It is Tuesday, which means that it is time once again for me to avoid writing my long-running column, This Week in Blu-ray. But this week, unlike the past two weeks, I just cannot get around the sheer awesomeness of the HD releases hitting your local retailers. Which is why I’m currently working through my official report for later today — including reviews of Godzilla (1998), Logan’s Run and The Negotiator.
But before I get to all of that, I wanted to file this very special edition of This Week in Blu-ray dedicated to the three releases from Walt Disney Home Entertainment, a trifecta of beautiful Pixar movies coming at you in 1080p. Needless to say, I’m recommending that you pay close attention and quite possibly that you pick up all three of these titles. We being with Pixar’s tenth (and most recent film) Up.
Up (2009, Pete Docter)
The Up Blu-ray release is something that I, for one, have been anticipating since a week or two before the film’s theatrical release. Walking out of my press screening for the film, having just been moved so mightily by this beautiful human story, supported wonderfully by one of the most energetic, fun adventure stories of the year, I had an instant thirst for more information. Where did this story come from? How did the art team bring together the look and feel of South America in such a beautiful fashion? All of these questions lingered, and all have been answered by this Blu-ray release.
As we experienced with Wall-E last year, Pixar is one studio that puts a lot of time and effort into creating a completely emmersive Blu-ray experience. Other companies should watch the Cine-Explore visual commentary, or the assembly of alternate endings of Muntz to see just how you can take generic special features (commentary tracks and deleted scenes) and turn them into something special. The Cine-Explore commentary is engaging, with directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson sparing no details as they recount the process of making this film. There is also a new short, “Dug’s Special Mission,” which is fun in an add-on sort of way, along with the original short “Partly Cloudy,” still one of my favorite Pixar shorts to-date.
And that’s just disc one. Disc two features eight (8) behind the scenes documentaries, including one that sees the creators of this story visiting Angel Falls in Venezuela, the real-life basis for Up‘s adventurous destination Paradise Falls. there is also an expanded back story that shows more of Carl and Ellie’s married life together, and a fun interactive game for the kids. All-in-all, its enough special features to kill an entire Saturday. Or Tuesday, in my case.
Beyond that, there is the quality factor. Not only is Up the perfectly assembled Blu-ray release — complete with a DVD copy and Digital Copy for your mobile devices — it is one of the most beautifully animated films of this decade. And in glorious 1080p, it has never looked better. Alright, maybe 3D on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse’s 4K Digital house was a little better — but that will never happen in my home. For now, this really does live up to Blu-ray’s claim of the best possible picture and sound. And it’s something you just have to see for yourself.
Monsters, Inc. (2001, Pete Docter)
In accordance with the general rule of Blu-ray, when a director’s latest film hits the format, it is customary for a studio to release something from his or her backlog that has not been previously released on Blu-ray. Usually, this means that when Roland Emmerich releases 2012 on BD early next year, that we’ll get a watered-down version of Independence Day or something. Not with Pixar. With Pete Docter’s amazing film Up hitting Blu-ray, we get a full-featured, epic four-disc helping of Monsters, Inc. for the taking. Now we can relive the oddball adventure of Sulley (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), two professional scarers who have accidentally brought a human child back with them, endangering their town, their jobs and their own fur.
It’s one of the most fun films that Pixar has put out over the years — and certainly one of the most underrated. But as they’ve done so often, Pixar has taken careful consideration to bring this story to Blu-ray in magnificent fashion. Disc one includes three new BD-exclusive special features, including a brand new audio commentary, a filmmakers round table in which the film’s primary creative team reflects on the process of bringing this story to life, and a look at the Monsters, Inc. ride that is being built in Japan. Plus, we get the two original shorts, “For the Birds” and “Mike’s New Car,” which were on the original DVD release.
Disc two is full of interactive elements — mostly for kids and people like myself who just eat that stuff up. There is an all-new game called Roz’s 100 Door Challenge (which is, to say the least, challenging). There is also a very neat and fascinating set of banished concept art that I personally have never seen before. It is very cool. On top of all that, disc three is a copy of the DVD for folks who don’t have Blu-ray yet and disc four is Digital Copy for on-the-go viewing. Just like Up, this release of Monsters, Inc. is the complete package, whether you are a collector or just a fan.
Cars: The Ultimate Gift Pack (2006, John Lasseter)
Sometimes even Pixar gets caught up in the holiday spirit. And sometimes even they — as part of the Walt Disney Corporation — go for the money grab. Which is what we see with this re-release gift set edition of Cars, John Lasseter’s entertaining story of big time racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his journey to the outer-limits of society.
In this release, we get the original Blu-ray release of the film, complete with a solid assortment of special features — including Cine-Explore, which I applauded on the above releases — as well as the DVD and its special features. If you’ve purchased Cars on BD before, then you know exactly what I’m talking about here, as it’s all the same. The only catch is that you get two collectible cars, one Cruisin’ Lighting McQueen and one Rescue Squad Mater.
The only reason I can see for you to pick up this last title is if you need to buy a gift for someone who doesn’t already own Cars on Blu-ray, or if you yourself have not yet picked it up in HD. It’s a cool little gift set, but nothing more.
So there you have it — a big time Tuesday with loads of special new stuff from Pixar. Something you should probably take into consideration as you hit the pavement and head out for some Blu-ray buyin’.