The Weekly Spin: April 28th 2009

Mike Dougherty’s horror/comedy “Trick ‘r Treat” scored great notices at test screenings but the studio has been struggling to find a place for it in its film schedule for two years. At last comes the news this past week that the film is getting a release but sadly it’ll be direct-to-DVD and Blu-ray later this year. This is one title I urge you to grab a copy of as the multi-talented Dougherty’s first go at the helm deserves a much better treatment than the one it is being given.

Criterion is being talked about a lot this week in disc forums due to a packaging switch. After utilizing a striking but flimsy cardboard sleeve design for their initial Blu-ray releases, the company has now swapped over to fatter, clear plastic boxes – the exact same kind used for PS3 games. While this wider body allows for the inclusion of large booklets, it takes up more shelf space and clashes with the existing slimmer cardboard releases. Complaints have already begun and one hopes they will come up with a mail-in scheme allowing existing owners to swap out their old cardboard sleeves for the new plastic ones without having to re-buy the disc set. In better news for them, they plan to bring Roman Polanski’s 1965 thriller classic “Repulsion” to Blu-ray in July – hoorah.

While Fox’s treatment of its films on Blu-ray has been generally poor, other studios own a lot of their TV shows so thankfully they get better care. Along with releasing the current season on “24” on Blu-ray the day after the season finale, a practice I hope other shows will adopt, theere’s still plans to release the second and likely final season of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on Blu-ray despite the show’s ratings. It’s also good to hear J.J. Abrams-produced “Fringe” is getting the Blu-ray treatment as well.

The Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood western classic “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is coming to Blu-ray on a BD-50 disc with 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video and a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track – awesome. It’s surprising the other films in the “Man With No Name” trilogy aren’t coming out at the same time despite all three films undergoing extensive restoration for the Blu-ray release, this seems the kind of series begging for a trilogy boxset. More importantly when is someone going to get cracking on the Blu-ray for “Where Eagles Dare”.

The Digital Bits reports that the “Star Trek: Next Generation Motion Picture Collection” will hit later this year on Blu-ray, as will great recent catalogue titles like “Braveheart,” “Gladiator,” “Heat,” “Forrest Gump,” “Anchorman,,” “Gremlins,” “Boogie Nights,” “The Green Mile,” “South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut,” “Galaxy Quest,” the Jacqueline Bisset wet t-shirt classic “The Deep,” and the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Three true cinematic masterpieces – “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone with the Wind” and one of my personal favourites – “North by Northwest” – will all hit the format as well later this year.

Cinematical says that Paul Thomas Anderson and Sony Pictures are working on a Blu-ray release of his Adam Sandler drama “Punch-Drunk Love”.

Photos have emerged of the “Battlestar Galactica: Complete Series” DVD & Blu-ray release scheduled for this July have emerged at DVD Active and its looks just plain strange.

This Week’s Picks:

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One (Blu-Ray)
Just in time for the new movie comes the first season of the original 60’s classic series and the most consistent in terms of quality of any season of any Trek incarnation. While I’m more of a TNG/DS9 fan than a TOS one, the cleaned up print elements and new FX in high def allow the series to stand the test of time better. Also Amazon is offering the set for $64.99, 50% off the retail price.

In the Realm of the Senses: Criterion Collection (DVD & Blu-Ray)
Nagisa Oshima’s controversial 1976 Japanese drama of insatiable desire has been censored in some countries and banned in others over the years due to its various scenes of unsimulated sex. Now Criterion is releasing the classic in its uncut original form and caps from the Blu-ray release are truly stunning.

JCVD (DVD & Blu-Ray)
The best Jean Claude Van Damme film since 1994’s “Timecop”, the self-aware French crime thriller has received critical acclaim on the festival circuit for not only its slick execution and premise (Van Damme essentially plays himself), but its more emotional moments tying in to his real life. Worth it for the one-take monologue scene alone.

The Uninvited (DVD & Blu-Ray)
Elizabeth Banks is proving herself so adept at comedy that it’s hard to picture her as a crazed murderous stepmother in this supernatural thriller, the second and better of the two ‘Un’ horror films released this season. It’s cliched as hell and ultimately not very good, but as formula goes it’s decent enough.

Other Releases This Week:
Air: The Complete Series (DVD)
Bride Wars (DVD & Blu-Ray)
The Da Vinci Code (Blu-ray)
Frost/Nixon: Complete Interviews (DVD)
Hotel for Dogs (DVD & Blu-ray)
Little Dorrit: Complete Mini-Series (DVD)
Martyrs (DVD)
My Own Worst Enemy: Complete Series (DVD)
The Reader (Blu-ray)
What Doesn’t Kill You (DVD & Blu-ray)
While She Was Out (DVD)

“Marley and Me” – A Blu-ray Review by ‘Paul Fischer’.

Marley and Me received a generally enthusiastic response when released theatrically late last year. One of the reasons, is that the movie delivers a rather warm yet authentic exploration of family, suburbia, the fulfilment of dreams and relationships. The film may initially lure the audience into thinking that they are watching a convention dog movie, but instead the film is about a family, with all its problems, dealing with professional aspirations versus family responsibilities. Stars Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson are the perfect fit. Their chemistry feels natural, yet real at the same time, and both give beautiful performances. Of course Marley, played by various dogs, is appealing, and his scenes are both sublimely comic and heartfelt. This is an exquisite film, perfect family entertainment.

While it can be argued that Marley and Me is not essential to be watched in high def, there is no denying the film has an added depth in its Blu Ray incarnation. Visually, the film is sharp, images are rich, and the Miami sequences look breathtaking, with deeper blue hues and other lush colours brought out by the 1080p resolution. Audio is also sharp with a pleasing 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation that accurately recreates the initial theatrical experience, while adding the expanded dynamics that lossless encoding provides if one has the right audio equipment.

For a three-disc set, supplementary material is interesting but lacking. There are a number of supplements including: – Finding Marley, Breaking the Golden Rule, When not to Pee [very enjoyable, but silly little short, Deleted Scenes [which are actually rather interesting, more than most, On the Set with Marley: A Dog of all Trades, Animal Adoption and a not-so-funny Gag Reel. There is also a digital copy to upload to your computer, which seems to be the latest thing, though once you see these things in High-Def seeing it on a low-res computer or Iphone seem rather unnecessary.

Marley and Me is far more enjoyable than one might imagine from a Hollywood film, avoiding much of the cliches associated with this animal sub genre. Warm, funny and deeply emotive at times, it’s a perfect family film that looks gorgeous and sounds superb in Blu Ray.