June was a rough month for This Week in Blu-ray. Only a few of you actively missed it, judging by the emails, but I’m sure that even more of you felt a hole in your very souls due to the lack of weekly Blu-ray buying advice. By my count I am four weeks behind as of today, four weeks that each had worthy releases — some of which you may have purchased already. So in an effort to be brief, I’ve selected the most prominent releases and mixed them in with the Blu-rays hitting shelves this week. It’s my way of smashing four weeks of release together and wiping away the blood. In the end, it should give you a good road map for what you should have been doing all along.
Jason and the Argonauts
Here is one of those releases that you buy not because you need to own the movie — there’s a good chance that every true film geek among you already owns a copy of Ray Harryhausen’s wondrous tale — but for the new extras. There are tons of extras on this Blu-ray release not previously seen on DVD. Including a brand new commentary track with Peter Jackson and LOTR effects guru Randall William Cook. It’s very technical, but also very fascinating. A second track features Harryhausen himself with film historian Tony Dalton. Mark my words: listening to Ray Harryhausen talk is good for your health, even if you’re also eating Cheetos while listening. Beyond that we’ve got a 25-minute tribute to Harryhausen featuring countless names you’ll recognize — real viz effects greats like Dennis Muren and Phil Tippet. And there’s an hour long documentary called “The Harryhausen Chronicles” that tells the origin story behind the man that made it all possible, narrated by Leonard Nimoy. Yeah, that’s how this Blu-ray rolls. It’s hours of geeked out fun for the whole family. Or just you, if you live alone.
The Book of Eli
One of several early-2010 releases that got away from me, The Book of Eli is one of the few that makes me regret seeing it in theaters. Visually, the Hughes brothers are off the charts with some of the action sequences in this film. They move efficiently from simplicity to elegance, knowing exactly when to hold their camera still and exactly when to do something fast and fantastic with it. The story is workable, at least until the end. Denzel Washington is a great lone traveler through a wonderfully constructed post-apocalyptic landscape. Gary Oldman shows up as a villain who is easy to hate, but also easy to understand. And Mila Kunis is there for something, I’m just not sure what. On the whole the movie is worthy of a recommend, and the Blu-ray fails to disappoint. Several Blu-ray only featurettes and Warner Bros’ still-impressive maximum movie mode make it worth adding to you collection, if you’re a fan of a good ole western-style action flick set in a post-apocalyptic future where everyone wants to get their hands on The Book. It’s good, trust me.
A Single Man
In this meticulously drawn tale — the first feature from Tom Ford — everything is beautiful and scarred at the same time. It is perhaps one of the most stylish and stiff movies that I’ve ever seen without losing the fluidity of a smart, emotionally charged narrative. Colin Firth, playing a college professor dealing with the loss of his partner (Matthew Goode) in a 1960s America not tuned into the concept of sexual equality, delivers a fine performance. Resist all you want, but you will not be able to help but to feel his pain. The film’s visual beauty is enhanced on Blu-ray with a clean, smooth transfer that draws out the film’s many tones. Like a film from a major fashion designer should be, everything matches perfectly. And in the end, it celebrates the little moments that are worth living for. It’s light on special features, but in this case we should all be willing to forgive.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
One of the most sensational movies you’ll watch all year, there is no denying it. So great that David Fincher has decided to remake it. This is your chance to get in while the getting is good, to be on the forefront of the “I liked the original” bus. The fact is: it’s a fantastic movie with several great performances at its heart. A truly engrossing crime thriller that doesn’t think twice about punching you in the gut. One thing that sticks out is the performance of Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth, the researcher with a dark and violent past. Hers is as brave and intense a performance as you’re going to see in a while, perhaps even after David Fincher remakes this story. Like A Single Man, this Blu-ray is lacking in extras, but it’s worth looking past based on the film’s quality.
Supernatural: The Complete First Season
I blame most of the failings of this column on the Supernatural season one Blu-ray. In fact, I’ll have you all know that watching season one in high definition and being introduced to the brothers Winchester, Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki), and their demon-hunting ways caused me to become addicted. It resulted not just in the exploring of season one (and the impressive assortment of special features included on the release) but the watching of seasons two, three, four and five almost non-stop for two weeks. I slept very little (though I didn’t miss a meal) and lapsed in my responsibilities as editor of this site and almost lost my mind when it all ended, but it was worth it. Supernatural is one of those great slices of television that provide rich characters and strong narratives, even when it’s in “monster of the week” mode. Seeing the first season in glorious high definition proved that to me, and it will do the same to you. So beware. While I recommend purchasing this set, I’m also warning you — it’s very addictive.
Predator: The Ultimate Hunter Edition
I know that I’m coming in late on this discussion, but after watching Predator on Blu-ray I’m not seeing what others have said to be one of the worst Blu-ray transfers of the year. The movie looks good. It’s as colorful and clean as it’s ever looked. And I would know, having owned just about every home video incarnation of this movie dating back to its original VHS release. I was a fan and I’m not going to apologize for that. With that in mind, I went in expecting to be engorged with rage brought on by a poor transfer. But aside from a few little spots of digital noise reduction artifacting and a few grainy edges that are almost invisible to the average consumer, I’m left with nothing but a fondness. There’s a very cool, thorough featurette on this disc that’s new and a first look featurette for the upcoming Predators release, making this a worthy addition to my collection. Calling it the “ultimate” edition is a bit of a stretch, but it’s still worth picking up.
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