New Blu's On the Block
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Aug 31, 2010
It’s a seriously dead week on the release front as far as Blu-ray is concerned. Yes, some very popular shows (“House,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Vampire Diaries”) make their way to the format and, sure, there will be plenty of people out there extremely happy that Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead will finally be available in high-definition. But what can you say when the two biggest theatrical releases are Why Did I Get Married, Too? and Marmaduke? Or that Harry Brown, Tuesday’s most intriguing title, was for all intents and purposes shunned by its distributor and shuffled off to Blu-ray with no fanfare whatsoever?
Like I said, it’s a dead week, and while I’m sure some of you will find something you’ll want to add to your personal library I can’t imagine you’ll be breaking the bank picking up multiple titles doing so.
The Evil Dead
According to Anchor Bay, Sam Raimi’s 1981 low budget horror cult classic was the single most requested title in their entire library fans wanted to see come to Blu-ray. Well their pleas have been heard, and I do have to admit the studio has done a fairly great job giving this grotesque classic its hi-def due. What’s most interesting here (at least from my point of view) is to learn that Raimi shot the film in 1.33:1, both that version as well as the widely seen 1.85:1 version both given 1080p transfers. There is also a brand new audio commentary from writer/director Raimi, star Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert that’s both fun to listen to while also giving copious amount of insight into the picture’s financing, production and eventual distribution.
As for the rest of the special features, they’re presented on a DVD disc and have been culled from the numerous previous releases this picture has received over the years. It’s a solid set and fans of the film are sure to be pleased. For a somewhat more in-depth take you can read my The Evil Dead Blu-ray review.
House MD – Season Six (Blu-ray)
House MD – Season Six (DVD)
In what is among the very best of season premieres I have ever seen, the sixth season begins with such an amazing two-parter (“Broken”) – finding Dr. Gregory House in a state of mental limbo (his affliction getting the better of him or finally cured) – that I was ready to declare this a great season. While that statement was abrupt, and not so accurate when considering the year as a whole, in retrospect it felt right to say it then, because I was seriously floored by the premiere; the subtle yet deliberate ways the script (and direction) put House into a spin, dealing with different motivations and emotions. The rest of the season is solid overall, some episodes stand out, while others are run-of-the-mill type; however it’s mainly about the characters this season, with some new revelations about the supporting characters who are dealing with changes themselves.
This is the first time House, MD has been released on Blu-ray, and while we would have loved for Universal to provide us with a review copy so we could tell you all about it, judging from the 720p/1080i HD broadcast the show looks absolutely wonderful, although it is no way comparable to a 1080p resolution. A DVD edition is being releases as well, featuring a lot of the same bonus material that’s on the Blu-ray – audio commentaries on select episodes and several making-of featurettes. An exclusive extra is also on these, an original short featuring Hugh Laurie that was shot without a script. The Blu-ray has the exclusive picture-in-picture feature entitled “The Idiots Guide to Diagnostic Medicine”. I'll bet the short will soon make its way to YouTube for everyone to see.
- written by Dennis Crane
NCIS: Los Angeles – The First Season (Blu-ray)
NCIS: Los Angeles – The First Season (DVD)
It only took about six years, but the producers of the top-rated NCIS have finally spun off their brand with NCIS: Los Angeles, where the Office of Special Projects, comprised of an elite undercover unit, uses high-tech surveillance and high-stakes action to apprehend criminals who threaten national security. The formula is somewhat different here, but not by much, and the characters are fun to follow, turning this into a worthwhile spin-off that can stand on its own. CBS Studios had originally only announced the DVD of the first season, but later made a surprising announcement that a Blu-ray edition would hit shelves also, which is pretty cool, as the show looks fantastic in high-def.
Following in the footsteps of the type of extras produced for NCIS on home video, fans and viewers can expect a solid array of special features here, including multiple behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentary by exec producer/showrunner Shane Brennan, the spin-off episodes that introduced the characters on NCIS’ sixth year, and an LL Cool J music video for added bonus. Stay tuned for the Blu-ray review.
- written by Dennis Crane
Sons of Anarchy – Season Two (Blu-ray)
Sons of Anarchy – Season Two (DVD)
Coming off a very solid first season, the FX drama from Kurt Sutter (an exec producer and writer on “The Shield”) about an outlaw motorcycle club begins its second year with a bang – the Sons face a far more deadly threat than the ATF crackdown when a cold-blooded enemy will stop at nothing to drive them out of Charming, for good, and as Jax and Clay square off over questions of leadership and loyalty, the club threatens to destroy itself, from the inside out. The second season ups the ante, the characters thrown into chaos and forced to make tough decisions, proving the writing continues its excellent form and the actors giving life to these complex characters. The final minutes of the finale will get your heart pumping.
Fox is releasing season 2 simultaneously on Blu-ray and DVD, as they did last year, and again featuring an insightful collection of bonus materials such as commentary on select episodes, “The Moral Code of Sons of Anarchy” and “Sons of Anarchy Roundtable” featurettes, and more. You can read Roy Earle's Sons of Anarchy Season 2 DVD review, and stay tuned for the Blu-ray review.
- written by Dennis Crane
The Vampire Diaries – The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
The Vampire Diaries – The Complete First Season (DVD)
Here is a show that obviously came on the heels of the successful HBO vampire drama True Blood, the CW optioning the book series property about a high school student who falls in love with a vampire, but she doesn’t know that he is no ordinary boy; as vampire he must resist the urge to taste her blood, because, you know, they’re, like, in love. Complications arise, as they usually do, in the form of the vampire’s older and sinister brother who comes to town… hungry.
Warner is releasing the first season on both Blu-ray and DVD with a host of extras that are sure to pique the fan’s/viewer’s interest, such as Unaired Scenes, Pilot commentary, a Gag Reel, and a selection of bloody featurettes. Find out more about the show and extras in writer Rachel Sexton’s Vampire Diaries DVD review.
- written by Dennis Crane
The one release this month it still pains me that I never got the opportunity to see in theatres, this supposedly solid Michael Cain Death Wish meets Gran Torino thriller never press screening here in Seattle getting only the most miniscule of theatrical releases. It was here one week and literally gone the next, and even though it had relatively strong runs in both New York and Los Angeles receiving mostly positive reviews (including from our own George Schmidt, you can read his review by clicking here) distributor Samuel Goldwyn never felt confident enough in the feature to let potential audiences even know about it. This one is definitely going into the Netflix queue.
Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married, Too?
I may not be on the Tyler Perry bandwagon or understand his popularity but there is no denying there is a hungry audience out there continually eager to eat up just about everything he decides to put out there for release. This sequel made over $60-million at the domestic box office back during its April release, and even though like all of Perry’s films post Diary of a Mad Black Woman this one did not screen for critics people still went in droves to see it during its first few weeks. It is for them this Blu-ray is being released. It is for them I am posting this announcement of it hitting store shelves. And, finally, it is because of them I am becoming more and more convinced I have no clue as to what people will actually pay good money to go see or add to their personal libraries.
So, I actually have this Alvin and the Chipmunks and/or Garfield wannabe sitting here on my coffee table for review, Fox sending it over just today. For a film that died a remarkably quick (and somewhat surprising) death at the summertime box office this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack comes shockingly packed with special features including multiple featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and a few other hi-def exclusive extras. None of which makes me all that excited about giving this one a look, but give it a look I will, and here is my Marmaduke Blu-ray review.
The Red Riding Trilogy
I actually watched all three of these films earlier this year but, for whatever reason, never quite felt compelled to write a review. The series, originally made for British television, are spilt into chapters subtitled In the Year of Our Lord 1974, In the Year of Our Lord 1980 and In the Year of Our Lord 1983. Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited) directs part one, James Marsh (Man on Wire) part two and Anand Tucker (Leap Year) part three. The first is more or less awesome, the second a tiny bit tedious and the third, while overlong, pacts the biggest emotional wallop. Definitely worthy of a look, and all of them are well made and acted, but to say they are any then solid genre entertainment would be a massive overstatement.
NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
Brothers & Sisters – The Complete Fourth Season
The drama and heartbreak of the Walker family continues in the fourth season, as one member’s revelation devastates the entire family, one begins a relationship with a younger mate, and a wedding is an experience all of them will never forget. This is rather vague, but to spoil the identity of these folks wouldn’t be so kind. Brothers and Sisters is a solid ABC drama that comes to DVD with a good round of bonus materials that include Deleted Scenes and Bloopers, and two featurettes celebrating behind-the-scenes activities, “The Red Carpet” with cast and crew at the season 4 premiere party, and “Off the Clock” finding the cast and crew like a family on the set. The fifth season is slated to air on Sunday, September 26.
FlashForward – The Complete Series
The Middle – The Complete First Season
Parenthood – Season 1
Also releasing on DVD today are two returning TV shows, and one that was canceled just as it was getting interesting.
-written by Dennis Crane
For My Wife
I’m listing this documentary mainly because it happened right here in my hometown of Seattle. This magnificent, if a bit too short, documentary chronicles the tragedy behind the death of celebrated local musician Kate Fleming. Trapped in her basement during a flood, her spouse of nine years Charlene Strong frees Kate and rushes her to the hospital only to be told she cannot be at her side unless a “blood relative” gives her permission to be there.
Director David Rothmiller does a remarkable job of bringing this story to light, showing how this tragedy affected Strong and led her to work tirelessly to change laws in Washington State allowing for domestic partners to be at the side of their loved ones and to make decisions on their behalf. It is a fascinating, deeply emotional piece of work, the film shining a light on a national problem too few are speaking out about or are trying to fix. The promotional materials calls Strong’s story “one of courage and determination for the activist in all of us” and for once said promo materials do no lie. Definitely one of the week’s most unforgettable must-see releases.
OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Jean Dujardin returns as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, otherwise known as agent OSS 117, in this highly engaging, if not quite as fully satisfying, sequel to 2006’s OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. I enjoyed this one enough I actually wish the studio had sent it over for a review, if only because the last time I saw it was at the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival and I’d love to revisit this hugely enjoyable and incredibly funny character once again.