This week in the Breakdown we’ve got a handful of greats coming to Blu-ray and a two quite different new releases. Heath Ledger’s final performance heads to the shelves and the middle-aged comedy It’s Complicated will hope for a continued success.
Next week should prove one of the more exciting of the year as Saving Private Ryan makes its way to Blu-ray, which is enough to rank it near the top for many waiting for Spielberg’s war classic on the format.
All releases this week come in DVD and Blu-ray so take your pick on what platform to enjoy your home entertainment.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – This Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits) film embraced the strange worlds the director loves to tackle, but publicity around the production had all eyes on Heath Ledger’s death. Ledger sadly passed away during production of Doctor Parnassus, causing Gilliam to make the decision to bring in Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to finish the job. It actually works for the style of the film and adds an entire dynamic of actor firepower. If only for the big names, this is worth seeing.
The special features are hit and miss with a few short interviews and featurettes showcasing the mind of Terry Gilliam, which even in short bits is entertaining. A 6-minute piece focusing on the impact of Heath Ledger’s death sounds intriguing and provides insight on the actors who replaced him on set.
It’s Complicated – The middle-aged romantic comedy pits three esteemed actors in a love triangle that ironically released in sync with the Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin-hosted Oscars. Meryl Streep brings her comedic touch to a film that has its moments of resonance with all viewers, regardless of age. It’s nice to see the rom-com genre turn to established actors and release itself from the death grip of young pop culture. And lest we forget, the R-rating gave the film another level to work with.
The special features are led by a commentary with four of the minds behind the film, including celebrated cinematographer John Toll. For those of you who enjoy behind-the-scenes featurettes, there is a 21-minute look at the production of the film.
Tombstone – Loved by many, the 1993 Western is brought to Blu-ray in a disappointing transfer, according to Blu-ray.com. The review includes complaints of the video transfer as confusing and distracting, but praise is maintained for the audio, which is pleasant news considering the wonderful crackle of old guns.
The disappointment continues in the special features, which oddly loses its steam from the 2002 DVD release of the film and only seems to present a half-hour making-of documentary.
Having said all this, Tombstone is still one of the more enjoyable Westerns in modern cinema and a film worth adding to the Blu-ray collection. But it is unfortunate Disney is not taking more responsibility with their best “non-traditional” studio films.
Traffic - Steven Soderbergh’s masterpiece finds its way to Blu-ray and the transfer is fantastic, but it becomes another release with disappointing special features. It is important to implement the plethora of behind-the-scenes pieces these films undoubtedly have when re-releasing, yet studios keep getting shy about it. Why?
The layered story of drug trafficking ushered in the new millennium with a handful of fantastic performances in a dense and subtle manner. The film plays off like an action movie, but has the structure of a well-crafted drama.
With nearly half an hour of deleted scenes and an 18-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, the special features are limited, but worth a watch.
Armageddon – Michael Bay gets one hell of a hard time from movie fans, but he has churned out genuinely entertaining blockbusters amidst some ridiculous explosion-heavy visuals. Armageddon is Bay with all the tools he could get his hands on in 1998. Littered with awesome actors and brilliant action, the film is built for Blu-ray. As expected, the audio and video transfer are great, but that’s where the positive review ends.
The supplements are embarrassingly absent. All that remains of the in-depth Criterion Collection DVD release are an Aerosmith music video and theatrical trailers. But considering this is a Disney Blu-ray release, it’s not surprising they have no control over the features.
Dune – One of those classic sci-fi films, David Lynch’s brilliantly paced movie comes to Blu-ray and deservedly so. Some films have a limited cult following, like Dune, but with the capabilities of Blu-ray, they just need to be on the format. The audio and video are praised for wonderful transfer, but as is the trend this week, the special features are weak.
Deleted scenes run 18 minutes, which is a healthy portion of missing moments. But what could be an interesting behind-the-scenes look is split into small pieces on different aspects of the film from the use of miniatures to the costumes of the film.
Out of Africa – One of the most celebrated films of the 1980s makes its way to Blu-ray. While the reviews are ho-hum and don’t overly praise or complain, certain visuals in the movie are too great to pass up on the format. A 72-minute documentary on African culture is a great integration of real-life and movie-world, as the film presents its audience with plenty of curiosity as to the true lives of the people from the continent.
The Jackal – If you haven’t seen this movie, now is a great opportunity to catch one of the most underrated Bruce Willis features. Richard Gere finds his way into an action film with Willis, where one of the coolest weapons in film history is presented by none other than Jack Black and put to good use. If nothing else, let The Jackal be a guilty pleasure.
DEAL OF THE DAY:
Nothing stands out today, but keep an eye out this week as Mother’s Day is approaching. Plenty of deals should be coming up this week on those lady-like films for the moms.
INTRIGUING RELEASE OF THE WEEK:
Disgrace – The John Malkovich film released last year and made $70,000 domestically, so odds are you didn’t see it either. One of the more intriguing and engaging actors made an independent film based on a novel by Nobel-Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee.
Check back next week for classics of all kinds, from Saving Private Ryan to Escape from L.A. to Nine and Doctor Zhivago.