Welcome to Motion/Captured's DVD & Games Forecast for November 10, 2009.
I normally love to wax on about the week's releases, but (A) a ridiculous schedule for me yesterday and (B) a fairly thin week of releases and (C) me already being a day late means that this is going to be lean and mean today. Besides, it's video game day here on Motion/Captured, which I'll explain at the end of the column.
First, let's see what the big tickets are this week, including one that was supposed to be on shelves last week originally...
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
Is there any question who owns today in terms of BluRay releases? Pixar has always gone above and beyond in the presentation of their films on home video, and they have embraced BluRay in a way that is positively gorgeous. Not only are their digital-source transfers pretty much the standard for sound and picture in high definition, but they also still work harder than anyone to provide genuine value in the extra features, with both of today's new releases showing just how far they'll go to make sure these discs are worth purchase.
On "Monsters Inc," they acknowledge that it's a double-dip from the very beginning, explaining all the new things that they put on the discs and then talking about what they've brought over from the DVD that most families have probably watched 10,000 times by this point. Well-played, gentlemen. Talk about basic respect for the consumer... they go above and beyond in making sure people won't feel burned. The textures in the film have never looked more amazing, and I am reminded just how lovely a left turn this was when it first hit theaters. The new packaging for "Cars" comes with two toys, new designs of Lightning McQueen and Mater, and trust me... if you have a "Cars" fan in the house, and you haven't made the upgrade from DVD yet, this is the excuse. Toshi and Allen both freaked out when they saw it, and because there were two cars, bloodshed was avoided. Barely.
And then there's "Up." This is the sort of BluRay edition of a film that all the other studios need to emulate if they ever expect the market to pick up. This is absolutely amazing, and I love the visual commentary format they use here. It's one of the things that BluRay does better than DVD ever could, and if companies keep pushing this format forward, I think we'll see some really amazing work. There's a new cartoon starring Dug the Dog on the disc, and it's a strange mix of slapstick comedy and tearjerking sentiment that folds directly into the actual film in a strange way. I think it's so good that it almost spoils things for other studios.
"Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut" (BluRay/DVD)
Remember last week, when I mentioned how excited I am to see this? Still true.
"The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 7" (DVD)
Columbia deserves a Nobel Prize for finally putting out all of the Three Stooges shorts in chronological order. I had no idea just how many shorts that involved, and part of the pleasure of each new volume in this series is finally seeing how things evolved, how the line-up changed, which supporting actors they used and re-used. This latest volume runs from 1952 to 1954, as Shemp really took off as a Stooge. Curly Howard died in 1952, which must have rocked Moe, Shemp, and Larry. This collection also features many of these shorts letterboxed in full widescreen for the first time since they were seen in theaters in the '50s, which brings us back to my original point. Columbia Home Video. Nobel Prize. Make it happen.
"Sesame Street: 40 Years Of Sunny Days" (DVD)
I've been showing Toshi the original "Sesame Street" that has been released on video as the "Old School" collections, and it impresses me how well that material holds up. I am staring down the barrel of the big four-oh myself, and to realize that this ground-breaking show has been around for that long, uninterrupted, makes me very happy. "Sesame Street" is a force of pure good in the world, and if historians looking back at my generation want to understand how it is that we got past race as an issue when our parents were the generation that grappled directly with the civil rights issues of the 1960s... "Sesame Street" is where you should start. In the world-view of this show, whites and blacks and hispanics and monsters and puppets and birds and grouches and invisible elephants and vampires all live side-by-side, and they all get along, and it's not a big deal because that's how things are supposed to work. Nobody ever spelled it out for me, either... I just absorbed it by osmosis, as anyone raised on "Sesame Street" did. Over five hours of classic footage from the show makes this an absolute must-purchase for me at some point this week.
This is one of the few giant ticket titles this fall that I'm not feeling the urge to pick up. I keep reading reactions to the single-player campaign that are disappointed, especially regarding the length of it. I don't play online enough to justify buying a game just for that. I know that many, many, many people do buy games for EXACTLY that reason, though, and the anticipation out there for this game has been fever-pitch for weeks. The game footage I've watched is remarkable, beautifully rendered, especially the stuff set in the favelas of Rio. If someone you know just vanished yesterday without a trace, I suspect this game might be responsible.
"The General" (BluRay)
Buster Keaton's masterpiece is more than just a silent comedy... it's an amazing action film, a war movie, a heartbreaking comedy, and a visual feast. This will end up being my first silent film purchased on BluRay, and I'm excited to see what source materials they used. Kino has been taking care of Keaton's work on DVD for many years now, so I have faith they'll treat it right in high-definition.
ALSO ON BLU-RAY:
I've got "The Ugly Truth" (BluRay/DVD) sitting on the stack by the TV in the other room so my wife and I can watch it together. She's not a big fan of either Gerard Butler or Katherine Heigl, so she hasn't made it a priority yet, and until she's ready, I'm not brave enough to face it on my own. I was very pleased with the transfer for Michael Mann's "Heat," (BluRay) but don't get worked up about the "content changes" that are mentioned on the back of the disc. There are a few lines that have been trimmed, but it's nothing significant. You'd have to be a "Heat" superfan to even notice. What is important is the transfer, and it's tremendous, particularly in terms of the soundtrack. Fans will be pleased. I've heard the same is true about the new "Near Dark" (BluRay), but I haven't laid eyes on the transfer yet myself. I love the film, and I still think it's one of the best things Kathrine Bigelow has ever done, and it amuses me to see the new cover, where it looks like they're selling the film as "Twilight." I'd like to see the look on the face of a "Twilight" fan right around the time Bill Paxton and his family roll into that bar. I haven't seen Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Red Heat" (BluRay) since it was in theaters, and I'm interested in taking another look at it.one of the few Walter Hill movies I've only seen one time. I could hardly wait to watch "Logan's Run" (BluRay), and Warner has once again delivered an impressive transfer of difficult source material. The film's never looked this good before, and I love every cheesy SF second of it. Roland Emmerich's wrong-headed "Godzilla" (BluRay) is out, just a few weeks after his "Stargate" was also reissued, and I guess it was inevitable. I hope this just leads to someone putting out all of the Toho films on BluRay as well. I haven't seen "Spread" (BluRay/DVD) yet, but this Ashton Kutcher riff on "American Gigolo" was directed by the same guy who made the very interesting "Young Adam," so I'm absolutely going to give it a look. I need to get my hands on a copy of "Ballast" (BluRay/DVD) soon, before I write my end-of-the-year list, based on all the good word I've heard about it so far this year, and I'm looking forward to also catching up to the indie dark fantasy film "Ink" (BluRay/DVD) as soon as I pick it up.
ALSO ON DVD:
I've never gotten around to picking up every individual season of these shows, so I love that I can pick up "Justice League: The Complete Series" in one fell swoop, where two different versions of the series have finally been put together in one place. This is some of the best ongoing superhero storytelling that I've ever seen on TV, obviously created by people who love these characters. I'm not sure what the hell "Xavier: Renegade Angel - Seasons One and Two" is, even after watching the entire first season. It's a perfect fit for Adult Swim, in that it makes me feel like I've taken a badly-made hallucinogen. Michael Keaton, one of the most frustratingly low-profile movie stars these days, not only stars in but also directed "The Merry Gentleman", where he plays a hit man who wrestles with his decision to kill a young woman (Kelly Macdonald) who witnessed one of his jobs in progress. Finally, I have no idea what it is, but "... All The Way, Boys" appears to be another Bud Spencer/Terrence Hill comedy, and that means I may have to take a chance on a blind buy if I ever see it on a shelf.
ALSO IN GAMES:
Releasing any game that's not called "Modern Warfare 2" this week seems a lot like releasing a movie not called "New Moon" on November 20th... but, hey, Sisyphus, if you want to push that rock up that hill, don't let me stop you. "Dragon Ball: Raging Blast" (XBOX 360) might have some built-in fans. Whatever "Chaotic: Shadow Warriors" (PS3, XBOX 360, Wii) is, I give them credit for rolling their cross-platform dice today. "Harvest Moon" fans have new titles available on both the DS and the Wii. The one truly interesting other release this week is "Braid" on the PS3. The title was a huge buzz hit on XBOX, and I'm glad to finally get a chance to play it when it's released on the PlayStation Store tomorrow.
NEXT WEEK: I don't know what I'm most excited by... "Fight Club" and "Star Trek" on BluRay, or "Assassin's Creed II" for the PS3. God, I'm going to be broke all holiday season, aren't I?
I mentioned today is Video Game Day here at the blog, and it's true. I have a piece about "Prince Of Persia" for you, a piece about "Brutal Legend," and a report on how I spent my evening on Tuesday at an event for "Assassin's Creed II" in Hollywood. And once all that's done, I've got a review for you of "A Town Called Panic," which just threw its hat into the race for Best Animated Feature at this year's Oscars.
Big day, and lots to do.
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