Back on track once again for this edition of This Week in Blu-ray, where it is time to recover from the hangover of Fantastic Fest and get back into the spirit of buying Blu-ray rather than hamburgers at the Alamo Drafthouse. For those who missed it, I would urge you to take a look at our (still in progress) Fantastic Fest Coverage. That link also works for anyone wondering what happened to TWiBD last week — I was a little busy watching the good, the bad and the decidedly weird at the best genre film festival in North America. And oddly enough, that leads me to this week’s selections, as we begin with Trick ‘r Treat, a long-in-distribution-hell horror gem that screened at Fantastic Fest. It’s great, and it’s finally on Blu-ray. Also this week, we take a look at few titles from last week that might be worth some notice, including two awesome classics (The Dark Crystal and Labrynth). So lets get to it…
Please use that fancy scroll bar on your browser to take a look at this week’s releases below…
Pitch: A twisted tale of one Ohio town on Halloween night…
Why Buy? Because this is the Halloween movie that you’ve been waiting for. The kind of ‘campfire stories come alive’ tale that you will want to watch every single year on the last night of October. Director Mike Dougherty has been fighting with distribution troubles for several years now, and while it is sad to see this movie skipping a real theatrical release and heading to Blu-ray (which makes me glad that I caught it this year at Fantastic Fest), it is still great to know that every horror-nut with a DVD player can finally own this film. It’s awesome. And beyond that, the BD release features exclusive director commentary, additional scenes and two very cool BD-exclusive featurettes — one focused on the film’s special effects and another on “Legends of Halloween.” If you’re not at your local retailer picking up this little Blu package today, you’re really lost in the wilderness, ready to be eaten by a pack of wild somethingerothers…
Blu-ray Exclusives? Additional commentary track, Deleted Scenes, Special Effects Comparison, “The Lore and Legends of Halloween” Featurette
The Pitch: The animated masterpiece comes back to life, in glorious high definition.
Why Buy? Over the past year, Disney has begun “opening the vault” and bringing out some of their animated classics on Blu-ray. And unlike so many distros who just slap together a Blu-ray release with little care (I still remember The Simpsons Movie on BD, Fox), Disney takes the time to update its timeless animated slate in a way that continues to please its ever-growing fanbase. And this insanely feature-rich release of Snow White is certainly no exception. It features a DVD copy, a beautiful transfer delivered in 1080p on Blu-ray and a full Blu-ray disc full of special features. Everything is perfect — right down to the Disneyview artwork that populates the empty space on the right and left of the 4:3 movie (it wasn’t made in widescreen, get over it). Once again, I would argue that you shouldn’t pass up any Disney classic on Blu-ray, as once again they’ve delivered a lasting experience that will be great for generations to come.
Blu-ray Exclusives: An amazingly crisp, vibrant transfer, several featurettes and a sneak peek at The Princess and the Frog.
The Pitch: The Gene Wilder-led classic comes to life in vibrant high definition.
Why Buy? This release represents much of what I love about the Blu-ray format. It offers us the rare opportunity to see a classic film in a new way — a new, colorful and vibrant way in this particular case. The transfer on Willy Wonka, if anything, isn’t far from revelatory. Never before (at least, not since it hit theaters in the 70s) has this Mel Stuart directed classic looked so good. So good, in fact, that you can almost taste the river of chocolate. It also brings with it the history behind this film in a very neat 38-page book that includes new photos, song lyrics and little tidbits about the production. And even though there aren’t any new BD-Exclusive special features, I think this is what they mean when they say “collector’s edition,” as it will fit perfectly into your collection for a long time to come.
Blu-ray Exclusives: 38-page booklet with song lyrics, pictures and other facts about the film.
The Pitch: Lets be honest, would you really pass up a chance to buy a Blu-ray that involves David Bowie?
Why Buy? If there’s one thing I hate, it is a studio that takes one of a favorite of my youth, slaps it on Blu-ray and expects me to buy it, sans additional special features. Luckily, that isn’t the case with Labyrinth. David Bowie is still there, a very young Jennifer Connelly is still there, and that Jim Henson charm is definitely still there. Also enclosed in this BD release: a picture-in-picture track featuring interviews with Cheryl Henson, various puppet makers, Warwick Davis and make-up artist Nick Dudman. It is probably one of the coolest PIP tracks I’ve seen in a while, providing insight into the world of Labyrinth the likes of which we’ve never seen before. That, and the transfer to 1080p looks great. I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to add this to your collection.
Blu-ray Exclusives: A PIP track with loads of cool interviews.
The Pitch: Take a trip back to Thra in beautiful, glorious high definition.
Why Buy? Just as we saw above with the BD release of Labrynth, this incarnation of The Dark Crystal is loaded with all sorts of cool new special features. There is “The Book of Thra” Dark Crystal Collector interactive feature, which allows the viewer to select different elements of the world of Thra and learn more about them, then go back to the movie. There is a trivia game. There is also a picture-in-picture storyboard track, which is great for true fans. And finally, there is a charming introduction by screenwriter David Odell on the original Skeksis language. Add all of that to the original DVD special features (all of which have carried over to the BD release), and we’ve got ourselves something worth buying.
Blu-ray Exclusives: Dark Crystal collector interactive feature, Skeksis Crystal Trivia Game, PIP Storyboards and David Odell talking about the Skeksis language.
Pitch: Takashi Miike punches you in the face with the story of a man who just wants to get out there and meet somebody.
Why Rent? Our own Rob Hunter called it a “slow-burn creepfest.” And that’s true — as one of Takashi Miike’s best films comes to life on Blu-ray for the first time. Now, I know what many of you are thinking: “But I already bought this on DVD back in 2003, what could possibly be different?” Well, not much, but enough. For starters, the BD release is taken from the inter-negative, so the transfer is absolutely beautiful. This is the first time that you’ll see Audition as Miike intended you to see it. Beyond that, the Blu-ray’s special features are on-par with its parallel DVD release, leaving it stuck in the ‘rent’ column this week.
Blu-ray Exclusives? None.
Pitch: That guy from The Office and that long-lost girl from Saturday Night Live are having a baby.
Why Rent? For one, because you probably missed this movie earlier this year when it was playing in about 5 theaters around the country. Or at least, that is how it felt as someone who had seen and enjoyed it early on. It’s a wonderful little film, full of charm and heart that really demands an audience. Sadly, the folks at Universal Home Entertainment sought to deliver a Blu-ray experience that should be seen, but not necessarily owned. The special features are lax, including two pithy behind the scenes featurettes and a simple audio commentary track with director Sam Mendes and writers David Eggers and Vendela Vida. It’s standard and the fact that it’s all attached to such a good movie makes it a buy for those who like the film already, but its not enough to be more than a rent for anyone who hasn’t already seen it.
Blu-ray Exclusives? My Scenes bookmarking, BD-Live.
Pitch: Grab the kids and head out into the wild yellow yonder.
Why Rent? Alright, so the above pitch doesn’t exactly make any sense, does it? Either way, I am absolutely in love with the work that BBC Earth is doing with their nature documentaries — the way they are shot, the way they tell nature’s stories, and the way the incredible educational value they add are all top notch. Unfortunately, this BD release is missing one thing: special features. When I reviewed DisneyNature’s Earth a few weeks ago, I was astounded by the level of special features that were included, and the intuitive interactive nature of the disc. This is where Yellowstone falls flat, its well is bone-dry. But do yourself a favor and don’t ignore it completely. Rent it, sit down all of the impressionable minds in your family, and watch it together. Trust me, it’s more fun that you’d expect.
Blu-ray Exclusives? None.
Pitch: Jack Black and Michael Cera get together and make flat jokes — in the most biblical way possible.
Why Avoid? There is no amount of special features, no assortment of BD exclusive goodies that can make the unfunny funny again. And it pains me to think that someone as brilliant as director Harold Ramis could have made a movie so aggressively mediocre as Year One. But it’s true, it just isn’t that funny. Save for a few absurd moments involving Oliver Platt and some hotness in the toga of Olivia Wilde, there is just no saving grace for this Jack Black/Michael Cera-led stinkbomb. I will give Sony credit for one thing: there are several new, intuitive BD-Live features, including one that allows you to re-cut your own scenes from the movies and share them with friends, but its too little, too late. I’d avoid this one like the plague.
Blu-ray Exclusives: BD-Live features that allow viewers to re-cut scenes, see interactive trivia in-movie and watch the movie alongside friends via the web.
Pitch: Jim Carrey is back as the Grinch, and he’s still trying to ruin your Christmas spirit.
Why Avoid? I’m not sure how many more times I will have to say it before someone high-up in Hollywood hears me and makes a change, but if you’re only BD-exclusive feature is BD-Live (and a lame BD-Live interface at that), then you’re doing it wrong. Universal may have been smart in making this a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, opening it up to the “planning ahead” crowd of buyers, but they certainly lost their good sense when they forgot to add any special feature value. I like Ron Howard’s movie, it’s a lot of fun. But even a movie that sports a dog with antlers as its emotional center deserves a better BD release than this.
Blu-ray Exclusives: BD-Live.
Also Out This Week (but not reviewed):
What are you buying on Blu-ray this week?