'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:
'Highlander' (Director's Cut)
Twitter Tag Line: Sean Connery! Christopher Lambert! Sword fighting in NYC! Decapitations! Immortals! The quickening! Soundtrack by Queen! Play it again, Sean!
New Special Features: Six minutes of deleted scenes; alas, without sound. Carries over the audio commentary from the DVD; director's cut includes about 10 extra minutes, compared to the theatrical release version.
Transfer/Audio: "A pretty healthy leap in video quality ... It's not a perfect transfer but it is certainly a big improvement" over the previously-issued standard definition DVD releases. (DVD Beaver) "Transfer is at times shockingly uneven." (Blu-ray.com)
Replay Value: Distributor Lionsgate has set the list price at $19.99, a bargain for fans who have made 'Highlander' a big hit via home video. The action sequences hold up very nicely, both those set in the modern day and the ones set in ancient days, Christopher Lambert does much better than you might expect, and Sean Connery makes the incredible premise seem believable. Something odd comes together here and it's altogether fun to watch.
Also consider: 'The Bridge on the River Kwai,' David Lean's epic tale of a British colonel (Alec Guinness) in a Japanese POW camp during World War II and his determination to build the best darn bridge ever. With William Holden and Jack Hawkins.
For the Newbies:
'The Sound of Music' (45th Anniversary Edition)
Twitter Tag Line: The hills have eyes, er, are alive with the sound of Julie Andrews, singing melodies that burn into your brain.
Why See It (Again): This writer does not have a particular affection for Robert Wise's hugely popular movie, but acknowledges that, once sucked into a viewing, the movie does have a peculiar forward momentum, and the sunny disposition is contagious. Also, the hills around Salzburg, Austria, are, indeed, truly gorgeous and are captured in all their stunning beauty. Also, Julie Andrews makes me want to have a wholesome, positive attitude.
What to Look For: "The beauty of the cinematography and locales ... produces sumptuous, rich, awe-inspiring visuals." (DVD Beaver) In other words, if you're a fan of the film, and have seen it multiple times, yet only on VHS or broadcast television, you're likely to see an old favorite spring to life as though it was a brand new picture. Even if you have the DVD, you're likely to see a big uptick in picture and sound quality, which should reassure you that purchasing a Blu-ray player was a wise decision.
Other editions: If you're already sold on the movie, take a look at the Limited Edition Collector's Set, which includes a 100-page scrapbook, reproduction of the original 1965 souvenir program and a "My Favorite Things" music box.
Also consider: 'White Christmas,' the biggest box office success of 1954, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, directed by Michael Curtiz.
Watch an exclusive clip for a chance to win a discount on the box set!
Coolest (Potentially!) Special Feature:
'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'
Twitter Tag Line: From 1968. Wacky Dick Van Dyke, crazy flying car, script by Roald Dahl. Does it hold up?
Details: The "Toot Sweet Symphony" melody maker sounds like the most intriguing of the week and is exclusive to the Blu-ray edition, though we don't know exactly what it is! Advance reviews have been few and far between and have, understandably, concentrated on the video and audio.
Most Intriguing Rental:
Twitter Tag Line: Curiosity factor is high for those of us who haven't seen Diana Ross as Dorothy. Is it really that awful?
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: When the movie was originally released in the fall of 1978, it met with general derision and faded rather quickly from view, though it earned four Academy Award nominations. Was it really that awful? Or was it the idea of 34-year-old Diana Ross playing Dorothy? Or the thought of Sidney Lumet, director of 'Serpico' and 'Network,' attempting a musical? Nowadays, there's definitely a curiosity factor involved, especially considering the cast: Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, Nipsy Russell as Tinman, Ted Ross as Lion and Richard Pryor as The Wiz.
Why Rent and Not Buy: Maybe all those people who had reservations about the movie were right! Devoted fans of the cast already have some version of the film in their library, but everyone else will be apprehensive about buying a movie that still carries a lot of negative baggage. A rental seems the best option to evaluate your feelings.
Also consider: 'Centurion,' Neil Marshall's bruising, galvanizing action picture.
More New Blu-ray Releases:
Covered at Moviefone:
'Toy Story 3'
'The Goonies' (25th Anniversary Edition)
'Come Hell or High Water'