As the summer hits continue to make their way onto DVD and Blu-ray, this week's releases present some of the biggest movies of 2010. Over $2.5 billion of this year's worldwide box office is accounted for in the three movies hitting shelves this week - Inception, Twilight: Eclipse and Shrek Forever After.
Ironically, the three Blu-ray re-releases this week were low-budget films that gained traction with dedicated fans. Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation actually made $119 million on only a $4 million budget. Technically, that makes it the most profitable movie of the week.
Sony has also revamped a collection of previously released Blu-rays. Essentially, this is a mass re-release of BDs currently out of circulation and many include extra special features. The films include Closer, The Big Hit, About Last Night..., The Deep, St. Elmo's Fire and Half Past Dead.
This week is a particularly big one for home video and should cater to every movie fan out there. Nearly every genre is accounted for in the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.
The following can now be found on DVD and Blu-ray.
Inception - The summer's most talked-about movie is finally on home video. If you are still trying to wrap your head around the ending, the rewind button should come in handy this time. Then again, you can just save the trouble and read our in-depth Inception explanation.
Once you are doing reading our explanation, head over to the DVD or Blu-ray of Inception and turn on Extraction Mode - WB's interactive commentary with Christopher Nolan and some cast and other crew. The picture-in-picture mode is a bit hard to get used to, since it interrupts the movie to explain scenes from the filmmaker's perspective. But once you get in a rhythm of watching it, the information enhances your overall experience with the movie.
The actual video and audio quality is outstanding. As movies continue to improve visually, so will the home video market. Nolan's latest movie provides a barrage of sounds that surround sound systems will exploit beautifully. For instance, a certain scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page separates the individual noises so distinctly that you can hear each plate breaking and every piece of flying paper flutter. Inception just shines for the most part, but considering the scale of the film, the special features are underwhelming.
Extraction Mode is a nice look inside the mind of Christopher Nolan, but doesn't provide too much outside of what we learned from featurettes and promotional pieces prior to its theatrical release.The real treats of this release are the 5.1 score by Hans Zimmer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's independent documentary.
Hans Zimmer's original score took flight when the world embraced the "brahmm" noise from initial trailers (even though that wasn't his work yet). The score is easily one of the best of the year, but needed this kind of surround sound upgrade to earn its worth. Like the movie itself, the surround sound enhances everything about the score, especially its nuances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's documentary, Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious, is a great look inside the science of dreaming. It sets out to prove we are all filmmakers based on the mind's ability to simultaneously create, film and edit a story. While the rest of the special features are intriguing, they ultimately lack the depth one would hope out of a film that provoked so much discussion.
- Extraction Mode
- 5.1-surround-sound Inception Soundtrack
- Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious
- Inception: The Cobol Job
- Project Somnacin: Confidential Files
- Conceptual Art Gallery
- Promotional Art Archive
- Trailers and TV Spots
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - The third installment of the insanely popular supernatural franchise is on home video this week. This should foster a block of time where much of the nation's youth will be indoors watching the film and its special features. In our review, we put Eclipse right around bearable mark and gave director David Slade credit where it was clearly due.
Like it or not, the home video looks and sounds more than bearable. Videophiles will appreciate the dedication to quality home video transfer on the technical front. But the fans of this franchise are more hopeful that their favorite characters sizzle the screen. Rest assured, the DVD and Blu-ray both sparkle visually and roar across all speakers. Summit knows their tentpole franchise well and puts the effort in on the home video.
The special features may not look extensive, but a pair of commentaries and a lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary should give fans plenty of inside access.
- Picture-in-picture commentary (Blu-ray exclusive)
- Stephenie Meyer commentary
- Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart commentary
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Photo gallery
- Six-part making of documentary
- Jump to... Your favorite scenes
- Music Videos
Shrek Forever After - The four-part animated franchise closed its story this summer to a booming box office. Now, with the Whole Story collection you can watch the tale of Shrek in full. The animated saga was far from perfect, but offered a contemporary interpretation of a classic story of love and family. With a star-studded cast, the last installment should do just as well on home video.
One interesting tidbit is Shrek Forever After changed the aspect ratio. Most people could care less about this, but it will definitely be noticeable when you watch all four together. The first three films were presented in 1.78:1, while the last is in 2.35:1. If you need some water cooler trivia, that should do for this week.
The special features on Shrek Forever After are impressive - animated films always tend to have fantastic supplements.
The Animators' Corner: picture-in-picture commentary/behind-the-scenes supplement that takes viewers deep into the making of the movie.
- Shrek's Interactive Journey: Clickable map that shows viewers the artwork that inspired the design of the various locales around the world of Shrek Forever After.
- Audio commentary track with Director Mike Mitchell, Head of Story Walt Dohrn, and Producers Gina Shay and Teresa Cheng.
- Spotlight: An examination of Shrek's progression through the series
- Three deleted scenes
- Conversation with the Cast
- The Tech of 'Shrek Forever After'
- From Swamp to Stage: The Making of 'Shrek the Musical'
- Shrek's Yule Log
- Donkey's Caroling Christmas-Tacular
- 12 Days of Christmas Pop-Up Book
- Donkey's Decoration Scramble
- Cookin' With Cookie
Lost in Translation - Sofia Coppola's follow-up to the underrated The Virgin Suicides is easily her best film to date. Arguably, the upcoming release of Somewhere will challenge her own motif of a lost man who rediscovers himself through the help of a woman. But for now, Lost in Translation is a beautiful film with even more stunning performances.
Bill Murray brings his usual snark to the screen, but couples it with an inner suffering that borders on heartbreaking. His co-star, Scarlett Johansson, truly broke out with her performance in Coppola's film. Although she has gone on to more profitable avenues in her career, Johansson's turn as the lost girl who helps Murray find himself is a deep and thoughtful character portrayal.
One note is that this release is exclusive to Amazon. It can be found at other retailers on January 4th, but for now the website will have total exclusivity of the sale of this Blu-ray. This re-release is essentially Universal's punishment for releasing titles on the now-defunct HD-DVD format. It won't blow you away with never-before-seen footage, but for those of you that only watch Blu-rays, this is a great addition.
The special features should provide enough to keep you interested, but won't exploit all of Coppola's secrets:
- "Lost" on Location
- Matthew's Best Hit TV
- Music video: Kevin Shields, "City Girl"
- Deleted scenes
- A conversation with Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola
- Theatrical Trailer
Videodrome - If any movie from the '80s has a place amongst pop culture today, it is Videodrome. David Cronenberg's thriller still applies to today's cultural shifts in technology and entertainment. The concepts explored in Videodrome are similar to other films, like Pleasantville or Tron, but it is such a unique experience that you never feel cheated by it.
Visually, this is a striking film. It is filled with imagery only Cronenberg can exhibit. Criterion picked a good flick to transfer to Blu-ray, as the visual component is so crucial to its success. The film belongs on the upgraded format, even if it might not blow your mind next to a copy of more recent sci-fi thrillers.
The special features provide extra materials in true Criterion Collection fashion. They find a way of bringing fresh supplements and commentaries that breath new life into films which truly stand the test of time.
- Audio commentary with David Cronenberg and director of photography Mark Irwin
- Audio commentary with Actors James Woods and Deborah Harry
- Camera (2000): a short film starring Videodrome's Les Carlson, written and directed by Cronenberg
- Forging the New Flesh: a new half-hour documentary featurette by filmmaker Michael Lennick about the creation of Videodrome's video and prosthetic makeup effects
- Effects Men: a new audio interview with special makeup effects creator Baker and video effects supervisor Lennick
- Bootleg Video: the complete footage of Samurai Dreams and seven minutes of transmissions from Videodrome, presented in their original, unedited form with filmmaker commentary
- Fear on Film: a 26-minute roundtable discussion from 1982 between filmmakers Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis, and Mick Garris
- Original theatrical trailers and promotional featurette
- Stills galleries featuring hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes production photos, special effects makeup tests, and publicity photos
- A booklet featuring essays by writers Carrie Rickey, Tim Lucas, and Gary Indiana
Cronos - Guillermo del Toro's feature debut as a director hits Blu-ray thanks to Criterion Collection. As usual, it contains plenty of brand new materials and a transfer worth the approval of one of Hollywood's most fascinating filmmakers today.
If you doubt the benefits of an older film making its way onto Blu-ray, simply read the following statement found inside the Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release:
Cronos is presented in the director's preferred aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Director Guillermo del Toro and director of photography Guillermo Navarro supervised this new high-definition digital transfer, which was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K Datacine from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
The audio remains in only two channels, but that was the original intention and kept that way on purpose. It has still been enhanced and cleaned up, according to the booklet within the Blu-ray box.
The special features provide enough new material to keep Cronos fans busy this week, but it will still leave you wanting more.
- Audio Commentary with Guillermo del Toro
- Audio commentary with Producers Arthur H. Gorson and Bertha Navarro
- and co-producer Alejandro Springall
- Geometría: an unreleased 1987 short horror film by Del Toro, finished by the director in 2010, plus a new video interview with him
- Welcome to Bleak House: a video tour by Del Toro of his office, featuring his collectibles and personal work
- New video interviews with Del Toro, Navarro, and actor Ron Perlman
- Video interview with actor Federico Luppi
- Stills gallery
- A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and excerpts from Del Toro's notes for the film
It is a great week for home video, no matter what you love. Some people wait for the DVD or Blu-ray release to catch a film for the first time, while others just can't wait to get their hands on the movie they saw a dozen times in theaters. There is something for every film buff in this week's collection, which should make for some long lines at the nearest retailer.
More of the summer blockbusters hit home video next week, but there may be a little less fanfare as they are some of the more questionable titles of 2010. But stay tuned every week for our coverage of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.