpsons are on Blu-ray. You might expect that to be a fact of little consequence. You’d be wrong. Just as Springfield’s most dysfunctional nuclear family is broadcast so vividly in high definition on Fox every Sunday night, they are seen on Blu-ray in beautiful 1080p. It isn’t saying much, I know, as The Simpsons doesn’t look a far cry from what it was 10 years ago, but it means something to a lot of fans to see Springfield in widescreen. Collectors will be all over this set, as it includes a sneak preview of Morgan Spurlock’s Twentieth Anniversary Special. Which oddly, already aired on Fox. Wait a second… Either way, do yourselves a favor and own The Simpsons on Blu-ray. They may not be around for another 20 years (they probably will).
Armando Iannucci’s foul-mouthed political comedy from across the pond is the type of movie that demands to be seen. I’m almost certain that actor Peter Capaldi invents somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,100 new curse words over the course of the film’s 106-minute runtime. Also, have you ever wondered what happened to My Girl star Anna Chlumsky? She’s in this movie. It has just about everything. The only downside is that it isn’t one of those must-own Blu-rays. A pretty pedestrian set of extras — commentary, trailer, webisodes, deleted scenes, etc. — will give you a bit of added value, but it isn’t exactly worth buying. My recommendation: Netflix it, then watch it 12 times over the course of the month (there are a lot of swiftly spoken British jokes, and those of us here in the States might need some repetition) and return it. You won’t regret it.
It is hard to say much about these two releases from Sony, as they’ve both come to Blu-ray with an expected lack of special features. Both include Sony’s movieIQ, giving you trivia while you watch, and BD-Live with a link to trailers for Legion. But neither of them really shine in the extras department. So why a ‘rent,’ you might ask? Because the transfers on both of these movies are really solid, especially considering the age of both films. They make 10 Things I Hate About You look like a dubbed VHS (see below). And in high definition, they are still lean, mean, rockin’ actioners with booming soundtracks to boot. Worth a pickup if you’re a Blu-ray completist, but more of a rent if you’re just looking for a reason to blow some people away with that new home theater system you just bought.
10 Things I Hate About You: Special Edition (released 1/5/10)
Back in the day, Heath Ledger was Australian — and pretty hardcore as the school’s misunderstood bad boy. Julia Stiles was also pretty cute, as was Alex Mack Larisa Oleynik. Add to that the budding acting charms of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Krumholtz, and you’ve got yourself a certified 90s teen comedy classic. One of the more underrated teen comedies of the 90s, if you ask me. And one of the last real John Hughes-esque comedies before the 00s came along with the raunch, and the Apatow-induced rise of the adult comedy. Oh, and High School Musical. That messed everything up. Anyway, this movie is one I was looking forward to — until I saw the grainy, washed out transfer on Blu-ray. It was enough for me to throw the Blu-ray on the shelf and break out a 10-year old DVD. Sometimes you make me sad, Blu-ray. Sometimes.
The Final Destination 3D (released 1/5/10)
Crap is crap, even in 3D. And worse yet, 3D in your home isn’t ready. This release is just another indicator. Tons of special features nearly hold its head above water, but then a tire comes flying through the crowd at a Nascar event, chopping said head right off. The kills can be fun at times, and the two alternate endings are… er.. alternate. There is also a featurette deconstructing the death scenes. That should be fun, but is not. In the end, this movie is a mess. 3D is its only gimmick, and even that isn’t worth the price of admission. I vote that we all pull out our copies of Faces of Death and watch that again instead.
Nothing can save this dreck from falling victim to the ‘avoid’ section. In the opinion of experts, Rob Zombie should stay as far away from remaking John Carpenter as possible. And even though this disc comes with MovieIQ and BD-Live (sarcasm in full effect), you should stay as far away from it as possible, as well. The lesson to be learned here is that if your movie isn’t good, your Blu-ray release has little to know chance of being good. But I know that there are fans out there (who will no doubt identify themselves with a scathing comment below), so I will say this: if you were a fan, the special features should be enough to satiate your need to be with the man known as Zombie. Spoiler: that’s not his real name.
I don’t hold any ill-will toward Tyler Perry. Unlike many people, I’m not even mad about his role in Star Trek (a phenomenon that I find odd). And his movies do strike the right chords with the right audience. He is beloved for a reason. Mostly because he tells accessible stories about families and people in turmoil, trying to find a way to break free. This release is no exception. Where it fails is in the execution of the Blu-ray release. Three featurettes are the whole of the supplements, and all of them are shared with the DVD. There is no commentary track, nor any other sort of extra. Avoid friends, avoid.
Me: “Hey, was Whiteout any good?” Dr. Cole Abaius: “No. In fact, it was very ungood.” Since Warner Bros. didn’t send along a copy for review, I had to consult with the good doctor. His assessment is clear. Whiteout isn’t even worth seeing, let alone owning. Therefore, special features aside, I say avoid this one. Also — Kate Beckinsale in a movie set in Antarctica? If we’ve learned anything from the history of film, its clear that she was meant for warmer climates, and the wardrobe choices that come with them.
Risky Business Picks of the Week: (those which I could not review, nor do they warrant full write-ups)