Welcome to the ever-changing face of my Blu-ray column. Based on my theory of things, eventually I will find a format that can be (a) consistently written in time for Tuesday’s new releases and (b) something that people actually want to read. In this instance — version 4.0 for those keeping count — we’ve decided to match the format of ‘This Week in Blu-ray’ to Rob Hunter’s weekly column DVDs I Bought This Week, which happens to be one of the most popular columns on the site. Why? Because people like their DVD reviews clear, concise and most of all, quick to the punch.
This week I am pleased to bring you the most epic Blu-ray report in the history of my musings about the format. As you may have noted, I’ve taken the past two weeks off and have missed quite a few titles. So I’m playing catch up — this wee’s report will not only include today’s releases (such as Friday the 13th, Lost Seasons 1 & 2, Ghostbusters, Dr. Strangelove, etc.) it will also include some of the best and worst from the past two weeks. Then next week — hopefully — we will be back on track.
With that in mind, here is This Week in Blu-ray (bonus credit if you make it all the way to the end).
Pitch: Discover all the reasons why you loved the Cold War, in HD.
Why Buy? “If you try any preversions in there, I’ll blow your head off.” Did you know that Stanley Kubrick’s great Peter Sellers driven comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was originally written as a drama? Yeah, I learned that in one of the several long, deeply fascinating behind the scenes featurettes on this special edition Blu-ray release. If there were a ‘pick of the week’ in my column, this would be it hands down. Love the movie, can’t get enough of the special features — actually, there is so much supplemental material here that I almost couldn’t get through it — and as far as HD transfers go, this is the best looking pre-1980 film I’ve seen since I reviewed Dr. No on Blu-ray. Also, it comes with this sweet booklet with additional information and stills from in and around the production. If you like Dr. Strangelove, this is your definitive edition.
Blu-ray Exclusives? An awesome — I repeat, awesome — picture-in-picture and pop-up trivia track that can be turned on while you watch the movie. If love for inanimate objects really existed, I would be courting this release with an unnecessary fervor.
Pitch: Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber play Polish brothers just trying to keep out of trouble as the Nazis invade, in HD.
Why Buy? Put simply, this is a great film. A truly well-executed World War II drama about brotherhood and true self sacrifice. A harrowing story of three brothers who really did save hundreds of their countrymen from Nazi tyranny. The film, directed by Edward Zwick, looks beautiful on Blu-ray, its gritty aesthetic shining through to complement perfectly its gut-wrenching story. The special features selection appears light, but it packs a definite punch. There are two amazing featurettes that include interviews with some of the real survivors of the events involving the Bielski brothers — both of which are very touching and fascinating. This is one story that you will want to hear more about, and the Blu-ray release does a solid job of filling you in.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Special features are in HD, but beyond that it’s dry out there, folks. I’m still recommending this one though, based on quality of film and visuals.
Pitch: Nancy Botwin, queen of green, deals with her life, in HD.
Why Buy? One of the best seasons of one of my absolute favorite shows — which is mostly due to the razor sharp writing and the inclusion of Mary Louise Parker naked. The season is a must have. The Blu-ray release is pretty standard. Though I would urge you to ignore the mediocre level of special features and focus on how great MLP looks in high definition. The 3-disc set does include several featurettes with cast interviews and a gag reel that make me laugh — three or four times.
Blu-ray Exclusives? There is a set of ‘BonusView’ commentary with Kevin Nealon (Doug) and Justin Kirk (Andy) that is, to say the least, entertaining. A special side note: this release is packaged using 100% post-consumer recycled paper and plastic water bottles. Keeping it green, if you know what I mean.
Pitch: Clint Eastwood urges young Asian American kids to get off his lawn, in HD.
Why Buy? I’m pretty sure that if you don’t buy this Blu-ray, Clint Eastwood will drive his Gran Torino to your home and beat your ass. And he’s really old, so save yourself the embarrassment of being whipped by a grumpy old guy and go pick it up. Other reasons why you shouldbe all up on this release: Clint Eastwood’s acting, Clint Eastwood’s directing, Clint Eastwood’s singing during the closing credits (oh yeah, it’s there). Also, I would urge you to get more Clint Eastwood in the two wicked cool special featurettes included in this ‘special edition’. The movie is an intense work of Eastwood greatness, the Blu-ray makes it looks sharp and the features bring the experience full circle. What more do you need?
Blu-ray Exclusives? There is an entire exclusive BD featurette called ‘The Eastwood Way: Exploring the Actor/Director’s Filmmaking Process Up Close’ — yeah, that is exactly as rad as it sounds.
Pitch: Warner Bros. brings the legend back to life — with special features, in HD.
Why Buy? If you’re a fan of special features and the owner of a Blu-ray player, this is probably the easiest choice of the week. There are a few major Blu-ray exclusive features on this particular disc, including an entire behind the scenes featurette, which comes complete with laugh-out-loud moments in interviews with some of the film’s young cast. Lets just say that when an actor says, “I like working with Marcus Nispel because he tells you what he wants,” it makes me giggle. The rest of the featurette is cool, however. As well, I’m a big fan of the ‘7 Best Kills’ feature that allows you to revisit the moments when your favorite characters are killed. That’s something I haven’t seen before and is quite cool. Not to be forgotten is the fact that this ‘Killer Cut’ adds a few minutes to the film. Nothing major, just some extra debauchery.
Blu-ray Exclusives? In addition to the exclusive featurette mentioned above there is also a PIP trivia track that is neat. There is also a trailer for Trick ‘r Treat which may be worth the purchase of the Blu-ray on its own… I’m just saying.
Pitch: ‘Burned’ spy Michael Weston is back, with hottie sidekick Fiona and funnyman Bruce Campbell, in HD.
Why Buy? If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a spy, it is that if you get burned — you always stick around for the second season. And if you can get that second season on Blu-ray, you should always do that. Jeffrey Donovan is a sharp dressed agent of espionage in the exciting, fast-paced and fun second season of one of the best spy shows to hit the airwaves in a long, long time. And if that wasn’t enough, the show looks stellar in high definition — its well-known sharp visual style basking in the glory of 1080p. The only downside here is a slim selection of special features — I mean, why are there only commentary tracks on ‘select episodes’, wasn’t there enough room on those gigantic BD discs? Either way, this one is in the buy column — if you’re buying Blu-ray, you need to see this show.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Gabrielle Anwar looks hot in HD… does that count?
Pitch: One of the greatest sports movies of all-time, in HD.
Why Buy? I know that it is a bold claim to say that this is one of the ‘greatest sports movies of all-time,’ but for me it absolutely is. Director Gavin O’Connor perfectly captures the swirls of emotion that surrounded the journey of the 1980 United States Men’s hockey team with an obvious reverence and an unmatched attention to detail. He also places Kurt Russell in a position where he can deliver one of his career best performances as legendary coach Herb Brooks. The film is vibrant, incredible intense and in the end, a beautiful tribute to a moment that will long be remembered by hockey fans — and an entire nation of people — as one of the pivotal moments in American sports history. It was more than a game, and this movie captures that sentiment perfectly.
Blu-ray Exclusives? The Blu-ray may not have any major ‘exclusive’ special features, but this movie does look and sound great. It has plenty of special features (all of which were on the DVD release), but overall it’s really just the pace and energy of this film that shine through in High Definition.
Pitch: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett are back again. This time, Jack and Rose are having some major marital problems.
Why Rent? The first time I was able to take in this Sam Mendes directed drama, it was in the presence of my dear mom. And as many of you know, my mom is quite the film connoisseur, so her opinions on film get a lot of mileage around here (aka don’t diss my mom, commenters). Anyway, I remember her telling me about how this film made her feel uncomfortable, having grown up as a child in the 50s/60s and seen the way suburbia ate away at people. And she’s right, it is an incredibly torturous look at the errosion of love, the letting go of dreams and ultimately the destruction of a marriage. It is quite possibly one of the best films of 2008, but it certainly isn’t the sort of film you watch more than once. So rent it, rent it on Blu-ray to see the vibrant world that Mendes has created around this sad, depressing story. But trust me, this is a ‘see it once and done’ kinda movie.
Blu-ray Exclusives? All three of the special features (2 featurettes and 1 set of deleted scenes) are presented in HD, but beyond that there’s nothing.
Pitch: Dolph Lundgren is back to break someone again again, in HD.
Why Rent? If you’re a fan of explosions, this movie has what your heart of hearts needs. Mr. Lundgren may not be the same astute, stone-faced mother that he was back in the days of Rocky IV, but he certainly hasn’t lost too much of a step in the direct-to-DVD action game. While Steven Seagal is getting chubby (and oddly Russian) and JCVD is off being artsy fartsy, the Dolphster is still kickin’ ass and taking names. This time he’s playing an American soldier/convict who has to beat some Russian ass. Meditate on that. If you love b-movie-splosions galore and massive rallies of gunfire all up in your home entertainment system, this is a great rental.
Blu-ray Exclusives? You would think that a movie made for DVD and Blu-ray would have some solid special features. It doesn’t.
Pitch: Fifteen slightly bratty rookie sailors take a dangerous ride on the open seas.
Why Rent? The danger in a documentary like this — a tale of 15 rookie brats who want to take a wild 2,200 mile boat ride — is that it is possible to put too much focus on the straight-out-of-the-OC subjects and not enough on the beauty of the trip, but director Mark Monroe has accomplished something special — an MTV-generation documentary that looks and feels and feels anything but. Morning Light isn’t the Real World on a boat, but a beautifully shot doc that should be a captivating ride for a family movie night. As a big supporter of feeding the next generation of kids healthy doses of fantasy and reality in their early cinematic lives, I approve of you renting this and sitting the kids down for an adventure that actually happens in the world. As well, this movie looks great in HD.
Blu-ray Exclusives? A few behind the scenes features, none of which are exclusive to Blu-ray. Sad times.
Pitch: Crash land on a mysterious island for the first time, in HD.
Why Rent? It is quite a thing to be thinking about Lost so soon after its fifth season ended in such an epic way, but how can we really resist going back to the beginning? Personally, the biggest reason why this particular set excited me was the opportunity to go back and view the show’s pilot in HD, something that I was unable to do back in the day. The visual construction of that episode by director J.J. Abrams and D.P. Larry Fong (Watchmen) is brilliant — it is something that exists through the first two seasons but seems to go away somewhere in season three. On Blu-ray, season one looks and sounds great and the nostalgia of those fateful first days on the island are enough. The additional special features sound like a lot — 8 additional hours — but in the end it doesn’t feel like much. Especially if you’re like me and you’ve already seen those 8 hours of bonus features on the DVD release.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Season Play (which doesn’t actually do anything worthwhile) and ‘seamless menus’… really? This is why it’s in the rent column.
Pitch: Go back to the island, in HD.
Why Rent? Any die hard Lost fan might tell you “it gets a little weird in season two” and they might be right, but I’m personally a fan of the season when ‘The Others’ finally become the threat that we all know them to be nowadays. And as I mentioned above, there is a definite visual difference between seasons 1 and 2 and the rest of the seasons — except maybe season 4. Either way, the fact that you need to focus on is that season two is worth seeing again in HD. This disc set, like the season one set that is hitting shelves at the same time, is not exactly something worth spending coin on, as it features a lot (and by a lot, I mean all) of the special features being rehashed from the original DVD release. It makes me sad.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Season Play (which doesn’t actually do anything worthwhile) and ‘seamless menus’… really? Again, why it’s in the rent column.
Pitch: A popular self-help book becomes a movie with popular faces but no real story.
Why Avoid? I feel as if I must defer to my comrade Dr. Cole Abaius’ review of this film, in which he so eloquently called it “cinematic equivalent of an artist crapping into a jar, labeling it “100% Pure Artist’s Shit,” and selling it to the highest bidder just because of whose DNA is fermenting inside.” He gets bonus points for the DNA fermentation reference. What I know is that this whole film is a massive attack of cliché — and Blu-ray isn’t helping it. Suck is suck, even in high definition.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Oooh, BD-Live. Really exciting, I assure you. Hopefully you won’t find out for yourself.
Pitch: Twice the terror in the trip back to Camp Crystal Lake.
Why Avoid? This is where it really began — when they figured out just how far they could really go with this Jason franchise. And even though this is one of the most underrated films of the franchise, it really didn’t get the best treatment on Blu-ray. A limited amount of special features — all in HD, luckily — but nothing beyond a few featurettes and the film’s theatrical trailer. No commentary (from anyone), no interactive features. I would think that fans of this movie and franchise would deserve more for their loyal dedication to such an iconic character. Jason deserves a better Blu-ray release, even if this is part 2.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Nothing that will make you want to go out and buy this release. As in, nothing at all.
Pitch: Meet Jason in a whole new dimension — the third dimension. Dun dun dun…
Why Avoid? For those of you who think that the 3D horror movie craze started this year with My Bloody Valentine 3D, then you might want to go back and check out Friday the 13th Part 3, which was made all the way back in 1982. And while it is fun and a little ridiculous — not to mention the kills, those are always fun — I’m still not sold on the whole ‘3D at home’ situation. It looks terrible on even the best HDTVs and there’s really no need to continue purchasing these types of films just for the novelty 3D. So unless you’re a major fan of this third installment, I would recommend you stay away.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Featurettes are in HD, but again, there’s nothing on this Blu-ray that didn’t exist on a previous DVD release.
Pitch: A serial killer kills people, then brings them back so that he can kill them again.
Why Avoid? I must echo the strong sentiments of Mr. Robert Fure’s Coroner’s Report entry on this film, it is certainly dead on arrival. And as I’ve said so many times before, great special features cannot fix a bad movie. And as far as I can see, The Cell 2 doesn’t even take the shot at overcompensating with a buffet of special features. They let this thing wallow in it’s own sadness bath with a single behind the scenes featurette and some additional BD-Live content, none of which is even worth mentioning.
Blu-ray Exclusives? I’ve already fallen asleep… Are there more titles to talk about? Maybe.
Pitch: Hell hath no fury and let me buy your wife, in HD.
Why Avoid? Never has Glenn Close been so scary, Demi Moore has never been so hot, and Robert Redford has never been so desperate for a little nookie. These two films from director Adrian Lyne (Unfaithful) both seem to be along the same lines in their Blu-ray releases. The transfers both look great, the movies are still just as good as their were back in the late 80s/early 90s, and the special features are absent — to the point in which the Indecent Proposal disc comes complete with director commentary, and that’s it. The Fatal Attraction release has some additional special features, including a few interesting, but bloated featurettes and an alternate ending with an introduction from the director, but it’s not much better. If I had to recommend one of these — which I won’t, because they really are just collection filler at best — I would say that Fatal Attraction is the better Blu-ray release, even though I liked Indecent Proposal better as a film.
Blu-ray Exclusives? These movies are on the bottom of the bottom — what makes you think they have anything cool to offer?
What do you think of the new format for This Week in Blu-ray? Also, what are you buying this week?