Welcome to This Week in Blu-ray, the never on-time FSR column that is, oddly enough, on time this week. Will this be the start of a wonderful new trend? I won’t make any promises. What I will do is keep you in the loop on this weeks’ Blu-ray releases, including a few quirky indie comedies that are worth a look, a classic horror film that ruined my childhood moviewatching experience and a look deep into the world of Channing Tatum’s bicepts. Alright, maybe that last part is a lie — but I saw you all sit up straight in your chairs. Don’t deny your desire to see G.I. Joe’s Duke with his shirt off. Fear not, my sheep, for I am here once again to shepherd you to the promise land — the land of high resolution picture, Dolby 5.1 HD sound and more special features than you can shake your walking cane at.
Please use that fancy scroll bar on your browser to take a look at this week’s releases below…
Pitch: When young James (Jesse Eisenberg) finds out that his summer abroad is under-funded, he is forced to spend his time working a summer job, finding love and getting drunk.
Why Buy? Easily the best of this week’s releases — in both quality of film and Blu-ray features — Adventureland is a quirky, fun and authentic summer comedy to which many of us can relate. It features on-point performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Martin Starr (Knocked Up) and Ryan Reynolds, as well as a hair-flipping, broody (but less so than in Twilight) performance from Kristen Stewart. It also features a few great supporting performances from SNL‘s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. It’s the perfect late summer afternoon movie for anyone who’s ever worked a crappy job in their life (which is most of us). On Blu-ray, Adventureland brings with it several engaging BD-Exclusive features as well as a few non-exclusive featurettes and a commentary track. On the BD-Exclusive side, we have the very funny “Lisa P’s Guide to Style” (an homage to awful 80s style) and “Frido’s Taps,” a satiric how-to on inflicting unexpected pain (mostly by hitting your friends in the testicles). Also along for the ride is the BD-Exclusive “Welcome to Adventureland,” a series of commercials, drug policy PSAs and orientation videos for the theme park at the heart of the film. Overall, this Blu-ray release adds plenty of value to an already worthwhile film, leaving you with at least one must-buy this week.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Three great featurettes, all for you and all in HD.
Pitch: Brotherly love, ain’t it lovely?
Why Buy? One of the most unsung and delightful little indie comedies of the year, Rudo y Cursi follows the story of Beto (Diego Luna) and Tato (Gael Garcia Bernal), two brothers who break into the big leagues of Mexican soccer, finding fame and fortune and all kinds of trouble. It is a simple story of sibling rivalry, dealing with fame and remembering that one important thing in life: your mama. This fun, energetic film comes to Blu-ray with an adequate array of special features. A commentary track, a ‘making of’ featurette, a pair of music videos and some deleted scenes are the standard fair. The Blu-ray offers a special Q&A with director Carlos Cuaron and his two stars that cannot be found on the DVD release. Overall, it’s a fun, worthwhile movie experience that delivers solid, engaging special features — just the sort of thing that any film fan would want to have in their collection.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Special Q&A feature with director Carlos Cuaron and his two stars.
Pitch: Don’t go into the cornfields… Because there are kids murdering adults out there.
Why Buy? Yet another classic horror film that helped ruin my childhood comes to Blu-ray. Now, if only I could score a copy of Poltergeist (which was released on BD last year), I’d have the whole set of life-ruining horror. And cheesy as this one may be, it is still scary as hell get-out. A boy preacher comes to town and leads all the children in the murder of every adult. Who will stop them? Maybe Linda Hamilton, but I doubt it. This is pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton — and man, did she look good. As for the Blu-ray release, we see a very solid 1080p transfer of the film combined with a solid assortment of special features. As the 80s horror movies on Blu-ray go, that’s not a bad start. It wins with a pop-up Fast Film Facts track that runs with the Blu-ray (can be switched on and off) and several behind the scenes featurettes (4 to be exact), and loses only in its sound transfer — the track is bland and uninspired, and ill-mixed. That could be a date-related issue, but chances are its just the film’s distributor (Starz) not paying attention. Overall, if you’re among the cult following for this film, this release should feel right at home in your collection.
Blu-ray Exclusives? BD-Live support and a ‘Fast Film Facts’ feature that supplements your viewing experience with pop-up trivia. Also, this BD release includes three never-before-seen behind the scenes featurettes. Horror hounds should be pleased.
Pitch: Amy Adams and Emily Blunt clean up crap, in HD.
Why Rent? One of mu favorite films from last year’s Sundance Film Festival, Sunshine Cleaning tells the story of two sisters who try to turn their luck around by starting up a business. The only problem is that their fledgling business is a service that cleans up the spots where people have died. Disguised as a funny, quirky little film, Sunshine Cleaning is ultimately an excellent character drama with mop-buckets full of heart. Amy Adams delivers a splendid performance, as does Alan Arkin as the girls’ childish father (a role to which he’s become accustomed). The disc itself features a very entertaining commentary track from writer Megan Holley and producer Glenn Williamson, as well as one 11-minute behind the scenes featurette that is delivered in standard definition. A bit of a let-down, I know. But trust in me when I tell you that this movie is a good one. And easily worth a trip to your local Blockbuster, Redbox, or a spot in your Netflix queue. And if you’re really adventurous, you might even pick it up to keep.
Blu-ray Exclusives? Trailers for other Overture Films releases in HD, but otherwise nothing.
Pitch: Clive Owen and Julia Roberts play a sexy spy game.
Why Rent? Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the mind behind such thrillers as The Bourne Identity, The Cutting Edge (that’s right Gilroy, I remember) and Michael Clayton, this film follows the story of two former spies (Owen and Roberts) who are now engaged in the high-stakes game of corporate espionage. The only problem is that they’re engaged in a torrid love affair, one disrupted by the fact that they’re also working for rival companies. As a Gilroy-written pic, Duplicity is rather clever and delivers laughs. As well, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are a lot of fun. The problem I had with this release — and the reason it ended up in the rent category — is the fact that it is stripped of special features. There is a commentary track with Tony Gilroy, which is engaging enough, but nothing (not kidding) else of note. Once again, I believe the term used on the web is: fail.
Blu-ray Exclusives? BD-Live is enabled.
Pitch: Clark Kent continues to grow up, only this time he’s got a major villain coming to Earth: Doomsday.
Why Rent? While I can’t exactly say that I’ve ever been a big Smallville fan, I do know one thing: Season 8 was a much talked about one among fans. The show’s eighth frame showcased a lot of changes around Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and delivered what many have called the beginning of the end for this long-running show. For some however, it was a welcome bit of change to see Davis Bloome turn into Doomsday, or to see the ruthless Tess Mercer (played by the uber-hot Cassidy Freeman) take over the reigns for Lex Luthor. If you watch this show with regularity, you know where you fall on the scale. And if you’re a completist who needs to own every season, I won’t be able to stop you from picking this one up. However, if you’re only interested in catching up on Smallville, this set is not worth an end-game purchase. The special feature selection is severely lacking, with 2 episodes of commentary, a few unaired scenes and two snore-worthy featurettes, it just doesn’t cut it. I’d rather watch old episodes of Lois & Clark than see you spend your money on this set.
Blu-ray Exclusives? None.
Pitch: Channing Tautm punches the shit out of everything in sight, including the audience.
Why Avoid? Our own Robert Levin called this movie “an exceedingly silly movie that’s also very well made.” For sophomore director Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), that isn’t such a bad thing. He’s crafted a well-shot movie about street fighting in New York City. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Universal Home Video and Rogue Pictures have a lot of faith in his “well made” film, as they’ve sent it limping onto Blu-ray with the minimum amount of special features possible. It’s too bad really, that these discs are read-only. There is probably a good 20GB of storage space left on the Fighting release, which might almost make it worth $20. Alright, maybe not. It does have a few deleted scenes, is D-Box motion enabled (though I doubt your D-Box system is going to punch you in the face, which is disappointing) and it is enabled for BD-Live. None of that makes up for no commentary track, no featurettes and nothing to add to the film aside from a few extra minutes in the ‘unrated’ edition. Oh right, and a second disc for Digital Copy — I know how much you all love that.
Blu-ray Exclusives? There aren’t even SD special features on this release…
Pitch: Matthew McConaughey becomes the subject of Kate Hudson’s evil magazine journo dating experiments.
Why Avoid? I’m growing increasingly tired of what I have long-called ‘collection stuffers,’ Blu-ray releases of movies from the last 15-years or so that offer nothing beyond previous DVD releases except for a 1080p transfer and a blue box. We’ve seen it with releases ranging from The Waterboy to Wayne’s World to Major League. And friends, let me tell you, it stinks. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is an enjoyable enough romantic comedy that gets enough laughs to keep it out of sap-town, combining the always charming Kate Hudson with Matthew “I Don’t Wear a Shirt, Dude” McConaughey for a 115-minute ride through the world of dating in NYC. We should be able to enjoy this in HD. Sadly though, while the movie looks good in 1080p (it better, as its only 6 years old), there are no new or BD-Exclusive special features. There are several featurettes, all of which can be found on a previous DVD release. Dear studios: STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! We’re not buying it.
Blu-ray Exclusives? None.
Pitch: A group of spoiled teens in the glamorous neighborhoods of 80s Los Angeles do bad things, find zero consequences.
Why Avoid? For those of you who didn’t read my Sundance review for this movie, allow me to paraphrase: it is the single worst movie of 2009, hands down, without a doubt. Even though the year is not over yet, I am absolutely sure that a bigger blight will not be made upon the art of cinema in this year than Gregor Jordan’s bloated, self-indulgent movie about bad people doing bad things with and to other bad people. Some of the visuals are stunning, which shines through in a good 1080p transfer, but that doesn’t mean they’re interesting. They’re not. On top of that, this release hobbles along with next-to-no special features. It sports a commentary track with director Gregor Jordan and actors Jon Foster and Lou Taylor Pucci (writer Bret Easton Ellis probably wanted nothing to do with this release) and one featurette titled “Human Intersections: Making The Informers.” They should’ve skipped the special features, as no one is going to want to watch them should they be duped into watching this mess of a movie. If you like bad reality TV that is sad and depressing and in no way funny, this might be a rental. But if you have taste (or at least consider yourself a person of taste), I would urge you to stay as far away from this film as humanly possible. Don’t even walk by it at Best Buy, you could contract something.
Blu-ray Exclusives? HD trailer via BD-Live for other, better movies; and a 1080i featurette.
Also Out This Week (but not reviewed):
What are you buying on Blu-ray this week?