This is an absolutely mammoth week for Blu-ray fans. New releases include Biutiful, Drive Angry and True Blood Season 3, but all of these pale in comparison to the classics hitting Blu-ray this week.
Everything from the much-anticipated Kubrick Collection to hilarious ’80s comedies like Back to School will arrive on shelves in stunning Blu-ray. There is heartbreak in Midnight Cowboy and laughter in City Slickers. A cowboy theme runs throughout the Blu-rays, but not all of them feature the Western motif.
Biutiful – For a sad and dark movie, this title sure hits home video with a gorgeous look and sensational sound. The Oscar-nominated performance by Javier Bardem makes the movie much easier to watch than its content would suggest. The critically-acclaimed film may not do so hot amidst all the high-profile Blu-ray releases this week, but those who saw it in theaters are sure to want this title at home.
A pleasant surprise is the absence of an English dub on this title. It’s a shame that some home video releases of foreign films provide American audiences with the opportunity to listen to an English dub, which is rarely good enough to honor the original performance. Biutiful honors its stars with a single-track home video.
Just over 30 minutes of bonus material isn’t much, but on an independent foreign film it’s more than enough to get a glimpse into production.
- Behind Biutiful: Director’s Flip Notes
- Biutiful Crew
Drive Angry – One of the biggest flops of last year comes to home video in both 2D and 3D. Choose your format, but considering it was shot in 3D I can’t imagine a 2D version is much better. There were some cool sequences in 3D that might make good use of a 3D home television. That said, our 3-star review was relatively favorable – but stresses that the movie has a very specific audience.
The bonus features are limited, but should expand the picture a bit for true fans willing to buy the home video.
- Deleted Scenes
- Audio Commentary
True Blood Season 3 – The controversial show continues its television run and the hungry fans get their latest dose of True Blood with this season 3 release. With 730 minutes of episodes and nearly equal as much content in the bonus materials, this should hold down fans for quite some time.
The look and sound of this True Blood box set is the same as previous seasons. It’s a great release, but only holds up as long as you can handle the content. There were plenty of pivotal plot twists and character developments, so this season proves the show has plenty more to explore.
The bonus features are something to behold, but most television series have endless extra materials. With over 150 minutes of character perspectives, the handful of supplements make this a great release.
- Enhanced Viewing Experiences
- Audio Commentaries
- Post Mortems
- Character Perspectives
- Anatomy of a Scene: Episode 2
- True Blood Lines
- Previews and Recaps
- Music Video
Stanley Kubrick Collection – Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut. Need I say more? I will anyway.
This unprecedented compilation of one of cinema’s most legendary filmmakers is not just a bunch of poorly transferred Blu-rays slapped into a box set.
The video transfer of each of these classics is pristine and blows away its DVD predecessor. It should be noted that these weren’t transferred by one group, but rather each studio provided an individual release that was then compiled into this package. They aren’t all perfect, but considering the quality of work, it’s a strong release this week. I won’t be getting into the bonus features of all titles, but rest assured there is plenty of material to salivate over.
Once Upon A Time In The West – Mark off another title from our 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release list, as number six finally reaches the format. One of the most gorgeous and mesmerizing films of all time can finally be seen on the best home video format available. Harmonica may never sound this good again.
It doesn’t hurt that the cinematography is brilliant, but this transfer is something to behold. It deserves every single bit of praise possible and Paramount always seems to deliver on the classics. But sound is the most vital component to Sergio Leone’s masterpiece and the surround sound plays perfectly.
With over an hour of bonus features and a star-studded audio commentary, this is a release worthy of fanfare. The audio commentary even features famous directors, historians and writer Bernardo Bertolucci and star Claudia Cardinale.
- Audio Commentary: Film Historians Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall; Directors John Carpenter, John Milius, and Alex Cox; Writer Bernardo Bertolucci and star Claudia Cardinale.
- An Opera of Violence
- The Wages of Sin
- Something to Do With Death
- Railroad: Revolutionizing the West
- Locations Then & Now
American Graffiti – If you think George Lucas is only known for Star Wars, you are incorrect. In addition to THX-1138, he also directed the classic American Graffiti. Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss star in the 1973 movie filled with nostalgia that proved Lucas could have been a much more prolific director if he didn’t get so caught up in his own legacy.
The colorful film looks great on Blu-ray and a fresh assortment of special features makes this home video release last much longer than the end credits. George Lucas even graces us with his presence in a video commentary.
- U-Control Video Commentary – George Lucas
- The Music of American Graffiti
- The Making of American Graffiti
- Screen Tests
Midnight Cowboy – A truly powerful and moving film deserves a spot on Blu-ray shelves. It may not be a gorgeous movie, but that’s kind of the point. It wrestles with dark conflict in dreary alleyways (when it isn’t in a rich woman’s bedroom), but finds a way to latch onto your soul with a tear-jerking story of brotherhood and self-discovery. If you’ve never seen Midnight Cowboy, it is a must-see and what better way than this Blu-ray release?
The video looks great and the colors (both dark and bright) jump off the screen. The music plays a huge role in the tone of the movie, as it flips back and forth between comedic and tragic moments. On Blu-ray, that sound gets a little extra push. Fans of the film will be happy with the special features included.
- Commentary: Producer Jerome Hellman
- After Midnight: Reflecting On The Classic 35 Years Later: Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles, producer Jerome Hellman, Jennifer Salt and cinematographer Adam Holender discuss the film
- Controversy and Acclaim
- Celebrating Schlesinger
City Slickers – The comedy adventure still holds up today and looks even better on Blu-ray. Once the crew reaches the sunny wilderness, the colors pop on screen and the movie’s Blu-ray purpose shines. Billy Crystal’s hair and Bruno Kirby’s mustache stand the test of time well with this release.
Maverick – Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson recently teamed up on The Beaver, but it wasn’t their first rendezvous. The two battled each other in Maverick, the other hilarious Western-themed comedy hitting Blu-ray this week. Maverick runs near the top of great poker movies, but gets its kicks as a satirical Western.
Casino Royale – The action-comedy parody of James Bond included its fair share of controversy, including the well-documented rivalry between Orson Welles and Peter Sellers. It’s too bad comedies, and parodies especially, don’t work as well as Casino Royale did in 1966. The comedy is so direct and spot-on that you would imagine the cast and crew could have made a legitimate Bond movie if they so desired.
The Firm – Tom Cruise reached the peak of his on-screen running ability in this thriller. The Firm is a gripping movie that finds its action in character drama, but puts everybody in harm’s way and engages its audience well with that tactic. Novelist John Grisham and director Sydney Pollack were unofficially on the exact same page when this film hit theaters and now it hits shelves with the same vigor as it did in 1993.
Get Shorty – The genre-blending crime movie is supported by an all-star cast, all of whom are playing wildly different characters these days. Gene Hackman has retired, John Travolta is playing tough bad guys, Rene Russo recently returned to the big screen in Thor and Danny DeVito is spending his time on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. When these actors took part in the mob family crime movie Get Shorty, things were a little different, but the movie still holds up well today.
Back To School – Rodney Dangerfield will always be one of the greatest comedians of all time. Back to School remains one of his best starring roles and he completely carries a film that includes a young Robert Downey, Jr. trying to steal every scene he appears in. The best part of this Blu-ray is the crisp quality of the opening credits in which Dangerfield appears in many famous scenarios – in a hilariously cheap photo manipulation. In fact, the movie continues without a care in the world for details and just has a blast reveling in its mid-80s glory.
If you have enough money to rent or buy more movies next week, you’ll be in for some great new releases. True Grit and The Superman Anthology hit shelves in the opening week of June, but you’ll most likely still be watching this week’s healthy list of DVD and Blu-ray choices.
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