New Blu's On the Block Blu-ray and DVD Releases for Sept 7, 2010
There’s something for everyone this week on Blu-ray and DVD, especially for fans of quality, quirky television and of challenging, thought-provoking science fiction. There are a couple of quality independent titles, while Disney unleashes its estimated 8-million viewer behemoth sequel Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam to what I can only imagine are legions upon legions of giddy prepubescent fans.
And there’s more, lots more, this week full of so much stuff there’s almost not room enough to list everything inside a single article. Granted, just because that’s so it doesn’t also mean we’re still not going to try.
I had trouble deciding what I wanted to lead with this week and decided I’d just break down and go with my I think is the best film amongst all of the releases. The 1956 classic is without a doubt one of my all-time science fiction favorites. I remember watching this outstanding adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest for the first time as a child when it randomly aired on my local PBS station and was instantly captivated. Not just by Robby the Robot (and who doesn’t love Robby), but by the unique and fascinating story itself. This tale of survival on a distant planet against creatures ultimately drawn from the subconscious got under my skin and inspired me in ways too numerous too count, stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen (yes, that Leslie Nielsen) all creating indelible characters that popped right off the screen.
All reports point to Warner Bros. hi-def treatment of Forbidden Planet as being truly exemplary. As this Blu-ray just arrived in my mailbox just this very morning, I’ll be giving it a look soon and hope to have a review up within the next couple of days. All of the extras, including 1957’s sort-of sequel The Invisible Boy, from the previously released two-disc DVD special edition have been ported over (most in standard definition), while the film itself has been given a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack I can’t wait to hear. For my part, this is without question the must-buy title of, not just the week, but maybe the entire month of September.
Scranton, PA. Home to the fictional yet recession-proof Dunder Mifflin paper company. Right? Ha. Well, The Office has come a long way from the early days, today it is responsible for women wanting to date and marry men like Jim Halpert, and in part responsible for popularizing the punchline, “That’s what she said”. While I haven’t been following the show since the third season, you tend to hear things from friends, and one of the major events of the sixth season is the one-hour episode (4 & 5) of Jim and Pam’s wedding in Niagara Falls. It was a long-time coming for the pair. That’s what she said.
Universal has always been pretty good about putting bonus material on these sets, and so you kind of know what to expect here; Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Webisodes, an original short this time around, and a few other nuggets. All 26 episodes are here in high definition, although we won’t be able to report on it as we did not receive the Blu-ray set for review.
It’s sort of hard to imagine that the show has stuck around for this long, but it has such an immense following it probably influenced the network each time they renewed it, although the tenth year is reportedly its last. The majority of fan reviews on Amazon have been positive, citing a good blend of the Lois and Clark drama, and further exploring the mythos and paying homage in some episodes. The high-def transfer probably looks very nice, but we won’t be able to report on it as Warner has only sent us the DVD edition, a review of which should be up next week.
Special Features on both editions include the featurette “Kneel Before Zod” that covers the Krypton criminal’s appearances in DC’s silver age and recent films, animation and television, plus the featurette “Justice for All” in which the Smallville creative team discusses incorporating the Justice League of America into the show. Also included are commentaries on 2 episodes, as well as Unaired Scenes.
Anyone who has hung around MovieFreak long enough already knows how much I am completely enthralled by the continuing adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester. At the end of Season Four, the two demon hunters released Satan from the bowels of the Earth igniting a battle between Heaven and Hell that just might be engineered by God himself. Season Five picks things up from there, all of it culminating in a series of final conflicts fans and the majority of critics went absolutely nuts over.
At least, that’s what I’ve read. I managed to keep myself from watching a single episode of Season Five in anticipation of receiving this Blu-ray set to review, and coverage should be up in the next week.
“Chuck” is another show I can’t get enough of, the ongoing escapades of Buy More employee Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) as he continues his evolution into a government spy thanks to the pesky Intersect downloaded into his noggin pretty much always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. Season Three has a ton going for it, including the beautifully natural evolution of Chuck and fellow agent Sarah Walker’s (Yvonne Strahovski) romance as well as the introduction of new team member Daniel Shaw (Brandon Routh), a crackerjack secret agent looking to exact revenge upon those he feels are responsible for the murder of his wife. While a bit more hit-and-miss than the awesome second season, I’m still loving this show big-time and can’t wait to add this set to my home library.
Sadly, Warner has failed for some reason to get this Blu-ray over to us for review. They did send over the DVD package, however, and I’m happy to say we’ll have a review of that up for you to take a look at very soon.
An abysmal box office performance usually means “get this out on Blu-ray and DVD as quickly as possible”, so here we are today, almost three months exactly after its theatrical debut, and you’re reading this blurb about The Killers, a story of a woman who quick-marries the “ideal man” after they meet during her vacation, or so she thinks, because she soon finds out that he, wait for it, “is not” the ideal man, but in fact, a killer, and as is usually the case, comedy and action ensue, the pair running around dodging bullets and bad guys, quipping about the insanity of it all, etc. The Blu-ray features a Behind the Scenes featurette called “Killer Chemistry”, although numerous reviews have cited otherwise, the on-screen duo not really bringing it, so it should be interesting to see this extra (please note we are not covering this release.) Also included are a gag reel, and a selection of deleted, alternate and extended scenes to complete the two hours of time you’re going to kill watching the movie and special features.
When I first heard that Universal was going to make a feature-length motion picture out of the “Saturday Night Live” skit MacGruber I thought it was one of the worst ideas I’d ever heard. While I still don’t think it’s the best idea ever (and considering the film’s just over $8-million dollar gross a lot of potential viewers obviously agreed), I must admit I had a fairly okay time watching this one back at the end of May. As I said in my original theatrical review (read that by clicking here), “this film doesn’t so much flirt with bad taste as jump right into the cesspool and do the backstroke.” For the most part that pretty much says it all, and I imagine this unrated Blu-ray release will offer up even more of the same.
There was a lot of buzz last year that Hal Holbrook could earn himself an Academy Award nomination for this little independent offering about an apparently harmless retirement home escapee returning to his farm only to discover his son is allowing a family of three to live and there and potentially buy the property. It didn’t happen, and while the film received mostly positive notices (including from yours truly, read my review by clicking here) the picture never got a broad enough release for Holbrook to gain any year-end awards traction. Still, this is definitely worthy of a look, if only to see a Hollywood legend give what might be his final great performance and to witness young, up-and-coming newcomer Mia Wasikowska give arguably her first.
The good news about Solitary Man is that star Michael Douglas gives an award-caliber performance as a formerly successful car dealer whose bad decisions have led to him losing his business. The bad news is that, other than him, I wasn’t a huge fan of filmmakers Brian Koppelman and David Levien independent drama. Even with an all-star cast including Susan Sarandon (who also just happens to star with Douglas in Oliver Stone’s excellent Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, releasing in theatres later this month), Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Jesse Eisenberg, Jenna Fischer, Richard Schiff and Imogen Poots I found this movie to be pretty much insufferable. A lot of critics disagreed with me, however, and in the end I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you want to give this film a look, and you might also want to consult Mitchell’s Solitary Man Blu-ray review where he describes the film as “two thirds of a good character study.”
A classic rock opera told through the remarkable music of The Who, Tommy: The Movie is brought to life by an outstanding cast including stars of the rock music industry, such as Roger Daltrey, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Elton John, as well as actors Ann-Margaret, Oliver Reed and Jack Nicholson in supporting roles. To find out more about the movie, check out Mitchell’s Tommy Blu-ray review, in which he describes the high-def picture quality as “highlighted by moments when the image looks absolutely fantastic and marred by those when it looks a little rough.”
Late director Robert Altman’s stunning 1992 classic is about as perfect a satire of Hollywood as anyone is likely ever to make. Featuring a stunning central performance from Tim Robbins and cameos too numerous to count, this was one of the very first films I ever reviewed professionally (back as a teenager for The Spokesman Review) and looking back it remains one of my absolute favorites. I own the VHS, the widescreen VHS and the DVD. Looks like I’m going to have to add the Blu-ray to that list as well. Fortunately, Mitchell's The Player Blu-ray review should give you the insight you need about its high-def presentation and more.
Starring Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) and Chris Evans (Captain America), and based on the long lost screenplay from celebrated playwright Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire), the film tells the story of a Memphis debutante who returns home from overseas studies and falls in love with a not-as-fortunate man who works for her family’s plantation.
Is it sad that I totally was one of the estimated 8-million viewers who turned to the Disney Channel to watch this sequel (starring Mouse House rockers Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers) over the Labor Day weekend? Is it even more sad that I did so without a single kid forcing me to do so anywhere to be found? And, is it the saddest thing of them all that I enjoyed this rambunctious and incredibly silly teenage musical even though I knew it was a sophomoric enterprise devoid of anything even approaching originality? That’s probably a yes on all counts, but that doesn’t change the fact kids are going to be so eager to get this Blu-ray they’ll be doing just about anything to get their hands on it. If the last Camp Rock or the three High School Musicals are any indication, it can be safely assured that you parents out there are going to give in and buy it for them. Hey, if you don’t pass judgment on me for liking it I won’t pass judgment on you for spending your heard-earned dollars to appease your little ones.
It’s a Warner Bros sci-fi extravaganza! The exciting release here is obviously George Lucas’s debut feature Thx 1138, a movie based on his own acclaimed short film and made right before American Graffiti and Star Wars and long before he’d succumb to his own dark side and become obsessed with technology and special effects over intelligent storytelling. While far from perfect, this mesmerizing minimalist Orwellian effort continues to fascinate almost four decades after its original release and I for one can’t wait to check out the Blu-ray. Expect a review very, very soon.
As for the rest, I wasn’t a fan of Richark Linklater’s animated Philip K. Dick adaptation A Scanner Darkly (read my theatrical review by clicking here); it just didn’t do anything for me. The same cannot be said for Tim Burton’s wildly absurd and idiotic Mars Attacks!, a movie I know I should care for but can’t stop watching every time I notice its on all the same. Good, goofy fun if you ask me, those looking for something substantive or meaningful definitely in the wrong place. Finally, the less said about Lost in Space the better, and even with a cast featuring William Hurt, Mimi Rogers and wickedly evil Gary Oldman this is one big budget television to feature film adaptation that should have remained in limbo and never have been produced.
Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) adaptation of famed writer Neil Gaiman’s Stardust makes its long-awaited debut on Blu-ray over three years after it met with limited fanfare during its summer 2007 theatrical release. I loved it (read my theatrical review by clicking here), as did our DVD critic Rachel Sexton (read her DVD review by clicking here). But our fellow Moviefreak critic Mitchell Hattaway didn’t feel remotely similar, his scathing HD DVD review (read that by clicking here) as polar opposite from ours as you could possibly get. As for this Blu-ray it offers up no new special features and my assumption is that it will come with the same decent, not spectacular, transfer as the one found on that HD DVD. I still think it’s worthy of a rental at the very least, Vaughn and company producing a fun-filled fantasy frolic I’ve watched at least a half-dozen times.
This four-hour miniseries that aired on the SyFy channel comes to high-def, and those who didn’t get a chance to see it then now have the means to do so. Reviews have been split down the middle, with the general consensus being that it is a fairly decent, modern update on the source material, but that it also moves slower than expected.
This looks to be a type of hybrid that pays both homage to 80s horror flicks and spoofs them at the same time. The basic premise follows a group of people who trespass into the closed-off Louisiana swamps where a killer lurks. Special effects are said to be gory and fun, and overall this looks like it might resonate most with fans of the horror slasher genre.
- Written by Dennis Crane
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
Being Michael Madsen
The Black Dahlia (read my theatrical review by clicking here)
Blood into Wine
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Full Metal Panic: Season One
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Pulse (2006) (read my theatrical review by clicking here)
The Skeleton Key (read my theatrical review by clicking here)
Also releasing today is the fifth season of Criminal Minds, about the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit investigating special cases – think of the worst criminals out there and the BAU team is probably looking for them – and getting inside the criminal mind (you know I just had to go with that one). The show tends to be fairly good (and suspenseful) from what I’ve seen, and the DVD includes a good selection of bonus materials that’s sure to please the fans.
Hot on the heels of the successful Simon Baker show The Mentalist, CBS Studios is releasing the sophomore year of the actor’s previous show The Guardian in which he plays Nick Fallin, a hotshot attorney who must complete 1,500 hours of community service after a drug arrest, splitting his workload as a lawyer and working part-time as a child advocate at Legal Aid Services, where he comes face to face with eye-opening instances of kids caught up in difficult circumstances.
Hitting shelves just about a week and a half after NBC concluded airing it, Fox is rushing to DVD the summer mystery series Persons Unknown about a group of random people (or are they) waking up in separate rooms of a hotel who must figure out why they are there, who put them there, and how they’re going to survive. The series comes from the writer of The Usual Suspects, so you have an idea of what to expect of from these 13 episodes, and having seen the pilot myself it’s worth investigating further.
Finally, an Amazon.com exclusive release completes the show run of thirtysomething, about the inner workings of a close group of friends, in the fourth and final season. Shout! Factory had released the prior seasons of the show with commentaries and other material, but it is not known whether any have been produced for this set released by Vivendi.