Welcome to the ever-changing face of my Blu-ray column. Based on my theory of things, eventually I will find a format that can be (a) consistently written in time for Tuesday’s new releases and (b) something that people actually want to read. In this instance — version 4.0 for those keeping count — we’ve decided to match the format of ‘This Week in Blu-ray’ to Rob Hunter’s weekly column DVDs I Bought This Week, which happens to be one of the most popular columns on the site. Why? Because people like their DVD reviews clear, concise and most of all, quick to the punch. So with that in mind, here’s this week’s edition of This Week in Blu-ray.
Pitch: One of the most beautifully shot movies of the past 10 years, in HD.
Why Buy? Rob Hunter tried to gank this one from me in his weekly DVD column, stating that he just couldn’t resist putting this title in with those standard discs. And to me, that feels like a disservice to this release, as its yet another beautiful Blu-ray transfer. Alfonso Cuaron’s film has never looked so bleak and beautiful as it does in 1080p. On top of that, the disc comes stacked with a very solid amount of special features — including four great behind the scenes featurettes.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Picture in Picture U-Control commentary is very cool. Also, there are several commercials and advertisements from the world of 2027 that show you what life is like in this bleak future.
Pitch: Pixar’s take on the epic adventure happening in your back yard every day, in HD.
Why Buy? If you’re long been a disciple of my opinions on Blu-ray — which is quite possible, as I’m great — then you know that I’ve got a wicked soft spot for anything Pixar does with the format. Their release of Ratatouille was gorgeous, their special edition of Wall-E was epic, and now that they’ve turned to bringing some older titles to HD, they are ready once again to rock our worlds. Up first: the look. A gorgeous film on the big screen made just as beautiful on Blu-ray. Also, tons of special features — even the frakking menus are creatively done. To be honest, I could sit back and watch the kids at Pixar do their thing for hours upon hours. If you’re a lover of the HD experience, this is a must-own.
Blu-ray Exclusives? One of the coolest BD-exclusive features that I’ve seen in a long time is ‘A Bug’s Life: The First Draft,’ in which John Lasseter intros several never-before-seen animated sequences from the film’s original story. Giving us the opportunity to see the alternate vision they had for the adventure of Flik and co. Also, there is a filmmaker roundtable that is cool, in which Lasseter and company sit around and reflect on the genesis of one of their finest works.
Pitch: Young John Connor is in danger. And the only thing that can save him is the same Terminator that tried to kill his mom. Only this time, its in HD.
Why Buy? Have you ever tried to figure out what they mean when they say “a metric f*ckton”? I have, and up until the moment I cracked open my copy of T2: Skynet Edition, I was not really able to wrap my mind around the concept. But now I know — because this disc does, in fact, contain a metric f*ckton of special features. Over 8-hours of interactive behind the scenes special features. And normally this is where I talk about how I sat through 8-hours of special features so that you wouldn’t have to, but thats not true. Fact is, I sat through 8-hours of special features so that I could tell you that you should want to. The best feature is well, you’ll find out below…
Blu-ray Exclusives? Plenty of them. And the best of them is the picture-in-picture commentary with director James Cameron. In addition, there is also a storyboard mode that brings up storyboards as you watch the movie. This feature is rad on any BD release, but is even more awesome when we’re talking about one of the most badass sci-fi flicks of all-time. If you can’t jive with that, I’ve got no help for ya.
Pitch: Tom Cruise as a Nazi who tries to kill Hitler, in HD.
Why Rent? The quality of this film is questionable. In fact, I believe that I pretty much panned the damn thing in my review back in December. There were problems with flow of the story, issues with the various accents held by all of the German characters in the films, and mostly just the tedious and trite nature of it all. But it also wasn’t a complete waste — director Bryan Singer did make a film that at times, looks really good. And that was one thing that rang true on my second look at the film on Blu-ray. Based on that, this gets an upgrade from ‘no effing way’ to ‘rent if you are interested’. As well, there are plenty of special features on this disc, which should keep you occupied like France in the 40s.
Blu-ray Exclusives? No real Blu-ray exclusive special features here — but remember, I’m recommending ‘rent’ based on the way the film looks in HD, not because it has great picture-in-picture commentary (which sadly, it doesn’t).
Pitch: Jessica Biel gets naked, in HD.
Why Rent? Because lets face it, there’s nothing that I can do to steer you away from wanting to see Jessica Biel’s soon-to-be-infamous stripper scene. And yes, it ends with her showing off those goods that are normally reserved for dick boxing pop stars. And while that may seem worth it, this movie is otherwise mediocre at best. It is a solid B-movie effort in making a love letter to loneliness. Its a flat movie that is very much a first feature, ever-reaching for that edgy visual tone but never quite getting there. However, did I mention the Jessica Biel nudity?
Blu-ray Exclusives? The special features overall are very barebones (1 “making of” featurette, a photo gallery and audio commentary), leaving the Blu-ray exclusives parked at zero.
The Pitch: A rehashing of that age-old tale of a tragically killed miner and his Valentine’s Day present for the town of Harmony, in HD.
Why Rent? Because this movie is fun, people. Who doesn’t love a little pick-axe action? Also, this is probably one of the better instances of 3D on Blu-ray. For the most part, wearing 3D glasses and trying to stare at your 42″ TV is absurd, usually ending in a headache and a desire to punch a small child — I learned this the hard way during this past year’s Superbowl. Thanks, SoBe commercials. But this time around it works a little bit better, and for the most part this movie is fun in any number of dimensions. It is also a pretty well loaded Blu-ray release, featuring several cool featurettes — including one specially made for our own Robert Fure called “Sex, Blood and Screams.” And finally, the commentary track from director Patrick Lussier and co-writer Todd Farmer is pretty fun.
Blu-ray Exclusives? The 3D looks much better on Blu-ray, I’m sure of that. There are also a few BD-live features that are, for the most part, just okay.
Pitch: Spike Lee’s awesome bank robbery joint explodes with minimal special features, in HD.
Why Avoid? Because I think we can all agree that even though this movie is great, we don’t need to shell out $30 to pick up yet another copy if it isn’t going to offer us anything new and exciting. This disc comes with the same commentary track, same deleted scenes and same behind the scenes featurette as the DVD release. Why, Universal, why? The only potentially attractive thing about this release is that the film is Spike Lee’s best looking work, so if you don’t own it you might be the perfect (albeit only) candidate for a Blu-ray pickup.
Blu-ray Exclusives? They were nice enough to include the BD-Live functionality, which is sure to lead you down the long, slippery slope toward confusion, frustration and the damning of the internet in general.
Pitch: A movie we love (a fact that cannot be argued), a lean buffet of special features, in HD.
Why Avoid? Don’t get me wrong — I love Field of Dreams. It is one of those films that oh-so-perfectly captures that American spirit of nostalgia and combines it with a classic American pastime. Unfortunately, the lack of solid extras (or anything new for that matter) on this Blu-ray release have me thinking about rekindling my favorite pastime: using Blu-ray discs for skeet shooting practice.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Once again, a half-assed attempt at making us feel like we’re getting our money’s worth with the addition of BD-Live. Note to people who think that works: it doesn’t.
What do you think of the new format for This Week in Blu-ray?