The new reissue of James Bond Blu-rays gave us a chance to revisit SPECTRE, the evil organization which may prove important, or may just be a red herring, in the new film Spectre. As a collection itself, there’s little new this time around. Just two bonus features that are really just recaps. But it’s thorough. It includes all 23 movies with the HD transfers that still look so great, I’m always surprised. I had to check my old 50th Anniversary set to make sure these weren’t new transfers. They aren’t. They just always looked that new and fresh.
I will be so interested to see how this generation responds to S.F.W. The early ‘90s indie movie is about fame culture at a time when MTV and televised news were the height of media. It may seem foreign or quaint now, but the message is the same. We latch onto superficial celebrity, overlooking deeper issues. I’m glad Olive Films gave S.F.W. a Blu-ray release, but the film looks spotty at best. Back in ’94 they were just trying to go on screens. They weren’t thinking enhanced viewing formats, and the film doesn’t help itself with its three different looks. The present day stuff is roughest because it’s supposed to look normal, and it doesn’t compare to Blu-rays of other movies of the time. Flashbacks to the hostage situation that made Cliff Spab (Stephen Dorff) a star are dreamlike and appropriately weird, but oddly, the fuzzy TV images hold up the best. Man, Reese Witherspoon was young in 1994.
This was a collaboration of two horror masters: John Carpenter directing Stephen King. For its first time on Blu-ray, Christine has a solid transfer. It preserves some of the film grain and has a consistent look for the duration of the film, even when it’s barely lit in a dark auto garage. Glamour shots of the shiny red Plymouth look like you can almost see your own reflection in the car, and the green lights during Christine’s murder rampage are appropriately nightmarish. Bonus features from previous DVD releases are included.
With a streaming release weeks ahead of the physical one, Magic Mike XXL qualifies for our September ranking. Whether you watch the Magic Mike sequel on Vudu, Amazon or iTunes now or if you wait for the Blu-ray on October 6, I just don’t know if you can handle these chiseled abs in HD. I mean, the boys work hard so that every ripple shows on screen, especially under the erotic colored lights. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to objectify these guys. They have feelings. This is drama.
One of the biggest surprises of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Unexpected is a gentle comedy where the humor is not at anyone’s expense. Likewise, it has a very gentle Blu-ray, where the clarity and detail shows the humanity in the closeups and the real world of Chicago looks familiar enough to be anywhere. There are no bonus features, so our own interview with director Kris Swanberg will have to tell you everything you need to know about the film.
Shocker looks even better than Scream Factory’s release of Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, which is surprising because Shocker is two years older. The picture is smooth, the blue tinted nightmare shots hold up and you still see all the detail in the bloody aftermaths of Horace Pinker’s kills. Craven himself was critical of the visual effects, but I’ve got to say I like seeing them make do with 1989 technology. We still understand Pinker’s electric powers, and a simple crossfade leaves more to the imagination than if it showed him literally emerging from another body with CGI. Mitch Pileggi and Camille Cooper reflect in some frank and honest interviews, particularly Cooper with her unfortunate experiences with Hollywood sexism. Both say that Peter Berg was already planning his directing career back in 1989.
Joss Whedon’s sequel got some heat for being a tad too Marvel-y (Thor’s cave sequence in particular), but if you look a bit deeper, it’s actually saying a little more about the Avengers characters than many of the solo movies allow. Tony Stark does something really bad, not just cute and sarcastic. Hulk isn’t just a toy the Avengers can use, he’s potentially uncontainable. I like the little glimpses we get of Cap and Thor’s friendship too. With the same bonus features available on Blu-ray and Disney Movies Anywhere, you can’t really go wrong with whatever version you pick. Deleted scenes do give us more of the Thor cave, and the behind the scenes shows us how much actually happened practically on the set, and a feature on the Infinity Gauntlet would help a newb catch up if it wasn’t already clear enough that they’re just six Maguffins we don’t want Thanos to control.
The powerful biography of Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson takes place in the ‘60s and ‘80s. While the period details make each era clear, the picture is consistent so it still looks like the same movie. I’d love to say that the ‘60s scenes look more like grainy 8mm film, but it’s just a coincidence. Many of the ‘80s scenes look like that too with some grainy saturation showing when characters are wearing brighter colors. It’s a beautiful film that looks great and has some bonus features that add even more to the Brian Wilson story. Four deleted scenes show more episodes from Wilson’s life in which outside pressures compromised his mental state. The movie is no less for not including them, but it’s great to see more on the Blu-ray.
Spy is so good I really don’t think it matters whether you watch ir on Blu-ray, DVD or digital streaming. I was just so impressed how clever a genre spoof could be, and it could give an established comedienne like Melissa McCarthy so much more depth to explore her persona. Jason Statham is hilariously self-deprecating, sending up his grizzled badass persona. Director Paul Feig really has an eye for the action scenes, playing them like real James Bond action, only ridiculous and excessively violent things happen in them. Ghostbusters is in good hands if he handles the supernatural sequences with the same classy touch.
The Fast and the Furious movies always looked good on Blu-ray with their shiny, colorful cars. But the more international they get with their epic adventures, the better they look. So the Abu Dhabi desert and Caucasus mountains are beauties on Blu-ray. All the normal stuff kicks up a notch with James Wan’s camera style too, like the one-take through the hospital Jason Statham destroys, and the twisting takedowns between Statham and The Rock. The bonus features are faster and more furious too, as Wan manipulates behind the scenes footage on a high tech screen while talking us through it, keeping it more engaging than the usual behind the scenes bits.
There’s really no contest for the best movie released this month, especially one that also happens to be a visual feast. For my full review, I watched Mad Max: Fury Road in black and white, just for something different and to follow up on something George Miller himself suggested. It was a successful experiment, but the full color version explodes in HD. The color is already digitally enhanced, as you can see in behind the scenes material, but particularly in the video online about it. So the golden desert, the red clay Citadel, and all the detail of the incredibly production designed vehicles are deservedly put on a pedestal on Blu-ray.