Monday, November 8, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Nov. 8th, 2010 - Scott Pilgrim, FIGHT!

After some wallet-chomping weeks of Blu-ray releases, this week, the bank account can take a slight breather. This week's Blu-ray release slate looks pretty thin, with no blockbuster releases to catch your fancy. However, this lack of quality is made up for with quantity. There is something for everyone, from an entertaining video game-like action flick to a highly controversial drama to classic sci-fi comedy to British TV classic updates to music concert releases. There are even a couple of releases for the tween Disney/Nickelodeon set. So, let's get to it, shall we?

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)Grown Ups (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Antichrist: (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]Tremors [Blu-ray]Charlie St. Cloud [Blu-ray]RAMONA & BEEZUSSherlock: Season One [Blu-ray]Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series [Blu-ray]Eric Clapton - Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 (2BD)[Blu-ray]Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Damn the Torpedoes (Classic Albums) [Blu-ray]Depeche Mode: Tour of the Universe - Barcelona 20/21:11:09 [Blu-ray] [Limited Edition]

Talk about cross-pollination. The most anticipated release this week is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and it is kind of a hybrid movie that melds various genres successfully. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a black and white graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O'Malley and the manga-like characters and simple love story lends itself well to the eventual translation of the novels into a well received old-school beat-em-up video game, ala "Final Fight." Directed by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (the movie) plays out in the charming, video game-addled world within the head of a geeked-out slacker and part-time musician Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera). The crux of the story is Scott goes goo-goo after meeting the lovely Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but finds out that he must defeat her seven "evil exes" in order for them to start dating. The cool thing is, these fights with Ramona's exes are played out in an exciting hyperreality video game-like showdown akin to the "Street Fighter" video game. Some people may not get the video game references of gaining an extra life or a power-up but all the same, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a hoot to watch, no matter if you are from the "Pacman", "Super Mario Bros." or the "Guitar Hero" generations. This Blu-ray release comes in a 3-disc set, a Blu-ray/DVD combo plus a Digital Copy of the movie. The video (1080p) and audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) presentations have been praised by reviewers and the set also comes with some great special features as well.

How can a comedy with an all-star comedic cast flop? Well, it was not exactly a flop but it just didn't work for me. Maybe the hype was just too much. Put five great comedic actors together and you kind of expect greatness. Yes, there are good laughs to be had but you can just feel that these guys might be trying a little too hard. It just never found the right balance between brilliant comedy and worn-out gags. Nonetheless, Grown Ups is a fun comedy, just not as funny as can be expected from these masters of laughters. Grown Ups comes to Blu-ray in a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set and features the usual 1080p video and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. It is a little lacking on the special features side though. Anyway, either wait for the price to drop on this one or just rent it.

Next we have one of the most controversial films of the year (2009) and it is coming to Blu-ray courtesy of the always reliable Criterion Collection. Welcome to the sadistic world of director Lars von Triers' Antichrist, a hate-it or love-it drama that polarized critics, with some praising his artistic genius (a "grotesque masterpiece") and others condemning it ("needlessly graphic" or "disgusting"). Whatever your opinion is about the film, Antichrist is beautifully composed in terms of its consuming cinematography and stylized imagery. It was universally praised in Denmark (von Triers' home country) but divided critics and audiences elsewhere. Antichrist stars William DaFoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as He and She respectively, nameless protagonists in von Triers' bleak world of self-mutilation, explicit sex and torture. Set in a surreal backwoods cabin called Eden, He and She (see the Biblical connotations?) have traveled there to grieve the accidental death of their young son and to work out their darkest fears. The sex in this film is very graphic and features full frontal male genitalia (you have been warned). With this disc coming from Criterion, there is no denying the quality of the video (1080p) and audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) presentations plus the multitude of extras typical of Criterion releases. Highly controversial and highly recommended, it would be a great addition to your other Criterion Collection discs.

Next, we have a great catalog release from 1990, the still-entertaining horror-action-comedy, Tremors. This film was an early HD-DVD release back in the day and a Blu-ray release have been anticipated for a while now. A simple and low-budget film, Tremors worked for me on so many levels. Pitting a group of average Joes in a small Nevada town against a giant man-eating subterranean worm may sound preposterously lame but Tremors thoroughly excels within its B-movie credentials. While Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward may be the headliners, it is the duo of Michael Gross and Reba McEntire who practically steals the show every time they appear on screen. Judging by the quality of the HD-DVD version, the Blu-ray release should see the same great video (1080p) and audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) presentations.

OK, for all you tweens out there who grew up on Disney and Nickelodeon TV shows, there are two releases this week just for you. One stars Disney's High School Musical alumni and teen heartthrob Zac Efron and the other stars Nickelodeon's new sensation, Selena Gomez. Efron's Charlie St. Cloud has been disparaged for its unapologetically schmaltzy story and the star himself still has a ways to go before overcoming his transition from teen to adult movie star. Not a great movie but Efron's boyish good looks might help move some discs. Based on Beverly Cleary's popular children's book series, Selena Gomez's turn as older sister Beezus in Ramona & Beezus is a cute but unremarkable adaptation. It is Gomez's young co-star Joey King, who plays the irresistible Ramona, who will win your heart. Both discs offer the same 1080p video and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. Ramona & Beezus comes in a 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack while Charlie St. Cloud is a single-disc release.

Moving on, we have a couple of BBC TV shows, Sherlock: Season One and Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series releasing this week as well. In the former, the most famous of Victorian detectives is brought into the 21st century with this critically praised contemporary update. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson respectively. This 2-disc set will include 3 90-minute episodes plus the previously unaired pilot. Sherlock aired on the PBS station here in the U.S. just a couple of weeks ago (in late October) and you can now own it on Blu-ray. Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi series on British television and in its latest modern update, the Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith takes over from Doctor No. 10, David Tennant. This Fifth Series contains 13 episodes and retains the same exciting time-traveling adventures the series is so known for.

Finally, for all you music lovers out there, we have three music concert releases. The first is Eric Clapton - Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010, a 2 Blu-ray disc release of the guitar concert extravaganza that took place this year in Chicago. Headliners include guitar Gods such as BB King, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy and the Allman Brothers. Next is the release of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Damn the Torpedoes album in the Classic Album series. Not only does this release contain newly remastered tracks from the classic album, it also contains new interviews and archival footage from that era. A must-have for Tom Petty fans. Electronica fans, this week also sees the release of British band, Depeche Mode: Tour of the Universe live concert Blu-ray from Barcelona. It contains songs from the band's new album plus all the classics from years past.

Enjoy your week!

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