Even Franchise Fred wasn’t a fan of this sequel, but it did have some fans. For them, the Blu-ray is a perfect transfer of the film, full of gory detail in the zombie makeup, and colorful images on location in Norway. Considering how much of the movie takes place at night, it holds up really well. The version I saw at Sundance was bilingual. The Blu-ray is all English, even Norwegian scenes shot with English takes. I’m not particularly attached to the original but it seems an unnecessary concession.
Available December 9th
Certainly an impeccable collection of films, though could have gone the extra mile of trying to include the pre-Spartacus films. But the eight films retain their previously released Blu-ray glory, and the new documentary does offer some welcome new insight into the legendary filmmaker. While not enough to encourage a total upgrade, it is certainly a worthwhile collection if for some reason you don’t already own Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut on Blu-ray.
I was surprised to find this was the Blu-ray premiere of the Jimmy Stewart classic, but it seems to be. That would make it a long overdue classic reissued in the latest format. The film looks stunning in 4K black and white with sharp contrast. You can still see the film grain, which is authentic to the 1939 film.
The popular if generic hit has a great looking Blu-ray. The gritty look Antoine Fuqua gave the TV remake represents well in HD, although the climax in the pseudo-Home Depot is still too dark for me to see what’s happening. The Blu-ray’s “Vengeance Mode” incorporates behind the scenes video fairly seamlessly, and it only extends the film’s running time by about 20 minutes.
Available December 30th
I still collect every season of “The Simpsons,” especially now that they’re on Blu-ray. The first thing I do when I get a new “Simpsons” Blu-ray is put in each disc to see the new HD animated. Each disc on season 17 has Sideshow Bob performing a different theatrical production, filled with slapstick sight gags. Disc three is pretty incredible when the curtain comes down. Then I put on a few episodes to listen to the audio commentary, because Al Jean still leads a lively discussion. This season I learned how nice Alec Baldwin was and how classy Lily Tomlin was after the whole I Heart Huckabees video was released and she never badmouthed David O. Russell for it.
Three Miyazaki films get their first Blu-ray releases, including his latest, and perhaps, final film, The Wind Rises. The animation is simply stunning in HD, particularly the hand drawn details of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, proving classical animation still holds up. The blues and greens of fields and skies, as witches and warriors fly and ride, will illuminate your living room. English translations and DVD extras from previous releases are included.
Maleficent out-Middle Earths The Hobbit in the live-action fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty. The fairy and creature imagery was already dazzling in theatrical 3D, but it shines even more vividly in high definition 2D. The picture is perfect and popping with color, and crisp detail in all the costumes and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie)’s head gear as well. The CGI is a bit more seamless than in some other fantasy Blu-rays. Perhaps the bright color scheme blends animation into live action better than “dark and gritty,” although Maleficent gets dark too.
The summer’s most beloved hit looks great on Blu-ray. Most of Dawn takes place in the woods and the HD really captures the wet green look. Scenes in the human compound do feature great post-apocalyptic detail of decrepit electroworks and nature overgrowth. I do think the HD makes the visual effects look even more like visual effects. The apes are phenomenal performances and detailed animation, but one thing they do not look like is actual apes. CGI still looks like CGI and stands out against the real locations. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage with the bonus features, since I’ve covered the movie so much I’ve heard all about its making before, but there is something to be said for seeing an actual demonstration of performance capture illustrating the talent’s example. Matt Reeves is a talker so the audio commentary is pretty full.
And so the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Blu-ray project comes to a close. I can’t imagine the work it took to remaster seven seasons (26 episodes each) in HD from original film elements, reconstructing the editing. It makes the show look like movies, albeit movies in 4:3 full frame. Bonus features on the last season involve some interesting and candid discussion about the transition from “TNG” to “Deep Space 9” and “Voyager” as well as “TNG” into its own movies. I mean, they’re open about generic “Star Trek” dialogue formulae.
I still stand by my review that Expendables 3 is the best Expendables yet, and now that quote will be preserved for eternity, or at least as long as physical media holds on. Unfortunately, I do have to report that the extended unrated addition doesn’t add anything that would be considered R-rated. Frankly I couldn’t tell where scenes were added or extended, but then I never had a problem with the PG-13 version after all. As the best looking Expendables too, the Blu-ray represents well with none of the digital noise of Expendables 2 or the aggressive shakycam of Expendables 1.
Marvel’s answer to the space opera looks outstanding on Blu-ray, although it’s a shame they did not include the Imax version. James Gunn really opened up the frame intuitively at key points to make the full frame worthwhile. Perhaps in a later edition. For now, the colorful details will have to suffice in widescreen. Bonus features maintain the film’s sense of humor, particularly a behind the scenes feature hosted by an 8-bit video game rendition of Gunn.
Available December 9th
Well, one of my favorite movies of the year didn’t disappoint on Blu-ray. It looks phenomenal, like it out Michael Bays Michael Bay, but the bonus content delivers even more. Exactly 22 deleted scenes all feature hilarious tangents that make me so happy, particularly extended Jillian Bell monologues. I wonder how funny that 23rd deleted scene was that just had to go for the sake of the joke.