Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Feb. 14th, 2011 - My Movie Valentine!

Love is in the air......not! This is the day when the cabal of Hallmark, florists, chocolatiers and most probably lingerie makers and restaurateurs as well, collude to make a pretty dime off the hordes of people willing to partake in the let's-show-our-love-fest (if only for one day). Cynical or not, Valentine's Day seems like a big manufactured hoopla that is just another excuse to spend your hard-earned cash. If you are looking to partake and buy some good movies for your loved ones, Amazon and Best Buy has some good deals this week. One of last year's best films, Inception (Two-Disc Edition) is on sale for $13.99, a great price for a great movie. Also on sale this week for $13.99 are Salt (Deluxe Unrated Edition)The Town (Extended Cut) and Easy A. Oh and remember that action star extravaganza, The Expendables? Well, the Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy version is on sale for only $12.99. So take your picks.

As for this week's releases, just one new release is worth a mention. The rest of this week's releases are mostly catalog titles that may be of interest to some people. So here they are:

Unstoppable [Blu-ray]Network [Blu-ray]All the President's Men [Blu-ray]Last Tango in Paris [Blu-ray]Chaplin (15th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]The Twilight Zone: Season 3 [Blu-ray]

Surprisingly, I've yet to watch an action film starring Denzel Washington that I didn't like. He brings an air of confidence bordering on cockiness to many of his roles. Even as the bad guy (Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day), Washington makes his characters likeable and sympathetic. Most of all, he makes the characters he play believable. In his latest film, Unstoppable, Washington steps up again, this time with the help of Chris Pine as the duo battle not bad guys but a runaway cargo train carrying toxic chemicals. Directed by Tony Scott (Crimson TideEnemy of the State), who is no stranger to action blockbusters, Unstoppable is a thrill a minute, providing some edge of your seat moments that is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. Unstoppable comes in a 2-disc set with the movie available in Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Recommendation: Buy it when the price drops to $15 or less.

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Sidney Lumet's (Dog Day AfternoonThe Verdict) iconic 1976 film Network, became the first and only film in Oscar history to be nominated for 5 acting awards and winning 3 of them (with Peter Finch (above) winning posthumously). At a time when the nation was reeling from Watergate, inflation and a gas shortage, Network became sort of a rallying cry and the Peter Finch quote above summed up what everyone was feeling at that time. Courtesy of Warner Bros., Network is now available on Blu-ray for the first time, after being released in a jam-packed 2-disc DVD version on the 30th anniversary since its theatrical release. The same special features from the DVD version have been ported over here, together with a slightly upgraded video transfer and a less than stellar DTS-HD Master Audio monaural soundtrack. Despite lacking in the high-def upgrade arena, Network is a classic film that everyone should watch at least once. Recommendation: Buy it for the superb story.

Also from Warner Bros. this week, comes another classic from 1976, All the President's Men, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon. Both All the President's Men and Network seem to hand-in-hand in Warner Bros' release schedule and like clockwork, both are getting the Blu-ray treatment this week. Like NetworkAll the President's Men sports the same mediocre transfer and monoaural soundtrack plus the same extras from its previous DVD release. Recommendation: Again, buy it for the great story.

From director Bernado Bertolucci (The Last EmperorThe Dreamers) comes a controversial arthouse film that drips with steamy sexuality, courtesy of mesmerizing performances by Marlon Brando (The GodfatherApocalypse Now) and Maria Schneider in the lead roles. Last Tango in Paris (1972) received an X rating (before the NC-17 rating was established) when it was first released due to its explicit sexual content and has courted controversy ever since. Brando plays a widower, mourning the recent death of his wife, who encounters a young Parisian woman, Jeanne (Schneider) and proceeds to have an anonymous and torrid affair with her without revealing anything personal about themselves, not even their names. Last Tango in Paris is now available as a single-disc movie only release on Blu-ray. While the video and audio quality have been reported as only so-so and this disc comes without any extras (except for a lame trailer), Last Tango in Paris is an emotional story about loss and pain and somehow, the presentation reflects that. Recommendation: This film may not be for everyone, rent it first.

Robert Downey Jr.'s career may be experiencing a renaissance recently with roles in blockbuster films like Iron Man (and its sequel) and Sherlock Holmes, but his genius was in full bloom way back in 1992 when he took on the iconic role of silent film star, Charlie Chaplin in the autobiographical film, Chaplin. It led to an Oscar nomination and seemed to have established Downey Jr. as an acting force to be reckoned with. Then came the drug addiction and run-ins with the law which pretty much derailed his blossoming career. After getting himself clean and sober, Downey Jr. career started to slowly take off again, culminating in another Oscar nomination for his role in the comedy, Tropic Thunder. Anyway, Chaplin is seeing a Blu-ray release this week with a curiously titled, 15th Anniversary Edition (someone at Lionsgate obviously needs to redo the math). The video transfer leaves much to be desired, leading me to believe that this transfer was taken from the 2007 DVD release with no restoration. This is just too bad because this film is a showcase for Downey Jr.'s strength as an actor. Recommendation: Skip it and wait for the true 20th/25th anniversary edition in a few years.

Finally, we have the third season of The Twilight Zone making its debut on Blu-ray. Image Entertainment has done a tremendous job with the restoration of this classic TV series, putting together packages that are beyond any fans' wildest expectations. To find out more, read my review of this 5-disc package here. Recommendation: Buy it!

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