A handful of indie movies hit DVD and Blu-ray this week. Each of them earned praise from at least some faction of critics in the industry, marking this week as one of the better ones this month for home video releases.
Gamblers will be extremely happy to see both Rounders and Swingers on Blu-ray this week. Both films bring the world of gambling and casinos to life in fun and/or thrilling ways.
Disney is in the mix as well with the release of Bambi II on Blu-ray. Although it doesn't live up to the legendary status of the original film, Bambi II has a solid fan base and Disney has given it a thorough Blu-ray release worthy of any animation fan's eyes.
The following titles can now be found on DVD and Blu-ray.
Trollhunter - The low-profile mockumentary monster movie didn't do wonders at the box office, but did earn enough praise to make its mark on the indie scene. With a strong foreign market performance, the Norwegian film hopes to wow American home video fans drawn to its intriguing concept.
As a home video release, this DVD or Blu-ray won't knock the plasma out of your TV. It's designed to look homemade (albeit with a relatively nice camera). There is some good visual effects work, but it is a mockumentary and the filmmakers don't worry too much about convincing the audience. Overall, the look and sound of Trollhunter isn't what you should be watching for.
The bonus features won't get you running for the DVD shelf, but there is some fun extra material.
- Deleted Scenes
- Improv and Bloopers
- Extended Scenes
- Visual Effects
- Behind the Scenes
- Photo Galleries
- HDNet: A Look at The Trollhunter
Win Win - One of the most under the radar films of 2011, it had a solid indie run and a $10 million take at the domestic box office. More importantly, Win Win provides the Academy with a rare March release that deserves Oscars recognition. For this reason alone, Win Win is worth at least a rental.
The sound and picture of this movie are not mind-blowing, but do improve on home video. I don't remember it looking this sleek on the big screen. Most of the bonus features available on this DVD and Blu-ray release shine a light on the strength of the film, whether it is a featurette from Sundance or other reflections on the film itself. Unfortunately, they only skim the surface.
- Deleted Scenes: "Mike Meets with Mrs. Tedesco," "Family and Leo Drive to Courthouse"
- Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni discuss Win Win
- David Thompson at Sundance 2011
- In Conversation with Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti at Sundance 2011
- "Think You Can Wait" Music Video by The National
The Beaver - Mel Gibson's joint effort with director/actor Jodie Foster didn't fare so well in theaters. It only earned $6.37 million on a $21 million budget. The film was a dark and emotional story with a unique angle that just never clicked with audiences. Still, we gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
With a cold color scheme and an extremely quiet, pensive sound design, The Beaver isn't exactly built for home theaters. The bonus features are nothing to get too excited about either. It's truly unfortunate they couldn't get Mel Gibson to really open up about the similarities between himself and the character. Overall, this isn't a great release apart from the film itself.
- Audio commentary with director Jodie Foster
- Deleted scenes
- Everything is Going to Be O.K. featurette on the making of The Beaver
POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - Although Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary was financed entirely by sponsors and cost $1.8 million, it couldn't break even at the box office. Then again, Spurlock's films rarely do. One thing they are known for is entertainment value in documentary form. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a fascinating premise with wonderful execution.
The bonus features are not extensive - it is a documentary after all. But the commercials within the film and some short interviews with press make the additional features at least worth a watch.
- "At the Sundance Film Festival"
- "Workin' Nine to Five (AM): POM Behind the Scenes"
- Perfection: Hyatt & JetBlue Behind-The-Scenes"
- The Commercials
Rounders - Arguably one of the best poker movies of all time, Rounders has been listed in hundreds of top sports movie lists as well. Matt Damon and Edward Norton bring memorable performances, topped only by John Malkovich as Teddy KGB. While Rounders is not a movie one waits for on Blu-ray, it is a necessary movie to own at home.
The video transfer is near perfect and really deserves recognition as one of the best I've seen this year. Rounders is no Aliens, but this Blu-ray enhances the picture tenfold. The bonus features may not be very different from previous DVD releases, but they are still solid. A pair of audio commentaries demand your attention, especially the poker star roundtable commentary.
- Audio Commentary with Director John Dahl, Screenwriters David Levien and Brian Koppelman and Actor Edward Norton
- Audio Commentary with Professional Poker Players Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson
- Behind the Scenes Special
- Inside Professional Poker
- Champion Poker Tips
Swingers - Yet another quotable Vince Vaughn film comes to Blu-ray in a less-than-impressive transfer. The problem is that Swingers is a can't-miss movie that anybody who exclusively watches Blu-rays needs to own. Having said that, it's still not a worthy Blu-ray release to earn the coveted "Buy" label from us.
The video quality is a short step up from the shoddy DVD. It's not a great-looking movie, but that only enhances its indie vibe. It's a small movie that stuck with its fans for years. The comedy and the characters are what drive people to this movie, which reminds us that Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau had unrivaled chemistry.
The bonus materials look great, but are greatly disappointing. An audio commentary with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn should be amazing and filled with personal stories. Instead, it is a pair of actors just remembering what they made instead of sharing insight on how they made it or what happened behind the scenes.
- Audio Commentary with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn
- Audio Commentary with Director Doug Liman and Editor Stephen Mirrione
- "Making it in Hollywood" Original Documentary
- The Cutting Room Floor
Next week's selections are favorable to the Blu-ray fans as many memorable titles hit the format. Top Gun, a small collection of Coen Brothers films and the 3D Blu-ray of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Let's not forget, Good Will Hunting makes its way to Blu-ray next week as well.
Check back every Tuesday for more breakdowns of the hottest home video releases.