February kicks off with one of the year's best weeks for DVD and Blu-ray fans. The home video market is filled with great releases.
Nearly every genre is accounted for this week, from emotional dramas like Never Let Me Go to family-friendly comedies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. Old classics such as Alice In Wonderland rest on the shelf next to newer classics like You've Got Mail.
There are plenty of other options for your buying pleasure this week. In fact, there are eight titles easily worth a look.
The following home videos can now be found on DVD and Blu-ray.
Monsters - One of the most underrated films of 2010 hits DVD and Blu-ray this week. The atmospheric monster movie earned a 4-star rating from us. In the review, Kofi Outlaw called Monsters a "moving and beautiful film" and "an experience that I can best describe as Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation meets Steven Spielberg’s remake of War of the Worlds."
Monsters isn't for everybody. It is not a traditional monster movie by any means. Instead of focusing on the destructive force of the mysterious creatures, the film focuses on the journey through the "infected zone" as a pair of Americans make their way home.
The micro-budget indie film did relatively well at the box office by earning over $3 million, but it didn't make enough noise to capture the attention of the masses. Hopefully the home video release will shed light on one of the forgotten gems of 2010. The special features are reason enough to grab it off the shelf. With almost three hours of bonus features, this is one of the most in-depth releases of the year so far and well worth combing through.
- Audio Commentary with Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Behind the Scenes of Monsters
- Monsters: The Edit
- Visual Effects
- Interview with Gareth Edwards
- Interview with Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
- New York Comic Con Discussion with Gareth Edwards
- HDNet: A Look at Monsters
- Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment Blu-ray
Let Me In - Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) stepped away from action to give us his American vision of the revered Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In. While the initial reaction was overwhelmingly negative, the end result was a moody, beautifully-shot film that we gave a 3-star review. In his review, Kofi Outlaw called Let Me In "a fairly good vampire flick, but not quite as nuanced or powerful as the source material which spawned it."
While many enjoyed the American remake, it just didn't outperform the original. On its own, Let Me In is a great film, but in comparison to the original, it has only a few moments worth watching over its predecessor. Either fans felt the same way, or only the die-hard Let The Right One In fans saw the remake, because it just barely passed its $20 million production budget at the box office.
Anchor Bay Entertainment put together a worthy Blu-ray release that at least rivals its predecessor's home video in terms of special features. The most interesting supplement is a step-by-step analysis of the car crash sequence that remains the most impressive scene in the remake.
- Audio commentary with director Matt Reeves.
- From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In
- Dissecting Let Me In (BD-exclusive)
- The Art of Special Effects
- Unrated deleted scenes
- Car crash sequence step-by-step
- Trailer gallery
- Poster gallery
Never Let Me Go - Another great movie overlooked by the masses in 2010 is the emotionally stirring Never Let Me Go. The sci-fi drama is an intriguing mix of The Island and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Young British actors Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan all star in the melodramatic tale of an unconventional boarding school and its effect on the children raised there.
Much like Monsters, this dramatic film had trouble making big numbers at the box office. But while Monsters made a profit, Never Let Me Go earned only $2.5 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. It is strange the film did so poorly overseas ($72,798) considering its "foreign" cast.
Do not watch Never Let Me Go if you are not in the mood to cry a little. It might make even the toughest men cry, but it forces that emotion upon its audience and that intensity has driven some viewers away. The home video only features a single supplement - the making-of video - but the intrigue of a film many missed in theaters due to a limited theatrical run could be enough to earn the production budget back in sales.
Conviction - In keeping today's tradition of low-budget movies with small box office returns, Conviction flew under the radar even with a pair of award-winning leads. The tearjerker gave its best shot at the Oscars with a sentimental drama starring Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank. In his 3.5-star review, Sandy Schaefer called it a "conventional melodrama."
On a meager budget of $12.5 million, the film raked in a disappointing $6.7 million worldwide. While Hilary Swank earned a SAG Awards nomination for her role, the film just didn't resonate as deeply as the filmmakers' had hoped. As usual, home video is a second chance to wow audiences and earn a dedicated fan base.
The special features of this DVD and Blu-ray are underwhelming. The only supplement is an interview with Betty Ann Waters, the woman Hilary Swank portrays in the film. The power of Conviction is in the story and if you like a moving true-life tale, this is a good purchase.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 - We were surprised almost three years ago when Beverly Hills Chihuahua was announced and even more shocked when it grossed nearly $150 million worldwide. It appears the power of family-friendly talking-animal comedy is still strong.
Even though the sequel went straight to DVD, it supplies plenty of family-friendly fun for the modern child movie fan. We'd like to give them more credit, but for now, studios know what kids like and talking dogs are high on the list.
George Lopez returns as the lead voice actor in this movie that isn't as bad as it sounds. The CGI mouths on each dog are actually quite impressive and even on Blu-ray, the effects are smooth and natural (or as natural as talking dogs can look). The children will have plenty of fun with the games and supplements on this home video release.
- Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go
- Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray™ Is Suite!
- Music Video: Bridgit Mendler, "This Is My Paradise"
- Blooper Faux Paws
- Beverly Hills Chihuahua Challenge – interactive game show led by Papi
Alice in Wonderland 60th Anniversary Edition - One of the most revered animated classics of all time celebrates its 60th anniversary with a new Blu-ray transfer. Tim Burton's recent remake only solidifies the unmatched quality of the original, which still holds up well after 60 years.
The Blu-ray re-release is an interesting one to review. It's tough to watch anything in 4x3 these days (or maybe I am just spoiled by 16x9) and Disney does not help the distracting square image by slapping an animated sidebar on either side. The side bar changes throughout the film in an effort to make the sides of the screen easy on the eyes, but for home video fans, it will be a major flaw that Disney simply could not get around.
The video transfer is astonishing within the side bars. Alice in Wonderland is as crisp as ever and the colors pop, as they should in a psychedelic journey like this. The audio is pristine and it needs to be, for a movie that is driven by music.
This Blu-ray release has one significant purpose on the market right now. It isn't to give those who grew up with Alice in Wonderland a proper transfer of the classic. Instead, this seems like Disney's attempt to give modern families the highest quality version of the film in order to reintroduce it to new generations. The bonus features are proof of this effort. While many of us go straight for new behind-the-scenes interviews, the Blu-ray features mostly new games over new informational material. There is at least a detailed, 76-minute long picture-in-picture commentary with the film.
- Through the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland
- Reflections on Alice
- Operation Wonderland
- Deleted Materials
- Newly Discovered Cheshire Cat Song
- Walt Disney Introductions
- Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob
- Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks
- Thru the Mirror
- An Alice Comedy: Alice's Wonderland
- One Hour in Wonderland
- Fred Waring Show Excerpt
- Original Theatrical Trailers
- Art Gallery
- Painting the Roses Red
- Disney View
- Trailer Navigation
Pleasantville - This fantasy dramedy is filled with inspiration and deserves this Blu-ray release. J.T. Walsh's last film, released posthumously, features a great cast in a film that delivers a striking concept about the visual power of color.
The most interesting aspect of Pleasantville is undoubtedly its use of color against black and white imagery. While it remains a story about overcoming differences and equality in a time that was riddled with prejudice, it is a visual gag that makes the movie worth multiple viewings. A movie so committed to a visual effect in a practical world deserves the Blu-ray treatment.
The special features are underwhelming, but hopefully provide all that is necessary to comprehend the staying power of this 1998 film. A featurette called The Art of Pleasantville will hopefully share the secrets of the visual effect.
- Commentary by writer/director Gary Ross
- Isolated score track with commentary by composer Randy Newman
- Featurette: "The Art of Pleasantville"
- Music video: Fiona Apple, "Across the Universe" (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
- Theatrical trailer
You've Got Mail - If you need a head start on a Valentine's Day present, go ahead and snag the Blu-ray edition of You've Got Mail. The classic romantic comedy deserves more praise than most in its genre. It successfully predicted the future of relationships in an ever-changing world that now resides inside a computer for many Americans.
The best part of this Blu-ray release has to be the pull quote on the DVD and Blu-ray - "'Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks should win a Nobel Prize for chemistry.' --Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today." It doesn't get much more hyperbolic than that. Still, the two have shared unrivaled chemistry onscreen and Hollywood has been searching for the next great onscreen couple ever since.
The special features are worth a look and include three short featurettes and a commentary from director/co-writer Nora Ephron and producer Lauren Shuler Donner.
- Commentary by director/co-writer Nora Ephron and producer Lauren Shuler Donner
- Featurettes: Delivering You've Got Mail, You've Got Chemistry
- HBO First Look: A Conversation with Nora Ephron
- Discover New York's Upper West Side Selectable Movie Tour
- Music video: Carole King, "Anyone at All"
- The Shop Around the Corner bonus movie (on DVD)
That's it for the Breakdown today - be sure to check back with us next week.