It’s another buy-happy week of Blu-ray selections here on This Week in Blu-ray. Warner Bros. comes correct with a brilliant release of A Clockwork Orange, George Lucas does video commentary and doesn’t talk about Star Wars, vampires and werewolves tear each others’ clothes off, Nic Cage kills just about everyone, Javier Bardem is handsome and someone thought it would be a good idea to put Megan Fox and Mickey Rourke together on-screen. It was not. Reading this Blu-ray column, however, is a great idea.
A Clockwork Orange is one of those great films that I’ve had the honor of seeing properly projected. Of course, that was at 3am during a sci-fi marathon and I may have slept through the second act, but the fact remains: I’ve seen what it’s supposed to look like. So when I report that it looks even better on Blu-ray, that’s not something to take lightly. This week’s Pick was an easy one. Warner Bros. has handled Stanley Kubrick’s ultra-violent masterpiece with great care. From the sturdy, book-like packaging to the fresh Blu-ray exclusive features (including one where Malcolm McDowell looks back 40 years later and another that considers the cultural impact of the film’s violent nature), everything is in step with the greatest expectations for what this release should look like. It’s a collector’s item and a wonderful celebration of a film that, even after 40-years, still holds up as a stunning testimony to the greatness of Stanley Kubrick.
One of the themes of summer 2011 is this sort of effortless nostalgia that we’re getting with films from J.J. Abrams and Mathew Vaughn. But what of the effortless, authentic nostalgia created by a pre-Star Wars George Lucas in American Graffiti? Rare is the crisp capturing of the 1960s youth culture so evident on this Blu-ray release, every detail screaming forth with a rock ‘n roll swagger. It acts almost as a time capsule for the days when Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and even Harrison Ford were fresh-faced kids driving around in fast cars and wearing ridiculous cowboy hats. To its credit, this “Special Edition” Blu not only includes a great video transfer, it also has a picture-in-picture commentary track from George Lucas. Even the most divisive director in the kingdom of nerd can be fascinating, especially when he’s not talking about Star Wars. There’s also a great featurette about the film’s music. The disc doesn’t exactly overflow with extras, but there is something about this release that feels special. I felt it while watching the screen test of Richard Dreyfus, one of many cast screen tests included with the film.
Who is Sookie Stackhouse, really? I’m not exactly sure, but I’m told it’s included in season three of True Blood. My confession is that I’m not quite all the way to the end of this set, and there’s a reason for that: this Blu-ray set is a beast of Bon Temps if I’ve ever seen one. Absolutely loaded with special features, enhanced viewing modes for all 12 episodes, six audio commentaries, featurettes galore. It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘everything else’ and to completely lose sight of watching the actual show. As a wayward fan of Alan Ball’s show — loved season one, shrugged at season two, yawned for most of the first 2/3rds of season three — even I can appreciate when a set comes together and is right for a show’s fans. This Blu-ray set, complete with the full HD versions of all 12 episodes, is one that adds value to any True Blood lover’s experience. And with season four right around the corner, you just might be thirsting for some new stuff to watch. So stop watching that three-minute trailer and get yourself immersed in some special features. In the mean time, I will try to catch up on season three’s big ending.
I am yet to really cross over and become a supporter of 3D Blu-ray titles, but seeing Nic Cage blast his way out of hell and into the cult-stricken world of the deep south, killing rampantly along the way has brought me one step closer to being a true believer. In one of his most excessive, yet seemingly calculated roles to date, Cage plays Milton, an undead felon who comes back to avenge the death of his daughter at the hands of a silk-shirted cult leader (Billy Burke) and save his baby granddaughter. Along the way there are explosions (awesome ones), gun fights (excessive in nature) and copious third-dimension nudity. Also, Amber Heard stars as Piper, a rough-and-tumble sidekick with an affinity for tiny jean shorts. The big winner in this set is the ‘Access: Drive Angry’ feature, an interactive series of video commentary, kill-counters and factoids that play along with the film (when activated. The commentary from writer Todd Farmer and writer/director Patrick Lussier is reason enough to own this one. Did you know that the Piper character was basically Todd Farmer writing himself as a hot chick? Brilliant. (Note: The 3D version also comes with the 2D version of the film. I recommend you be prepared for the future.)
Months removed from Oscar season, Biutiful feels like one of the most overlooked contenders of last year. Is the rugged handsomeness of Javier Bardem not enough to earn your time and attention? It’s plenty reason for me. This simple story about a man on the wrong side of the law who just wants to keep his two children safe is one of 21 Grams and Amores Perros director Alejandro Gonzelez Inarritu’s finest efforts. It’s also one of Bardem’s best performances, a full-force leading man show in which he holds almost every single scene together with his charisma. Beyond the film, the Blu-ray release of Biutiful isn’t brimming with extras, but does provide a sufficient enough amount of added value. A featurette here, some interviews there, and a quality transfer make it a buy for anyone who is already in love with the film, a very solid rent for anyone else.
Megan Fox plays an angel, Mickey Rourke is the hero that will save her from the bonds of the freak show in which she has become entangled. If any of that sounds appealing to you, I’m not sure what to say. Have at it, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Barry Lyndon (Warner Brothers)
- Big Jake (Paramount)
- The Cat O’ Nine Tails (Blue Underground)
- David Byrne: Ride Rise Roar (Eagle Rock)
- Legend: Ultimate Edition (Universal)
- Lolita (1962) (Warner Brothers)
- A Man Called Horse (Paramount)
- Once Upon a Time in the West (Paramount)
- Rio Lobo (Paramount)
- Rookie Blue: The Complete First Season (E1)
- Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Collection (Warner Brothers)
Have the need for more Blu-ray recommendations? Click here to discover last week’s Blu-ray selections