'Best in Blu-ray' is a weekly column that runs on Tuesday; we sift through the week's new releases and recommend titles for both the Blu-ray veteran and newbie, as well as the coolest special feature (unique to the format) and most intriguing rental.
For Blu-ray Vets:
Twitter Tag Line: Virginia Woolf adaptation, with Tilda Swinton as nobleman who lives for 400 years, changing genders and romancing Billy Zane.
New Features Unique to Blu-ray: Audio commentary with Swinton and director Sally Potter. All features from DVD special edition, released in July, are included.
Transfer/Audio: Based on the recent DVD release, which featured a brand-new enhanced transfer, we anticipate high-quality results on Blu-ray, but we have yet to find any reviews of the disc, either yay or nay.
Replay Value: Originally released in 1993, 'Orlando' never found a very large audience, so we're hoping that Tilda Swinton's raised profile will encourage Blu-ray veterans to check it out. Our own Jeffrey M. Anderson found that he appreciates the film more now than when he first saw it: "It's absolutely gorgeous. ... It has a very deliberate, crystalline cinematic quality to it, like a Kubrick or a Coen Brothers production. It's very specifically planned, and defiantly oddball."
For the Newbies:
Twitter Tag Line: Five people trapped in an elevator with the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.
Why See It (Again): The "Shyamalan Derision Factor" may have kept people from flocking into theaters to see it, but our reviewer Peter Hall found it to be "highly original, remarkably captivating, and, well, just plain cool." Also, it's Christmas time, and if you're trapped with your relatives for hours at a time, you may be better able to relate.
What to Look For: In a week with very few catalog titles and no classics in release, we turn our attention to newer films. Action thriller 'Salt' and sassy teen comedy 'Easy A' both received better reviews as movies, and both have received early kudos for their excellent Blu-ray transfers.
We're recommending 'Devil' as a rental for recent Blu-ray converts, however, not only because our reviewer thought it was a good movie, but also because the Blu-ray has received mixed reviews. High Def Digest complained: "What we can't forgive is the constant, habitual, borderline dominating amounts of crush going on in the picture. ... Black levels are incredibly ugly, and that's putting it politely." On a slightly more positive note, DVD Talk described it as "uniformly decent. It's not reference quality, mind you, but there is a nice control of colors, a rich use of rainy metropolitan atmosphere, and a nice balance between blacks and the rest of the spectrum."
"Black crush" describes the effect when the details in a darkly-lit scene are "crushed" so they can't be seen anymore. "Black crush" can be caused by certain televisions and / or by the source material. (Read a discussion on the topic.) Check out 'Devil' and see if you notice any "black crush," or if you see it now whereas you didn't see it before.
Coolest Special Feature:
'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'
Twitter Tag Line: Oliver Stone stridently updates himself and financial greed with a kinda triumphant Michael Douglas.
Details: Picture-in-picture commentaries and re-mixable clips can be fun, but sometimes you just yearn for some real, honest to goodness content that's available only on Blu-ray. How about a 50-minute documentary?
Fitting with the theme of the movie, 'Money Money Money: The Rise and Fall of Wall Street' is a five-part look at the ups and downs of Wall Street in the 20-plus years since his original film was released. DVD Beaver comments: "Those keen on the economic details of the film and discussion of current woes may find this educational." We think that's a polite way for the reviewer to say he was bored, something that could be said about the movie itself. Still, it's a good bonus and exclusive to Blu-ray.
Most Intriguing Rental:
Twitter Tag Line: Lonely hit man Pierce Brosnan befriends businessman Greg Kinnear. A bull dies. With Hope Davis.
Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: This movie does not have the best reputation (see below) but, frankly, it's a slow week beyond the bigger mainstream titles, and we like Pierce Brosnan. Glenn Erickson, AKA DVD Savant, says that Brosnan gives a "wild and entertaining performance. ... If one can set aside the show's failed stab at black comedy, Pierce Brosnan's engagingly, charmingly awful human being can be fun in itself."
As a further incentive, DVD Verdict says the film "certainly looks sharp in hi-def, offering excellent detail throughout. ... Audio is excellent." The musical score comes through "with strength and clarity."
Why Rent and Not Buy: Our reviewer, Cinematical co-founder Karina Longworth, wrote in 2005: "'The Matador' is one of those indie-in-name-only films, full of name stars and expensive effects shots and just enough coarse writing to ensure a festival run, that goes out of its way to prove that it doesn't 'play by the rules,' whilst simultaneously seeming unable to accomplish anything particularly anarchic, or even very interesting." So, your mileage may vary.
More New December 21 Releases on Blu-ray:
'Bounty.' Evidently a Western. We suspect gunfights are involved.
'D C Sniper.' True crime drama starring Ken Foree ('Dawn of the Dead'). No zombies, however.
'Once An Eagle.' Sam Elliott stars in one of the first TV mini-series made in the 70s. Won't the children be fascinated?
'Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad.' Based on a video game, so it has to be good (pictured).
'Step Up 3.' Dancing may be in their bones, but "the exceedingly melodramatic plot developments that lurch forth in between the often striking dance sequences [nearly bring] this second sequel to a grinding halt." (William Goss, Cinematical)
Further reading: New on DVD & Blu-ray, Week of December 21 (Moviefone)