'Best in Blu-ray' is a weekly column that recommends newly-released titles for both the Blu-ray veteran and newbie, as well as the most intriguing rental. This week's edition includes a special section on Blu-ray re-releases.
For Blu-ray Vets:
'Videodrome' (The Criterion Collection)
Twitter Tag Line: In David Cronenberg's bleak vision, television is the ultimate mind control device.
New Features Unique to Blu-ray: None. However, all of the extensive extras from the two-disk DVD edition have been carried over, and, of course, a new high-definition transfer has been made.
Transfer/Audio: "Everything is visually represented as adeptly and impressively as one might expect from Criterion and the image advances to a far more film-like appearance. ... The lossless rendering accentuates the haunting music score with some perceived depth." (DVD Beaver)
Replay Value: This is tougher to consider because the film can be so grueling to watch. Yet if you have the stomach (or the "abdominal vagina," as Lars Nilsen of Alamo Drafthouse so amusingly wrote) to deal with the images, repeat viewings give you the opportunity to consider more closely the implications of sleazy executives willing to go to extremes to goose ratings. In today's era, James Woods would be working at a big Internet company rather than cable TV.
Further Reading: Cinematical Seven: Our Favorite Sex Creeps (Jenni Miller, Cinematical).
Also consider: 'Cronos,' the debut feature by Guillermo del Toro.
For the Newbies:
Twitter Tag Line: A blistering picture about the war in Afghanistan.
Why See It (Again): 'Restrepo' made more than a million dollars at the box office this summer, which makes it one of the more financially successful documentaries this year, yet it played in only limited engagements and not everyone had a chance to see it. It's unflinching and not always easy to watch; by keeping the perspective "on the ground," so to speak, the goal was to provide a soldier's eye view of war.
What to Look (and Listen) For: This isn't necessarily a showcase for your home theater system -- the footage is sometimes rough and the visuals and sound uneven -- but it is a hard-edged introduction to the incredibly rich variety of documentaries available on Blu-ray. Nature documentaries can look stunningly beautiful, but there's no comparison to seeing real-life soldiers putting their lives on the line. The high-definition picture makes it impossible to look away or pretend it isn't happening.
Further Reading: "As a lover of war films (which I never understood psychologically since I'm such a wimp and a pacifist), I whole-heartedly recommend it to others." (Christopher Campbell, Cinematical)
Most Intriguing Rental:
Twitter Tag Line: A ladies' man loses his testicles; sharp dialogue and awkward grace help the film transcend the expected jokes.
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: Patrick Wilson, as the man who has lost a couple of vital parts, must deal with a paternity claim from man-hating Judy Geer, prompting him to rebuild his life. The film is primarily a very funny comedy, but it sneaks in some heart-warming moments without becoming overly sentimental. 'Barry Munday' deserves to be seen.
Why Rent and Not Buy: Comedies tend to wear out their welcome quicker than dramas. This reviewer found the film to be very funny, but not everyone shares his sense of humor. See my review below for more information.
Further Reading: SXSW Review, Cinematical.
Recent Theatrical Releases, Now on Blu-ray:
'Shrek Forever After'
(Both titles covered in more detail by Moviefone)
'Alice in Wonderland' 3D
Tim Burton's 2010 version with Johnny Depp is now available as part of a four-disk package for those with 3D Blu-ray capability; check the packaging carefully to make sure you're ordering the version you want.
Re-released on Blu-ray
'About Last Night...'
'The Big Hit'
'Half Past Dead'
'St. Elmo's Fire'
The six titles above were released by Sony on Blu-ray but have all gone out of print. They're available again through Image Entertainment, through a licensing agreement the company made with Sony. The list price is lower, but the extras are different. Blu-ray.com breaks down the details.
For comparison's sake, we recommend 'About Last Night...,' from Edward Zwick, the director of 'Love and Other Drugs.' Both movies feature young naked people in love. The Blu-ray for 'About' features an audio commentary with Zwick.
You can also compare Natalie Portman's dancing as a stripper in 'Closer' with her ballet dancing in 'Black Swan.' Unfortunately, the Blu-ray includes only a music video as an extra.