A pair of typical modern-day popcorn movies face-off against epic classics on home video this week. It probably won't be a close battle, but there is plenty of war to be seen from rival gnome families to legendary battles in American history.
I Am Number Four serves as the lone release that doesn't explore the concept of war directly, even though there is an intergalactic battle brewing on Earth. Oliver Stone's masterpiece Platoon and one of Charlie Chaplin's most famous works The Great Dictator both hit Blu-ray this week alongside some other notable titles.
The following movies can be found on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
I Am Number Four - The action-packed movie caters to a primarily teen audience, but only a few shining moments aren't enough to make a worthy purchase on home video. The action sequences that did entertain mustered up two stars in our review of I Am Number Four.
While the movie didn't do huge numbers at the box office, its $144 million worldwide should be enough to green light a sequel in the potentially profitable franchise. As usual, Disney presents a loud and in-your-face audio transfer in DTS-HD 5.1 that really makes use of your speakers.
There isn't a great selection of bonus features, but 20 minutes of deleted scenes should fill an appetite for more movie - if that's what you are looking for. It's nice to see a short blooper reel, as those are always fun.
- Deleted Scenes
- Becoming Number Six
Gnomeo & Juliet - While the animated spin-off of the classic Shakespearean tale didn't quite hit the demographic of our readers, it did appeal to the kids for which it was intended (check out this video review starring my two cousins). If you are a fan of Shakespeare, this movie might disappoint you - as its sub-focus is to demean and poke fun at the "boring nature" of the original works.
Instead of using the film as an opportunity to explore Shakespeare's work in a new light and with an even more airy tone, the film serves as a parody of the classical literature itself - and the characters are in on the joke. It's a tough movie to gauge as an adult viewer, but might be worth a home view even without kids. It simply presents an intriguing dynamic of Shakespearean literature that is at times frustrating and other times creative.
The bonus features are minimal, although there are a few options. The focus on Elton John's involvement in the movie is evident by the supplements below.
- Elton Builds a Garden
- Alternate Endings
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes
- Frog Talk w/ Ashley Jensen
- The Fawn of Darkness
- Crocodile Rock music video
Platoon - Oliver Stone's greatest film finally reaches the Blu-ray platform. In every way possible, this movie deserves the transfer to showcase its Academy Award-winning sound and visual power. More importantly, Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe's brilliant performances can be reborn through the wonderful Blu-ray format. Of course, on the downside, the release will keep Charlie Sheen in headlines.
The bonus features may not look like much, but pack a nice punch. There are hours of extra material, including a pair of documentaries and a set of audio commentaries. Both commentaries are great listens - even if you are just a casual fan of Platoon.
- Audio commentaries: Director Oliver Stone and Military Advisor Dale Dye
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Flashback to Platoon
- Two Documentaries
- Television spots
Solaris (1972) - The original film based on Stanislaw Lem's novel reaches Blu-ray thanks to Criterion. If you think Terrence Malick makes slow, drawn-out movies, be sure to watch Solaris before making further judgements. The movie stretches the mind of the viewer into a more abstract field of thought. It is indirect and forces its audience to think instead of just sit back and listen.
Criterion is known for its brilliant transfers and Solaris is no different. Reviews are high across the board and its visual transfer has been praised throughout. There is a certain visual aesthetic to the movie that calls for Blu-ray, and luckily Criterion delivers as usual.
The bonus features are extensive and include a commentary from film scholars that explore director Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece in a number of ways.
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes
- Collection of Cast/Crew Restrospects
- Commentary - Film scholars Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie
The Great Dictator - The satirical film that earned five Oscar nominations has remained one of Charlie Chaplin's most recognizable movies. It's amazing that such a controversial topic can be so clearly approached - way before touchy subjects became acceptable in the film industry. As usual, Criterion has picked another great title for transfer and puts forth a tremendous effort.
The last Blu-ray release of The Great Dictator was from the same restored master print, so the details aren't too different. Still, the Criterion packaging gives it an extra breath of life that acts as a pinnacle for the film's shelf life.
The bonus features are great and include a detailed documentary from 2001 that is just as fascinating as the film itself. In addition, there is a bran new commentary recorded just this year with silent-film historian Hooman Mehran and author Dan Kamin.
- The Tramp and the Dictator - hour-long documentary
- Chaplin's Napoleon
- The Clown Turns Prophet
- Sydney Chaplin's Footage
- King, Queen, Joker (1921)
- Charlie the Barber
- Commentary - Performer and author Dan Kamin and silent-film historian Hooman Mehran. Recorded for Criterion in 2011.
Gettysburg & Gods & Generals - As the country commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a pair of Ronald Maxwell epics hit Blu-ray in all their glory. The two director's cuts put the combined run time at over nine hours. The extensive length shouldn't scare you away if you have even the slightest interest in war films - these two are amongst the most detailed and accurate out there.
While the films deserve the same Criterion treatment as the others on this week's releases - alas, they have yet to get that designation. The Blu-rays are not impressive, but provide a worthy release for Civil War buffs on the commemoration of the historical event.
Next week includes the Blu-ray releases of Once Upon A Time In The West and The Stanley Kubrick Collection. Needless to say, spend your money wisely this week for your wallet should take a beating next round.
Check back every Tuesday for more on the current releases on DVD and Blu-ray.