The last week of March is one of the year's best in DVD and Blu-ray releases. Natalie Portman's award-winning performance and Disney's 50th animated feature film hit home video, as well as a pair of fantastic Blu-ray re-releases.
Although some controversy between Natalie Portman and her dance double has overshadowed the home video release of Black Swan, it could also be considered extra publicity. Disney's latest blockbuster, Tangled, hits shelves as well as Fair Game and All Good Things, a pair of small films that might grab a few new looks.
The following titles can now be found on DVD and Blu-ray:
Black Swan - One of the most heralded films of 2010 also helped Natalie Portman snag an Academy Award for Best Actress. Of course, her uncanny ability to cry on camera didn't hurt. Although our 3.5-star review was not quite as perfect as Aronofsky would hope, the general acclaim should carry over onto home video.
Although Black Swan started off with a limited theatrical release, Fox Searchlight pushed a wide release shortly after and the film has since earned $288 million worldwide on just a $13 million budget. Not that it needs any more profit, but the DVD and Blu-ray sales should do well, considering the film is back in the headlines after a recent controversy involving Natalie Portman's dance double.
A three-part behind-the-scenes featurette known as "Black Swan Metamorphosis" provides some fascinating footage along with great interviews of the cast and crew. If you have any interest in the creation of Black Swan, this is a great segment to watch. The other special features explore specific aspects of the production, like Natalie Portman's preparation for the role and the special cinematography of Matthew Libatique.
- Black Swan Metamorphosis
- Theatrical Trailer
- Production Design
- Profile: Natalie Portman
- Profile: Darron Aronofsky
- Conversation: Preparing for the Role
- Conversation: Dancing with the Camera
- Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Natalie Portman
- Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Winona Ryder
- Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Barbara Hershey
- Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Vincent Cassel
- Fox Movie Channel Presents: Direct Effect, Darren Aronofsky
Tangled - Amidst a massive production budget of $260 million, Tangled was a critical and box office hit, raking in $559 million and a 4-star review from us. Disney's latest success marks its 50th feature-length animated film and keeps its tradition of retelling classic tales.
The animation is pristine in Tangled and it shines on the home video release. Every color pops on screen and showcases the best Disney has to offer in the animation department. The sound is also noteworthy, as it successfully utilizes every speaker, even in a 7.1-surround system that tends to stretch a movie's soundscape.
The bonus features are not extensive, which is not surprising with animated films. But Tangled lacks the interactive punch of many of Disney's other DVD/Blu-ray releases. Still, the featurettes that are present are fun instead of giving intensive looks at the production.
- Deleted Scenes
- Original Storybook Openings
- 50th Animated Feature Countdown
- Extended Songs
- Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale
- Tangled Teasers
Mad Men: Season 4 - Don Draper and Sterling Cooper are back on home video with season four. With record ratings for the season's premiere episode, the show isn't slowing down - season four was its most-watched season to date.
Few shows have the production value and engaging stories of Mad Men. That quality shines on DVD and Blu-ray, but many of the characters' secrets are still a mystery and will remain that way as the bonus features don't go too deep into their complicated psyches.
While featurettes stay mostly on the surface, Mad Men has been generous with its audio commentaries. Each episode has at least one and that has been the highlight of each season's home video release. There is a feature-length documentary on the staggering divorce numbers in the 1960s and an hour-long featurette on the style of Don Draper, but there is little that explores the show's production.
- Divorce: Circa 1960s
- How to Succeed in Business Draper Style
- Marketing the Mustang: An American Icon
- 1964 Presidential Campaign
Fair Game - Director Doug Liman couldn't bring the magic of The Bourne Identity to his latest crime thriller, but it served its purpose by telling the true story of Valerie Plame Wilson. Maybe people just didn't want to see a movie about Saddam Hussein's alleged uranium purchases, or maybe Liman just didn't make it compelling enough, but the film lacked the entertainment value most expect from their political thrillers.
Fair Game lives in that rough edge between dull colors and no colors. Although it is sleek and metallic in its style, it doesn't provide much of a cinematic experience other than the unpredictable characters within - even though it is based on a true story. Let's just call it another another forgettable CIA thriller.
There is only one special feature on this DVD and Blu-ray release, but it presents a fascinating take on the story from the real Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson.
- Audio commentary with the real Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson
All Good Things - One of the best movies nobody saw (under $1 million gross) features stunning performances from Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling. If you are looking for one movie you didn't see this year to rent or buy, this is it. Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) directs a fictional telling of a true unsolved murder mystery.
The fascinating thing about All Good Things is its unflinching approach to an unsolved mystery. It goes full-speed into a story nobody has the answers to and fills in all the holes with fictional events that seem perfectly reasonable, but ultimately led to the characters being hyper-fictionalized likely due to legal issues. It is a bizarre tale, but one definitely worth telling.
Even better than the guest commentary on Fair Game is the appearance of Robert Durst (the convicted man's story told in All Good Things) in an audio commentary with director Andrew Jarecki. There are a handful of other intriguing featurettes to watch that deal with the real-life story and the fictional one on screen. This is definitely the best home video release of the week.
- Commentary with Andrew Jarecki and Robert Durst
- Commentary with Andrew Jarecki, Marcus Hinchey, and Marc Smerling
- Deleted Scenes
- All Good Things: Truth in Fiction
- Back in Time: Researching the Original Story
- Wrinkles in Time: Ryan Ages
- Beneath the Surface of All Good Things: Interview with Andrew Jarecki
The Ten Commandments - A true classic in every way possible, The Ten Commandments presents one of the greatest stories of all time in the frame of one of the most epic films of all time. Charlton Heston portrays Moses in this classic and it has become one of his most iconic roles.
The special effects and studio sets may not appeal to the modern eye, but the Blu-ray release does a stand-up job of bringing the great imagery to the small screen. While intermissions and double-disc features are a thing of the past, the studio chose to keep the split disc intact in order to magnify the touch-ups as best as possible - and it shows. Anybody who doubts old films can look better on Blu-ray will be proven wrong quickly with this release.
A lengthy documentary on the making of The Ten Commandments and an extensive commentary from writer Katherine Orrison highlight the Blu-ray re-release, along with some other featurettes worth checking out.
- Audio Commentary: Katherine Orrison commentary
- Newsreel: The Ten Commandments -- Premiere in New York
- 1923 film The Ten Commandments
- Hand-Tinted Footage of the Exodus and Parting of the Red Sea Sequence
- Two-Color Technicolor Segment
- The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles
Teen Wolf - The 1980s was a special time where movies just always seemed to rock, and luckily they have been hitting shelves as Blu-rays frequently as of late. The latest '80s hit to re-release is one of Michael J. Fox's best. But cherish it as long as you can, because MTV is close to ruining the wonder of this classic with a brand new spin-off TV show.
It is truly sad that MTV is preparing to capitalize on a growing fan base for werewolf and vampire tales with this Teen Wolf TV remake. Nobody was asking for this, but the Twilight fans have earned it. All they need to do is rent or buy this Blu-ray release to see what a real werewolf movie should be - funny, endearing, exciting and goofy.
Scream 1, 2, 3 - As the theatrical release of Scream 4 approaches, Lionsgate has wisely chosen to release the prior trilogy on Blu-ray. Although a box set does not appear available, all three can be purchased individually. While the trilogy isn't visually stunning, it does have its moments. More importantly, the auditory aspect of the Scream trilogy is put on display in this new Blu-ray release.
Each Blu-ray re-release features mostly the same special features that are found on DVD and Special Edition DVD releases of the films, but some are updated to some extent. Essentially, if you are making the transition to a Blu-ray collection, it is worth replacing your "old" DVDs with the new Blu-ray editions of the Scream trilogy. If you are waiting for a special box set, you may need to wait a little longer.
March ends strong with these releases, but April should continue the trend with some powerful blockbusters hitting shelves early on. TRON: Legacy and Little Fockers release on DVD and Blu-ray, while Taxi Driver finally makes the jump to Blu-ray as well.
And stay tuned, The Incredibles reaches the Blu-ray format April 12th, so it should be a great month for home video fans. Other great upcoming releases include The King's Speech and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.