The winds of change are blowing here in Austin, Texas. With Fantastic Fest over, a tad-bit of emptiness has washed over the land and left me yearning for more great genre experiences. Which brings me to this week’s selection of Blu-ray releases — one that includes a few unique genre flicks and one lovable turd that reminds me of a documentary that was launched into the stratosphere by the film community here in Austin. Also, there’s this animated movie from the Mouse House that will absolutely blow your mind on Blu-ray. It’s as if the cosmos has looked down upon us in our post-Fantastic Fest haze and said “hey, here are some good movies to satiate your need for the good stuff.” It’s a week full of releases that are delivered right on time, just as the leaves start to change and Halloween begins to peek its head around the corner. Time to spray blood on the walls and fall in love again with a tale as old as time, or some other confused multi-metaphor. It’s another round of This Week in Blu-ray.
Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition
A tale as old as time, something something something, Beauty and the Beast. That’s how the song goes, right? As a kid who grew up wanting to be a man in the early 90s, I have always hidden my love for this movie. Back then it was for girls. Now it’s just one of those sweet stories about an ugly guy who shows a beautiful gal that it’s about the beauty on the inside. And that if you can get her to love the beast, you will magically become good looking. That’s classic stuff, right there. But enough of this gay banter. It’s likely that you’re already interested in this Blu-ray release purely on the grounds that Beauty and the Beast is an excellent film. One of Disney’s last great hand-drawn masterpieces. And if you’re already on the fence, allow me to make the final push — the film has never looked quite so beautiful as it does on Blu-ray. The digital restoration and transfer the HD is absolutely stunning, as is the countless special feature that Disney has included in the release. A never-before-seen alternate opening, a Disney sing-a-long mode and several unique featurettes only add extra frosting to the vibrant experience of seeing this timeless classic in glorious high definition. Collectors, families and casual fans alike will find value in this release. To say the least, you should own it.
Troll 2: The 20th Anniversary Nilbog Edition
I’ll be honest — there is no reason why any sane person should be out there, looking to pick up Troll 2 on any format. It is by many standards one of the worst films in the history of worst films. Beyond that, it doesn’t have anything to do with Troll. However, there is endless kitsch value — thanks to the spectacular documentary Best Worst Movie — in owning such a movie on Blu-ray. If you’re the right kind of movie lover, it will complete the cycle of owning it on VHS, DVD and now getting George Hardy’s lectures about “hunger pains” in HD. The release doesn’t come with any special features, which is only a mild letdown. Remember, it’s about experiencing Troll 2 again and again with as many unsuspecting friends as possible. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, I’d recommend waiting until Best Worst Movie hits DVD/Blu-ray (hopefully soon) and doing a double feature. Then you’ll understand. Or be more confused. Either way, it will be a good time.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
If you are anything like me — and in this regard, hopefully you are — then you’ll take some Humphrey Bogart anywhere, any time (stop making that last sentence sexual and show some respect, you ingrates). Bogie is one of those essential men whose presence on screen jumps out at you, even when he’s playing a harmless wanderer or a heartless thug. In John Huston’s beautifully shot, expertly told story of greed and paranoia during the gold rush, Bogie does both. And with a Blu-ray transfer such as this one, I don’t have any qualms about saying that he’s never looked better doing what he does best. The special features offer a rich extension of the film, including a few featurettes (with one very interesting documentary profile of John Huston) and a radio show with the film’s original stars. It’s one of those releases that works perfectly for the semi-pretentious, film-literate nerds that live inside us all.
The Maltese Falcon
Another work from the great John Huston, this BD release looks and feels like a movie from another time when set against the beauty of the transfer for Sierra Madre. Even so, it looks great and makes a wonderful companion in your journey back to where things started for the legendary Huston and Bogart. I love the story, naturally. But most of all, I fell in love with a lot of the extras on this disc — such as Breadowns of 1941: a studio blooper reel (yes, making very serious movies was fun business back then, as well) or the not one, not two, but three classic radio programs featuring the film’s stars. Again, it’s film nerdvana for anyone who loves a well-crafted story, complimented by great performances, shown in its best possible form. Sure, there’s a little grain left on this transfer, but that’s what gives it character.
Say what you want about the current state of the horror and science fiction genres — that there is an over-abundance of remakes (true), reboots and poorly executed rehashing (also true) — but don’t say it without giving this film a chance. It’s perhaps one of the more original sci-fi concepts presented in years, and its delivered with a proficiency that has my keeping an eye on where director Vincenzo Natali will go next. It’s a creature feature and a cautionary tale wrapped in very scary packaging, anchored by two solid performances from Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley (oh Sarah Polley, how I do adore thee). More than worth your time, especially if you missed it in theaters. And for those who saw and enjoyed it in theaters, the Blu-ray is sufficient enough for a buy, but I feel like room (as in, lack of special features) is being saved for another “Special Edition” in the future. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s the feeling I get. Either way, it’s not a waste of your time or money.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Unlike a good number of critical types, I found something to like within this Platinum Dunes re-hash of a horror icon. It’s an atmospheric, technically proficient rebuild of a great character that appears to be made not just out of the love for money and easy brand identification, but also a love for the original. It’s not something we’ve been able to say about every movie from the producing duo of Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. From where I’m sitting, they continue to improve their remaking skills here and give Jackie Earle Haley room to work and create a chilling new version of Freddy. It’s a little hyper-serious when held against the blast that was the original, but it stands quite steadfast on its own two feet. If you haven’t seen it yet and you need a decent scare, don’t be afraid to let this one into your life via a rental. Also, don’t go to sleep.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Have I mentioned that there are unique and interesting sci-fi and horror ideas in the world? How about a crazy surgeon who wants to sew a string of humans together (ass-to-mouth) and create a singular digestive track system. Is that ‘unique’ enough for you? Even though our own Cole Abaius railed against this film a year ago at Fantastic Fest, it’s still worth your time. If only because it’s worth discussing with friends and fellow film lovers alike, as the debate will undoubtedly turn to whether or not it is the most unsettling movie you’ve ever seen. Dieter Laser is a lot of fun as the mad scientist and even though the logic doesn’t always work, the movie does accomplish something. That something is ultimately determined by your own intestinal fortitude. It’s not a film that I’d force upon you with an all-knowing ‘Buy’ recommendation, but I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t at least watch it yourself and force it upon those you hold dearest. It’s an experience that will change you, for better or worse.
The Secret of Kells
Speaking of experiences that will change you. I did not receive a copy of The Secret of Kells on Blu-ray for review, nor have I even looked to see what the disc has to offer. But in a rare show of faith, I’m recommending that you rent it on Blu-ray. Why? Because the film itself is beautiful to an absolute degree. It’s a finely tuned folk tale backed by some truly wonderful animation. Had it not been a surprise contender for the Best Animated Feature Oscar last year, I fear that it would have gone completely unnoticed by American audiences. That would have been a damn shame. Right now though, with the release of this Blu-ray, you can fight the loss of great film into the pit of obscurity by renting it, watching it, and sharing it with friends and loved ones. And you can thank me and my blind recommendations later.
Nothing to completely avoid this week. However, there are a great number of titles that I wasn’t able to review due to a lack of advance material. Including Grindhouse (which I will be buying), The Karate Kid (which I missed in theaters, so I will be renting) and 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (which seems like it will be worth my time, based on what I’ve heard). I also wouldn’t put it past myself to pick up the Robocop trilogy on Blu-ray, as I unabashedly love those flicks.