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The 83rd Oscar Winners on Blu-ray

The 83rd Oscar Winners on Blu-ray

I can’t believe I actually sat through the entire Oscar ceremony this year. Urgh. So awkward. So time consuming. I could’ve spent those wasted hours calibrating my projector, or working on that screenplay I’m always going on about or brushing my teeth or something. Anyway, it wasn’t actually all that painful as, at its core, it’s a celebration of the movies. And we all love the movies, right? More importantly, we all love watching said movies, looking and sounding great on Blu-ray in the comfort of our own homes. Thankfully, most of the winning films are already available on Blu and those that aren’t show signs of turning up in stores soon.

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Hot Tub Time Machine Blu-ray Disc Review

Hot Tub Time Machine Blu-ray Disc Review

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (2010, Blu-ray released June 29, 2010 – MSRP $39.99)

This is a welcome surprise! When I hit the “stop” button on my Blu-ray remote control after having just spent 100-minutes with Hot Tub Time Machine, my girlfriend and I looked at each other and agreed – it’s actually a pretty great little comedy!

All right, I hate to bring it up, but I can’t help but compare Hot Tub Time Machine to the 2009 hit The Hangover, as every other review has done since its release. It seems, in just about every way to be MGM‘s answer to that film – a group of guys, best buddies taking off to a retreat of sorts in order to recapture something of the past, having a good time with booze, women and debauchery. It’s just that in this case, things get pushed from the mildly plausible to the way-ridiculous as the guys get a chance to literally re-live their past, stuck in the 80s thanks to their…um…hot tub time machine. Yep, that’s right. It’s exactly like the title says it is.

This is a stellar cast, from top to bottom – John Cusack delivers a perfect straight-man performance, riffing on his past characters from famous 80s films Better of Dead and Say Anything, Clark Duke is wonderfully naive as his young, computer-nerd nephew, Craig Robinson is the quintessential beaten down cuckolded husband and Rob Corddry, formerly of The Daily Show, steals just about every moment of the film in one of the finest comic performances I’ve seen in years as a foul mouthed former metal-head with nothing to lose. I don’t think these guys need a gimmick to be funny together but being stuck in the 80s allows for some pretty amazing gags, a lot of which are references to famous films of the era. Hell they even got William Zabka, Johnny Lawrence, the Cobra Kai villain from original Karate Kid, to a play against Corddry in a couple of the best and most shocking scenes in the film! With other famous 80s stars like Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover filling out additional supporting roles, Hot Tub Time Machine assembles a nostalgic, extremely absurd and somewhat sleazy comedy gem that I can imagine myself watching time and time (machine) again.

Hot Tub Time Machine arrives on Blu-ray looking way better than it deserves to. MGM has done a bang-up job here, delivering a transfer and encode with rich, eye-popping colour, tons of detail and deep, dark blacks. Who would have thought that a comedy like this would prove to be such eye candy?! And while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound track is front heavy, as most comedies tend to be, when the 80s music kicks in, your sound system will come alive. Great stuff here.

Sadly, the whole Blu-ray disc package kind of falls apart for me in the special features department. What, no gag reel?! Seriously?! We get a peek at some comedic outtakes via the handful of deleted scenes present on the disc but to me, this is a major missed opportunity. Clearly the improvisational gold on-set could fill an entire Blu-ray disc on its own! Aside from more than 10-minutes of deleted scenes, we’re also given four pretty tame “Theatrical Promotional Spots” a trailer and a digital copy of the film. Sigh…cry…no gag reel…

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Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Disc Review

Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Disc Review

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010, Blu-ray released June 1, 2010 – MSRP $44.99)

My schedule has been overwhelming lately. I’ve found it rather difficult to cram Blu-ray viewing sessions into my crowded, busy days. As such, it took me three sittings to make it through Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland, but the experience was surprisingly rewarding in the end.

I, probably like you, heard a lot of pretty negative things about Alice in Wonderland – garish computer-generated effects, uneven storytelling, excess of Burton-isms, etc. Perhaps it’s as a result of my awareness of these criticisms that the film actually worked for me, for the most part. I was aware, going into my screening of the film, that it was more of a re-imagining of the famous Lewis Carol tale – a quasi-sequel of sorts with a fairly typical Hollywood-style structure and a climax featuring an all-out battle that some feel is out of place. I didn’t. It might be a typical and very predictable story decision but ultimately it works for the film, as Burton has envisioned it. And speaking of his vision for Wonderland, it’s absolutely Wonder-ful (sorry…)

Some might find the design elements in Alice in Wonderland over the top. Who am I kidding? They’re way over the top! But I would argue that they marry perfectly to the story and to the wonderful performances throughout. In fact, some of the bizarre character effects are critical to the performances – the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) gigantic head, Tweedledum and Tweedledee’s (Matt Lucas in both roles) round, eggs-on-feet shape, and the crazed, bulging green eyes of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) all play a part in setting this version of the tale apart from the more traditional tellings of films past. The green-screen nature of Wonderland (and there is a ton of it here) is quite evident but considering that most of the design elements are strikingly beautiful, well lit and placed convincingly in the scene I can forgive them. This is such a beautiful rendering of a world already brimming with imagination, I can’t help but love it a little, and let slip those common narrative missteps that Burton seems in the habit of making. This is no Planet of the Apes or Mars Attacks! This is an adaptation that works and is well worth watching.

Alice in Wonderland arrives on Blu-ray in an absolutely perfect visual presentation. Colours are rich, detail is plentiful and blacks are deep and dark. This digital-to-digital transfer could easily be your new demo disc. It’s stunning! And the DTS HD Master Audio track is equally as impressive, sporting incredible dynamic range and a wide, very active sound field. Like I said…perfect!

Where the otherwise wonderful The Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray disc stumbles, however, is in the special features department, which is surprising considering the heft of the production and the marketing push behind it. But the collection of featurettes present are plenty informative and afford a fairly generous look behind the scenes. When combined, the 28-minute “Wonderland Characters” and the 19-minute “Making Wonderland“, each comprised of six well rounded shorts, make up a decent little documentary on the film. But so much blood and sweat was poured into the various levels of this production I can’t help but feel like things are being glossed over (I would have gladly listened to Danny Elfman talk about the score of the film for another 30-minutes!) With the lack of director commentary, deleted scenes and production art on this current high-def offering, I can’t help but feel that we’ll see a more robust multi-disc Blu-ray release of Alice in Wonderland at some point. As it stands now, you can purchase the film in a single disc Blu-ray edition or the jumbo combo-pack with DVD and Digital Copy included.

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Top 5 New Blu-ray releases for the Week of June 1

Top 5 New Blu-ray releases for the Week of June 1

Oh geez. I’m all confused here. There are just too many titles hitting shelves again this week but no obvious “must-buy” disc, as far as I’m concerned. The new Hollywood blockbuster remakes all stumble in the storytelling department, the catalogue titles feature far-from-perfect presentations and there are just no damn Criterion titles as far as the eye can see! But don’t fear, if none of the brand spanking new titles do it for you this week, I’m sure you can find something in the massive batch of Eastwood newly released or re-released, as the case may be, on Blu-ray! Seriously, how many movies did has that guy made?!


The Wolfman Blu-ray

Yeah. Crucify me. Shoot me with a silver bullet. This movie doesn’t work where it should – some would even go so far as to say it sucks – but I’m a die-hard Universal Monsters fan and, like it or not, this is the title that I’m most excited about this week. I wasn’t sent a review copy of this Blu-ray (c’mon Universal, what have I ever done to you!) so I can’t tell you for certain whether it’s worth your dime or not, but I’ll be the first in line to pick up The Wolfman today. I’m really hoping that the extended “Director’s Cut” will help the film out but I fear the worst.

The biggest disappointment with this Blu-ray, however, has nothing to do with the new 2010 remake but the 1941 original Lon Chaney Jr. film – while the original film is included in the package, it’s only available as a stream and not on the disc. I’d gladly be bitten by a whole pack of werewolves if Universal would put the original black-and-white films on Blu!

Amazon: $26.99


Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray

So, here’s the second of two big-budget Hollywood remakes new on Blu-ray this week, both with big problems in the story department. But you already knew that, didn’t you? You’ve either already seen Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland and were dissapointed by its outcome or you found the overuse of CGI too offensive to even get you as far as buying a ticket to see the film. Look, here’s the thing. It’s Tim Burton. The CGI is just another tool in his garish visual arsenal. Story will always take a back seat in a Burton film (unless you’re talking the brilliant, nearly-perfect Ed Wood or strikingly original Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) as design takes control of the ride. Luckily, that makes this Blu-ray as sweet as candy for the eyeballs! It looks and sounds great. Too bad about that script…

Full review coming this week!

Amazon: $19.99


BBC Life Blu-ray

Did you love the BBC series Planet Earth? Do you use the Blu-ray discs on a regular basis to show off your HD system? Well, you’re in luck! The BBC and noted naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough are bringing us a brand new look at life on our planet, aptly titled Life! Sadly, Warner is making you choose between a couple of slightly different versions of this new Blu-ray set – one narrated by the man himself, Sir David, or the other, the version that aired on the Discovery network in the US narrated by Oprah Winfrey. Both feature the exact same footage in the exact same show. Only difference here is the voice that tells you whats what. Me? I’ll stick with the original, Sir David track. But seriously, you’re not going to pick this up for the audio. Life is another visual treat that you’ll be happy to enjoy in any language, or with the sound turned right down.

Amazon: $48.99


War of the Worlds Blu-ray

Here’s big-budget remake number three this week. And man, is War of the Worlds a disappointment. Perhaps even more so than Wolfman or Alice, simply because it just starts out so damn strong! This film tricked me into believing it would deliver the goods Close Encounters-style until around the halfway mark when it just completely goes off the rails with ridiculous character choices and over-the-top silly CGI nonsense. I realize that Spielberg is trying to offer a sort of homage to the old b-movies during the second and third acts but it just misses the mark. And it’s really a shame because the Blu-ray edition of the film completely shines in every other department! It looks amazing, damn-near perfect I’d say, sounds incredible and is packed with enough special features to keep this reviewer happy. I just wish the last half of the film was as well put together and thought out as the Blu-ray itself.

Amazon: $19.99


The Man With No Name Trilogy Blu-ray

I haven’t had a chance to get a look at this set of films on Blu-ray yet but I doubt that I’ll be terribly dissapointed in any new editions of these three brilliant Sergio Leone films. Of the three “spaghetti western” films in the box, all starring Clint Eastwood at his most brilliant, only The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been previously available on Blu in a much maligned edition with an uneven, sometimes DNR scrubbed image. But you know what, it’s still the best the film has ever looked. And if A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More look anywhere near as decent as the third part of the trilogy of films, I’ll be more than happy with this new Blu-ray set.

Amazon: $54.99


Just in case the Man With No Name Trilogy Blu-ray set doesn’t offer you enough high-def Eastwood this week, Warner has got your back with a couple of new boxed sets, single and double-feature releases and re-releases on Blu. Check it out:

Clint Eastwood Collection (Absolute Power / Dirty Harry / Gran Torino / Kelly's Heroes / Letters from Iwo Jima / Million Dollar Baby / Mystic River / The Rookie / Unforgiven / Where Eagles Dare) Blu-rayEssential Eastwood: Director's Collection (Letters from Iwo Jima / Million Dollar Baby / Mystic River / Unforgiven) Blu-rayKelly's Heroes/Where Eagles Dare (Action Double Feature) Blu-rayThe Enforcer / Sudden Impact (Action Double Feature) Blu-ray

Heartbreak Ridge Blu-rayAbsolute Power Blu-rayThe Rookie Blu-rayPale Rider Blu-ray

The Gauntlet Blu-rayEvery Which Way But Loose Blu-raySpace Cowboys Blu-ray

Clicking an image will take you to where you can learn more about and purchase the Blu-ray disc:

U2: 360° at the Rose Bowl Blu-rayBad Boys Blu-rayClass of Nuke 'Em High Blu-rayThe Red Baron Blu-ray

Crossing Over Blu-rayThe Stranger Blu-rayUndisputed III: Redemption  Blu-rayDark Nature Blu-ray

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Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland Announced for Blu-ray

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland Announced for Blu-ray

It’s only been a month and a bit since Tim Burton‘s latest twisted nightmare-on-film, Alice in Wonderland, hit the cinemas and it’s already announced for release on Blu-ray! This is a highly controversial move, which pissed off a lot of exhibitors. But you know what? By the time this disc comes out in June, there will already have been so many massive summer blockbusters taking over the big screen (Iron Man 2, Robin Hood, Shrek Forever After, Sex and the City 2, etc.) that Alice would have clearly ended up being lost in the muddle anyway. Better to get in onto Blu as soon as possible before the marketing loses steam altogether, right?

Details below:

Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Single Disc

(July 1, 2010 – MSRP 3-Disc Combo Pack – $44.99, 1-Disc BD – $39.99)
Video: 1:78:1 1080p
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio

Special Features:

  • Finding Alice: this featurette includes Tim Burton’s vision for the characters, differences from the book and Disney’s version of Alice and how she evolves as both a character and actor as she takes an adventure through Wonderland.
  • The Mad Hatter: audiences are provided with a deeper look into the world of the Mad Hatter. Check out Johnny Depp’s early sketches, make-up, costumes and how they digitally enhanced his eyes.
  • Effecting Wonderland: a behind-the-scenes piece on the different technologies used to create some of the most beloved characters in the film – Stayne, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Bandersnatch and the Red Queen.
  • The Futterwacken Dance: Futterwhat? Check out the making of the timeless dance
    called the Futterwacken (BD-exclusive).

  • The Red Queen: the creation of the Red Queen from start to finish, including early Tim Burton sketches showcasing costume designs, make-up and digital effects (BD-exclusive).
  • Time-Lapse – Sculpting the Red Queen: a short time-lapse piece showing Helena Bonham Carter as she gets her make-up done. A three-hour process can be watched in just a few short minutes (BD-exclusive).
  • The White Queen: an interview with Anne Hathaway, who plays Wonderland’s good queen, about her character’s journey throughout the process of the film (BD-exclusive).
    Scoring Wonderland: composer Danny Elfman and Tim Burton discuss the music for the movie (BD-exclusive).

  • Stunts of Wonderland: a featurette highlighting some of the biggest stunts in the film (BD-exclusive).
  • Making the Proper Size: an inside look at the visual effects process of growing and shrinking Alice. See how filmmakers used different techniques to stay true to the storyline (BD-exclusive).
  • Cakes of Wonderland: take a trip to “Cake Divas” where the creators of the EAT ME cakes provide viewers with details about how they made the smallest crumb to the largest cake in scale (BD-exclusive).
  • Tea Party Props: tea cups, saucers, cakes and more. Prop master Doug Harlocker
    gives an overview of all the props used to bring the famous tea party scene together
    visually (BD-exclusive).

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