The American

'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:

'The American'

Twitter Tag Line: George Clooney stars as a haunted hit man contemplating his bleak future in a low-key, mesmerizing drama.

New Features Unique to Blu-ray: They range "from the expected BD-Live and My Scenes to video time-lines, Mobile and even keyboard accessible features (all through 'pocket blu'). This was the anticipated interactive direction of digital home theater and this release has it all - complete for the geek in you keen on indulging." (DVD Beaver)

Transfer/Audio: "Looks clean, consistent and textured. ... Colors and hues seem realistic without being falsely exuberant." (DVD Beaver)

Replay Value: Our reviewer, Todd Gilchrist, calls it "a noble failure," but yours truly begs to differ; it's stayed in my head since a theatrical viewing more than three months ago. Obviously, it's the kind of moody movie that won't appeal to everyone -- don't expect a standard action flick -- but veteran Blu-ray owners should appreciate the plush color palette and the immersive quality of the viewing experience. Pour yourself an espresso and allow the drama to wash over you. Also, tip your hat to photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn (the great 'Control') and his keen eye for framing gorgeous shots. And let's not forget the bonus of a spectacularly undraped Violante Placido.
And Soon the DarknessFor the Newbies:

'And Soon the Darkness'

Twitter Tag Line: "American Tourists: Stay out of South America! Terrible things will happen to you! Also, bad horror movies will be made about your stupidity!"

Why See It (Again): Actually, there's really little reason to see the 2010 remake of the 1970 original in the first place, according to early reviewers, except for the high quality of the transfer. And maybe for really devoted fans of Amber Heard, Odette Yustman (both in bikinis) and Karl Urban (no word on his swim wear). "No value whatsoever." (IGN) "Aggressively routine." (DVD Talk) "Brings nothing new or interesting to the table." (Dread Central)

What to Look For: Boy, that transfer must look great! "Sharp, pristine ... a striking amount of depth and detail." (IGN) "A drop dead gorgeous presentation ... screams out to be experienced in high-def." (DVD Talk) "Holy cow, does the Blu look stunning." (Dread Central) By all accounts, the film, shot on location in Argentina, showcases the country's beauty, so consider a rental a cheaper option than actually traveling to another continent.

Further viewing: Exclusive Clip: Amber Heard and Karl Urban on the Hunt. (Cinematical)

Resident Evil: AfterlifeCoolest Special Feature:

'Resident Evil: Afterlife'

Twitter Tag Line: Milla Jovovich shoots and splatters thousands of zombies.

Feature: Undead Vision: Picture-in-Picture

Details: If you've already seen the movie, picture-in-picture features can bring added value, but too often are routine and duplicate material found as part of other features on the disk.

This one, however, includes interviews with cast and crew that aren't available elsewhere in the package, according to High-Def Digest, as well as "tons of sketches, layouts, animatics (including an amazing prolonged look at the opening of the film), and behind the scenes footage, which add a ton to the experience. If it weren't for the random comments, it would be an amazing complimentary piece to watching the film." Unfortunately, the "random drown outs make it just a supplement." It still sounds like a good bonus for repeat viewers, especially in a week with very few releases.

Further reading: "The best video game movie ever made." (Peter Hall, Cinematical)

MerantauMost Intriguing Rental:

'Merantau'

Twitter Tag Line: "Young man from a small rural village goes to a big bad city, rescues a girl, and engages in serious butt-kicking," Indonesian style.

Why Seek It Out on Blu-ray: This one's a pick for the action die-hards among us (this writer raises his hand proudly), so if you want something ennobling and sympathetic to the human condition, may we humbly suggest that you read a book this week?

"Our hero flies across rooftops, fights within elevators and dispatches pursuing motorcycles with applause-worthy ease, with everything grounded within the realm of plausibility and that much more fun for it." (William Goss, Cinematical)

Why Rent and Not Buy: The transfer doesn't look good, according to two early reviews. "Few would say the high definition image looks stunning or even pleasing." (Blu-ray.com) "Pure overkill in terms of color and contrast." (DVD Talk)


TwelveMore New December 28 Releases on Blu-ray:
'Derailed.' Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston star in a would-be thriller from 2005. Our critic at the time, James Rocchi, concluded: "This movie never gets up enough steam to go anywhere, much less jump the track."
'Shinobi - Heart Under Blade.' As with several other new releases this week, 'Shinobi' looks great but tastes less filling. When the film was making the festival rounds a few years ago, Kim Voynar liked it better than this writer.
'Twelve.' Joel Schumacher's film follows a high-school dropout who becomes a drug dealer. It inspired no less than three articles at Cinematical: the review by Kevin Kelly at Sundance, "Cinematical Seven: Seven Things Wrong With 'Twelve'" by Perri Nemiroff and "Joel Schumacher's 'Twelve' May Become the Biggest Bomb of 2010" by David Ehrlich. Read them all and weep, loyal Joel Schumacher fans.

Further reading: New on DVD & Blu-ray, Week of December 28 (Moviefone)