Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Nov. 1st, 2010 - Andy Goes to College!

Well Pixar fans, this is THE week you've been waiting for. You can finally get your ugly mitts on the most beloved animation movie franchise in motion picture history, on high-definition Blu-ray no less. Yes, folks, Toy Story 3 will be released this Tuesday (Nov. 2nd) and I'm sure parents will be making a bee line to the store to pick it up, either for their kids or most likely, for themselves! How can one not love Woody and the gang? For its Blu-ray debut, Toy Story 3 is coming to stores in more than one flavor and I'm here to sort it all out for you. So let's get to it, shall we?

Here's a look at all of this week's notable releases:

Toy Story 3 (Four-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)Toy Story 3 [Blu-ray]Toy Story Trilogy (10-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)The Pacific (HBO Miniseries) [Blu-ray]The Sound of Music (45th Anniversary Edition) (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)The Sound of Music (Limited Edition Collector's Set) [Blu-ray]The Bridge on the River Kwai [Blu-ray]The Goonies (25th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]Highlander (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]

This week will be tough for collectors' wallets, which is not to say last week was not bad enough, what with the Alien Anthology and the Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy releasing together. With Christmas approaching, I guess the studios are trying to milk every hard-earned penny out of us consumers.

So, the big one this week is obviously Toy Story 3, where Woody and the gang befriends a cute pink cuddly bear named Latso at a toy's paradise called Sunnyside Daycare or so they think. Even a children's animation film can turn a little dark every once in a while and this third installment is much darker than its predecessors. But no matter, if the ending doesn't bring tears to your eyes, you'd better check for a pulse. I deem it the perfect ending to an almost perfect movie franchise. If my generation still speaks nostalgically about "Star Wars," the Toy Story Trilogy would be the talk of this generation 20 or even 30 years from now.

There are actually 5 (yes, count them, 5) Blu-ray packages to choose from if you are shopping for Toy Story 3, three official packages and two exclusive packages tied to specific retailers. Let's first talk about the official ones. First up is a 4-disc package, which includes 1 Blu-ray disc of the movie, 1 Blu-ray disc of extras, 1 DVD of the movie plus extras and a disc that stores the Digital Copy. This package is going for $24.99 at Amazon. For $19.99, you can purchase the 2-disc package, which eliminates the DVD and Digital Copy. Now, if you do not have the first two movies (on Blu-ray, of course) in your collection yet then this would be the best opportunity to purchase all three movies in a massive 10-disc set for $64.99. You can own the trilogy and it comes in the following configuration:

Toy Story: 1 Blu-ray disc of the movie, 1 DVD version of the movie plus the Digital Copy (3 discs)
Toy Story 2: 1 Blu-ray disc of the movie, 1 DVD version of the movie plus the Digital Copy (3 discs)
Toy Story 3: 2 Blu-ray discs of the movie plus extras, 1 DVD version of the movie plus the Digital Copy (4 discs)

As for the video and audio quality, what else is there to say but this: it will be Pixar-perfect! Video is presented in 1080p resolution with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is a slight alteration of 1.85:1 from the original theatrical ratio. Disney does this with most of their animation films in order to maximize your widescreen (16:9) home TV screen. As for the audio, expect crystal clear quality with the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (for Toy Story 3 only) and 5.1 mixes (for all three movies).

Now for the exclusive packagings:
From Best Buy, you can get the 4-disc set with a free special collectible case (no extra charge). Here's how it looks like:

From Target, the 4-disc set comes with your very own Space Ranger toy. It retails for $32.99. Here's a look:
So there you have it, all the different configurations that you can purchase Toy Story 3. Phew!

Also releasing this week is HBO's high acclaimed World War II mini-series, The Pacific. If you loved its companion series, Band of Brothers, you'll definitely love this one as well. Most reviews that I have read scores The Pacific almost perfectly on story, video and audio quality. From HBO, I expect nothing less but top quality storytelling and production. The Pacific is uncompromisingly violent, profane and ultimately, tragic, pulling no punches in depicting the realities and the evil of warfare in the Pacific theater. The Pacific comes in 6 Blu-ray discs with 10 episodes on 5 of those discs plus a full disc of compelling extras (all in HD). Video comes in 1080p (1.78:1) and audio is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

Moving on, what's a week without more movie classics coming to high-definition Blu-ray?

"How do you solve a problem like Maria?" asks Mother Abbess, lamenting about the free-spirited Maria (Julie Andrews) in the 20th Century Fox classic, The Sound of Music. This Oscar winner (for Best Picture) is releasing on its 45th anniversary, having been released on DVD in various incarnations, including a well-received 40th anniversary edition. This week--like Toy Story 3--The Sound of Music comes in several packaging options as well. The first is a 3-disc set: 2 Blu-ray discs (movie plus extras) and a DVD of the movie (with extras). I'm guessing the DVD will be identical to the 40th anniversary DVD edition. Then there is the much larger Limited Edition Collector's Set, which consists of the 3 discs that I mentioned above plus the movie's soundtrack, scrapbook and various collectibles. A must-have for big fans of the movie. Oh, did I mention that the soundtrack of the movie has been remastered into DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1? Should make a world of a difference. Oh, there is also an exclusive release of this movie from Target that pairs the 3-disc set with a collector's book (see below).

Next up is The Bridge on the River Kwai, the true story war film about captured Allied soldiers forced to build a bridge for their captors in horrific conditions and it stars William Holden and Alec Guinness. Early reviews reveal significant upgrades to video (1080p) and audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) quality. This is a 2-disc set with 1 Blu-ray disc plus a DVD of the movie as well.

Now if you grew up in the 80's, I'm sure one of your favorite movies from that era is 1985's The Goonies. Written by Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus and directed by Richard Donner, The Goonies is an entertaining children's adventure film. Among the more notable child actors that appeared in this film are Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee from "LOTR"), Corey Feldman and Jonathan Ke Quan (who went from being so popular as Indy's cute sidekick "Short Round" to oblivion in a blink of an eye). This is the 25th anniversary edition and early reviews only grades the video (1080p) and audio (DTS-HD Master 5.1) upgrade as good but not great.

Finally, another blast from the 80's is Highlander, the action-adventure fantasy film that stars Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery about the centuries-old battle among a clan of immortals. With a soundtrack that includes songs contributed by the rock band, Queen (most notably, "Who Wants to Live Forever"), Highlander can be termed cheesy by today's standard. But there is something remarkably romantic about immortals living in this world and fighting one another with broadswords. Highlander was not a hit during its theatrical release and only found success on home video. It spawned a slew of sequels plus a TV series but this original is by far the superior one. This Blu-ray release is labeled a "Director's Cut" and reviews are only so-so on audio and video quality. Maybe that's why it is only priced at $13.99 on Amazon. Oh, Highlander 2 also gets a Blu-ray release this week as well. There can only be one!

Enjoy adding these Blu-rays to your collection and I'll see you next week where we'll look at a bunch of new releases plus a couple of classics. Happy viewing!

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