'Best in Blu-ray' is a weekly column that will run on Tuesdays and examine the week's new Blu-ray releases while focusing on recommending titles for both the Blu-ray veteran and newbie.
For Blu-ray Vets:
'I Am Love'
Tilda Swinton stars as the matriarch of a wealthy Italian family who rediscovers passion in her life after meeting a younger man.
Special Features: Audio commentary by Swinton and director Luca Guadagnino, 14-minute "making of" feature, 14 minutes of interviews with cast and crew, trailer.
Transfer: Mixed reactions have bee noted. Positive, from one who also saw the movie theatrically: "The viewer can enjoy this Blu-ray secure in the knowledge that the film's visual delights have been served up just as sumptuously as if one were at the movies." (Home Theater Forum) Less positive, from another who didn't see it originally in a theater: "Neither as sharp nor as colorful as you might expect." (Blu-ray.com)
Replay Value: A great picture and booming soundtrack can be very entertaining on their own, yet it's in the marriage of stunning visuals with an absorbing story and surprising characters that the Blu-ray format excels. Cinematical's Todd Gilchrist called the film "a lush, intoxicating tale" and that well describes the rush of seeing the film for the first time. Director Luca Guadagnino has a sense of style that may feel overwhelming, but it communicates precisely the emotions of the characters, who are unable or unwilling to express themselves in words. Subsequent viewings enhance the sensory experience.
For the Newbies:
George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube star as soldiers hunting a fortune in hidden gold as the first Gulf War concludes.
Why See It (Again): The adventure satire played fast and loose back in 1999; the ensuing years and the ongoing Gulf War adds bite and a degree of poignancy to the film's bark. Also, Clooney was a rising, rather than established, star at the time, and his well-calibrated performance deserves another look. 'Three Kings' is also a bracing reminder of director David O. Russell's talent at subverting genre staples (war/adventure/comedy) with lacerating reality (the torture scene).
What to Look For: If you saw the movie on DVD and weren't terribly impressed with the picture quality, Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant reports that the new Blu-ray is a "stunningly sharp and detailed transfer ... the clarity of HD restores their distinct character." Production designer Catherine Hardwicke is featured in one of the extras, talking about one of the sets; she would go on to direct 'Twilight.'
Also consider: 'How to Train Your Dragon.'
Coolest Special Feature:
'The Darjeeling Limited'
Details: Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz has been a pioneer in the creation of video essays. In "Chaos and Control," running 11 minutes, he "discusses key ideas, motifs, and patterns in The Darjeeling Limited over edited footage of the film," writes Glenn Heath Jr. at Slant Magazine. "The result is a wonderful critical examination indicative of the writer's considerable impact on new forms of online film criticism."
Most Intriguing Rental:
Anthony Hopkins plays a ventriloquist who tries to rekindle a romance with high school sweetheart Ann-Margret, only to discover that his dummy does not approve.
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: 'Magic' was a modest success at the box office in 1978, but it's not exactly the first film that jumps to mind when considering the careers of Hopkins or director Richard Attenborough. The new Blu-ray duplicates the extras found on the 2006 DVD and the image is "a healthy step up," according to DVD Beaver.
Why Rent and Not Buy: The film was poorly received by critics at the time of its theatrical release and this reviewer has hazy recollections of an overheated, sometimes laughable melodrama. However, time has been kind to it and Cinematical's Peter Hall argues very much in its favor: "This is the best 'killer ventriloquist' movie ever made and it's due entirely to its lead actor."