After a week that was less than perfect for Blu-ray buyers last week, the world of high definition home entertainment is back with some style this week. We’ve got something for everyone. Battlestar Galactica: Season 2 hits for the sci-fi nerds, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans hits for those who enjoy movies that are off-the-charts good and The Lord of the Rings franchise comes to Blu-ray. Sadly, I won’t be reviewing the trilogy, as Warner Bros. didn’t send out review material. Perhaps they were worried that I might say something like — hey, the extended editions of the movies aren’t included. Or, hey, the Blu-ray special features are really sort of thin for a nine-disc set. Or hey, don’t waste your money on something that will be released again in a much better way a year or two from now. Yeah, that would probably worry them. Taking reviews from other Blu-ray critics into consideration, I probably would have told you to quite actively avoid the pitfall of buying The Lord of the Rings the first time out on Blu-ray. They are like the Apple of home entertainment releases. The second release is always better. Just goes to show why they didn’t want me to write a full review of the product….
Anyway, on to the titles that I will be reviewing this week. Among them are several very interesting titles that you may want to add to your collection. It’s all part of the madness here at This Week in Blu-ray.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
As Rob Hunter so eloquently pointed out in his DVD column, you could very well place any adjective in front of Nicolas Cage’s performance in this movie and it would be fitting. He’s insane, unpredictable, wild, intense and above all, entertaining as all get-out. He’s taken a character similar to Harvey Keitel’s original Bad Lieutenant and driven him off the crazy cliff, saved from a horrific death by being wrapped in a blanket of disorientingly brilliant storytelling from Werner Herzog. You will feel as if you’re tripping along with Terrence McDonagh, Cage’s drug-charged, gambling, womanizing bastard alter. And that’s the intent. You will also get some behind the scenes action with Mr. Herzog, which is always fascinating. The Blu-ray release doesn’t light fires with special features. But if you miss this movie, you’re missing out on one of the truly great performances, not only of Nic Cage’s career, but of all last year.
Battlestar Galactica: Season 2
To this point, Universal has handled the release of the Battlestar Galactica series on Blu-ray quite well. And for those who did not pick up the epic full-series box set when it hit stores last year, they are also releasing each individual season one at a time. Season two isn’t he best season of the series, but its certainly not the worst. In fact, much of the series’ setup is done in this season, including the introduction of the Pegasus. In fact, this Blu-ray release features an extended version of that episode, which is interesting in its own right. As for unique extras, BSG: S2 does hit with BD-Live, the U-Control picture-in-picture interactive experience, and two adorable little BSG-themed games. It’s worth a buy if you’re a fan of the series, or if you’re going to work your way through for the first time.
It seems as if the folks around here at FSR who know horror better than yours truly went mad for this movie. Cole Abaius called it “streamlined, solid horror” that is a throwback to the 1970s. He also went on to creepily talk about how much he likes “a simple set up that worked at the core of human fear, a base to be used for the bloody, brutal, beautiful killing of many a human being.” This movie has that too, I suppose. And now the movie’s on Blu-ray, with a passable selection of extras (though it would have been nice to see something exclusive to the Blu-ray) and a transfer that is clean and sharp. I feel confident saying, on behalf of the team here at Reject HQ, that any horror fan would be making the right choice by picking this up. Also, if you’re a big pansy like yours truly and you want to scare the everliving shit out of yourself, this would be a good place to start.
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
How funny that I did receive a copy of this for review, but not the motion picture trilogy. It just goes to show that Warner Bros.’ home entertainment division is smart. They knew that I would like the way this aging animated film looked in HD, with its vibrant colors and ceaseless brilliance. They knew that I would also probably dig the lone special feature, a documentary about Ralph Bakshi and his vision for Tolkien’s stories. I might even like the transfer enough to say that this works as a BUY for fans of the franchise — and Blu-ray completists — and as a RENT for anyone who has never seen this version of LOTR. It’s certainly not the AVOID that I would have given to the feature-lite, bland release of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. But that’s another story for another day.
For a movie made in 1984, The Natural sure hasn’t aged well for Blu-ray. This is where things get tricky in reviewing films on this advanced format. Sure, we’ve got a great film on our hands — one of Robert Redford’s iconic performances and one of the better sports dramas in decades — but we also have a movie that doesn’t look half as good as it might have on the big screen. It’s the unfortunate tale of a studio not taking time to get the transfer right. Instead they deliver a visual experience that is better than VHS or cable, but only slightly better than what we’ve seen in previous DVD releases. If you’ve never seen The Natural, give this a rent. If you already own it on DVD, I don’t see much reason to pick up the Blu-ray. Unless you’re really hard-up for that movieIQ trivia track.
And now, the list of releases that I did not review this week, due to a lack of review material. Buy or rent at your own risk: