DVD & Games Forecast: 'Wizard Of Oz' dazzles in BluRay

Plus 'Monsters vs. Aliens' and Jim Henson fantasies on BluRay

<p>An iconic image from one of the most iconic films in Hollywood history as 'The Wizard Of Oz' arrives on BluRay this week</p>

An iconic image from one of the most iconic films in Hollywood history as 'The Wizard Of Oz' arrives on BluRay this week

Credit: Warner Home Video

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for Sept. 27, 2009.

I'm not going to dwell on this one today because I'm in Austin for Fantastic Fest.  As much as I'm going to want to dig into my stack of new titles when I get home, this week is all about Fantastic Fest.

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES

"The Wizard Of Oz: 70th Anniversary Collection" (BluRay)

Even if you're not at Fantastic Fest, you have the option now of picking up the single most remarkable film experience of the week, taking it home, and enjoying it on your own high-definition set-up.  A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to Warner Bros. to watch a demonstration of how they had handled the clean-up and restoration process for the new 70th anniversary release of "The Wizard Of Oz."  It is a sensational, jaw-dropping, standard bearing release of the film, and even having seen the film however many times over the course of my lifetime, I felt like I was looking at something brand new.

Using the original three-strip Technicolor elements and taking them through an 8K scan, George Feltenstein and his amazing team have worked real miracles with this picture.  They've coaxed details out of the picture that have never been part of image before, freckles on Dorothy or the details of her gingham dress or the carvings on a table in the witch's home or Toto's eyes.  There are so many of them that my first viewing of the film, I barely watched the story because I was so amazed by the visual grace notes.

In addition to a jaw-dropping transfer, the 70th anniversary collection comes with a slew of extra features, including a fistful of silent-era "Oz" movies, a new documentary on the restoration, and a lovely "Oz" wristwatch.

[more after the jump]

"Monsters Vs. Aliens" (BluRay/DVD)

This was, by far, Toshi's favorite of the Dreamworks animated films he's seen.  Since the film played theaters this spring, he's asked me when he could see it on BluRay damn near once a week every week.  Although I thought the film was a little soft overall, what works is the cast of monster characters.  They're genuinely interesting personalities, and so even when the film feels like it's mired in a typical blockbuster plot of frantic nonsense, the characters are engaging, and the animation is impressive.

"Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" (BluRay/DVD)

Although Warner's live-action department can't figure out how to get their DC superhero films going, they've done a great job in the direct-market animated film department lately.  This time out, both Superman and Batman are framed for crimes while Lex Luthor ascends to the Presidency, and they have to find a way to clear their names even as they dodge the efforts of every villain in the DCU thanks to a $1 million bounty on their heads.

"Away We Go" (BluRay/DVD)

I was shocked to enjoy this Sam Mendes film as much as I did.  John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph play a young couple, expecting their first child, who go in search of a place they can call home.  They visit several friends in different parts of America, determined to find a place where they're comfortable, gradually realizing that where they settle has less to do with happiness than how they treat each other.  It's a broad comedy at times, but it's shot through with sadness and real anxiety over how we define ourselves as parents and adults.

"Labyrinth" (BluRay)
"The Dark Crystal" (BluRay)

I wrote about Toshi's reaction to "Labyrinth" when we watched in on BluRay, and as soon as I get back to town, I'm planning to watch Henson's other giant '80s puppet fantasy.  These are the sorts of films I really want to see people putting out on BluRay, films that benefit from the transfer, and Sony's been one of the most aggressive companies in terms of just putting out new catalog titles week after week, and from every era of their history.

ALSO ON BLURAY THIS WEEK

There are other titles this week that I'm curious about.  The Jennifer Aniston/Steve Zahn comedy "Management" made about eleven cents, but I'm curious anyway.  I love the BluRay transfers of "The Universe: The Complete Third Season," and it's sort of brain candy I can put on while I'm working.  Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience" is a minor-key experiment from the filmmaker, but absolutely worth a look.  If you love exploitation crap in high-definition, both "Screwballs" and "The New York Ripper" are out this week.  I'm looking forward to seeing Tom Laughlin throw down in "Billy Jack" on BluRay, but I'm horrified by the notion of seeing "Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer" in crystal clarity.  Maybe low-definition isn't such a bad idea in some cases, eh?

ALSO ON DVD THIS WEEK

I only recently saw the first season of the original English version and loved it, so I'm curious to take a look at "Life On Mars: The Complete Series" and see how it holds up.  I didn't hear anyone at Sundance demand that I make time for Kevin Spacey in "Shrink," but there were a few people who thought it was solid.  I have no choice but to see Madonna's directorial debut "Filth and Wisdom," because it's Madonna's directorial debut.  That's just hard for me to get my head around.  I'm intrigued by the premise of the new horror film "The Hills Run Red," which sounds like it walks in some of the same dark corners as "Cigarette Burns."  I'm very curious about the design-oriented documentary "Objectified," since that director's last film somehow managed the near-impossible task of making fonts fascinating.  If you're a fan of the Soderbergh film, do yourself the solid and check out the original miniseries "Traffik," finally available this week.  And I'm going to check out the SF thriller "Fermat's Room," which looks to mine some of the same territory as "Saw" and "Cube."

VIDEO GAMES THIS WEEK

I'm not familiar with any of this week's titles, but it looks to me like
"Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2," "Dead Space Extraction," and "Cabela's Big Game Hunter" are the biggest of a fairly low-key batch of things being released.  That's fine... the big A-list titles are coming in the next few weeks, and it'll be a hugely busy time for game fans.  One week of nothing much is okay by me.

NEXT WEEK:  "Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs" is out on BluRay, and we'll look at whether Disney has once again pushed the limits of just how good a high-def transfer can be.

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