Monday, October 25, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Oct. 25th, 2010 - The Ripley Edition


"Get away from her, you bitch!" - Ellen Ripley, "Aliens" (1986)

With that single line towards the end of the movie "Aliens," Sigourney Weaver's place in action movie pantheon was signed, sealed and delivered. Other than Linda Hamilton's gritty, muscular performance in "Terminator 2:Judgment Day," Weaver's unforgettable turn as the industriously lethal Ellen Ripley is simply, for the lack of a better word, divine. Female action starts are few and far in between and Sigourney Weaver's performance in all the "Alien" movies (yes, even the third one) symbolizes the best the movie industry has to offer when it comes to watching Hollywood leading ladies kick some alien butt.


Which leads us right into this week's exciting Blu-ray releases:

Alien Anthology [Blu-ray]Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]The Girl Who Played with Fire [Blu-ray]House (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]Paths of Glory (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Winter's Bone [Blu-ray]Legend of the Black Scorpion [Blu-ray]
Often the most requested, most sought after and most anticipated set of movies to be given the high-definition Blu-ray treatment (next to "Star Wars" and the real "Lord of the Rings" trilogy releases), the imminent release of Alien Anthology is finally upon us. Yes, this coming Tuesday (October 26th), you can finally own your very own copy of the Alien Anthology on Blu-ray. All four movies in the acclaimed sci-fi series have been given the high-definition treatment with 1080p video and lossless DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio mixes. This anthology set consists of 6 discs, 4 for each of the 4 movies and 2 discs, so chock full of special features, it'll take you days or even weeks to go through every single one of them. Each movie is available in two versions, the theatrical and also the special edition versions, identical to the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set released way back in 2003. I haven't checked thoroughly but I suspect that all the features from the Quadrilogy set should be available here as well plus some new Blu-ray-only features.

For anyone who still hasn't made the leap onto the Blu-ray bandwagon yet, you can get your "Alien" fix by ordering the feature-packed 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy DVD set (containing all 4 movies plus plenty of special features) for only $20.99, available now on Amazon.com.

This week, yet another classic sci-fi trilogy gets a high-def makeover. The venerable duo of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) makes the quantum jump into 1080p video in Universal Studios' Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy. With director Robert Zemeckis at the helm of all three movies, Marty McFly jumps from 1955 to 2015 and back to 1885 as the flux capacitor-equipped DeLorean takes him on a time-bending and thoroughly entertaining journey to save his family and essentially, the world! That all three movies proved to be a great success and is able to maintain that same comedic formula is a great achievement. More than anything, sequels have a knack for faltering and only the great ones are able to up the ante. Back to the Future is indeed one of those great ones. With 1080p video and DTS-HD Master 5,1 audio mix accorded on all three movies (plus Digital Copies), this is another must-have set in your collection.

Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy has sold millions of copies worldwide. Made up of three crime novels, The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the two primary characters across all three books are Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. All three books were published posthumously after the death of Larsson in 2004 and have since been adapted into films by a Swedish production company, starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth and Michael Nyqvist and Mikael. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was released on Blu-ray back in July, 2010 and the next film in line, The Girl Who Played with Fire will be released this week. Fans of Larsson's work should pick up these original Swedish film adaptations as Hollywood will soon get its grubby hands on the trilogy with its own adaptations that will star Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Two splendid Criterion Collection films are also coming to Blu-ray this week: one is a Japanese cult horror film from 1977 titled, House and the other is the 1957 Stanley Kubrick-directed anti-war film, Paths of Glory, starring Kirk Douglas. Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, House tells the funny and spooky but quirky (some might say wildly crazy) tale of a young girl inviting six of her best friends to spend time on her aunt's house in the countryside. But the house goes berserk and unleashes all sorts of crazy evil on the unsuspecting girls. It is sort of a hybrid between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and one of the many J-horror flicks that was so popular just a few years back. This film is just plain crazy as you watch the girls meet horrible but imaginative deaths in this little house of horror.

Also from Criterion is Stanley Kubrick's anti-war film, Paths of Glory that was based on Humphrey Cobb's novel of the same name. Set in 1916 France, Paths of Glory tells the story of the court-martial of a group of French soldiers who refused to follow the orders of an ambitious general to shell their own men who were not successful in capturing a German position. Kirk Douglas plays Colonel Dax, a platoon leader and a former lawyer, who volunteers to defend the doomed men facing court-martial. Somewhat similar to his other anti-war film, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Kubrick tries to unveil the hypocrisy of war and the arrogance of its leaders as the good Colonel fights a battle that he can't win.

Like all of Criterion's releases, both films have been given a thorough video and audio makeover, bringing both films into the 21st century. House is in color and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Japanese language LPCM Mono audio while Paths of Glory retains its original black & white 1.66:1 aspect ratio plus English LPCM Mono. Both films also feature the in-depth supplemental materials usually accorded to Criterion Collection films.

Finally, we have Winter's Bone, a tale of survival in the backwoods of the Ozark Mountains based on Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name. A breakout performance by the young Jennifer Lawrence, who plays protagonist Ree Dolly, anchors the film solidly on her lithe shoulders. A young woman who is facing the imminent demise of her family, Ree goes in search for her convict father, who had put their house up as collateral for his bond and has skipped town. Ree not only has to fend for herself and find her father but she also has to look after her mentally incapacitated mother and her young siblings as well. A tale that truly attests to the strength of the human spirit and of determination.

Other releases of note this week include: Legend of the Black Scorpion (which I reviewed last week) and Sex and the City 2.

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