'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:
Twitter Tag Line: Alfred Hitchcock's classic stars Anthony Perkins as a motel operator with a mother fixation.
New Special Features: One new extra on transforming the original mono audio track into 5.1 surround sound for the first time. DVD Beaver notes a couple of omissions from the UK Steelbook edition.
Transfer/Audio: The new transfer looks "for the most part ... amazingly impressive." (DVD Beaver) However, the new 5.1 surround sound audio track, "while sporting excellent fidelity ... seems largely unnecessary for what this film is attempting to do." (Blu-ray.com)
Replay Value: The shock value of watching the film for the first time diminishes with repeat viewings, yet knowing the fate of the characters intensifies the suspense. Freed from unraveling the mystery, it's easier to appreciate all the unique directorial flourishes that decorate the narrative. Multiple viewings allow the deep-rooted chills to creep into your bones.
Further Reading: Cinematical's Todd Gilchrist considered the film's "Shelf Life" recently, observing that it still "works beautifully as a horror film, murder mystery and character study all at the same time."
Also consider: 'Seven Samurai' (The Criterion Collection)
For the Newbies:
'Apocalypse Now' (Three-Disc Full Disclosure Edition; also available as Two-Disc Special Edition)
Twitter Tag Line: Francis Coppola's 1979 epic is available as the original "conventional war movie" and as a "surreal exploration of morality," in the director's own words.
Why See It (Again): The film received new life when Coppola added 49 minutes of material and re-edited the entire picture, creating the more surreal 'Apocalypse Now Redux,' which was released in 2006 as part of a two-disc DVD edition marketed as 'Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier.' However, Coppola agreed with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who insisted that the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 was not suitable for home video and so the DVD had an odd 2:20 aspect ratio, and some scenes were recomposed to fit that aspect ratio. The new edition features the original theatrical aspect ratio.
What to Look For: The "Three-Disc Full Disclosure Edition" includes the essential 'Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse,' a 1991 documentary by George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr that features many new interviews and incorporates footage shot by Eleanor Coppola on location. Watch both the original 1979 version and 'Redux' and note the differences in tone that result from Coppola's attempts to make the film more conventional (1979) and more surreal (2001). The copious extras on the three-disc edition, which go into exhaustive detail, make it the one to buy.
Further Reading: Drew McWeeney at HitFix has an excellent review of the film and the Blu-ray, which he calls "the absolute last word on the film."
Coolest Special Feature:
Twitter Tag Line: Baz Luhrmann's dazzling, dizzying musical stars Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and 40 million fast edits.
Details: "Spectacular Spectacular Picture-in-Picture Mode" enables a visual element to the audio commentary: "Little windows pop up, sometimes more than one at a time, with song credits, photos, raw or behind-the-scenes footage, plus we can branch off to additional video pods." (Big Picture Big Sound) "Jam-packed with content, including: commentary from Baz Luhrmann and others, behind-the-scene footage, trivia, still shots, and more. The PiP window is always bustling with some sort of information, the end result being a comprehensive and interactive way to view the film." (n:zone magazine)
Most Intriguing Rental:
'The California Kid'
Twitter Tag Line: Martin Sheen stars as a hot rod driver investigating the death of his brother.
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: Made for television in 1974, the film was never released on theaters and has been seldom seen since, finally securing a DVD release in 2007. It features an early performance by Nick Nolte, a good star turn by Sheen, and a good villain in Vic Morrow, plus the eye candy bonus of Michelle Phillips and plenty of classic car lovin'.
Why Rent and Not Buy: This writer has a powerful memory of the film from its first broadcast, but those without the same nostalgia from the period may be less inclined to shell out good money for what may be an above average TV movie of the week, but little more. Still, Sheen + Nolte + Morrow = sure thing rental value.
More New Blu-ray Releases:
'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,'
'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'
Baz Luhrmann Spotlight:
'Romeo + Juliet'
'Make Out with Violence'
'Until the Light Takes Us'
'Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl'
'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' (The 35th Anniversary Edition)
'Night of the Demons'