This week brings some great titles to DVD and Blu-ray. Comic fans will be happy to see Captain America fill out the Marvel universe on home video as The Avengers continues to pick up steam in the headlines.
Attack the Block turned heads as the sleeper action movie of the summer and Winnie the Pooh gave families something to fall in love with. But this week's real stars are the Blu-ray re-releases.
Jurassic Park finally makes its way to high definition and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation earns high marks with a great transfer.
The following titles can be found on DVD and Blu-ray.
Captain America (in 2D and 3D) - Marvel's latest addition to the superhero genre comes to DVD and Blu-ray after a decent run at theaters. The film made $365 million worldwide and earned a 4-star review from us. While the pull quote on this DVD/Blu-ray cover is a bit hyperbolic (see above), this release should make any comic book fan's home entertainment collection feel a little more complete.
The film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the sound mix fills out all speakers wonderfully. This is a technically sound release. So, whether or not you love the movie, you'll be getting your money's worth with this on DVD or Blu-ray. More importantly, the special features come detailed with the typical Marvel fanfare. One benefit of these comic book films (from both DC and Marvel) is that they love to pander to the curiosity of fans in the supplements.
- Audio Commentary: Director Joe Johnston, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford
- Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer
- Outfitting a Hero
- Howling Commandos
- Heightened Technology
- The Transformation
- Behind the Skull
- Captain America's Origin
- The Assembly Begins
- 4 Deleted Scenes
Verdict: Buy it.
Winnie the Pooh - While the film runs at just over an hour, this is still a family DVD/Blu-ray worth checking out. The film didn't do great at the box office, earning just $33 million worldwide against a $30 million production budget. But those who saw it seemed pleased with its nostalgic touch and improved animation.
The animation looks outstanding on the Blu-ray release, with vibrant colors and detailed design shining through the screen. Winnie the Pooh is not a loud film, but certain moments do well with the speakers, such as any scene with bees. Unfortunately, there are only a few special features. One is arguably the strangest I've seen to date, as it provides tips for creating the perfect Pooh-themed baby room. Combined with the short runtime of the feature, this disc doesn't feel worth its current price tag of $24.99, but a rental should suffice.
- Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too
- Deleted Scenes Introduced by the Directors
- Bonus Shorts
- Disney Song Selection
- Sing Along With the Movie
- Creating the Perfect Winnie the Pooh Nursery
Verdict: Rent it.
Attack the Block - The underdog movie of the summer earned rave reviews from critics, but missed the mark big time at the box office. It earned only $5.2 million at the worldwide box office, but earned one of the highest ratings possible from us with a 4.5-star review. It's a shame that audiences spent over a billion dollars on three mega-blockbusters, but hardly gave the time of day to this stripped-down version of an alien invasion.
With high hopes for a successful shelf life, Sony has done the best they can with this release. It's not the best looking or most immersive sound design of the week, but it absolutely warrants at least a rental. The sound chosen within the film does come to life with surround sound, especially when the great music overwhelms the scenes. If anything brings this release into the must-own category it is the wonderful assortment of special features. Three commentaries and an hour-long behind-the-scenes give you plenty to enjoy beyond the film.
- 3 Audio Commentaries:
- Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones.
- Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Actors Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, and Nick Frost
- Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Executive Producer Edgar Wright.
- Behind the Block (over an hour long)
- Creature Feature
- Meet the Gang
- Unfilmed Action
- That's a Rap
Verdict: Buy it.
Rare Exports - From the same director who apparently wants to make "Home Alone with Machine Guns" comes a film a bizarre tale of some Finnish men who accidentally unearth the real Santa Claus, a mythical monster buried deep beneath the earth whose sole purpose is to painfully punish wicked children. At its widest release, Rare Exports only reached 21 theaters, so it's likely you didn't see it in theaters - or have even heard about it.
Oscilloscope continues to impress with its digital transfers for DVD and Blu-ray. Rare Exports looks great and sounds nice too. The digital look of the film comes across as sleek and stylish, with a shallow depth of field. It's a weird film, but the supplements help explain a bit of the production and how this movie came to be.
- Rare Exports Inc. Short Films: Rare Exports Inc. (2003) Rare Exports Inc. - The Official Safety Instructions (2005)
- The Making of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
- "Blood in the Snow": A Look at the Concept Art
- Animatics and Computer Effects Comparison
- Photo Gallery
- Original Finnish Trailer
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) (Blu-ray exclusive)
Verdict: Rent it.
A Serbian Film - This could very well re-define the phrase, "art film." The movie follows a porn star who gets involved in an artistic film that turns into more than he expected. It is arguably the most graphic film of the year and some would argue this qualifies as pornography, to some extent. The film has some great digital cinematography, but the content never got past its self-imposed barriers to reach widespread audiences. A Serbian Film earned a NC-17 rating in the US and was only released uncensored in Serbia. I mention this film in the breakdown because it earned a lot of buzz at film festivals, but I highly discourage you from getting this title. Not only is the subject matter obscene, but there are no bonus features to assist the hungry moviegoer at home.
Verdict: Skip it.
Robot Chicken: Season 5 - Composed of short episodes filled with countless gags, Robot Chicken continues to impress fans with a seemingly endless crop of parodies. All 20 episodes come to DVD and Blu-ray this week with a decent assortment of special features for the true fans. If you own the other seasons and catching the re-runs on television are not enough for you, this is a great pickup.
- Commentary on All Episodes with Celebrity Guests
- 7 Fully Animated Deleted Scenes
- Over 50 Deleted Animatics with Intros
- Alternate Audio Takes from Sketches
- Downloadable "Blue Rabbits" Song
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
- On-Air Promos
Verdict: Buy it if you own seasons 1-4. Skip it if you prefer catching episodes on television.
Jurassic Park Trilogy - Jurassic Park is one of the most influential film of the last 25 years. It helped usher in a new age of CGI wonder and fantastical storytelling that is even referenced within the film itself (see opening paleontology scene). Many of today's young filmmakers grew up on movies like Jurassic Park and its influence on the individual is just as lasting as its mark on cinema as a whole. But like many of the film greats, its sequels were progressively weaker. The Lost World: Jurassic Park has enough moments to be still be a good, if not great, science fiction movie. But few will argue against the pitfalls of Jurassic Park III. Now, we hear murmurs of Jurassic Park IV on the way, and fans are reasonably concerned. Nevertheless, this is a release many of us have been waiting for - at least since Star Wars. In fact, it was on our list of 10 Movies That Need a Blu-ray Release a year ago.
For a detailed analysis of the Blu-ray release, check out our interview with some of the minds behind the films. The video transfer for each of the three films are about as good as they can be, although each one has its weaker moments. It seems the real focus for this release went into the audio department. Each one powers through the speakers with a lossless 7.1 -surround mix and if you turn the volume up enough your neighbors will think dinosaurs once again roam the Earth. But the star of the release comes after the credits. Don't miss the extensive bonus features that come with this trilogy set. All levels of fans will enjoy the six-part documentary, Return to Jurassic Park.
- Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era
- Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution
- Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World
- Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure
- Over 5 hours of original DVD featurettes
- Deleted scenes from The Lost World
- Making of the Jurassic Park game
- Jurassic Park III audio commentary: Special Effects team
Verdict: Buy it.
The Conversation - It helps when your production company has a team of professional archivists who make careers out of transferring original prints to digital. American Zoetrope and Paramount Pictures bring one of Gene Hackman's finest performances and one of Francis Ford Coppola's more underrated films to Blu-ray in a release that all audio purists should get immediately. This film is no Transformers. It doesn't necessarily attack you with bombastic sounds and thrilling action. Instead, it fills the soundwaves with detailed design that works hand-in-hand with the story itself.
The original intentions of the audio mixes, which were done on a variety of devices in production, remain intact for the Blu-ray and you can tell the difference if you listen carefully. Sure, this Blu-ray looks great and the visuals are enhanced where they needed to be, but it still looks like a film made in the 1970s. You don't get that initial reaction of "this looks like it was made today." But that's the whole point. The disc even allows you to listen to the film in its original stereo mix - an option you would only see in a film like The Conversation. In addition, you won't find many commentaries as good as Francis Ford Coppola's here.
- Feature Commentary With Writer-Director Francis Ford Coppola
- Feature Commentary With Editor Walter Murch
- Close-Up on The Conversation
- Cindy Williams Screen Test
- Harrison Ford Screen Test
- "No Cigar"
- Harry Caul's San Francisco—Then And Now
- David Shire Interviewed by Francis Ford Coppola
- Archival Gene Hackman Interview
- Script Dictations from Francis Ford Coppola
Verdict: Buy it.
Dazed and Confused (Criterion Collection) - The "regular" Blu-ray hit shelves just under 3 months ago, but if you held out for something better you will be rewarded this week. Dazed and Confused earns a top-notch re-released from Criterion - arguably the best in the business. Director Richard Linklater and Cinematographer Lee Daniel supervised the transfer of this Director's Cut. It's way better than the one Universal released, although you'll have to look carefully to see the differences. The beauty of Criterion releases is that they tend to fill the disc to the edge with special features, and this is no exception.
- 11 Cast and Director Interviews
- 12 Auditions
- 13 Character Interviews
- 14 Behind-the-scenes clips.
- 17 Deleted Scenes
- Making "Dazed"
- Commentary - Director Richard Linklater
- Illustrated Booklet
Verdict: Buy it, unless you bought the Universal Blu-ray. But if you did, find a way to swap.
Tom & Jerry Golden Collection - Volume Two has no release date, but there is plenty to hold down even the most devoted Tom & Jerry fan until then. The gorgeous cover art is a primer for the release within. It has definitely been handled with care as the video transfer is superb and the audio holds up well. 37 shorts between 1940 and 1948 can be seen in this set, with each one transferred with the same dedication as any major theatrical film. The audio is bit disappointing, but this is quite old and even the Mono mix we are given should be enough for fans of the originals. There is plenty to chew on in the special features department as well.
- 12 Audio Commentaries
- Vaudeville, Slapstick and Tom and Jerry
- How Bill and Joe Met Tom and Jerry
- The Comedy Styling of Tom and Jerry
- The Midnight Snack Pencil Test
- The Worry Song from Anchors Aweigh
Verdict: Buy it.
We have a lot of "Buy" recommendations this week, but if you have any spending money left over, there are only a couple of worthy titles next week. Cars 2 and Crazy Stupid Love will headline a week that also includes Water for Elephants, Scrooged, Hook and 11-11-11.
Stay tuned every Tuesday for the latest breakdowns of DVD and Blu-ray releases.