DVD/Blu-ray Breakdown: October 4th, 2011

It's a great week for movie lovers: two Quentin Tarantino movies, two lion-centric Disney films, a screecher, a screamer, a tearjerker and a great adventure all come to Blu-ray.

DVD Blu-ray Releases October 4th 2011

We've been anticipating this week for some time now. September had its fair share of high-profile releases like Star Wars, Citizen Kane and Ben-Hur, but the first week in October brings a number of great titles to shelves.

The re-releases are again the highlight as Disney brings Lion King out of the vault for a special Blu-ray release in both 2D and 3D. Even better (to some), Quentin Taratino has brought Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown to the format. There are plenty more to choose from this week, including a few great new releases as well.

Beauty and the Beast is already out on Blu-ray, but now a 3D version is available. Another title already on Blu-ray is The Walking Dead, but now a special 3-disc Special Edition is available on the format with new featurettes. Lastly, a very cool Limited Edition globe case is available for Planet Earth.

The following titles can now be found on DVD and Blu-ray.



Fast Five DVD Blu-ray

Fast Five - One of this summer's biggest blockbusters races into home entertainment with an exceptional DVD and Blu-ray release. The film won over both critics and fans alike with a $616 million global take and a slew of positive reviews - at least relative to past installments. It even earned a quick green light for Fast and Furious 6.

The video quality is outstanding, but the sound mix is even better. Turn the volume up high, especially if you have a surround system, as this movie accesses the entire thing with great detail and balance. Dwayne Johnson is a huge reason for the film's success and the special features seem to acknowledge this with more than one featurettes focused on his involvement. Otherwise, this is a solid collection of extra material for movie fans to enjoy.

  • Extended Cut (two minutes longer than theatrical)
  • Second Screen Interactive Viewing
  • Picture-in-Picture Track: Producer Neal H. Moritz, actor/producer Vin Diesel, director Justin Lin, supervising stunt director Mike Gunther.
  • Scene Explorer: Breakdown of the opening scene.
  • Audio Commentary: Director Justin Lin
  • The Big Train Heist
  • A New Set of Wheels
  • Reuniting the Team
  • Dom's Journey
  • Brian O'Connor: From Fed to Con
  • Enter Federal Agent Hobbs
  • Dom vs. Hobbs
  • Inside the Vault Chase
  • On Set with Director Justin Lin
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Tyrese TV
  • Gag Reel

VERDICT: Buy it. Everybody needs a guilty pleasure or two on their shelf.

Scream 4 DVD Blu-ray

Scre4m - The Scream franchise took a box office hit with its first installment that couldn't reach the $100 million mark at the global box office. Still, the studio has given the go-ahead for Scream 5. Our review said Scream 4 "almost captures the same magic [as the original Scream]." If you like this franchise, this is worth owning.

A decent sound mix highlights this moderate DVD/Blu-ray release. But we've come to expect that much out of the Scream franchise, which obviously relies on its sneaky sound design to engage the audience. This release has the basics of any home video title, with nothing special to get excited about.

  • Audio Commentary: Director Wes Craven and Stars Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts. Never Campbell phones in a few times.
  • 26 Minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Gag Reel
  • The Making of Scream 4
  • Scream 4 Video Game Promotion

VERDICT: Rent it. There are better guilty pleasures this week - see above.

African Cats DVD Blu-ray

African Cats - Lion King will take the headlines as this week's exotic animal film to buy, but don't let African Cats go unnoticed. It's a stellar documentary that blurs the line between narrative and documentary filmmaking, thanks to a fleshed out true story of rivalry in the animal kingdom.

This film has two stars - the lion/cheetah storylines and the cinematography. Thankfully, the DVD/Blu-ray of African Cats does the latter justice with a colorful and sleek transfer. Samuel L. Jackson headlines the film and an obvious ADR of animal noises is well-mixed, albeit seemingly created in post (I may be wrong). The small selection of bonus features are mostly self-serving for the Disney creators, but an interactive commentary brings featurettes to this release that showcase the creative process.

  • Filmmaker Annotations - various inside looks at production from crew
  • Disney & Nature
  • Save the Savannah
  • Music Video
  • Sneak Peeks

VERDICT: Buy it. Consider it a companion piece for The Lion King.

The League season two DVD Blu-ray

The League - Fantasy sports is a huge market. It's an untapped audience, too. But The League has capitalized on sports fans and fantasy sports lovers with a hilarious group of characters that most viewers wish were their own friends. Its low-brow humor and universally recognizable (amongst sports fans) plot points have made it a success for FX. Season two ramps up everything, inluding the special features available on the home video.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Kluneberg Paint by Numbers
  • El Notario
  • Taco Tones Productions Presents: I'm Inside Me, Notarize!
  • Taco Tones Productions Presents: Vinegar Strokes
  • Andre's Extended Fads
  • Ruxin's Wedding Video
  • Alt Nation
  • Gag Reel

VERDICT: Buy it if you have season one.

Bored to Death season two DVD Blu-ray

Bored to Death - Three lovable actors with nasty on-screen personas take on a second season of their sometimes-high-brow show. When the show hits its jokes, it's hard to top. But they don't always hit and that makes a polarizing show amongst fans and critics. But season two comes to DVD and Blu-ray just under a week before the third season arrives on HBO.

  • Five Audio Commentaries
  • Bored to Death: Inside the Mind of Jonathan Ames
  • Outtakes
  • Deleted Scenes

VERDICT: Buy it if you have season one.



The Lion King Blu-ray

The Lion King (2D and 3D) -A hugely successful animated classic made even more money with its recent two-week re-release in theaters. Clearly audiences still love the Academy Award-winning film, but now they can see it on Blu-ray and in 3D at home. The Lion King has earned its place in history with iconic music, animation and storytelling. The bonus features on this release bring some intriguing stories from the Disney vault, including the fact that this was made by the B-team at the time, as Disney expected Pocahontas to be the real hit. Go figure.

The video transfer is perfect. Every pixel of animation is pristine. When the 3D conversion works, it is great, but when it doesn't it's a distraction. Overall, the real star here is the quality of picture. If you own the DVD version, you'll see the difference. The Lion King is also an auditory feast. The Oscar-winning music is put on a pedestal with a flawless 7.1-surround mix that brings out the best in every sound system. The bonus features are great, but come up in a small screen-within-a-screen that includes a frustratingly difficult way to make it full screen. Once you do that, it's mostly an assortment of 4x3 featurettes and spends far too much time on the Broadway musical spin-off. Yet somehow it doesn't detract form the overall release, partly because it's just such a great film. Be sure to check out the Bloopers first.

  • Disney Second Screen
  • Audio Commentary: Producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
  • Pride of The Lion King
  • The Lion King: A Memoir - Don Hahn
  • Dozens of featurettes in Disney's Virtual Vault
  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes
  • The Morning Report
  • Bloopers & Outtakes
  • Interactive Art Gallery
  • Sing-Along Mode
  • Sneak Peeks

VERDICT: Buy it.

Pulp Fiction Blu-ray

Pulp Fiction - Americans have been waiting for what seems like forever for this Blu-ray. Quentin Tarantino personally supervised the transfer of his most famous film. Typically when the directors supervise it themselves, we get those truly memorable transfers. The sonically memorable film also gets a hell of an audio mix. As expected, this overdue release is everything we hoped for - and more.

The "and more" rests comfortably in the bonus features. A few retrospective interviews give us a present-day look back at the slew of iconic characters that make up the true ensemble piece. Over three hours of bonus materials includes those interviews and other featurettes you may recognize from the DVD.

  • Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat
  • Here are Some Facts on the Fiction
  • Pulp Fiction: The Facts – Documentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Behind the Scenes Montages
  • Production Design Featurette
  • Siskel & Ebert At the Movies: The Tarantino Generation
  • Independent Spirit Awards
  • Cannes Film Festival – Palme D'Or Acceptance Speech
  • Charlie Rose Show
  • Marketing Gallery
  • Still Gallery
  • Enhanced Trivia Track

VERDICT: Buy it.

Jackie Brown Blu-ray

Jackie Brown - The 'other' Quentin Tarantino Blu-ray re-release this week is not quite as elaborate as its shelfmate, but deserves praise in its own way. Some love and some hate this film, but rest assured it won't get much better than this Blu-ray. The Tarantino-approved transfer is as colorful as ever (albeit dark tones) and the sound mix highlights the music that drives the film. Don't let the superb quality of Pulp Fiction takes away from this release - it's a must-own in its own way.

  • Breaking Down Jackie Brown
  • Jackie Brown: How it Went Down
  • A Look Back at Jackie Brown
  • "Chicks With Guns" Video
  • Siskel and Ebert "At the Movies"
  • Jackie Brown on MTV
  • Marketing Gallery
  • Still Galleries
  • Trivia Track
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes
  • Soundtrack Chapters
  • Robert Forster Trailers
  • Pam Grier Trailers
  • Pam Grier Radio Spots

VERDICT: Buy it.

Life is Beautiful Blu-ray

Life is Beautiful - Roberto Benigni shot into the spotlight with his Oscar-winning role in this 1997 Holocaust film. That year, he won one of the film's three Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Score). It's a true tear-jerker about perserverance and the innocence of a young boy in the midst of one of the most horrific events in human history. But as heartbreaking as Life is Beautiful might be, it's also filled with huge laughs and light-hearted moments.

We aren't sure why this film is getting a Blu-ray release now. It doesn't bring much to the table besides the film itself. It isn't a particularly handsome transfer and the sound mix is just decent. It also comes with bare-bones supplements. For whatever reason, it doesn't include Benigni's unforgettable Oscar moments.

  • Making Life Beautiful
  • Academy Award Television Commercials
  • Theatrical Trailer

VERDICT: A great film, but skip this Blu-ray Lite. There may be a better anniversary release someday.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure Blu-ray

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure - One of Tim Burton's breakout films also continued the meteoric rise to fame of Paul Reuben's Pee-Wee Herman character. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure comes to Blu-ray at a great time. We've been waiting for more news about the upcoming Pee-Wee Herman movie since news hit in 2010 about it possibly coming together. At least fans of the character can now add him to their Blu-ray collection.

Much like Life is Beautiful, we're not sure exactly why this is making its way to Blu-ray. There are no significant milestones or anniversaries being labeled alongside this release. But as any fan of the show will proclaim, there is never a bad time for Pee-Wee Herman. Unfortunately, this Blu-ray doesn't really do much other than simply arrive in the Blu-ray format. The video and audio are hardly improved and the bonus features are the same as the DVD.

  • Commentary with Director Tim Burton and Actor/Co-Writer Paul Reubens
  • Production Sketches and Storyboards
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Music-Only Track with Commentary by Danny Elfman
  • Theatrical Trailer

VERDICT: Skip it. If you do not have the DVD, it is worth a rental.

The Cider House Rules Blu-ray

The Cider House Rules - This drama earned seven Academy Award nominations and won two (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor). A deep cast and high drama made this one of 1999's best and it finally reaches Blu-ray. The soft look of the film comes across smooth as ever on Blu-ray and the subtle environmental sounds are accented by a new lossless mix. There is not much to write home about in the special features department, as it only gives the bare minimum and we've seen it all before.

  • Audio Commentary with Director Lasse Hallström, Screenwriter John Irving and Producer Richard N. Gladstein
  • The Cider House Rules: The Making of an American Classic
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

VERDICT: Rent it.

Space Jam Blu-ray

Space Jam - It's hard to forget some of the amazing moments in Space Jam. But the real question is whether or not it holds up with Michael Jordan out of the spotlight. Of course, Looney Tunes and Bill Murray cannot be topped in the film, but Jordan's presence gives it a sense of importance in a time where he was everything in the sports world. The film looks great on Blu-ray, but the special features are the same as the previously released DVD.

VERDICT: Rent it.


The current streak of great DVD/Blu-ray weeks continues with next week's headliner The Tree of Life. Other notable titles include Horrible Bosses and a personal favorite Camp Nowhere.

Stay tuned every Tuesday for the latest breakdowns of DVD and Blu-ray releases and follow me on Twitter at @Eisentower30 for even more updates.


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