This Week in Blu-ray, my usual role as expert tour guide through the wild and wonderful world of Blu-ray takes a back seat. Emerging in its place is my new role: guy who points out the obvious. For instance, if I told you that Criterion successfully put out an impressive version of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, I wouldn’t exactly blow chunks of your brain out of your skull and all over your office walls. If I said that Universal took great care in presenting Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in glorious high definition on its 50th anniversary, it wouldn’t slice through the fabric of your reality, revealing for you a fresh, unique worldview. And if I told you Robert Rodriguez’ Predators was just ok… well, you get the idea. The time is now for me to tell you that which you probably already know. But I will certainly try to do so with style.
Seven Samurai (Criterion)
Have you seen Pixar’s A Bug’s Life? Would you like to see the expertly crafted, intensely epic film from which that story was born? Of course you do. Akira Kurosawa made a good many films. In fact, I participated in a For Science experiment not long ago that saw us watch an entire day of Kurosawa, and we didn’t even scratch the surface. Seven Samurai was there, and it’s perhaps one of the great films of its or any generation. And Criterion, being the astute film loving collective they are, have given Kurosawa’s masterpiece the treatment it deserves. HD restoration, uncompressed mono soundtrack, hours upon hours of engaging extras that need a second disc to be contained. Declaring this “The Must Own Blu-ray of 2010″ feels not only premature, but also short of the goal — if you love film, you’ll own this release. If you love film, this is the release of Seven Samurai that you’ve been waiting for. Take that for your dose of weekly hyperbole.
Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition
Surprising is the fact that after 50 years, the Bates Motel and the shocking events that splatter its showers with blood can still look so clean and refreshed. Crisp is the transfer, elegant is the story as Alfred Hitchcock weaves together one of his most famous tales. The master of suspense presented in the master of all home video formats, complete with oh so many delicious special features. I’ve seen many of these on previous DVD releases, but never all together. Fifty years, as we found above with Seven Samurai above, is quite a long time. But fifty years has been good to Hitchcock’s chilling tale of the motel Bates, a lady that will chill you and thrill you better than competitors half her age. Also, I love the newsreel footage of the release of Psycho. Perfectly complimentary, for the film journalism nerds among us.
Baz Lurhmann’s gaudy musical is just that, completely full of itself. But perhaps that’s why I adore it so. Between the hyper-stylized interludes between two charismatic leads — Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor — and that song drawn away from Sting and put into play with vaudevillian flair, I can’t think of any moment that doesn’t delight and entertain. So if you’re like me, stuff like the Blu-ray’s Spectacular, Spectacular picture-in-picture mode (includes commentary, art, behind the scenes footage) will make this release worth a bit of your weekly home video scrilla budget. For the rest of you — I know who you are — I suppose the beautifully remastered cinematography of Donald McAlpine and the colorful choreography aren’t worth your time or your money. I tend to disagree.
This Robert Rodriguez produced, Nimrod Antal restart of the Predator franchise has a lot going for it. Both producer and director show — both in the press and in the movie itself — to be in love with the original. They also have shown in the past to possess the power to make an exciting action flick. So why does Predators play out so blandly? A weak second act, an anti-climactic final battle? All of this is true, to some extent. It isn’t the rip-roaring brother to Schwarzenegger’s original that we were hoping for. More like a cousin. A taught, muscular cousin who looks a lot like Adrien Brody and has a few badass moments. Come to think of it, the Blu-ray might actually improve the experience of watching Predators – as you can fast forward through all of the parts that include Lawrence Fishburne. Much better.
Romeo & Juliet
I’ve already expressed plenty of love for Baz Luhrmann’s style in talking about Moulin Rouge above. This release I can take or leave. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and their rehashing of Shakespeare’s most perilous love story have electrified the hearts of many a teenage girl here in the ‘States, but they didn’t do much for me. This film’s vigorous pursuit of redline speed and the high end of the decibel meter all but mar the beautiful story. However, it does have its inventive moments and it does look great in this remastered high definition version. And as is the case with Moulin Rouge, Fox has pulled together a solid swath of extras. Fans can rejoice, crank up that 5.1 audio and blow their brains out with this self-indulgent fireball of a film. It will be great. Meanwhile, I’ll be in the other room, entranced in hour three of Seven Samurai.
Oceans and The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos
Two releases, one review. How about that for a discount? It’s not just that these two releases are birds of a feather (get it?), it’s that they are both worth adding to the collection of DisneyNature films that you are assuredly building. Such a collection will come in handy on that day when the Earth is finally destroyed by capitalism and we’re all forced to live on the Moon. We can watch these beautifully shot documentaries — full of the majesty of mother nature — and remember the times when life flourished on our planet. They are vibrant, meticulously crafted and complete with a narrative structure that may just keep the younger generations engaged for a full 90-minutes. It has me feeling as if there might be hope for humanity, after all.
Hey you, girl who appears to be on a fast track to late nights on Cinemax, strip down to your underwear and stare into this haunted mirror. Lets see if we can’t kill you in the least creative manner possible. Or something like that.
And now, the always entertaining list of films not reviewed this week (due to lack of review material), but out on Blu-ray, nonetheless.