Our new Blu-ray column begins today! Detailed reviews of selected releases will continue to be published separately; our goal here is to provide a quick overview for seasoned Blu-ray owners as well as the not yet converted.
For Blu-ray Vets:
'King Kong' (1933)
The grandfather of giant ape movies arrives on Blu-ray.
New Features: None. However, almost everything from the two-disk DVD release in 2005 has been included and up-converted to high-def. Only the Merian C. Cooper trailer collection is missing.
Transfer: Early reviews differ in their interpretation of the quality. Moviefone's Harley W. Lond says: "The qualitative jump is not nearly as impressive as several recent, more modern films' transformations into high-def," while DVD Savant's Glenn Erickson observes: "For me the improvement is immediate and obvious. The increased detail brings back memories of theatrical showings in 35mm, where we'd sit there watching with our mouths hanging open."
Replay Value: In its economy of storytelling, 'King Kong' is a model for modern filmmakers. Of course certain elements are badly dated! Ignore that and allow yourself to get caught up in the sheer, timeless terror of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and the fluid grace of Willis O'Brien's stop-motion animation, which holds up better than CGI of more recent vintage.
Also consider: 'Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.'
For the Newbies:
'The Thin Red Line'
Terrence Malick's all-star adaptation of James Jones' World War II novel gets the Blu-ray treatment from the Criterion Collection.
Why See It (Again): Much more a meditation on man, nature and warfare than any kind of action picture, some unfairly compared it to that other WWII movie of the same year, Steven Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan.' With the passage of time, Malick's film can be judged on its own merits. If you haven't seen it, the picture quality will grab -- and hold -- your attention.
What to Look For: Quoting from a review at Home Theater Forum: "This is one of the most natural-appearing high definition pictures currently available on Blu-ray. ... Detail is quite impressive here (you can count the feathers on an owl and injuries in close-up are very realistic), and flesh tones are completely natural and appealing."
Also consider: 'Iron Man 2.'
Coolest Unadvertised Special Feature
'Iron Man 2'
The superhero sequel didn't live up to the first installment, but still delivered the expected large-scale action sequences.
Details: 90 seconds of behind-the-scenes footage from 'Thor'! OK, it's not much, but Superhero Hype says it features director Kenneth Branagh plus brief comments from actor Clark Gregg and writer J. Michael Strazynski. To see it, you need to watch the "making of" documentary all the way through the end of the credits.
Most Intriguing Rental
'Rock & Rule'
It's an obscure Canadian animated sci-fi feature from 1983, featuring music by Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, and Earth Wind and Fire.
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: Back in 1983, it received only a limited theatrical release. The 2005 DVD release may have gone out of print.
Why Rent and Not Buy: Opinions on its worthiness as a film vary greatly. Todd Brown at Twitch wrote: "We're not talking high art here, Nelvana's not about to supplant Studio Ghibli in terms of depth of story, but we are talking art nonetheless. [It's] a great ride with fantastic scope and dead solid technical underpinnings." Charles Solomon at Amazon.com had the opposite thought: "Holds a curiosity value for fans of old rock, but it's not a memorable film."
We welcome your feedback as we develop this weekly feature; please let us know what you want to see included.