'Best in Blu-ray' is a weekly column that runs on Tuesday and examines the week's new Blu-ray releases while focusing on recommending titles for both the Blu-ray veteran and newbie.
For Blu-ray Vets:
'America Lost and Found: The BBS Story' (The Criterion Collection)
Twitter Tag Line: Seven movies on six discs, ranging from great to "nice try," that capture a sliver of the American film revolution from 1968-1972.
Films Included: 'Head,' 'Easy Rider,' 'Five Easy Pieces,' 'Drive, He Said,' 'A Safe Place,' 'The Last Picture Show,' 'The King of Marvin Gardens.'
New Special Features: All transfers are new and restored. Most films include new video pieces, along with archival material. A 114-page book with photos and critical essays is included. (Specifics can be found at the Criterion site.)
Transfer/Audio: Variable, as you'd expect with this many movies involved. Overall, DVD Beaver concludes that the films are "looking and sounding better than they ever have for home theater enjoyment."
Replay Value: Some of the films are easy to watch and enjoy multiple times and may already be in your collection; we're thinking 'Easy Rider' and 'The Last Picture Show', especially. If you're a hard-core film love, however, you want to understand films in their context, and this box set, assembled from the point of view of a production company that burned brightly for a handful of years before burning out, is invaluable. For bargain hunters, the set, which includes copious extras, delivers very good bang for the buck.
For the Newbies:
'The Complete Metropolis'
Twitter Tag Line: Utopia up top, dystopia down below creates the conditions for a full-blown labor revolt in a richly-imagined future city/state.
Why See It (Again): The original version of the film, directed by Fritz Lang, was never seen in the U.S. due to edits made by the distributor. Nonetheless, the incredibly imagery of the film, from the production design to the costumes to the way that Lang framed and shot the picture, proved to be highly influential. The story has always felt choppy, but the discovery and restoration of lost footage in 2008 means that the new version "features better pacing, more realized characters, and a clarity and richness of subtext," according to our own Alison Nastasi.
What to Look For: The re-integrated lost footage will be readily apparent. "The only real defect," comments Dave Kehr in The New York Times, "is the poor quality of the 16-millimeter footage. But the difference in quality also provides a handy guide to the changes made to Lang's original, as it is immediately obvious which shots and sequences have been added to the old version." Read Kehr's complete article for a critical overview of the film itself, which demands multiple viewings.
Coolest Special Feature:
Twitter Tag Line: Sylvester Stallone and a bunch of old men charge around like young dudes and kill people.
Details: The disc features an exhaustive 92-minute "making of" feature, among other extras also available on the DVD, but Blu-ray buyers get an exclusive, titled Ultimate Recon: An Interactive Bonus View. It's "a picture-in-picture option that plays along with the movie," according to High Def Digest. "It offers behind-the-scenes views of the sets that they used in each scene. It shows the crew at work creating the scene that you're seeing. ... There are also points where members of the crew show up and the movie shrinks into a little window as the crew member talks about certain subjects."
Most Intriguing Rental:
'The Disappearance of Alice Creed'
Twitter Tag Line: Intense kidnapping thriller features whiplash narrative twists and smart filmmaking.
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: 'Alice Creed' grabs you by the collar and shoves you into the back of a van as two men (Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston) prepare for, and then carry out, a brutally efficient kidnapping of a young woman (Gemma Arterton). From there, it's three characters in two rooms, as emotions rise and fall. The film received only a limited theatrical release this summer but it's a natural for anyone seeking out a suspenseful drama. Note: not for the kiddies.
Why Rent and Not Buy: As good as it is, it's not an easy film to watch. It doesn't descend into torture porn, but a couple of extended sequences are grueling and messy, and some of the plot twists will not sit well with every viewer. It is, however, perfect counter-programming for anyone who is not into the spirit of the family-oriented holidays.
More New Blu-ray Releases:
'Eat Pray Love'
'Fire & Ice - Dragon Chronicles'
'I'm Still Here'
'The Hunting Party'
'Countdown to Zero'
'Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married'
'Madea's Family Reunion'
'Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail'
'Diary of a Mad Black Woman: The Movie'
'The Family That Preys'
Further Reading: New on DVD & Blu-ray (Moviefone).