Our Top 10 Picks for This Week:
1. 'Bambi.' My first movie with my mother; Walt Disney terrified me. DVD upgrade. Buy.
2. 'Out of Sight.' George Clooney romances Jennifer Lopez. Slick and sensual. DVD upgrade. Buy.
3. 'The Cable Guy.' Demented Jim Carrey terrorizes Matthew Broderick. DVD upgrade. Rent.
4. '127 Hours.' Oscar host cuts off arm in drama based on real life. New to home video. Rent.
5. 'Love & Other Drugs.' Other Oscar host takes off clothes in romance based on real life. New to home video. Rent.
6. 'Daughters of Darkness.' From 1971, when vampires were dark and erotic, not sparkly and chaste. DVD upgrade. Rent.
7. 'Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (Director's Cut).' Piano prodigy. Rent.
8. 'Burlesque.' Cher sings! Christina dances! We have better things to do! New to home video. Skip.
9. 'Faster.' Duane Johnson beats up people. New to home video. Skip.
10. 'Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.' Sequel. Really? Kill me now. Direct to home video. Skip.
After the jump: See our rating system in action, read in-depth coverage on a personal pick by yours truly (hint: it ain't the deer movie), vote in our poll for "Must Buy of the Week," share the Blu-rays you've been watching lately and catch up on the latest release announcements.
Personal Pick of the Week
'Out of Sight'
What It's About: Modern romances don't get any more sexy and elegant than this. George Clooney breaks out of prison and into the arms of Jennifer Lopez (they're locked in the trunk of a car together). He's a career criminal and she's a federal marshal.
Special Features: The features are carried over from the previous release on DVD, including an audio commentary by Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank, 22 minutes of deleted scenes and a 25-minute "making of," the latter two presented in standard definition. No new extras, but the commentary is good and the deleted scenes are fascinating.
Audio / Visual: "The Blu-ray transfer is a stunner," raves High Def Digest. "This is a clean, crisp, absolutely upgrade-worthy transfer." The audio is not as strong, according to DVD Beaver: "The track is not particularly responsive in either range or depth. However, this is probably in-line with the film's theatrical expression."
Why Watch It (Again): As seen in the clip below, Clooney and Lopez have definite chemistry; it's like they're always trying to cool off the heat they feel below the surface, but it keeps coming up in their conversations and in their physical interactions.
Even better, the romance doesn't stand alone; it's part and parcel of the larger narrative, which covers the escapades of the hard-luck Jack Foley (Clooney), who never seems to catch a break. That's reflective of the realistic, hard-bitten criminal world of Elmore Leonard, who wrote the original novel. Jack's cohorts, including Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Don Cheadle and Albert Brooks, zestfully come to life, providing plenty of color and allowing Clooney and Lopez to underplay their roles.
Director Steven Soderbergh cured Clooney of his habit of leaning his head to the side when he talked, which probably made it possible for him to become a superstar. More importantly, Soderbergh resisted any temptation to follow the established routine of crime pictures, giving a fresh look to well-worn scenes and adding a sensual glow to even the most gritty locations. We know this is a movie fantasy, but it's grounded with enough realistic detail to make us wish it were true. Add up all of the above elements, and that makes it my personal pick of the week.
Best of the Rest. How did we arrive at our decisions to buy, rent or skip?
1. 'Bambi.' Our own Scott Weinberg explained why this release is "something special." He covered the extensive special features that make this a "Diamond Edition," but also why the film is very much worth revisiting multiple times. And despite my own personal traumas associated with my first-time viewing, it's an incredible film to watch. But maybe prepare your children a little bit ahead of time. Buy.
2. 'Out of Sight.' See above.
3. 'The Cable Guy.' My own memories of this movie are rather hazy and negative. Dave Kehr in The New York Times, however, argues persuasively that the film deserves reconsideration, especially in light of Jim Carrey's later career path: "Looking back, 'The Cable Guy' seems like a seminal film, not only for the careers it sputteringly helped to start ... but also for the striking new tone it helped to establish. It was one of the first "cringe comedies," in which the humor is grounded in the painful humiliations experienced by its protagonist -- in this case, a wonderfully stoic Matthew Broderick." The article makes me want to see the movie, directed by Ben Stiller, again. Rent.
4. '127 Hours.' James Franco received an Academy Award nomination for his performance as a solo hiker who gets stuck in an untenable situation. Eugene Novikov wrote: "It's gut-wrenching in a queasy, horror-movie way – a shield-your-eyes-from-the-screen, chuckle-in-relieved-astonishment sort of experience, done incredibly well. Which is to say: you probably already know whether or not you're interested." Rent.
5. 'Love & Other Drugs.' Contrary to published reports, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal are not actully naked for the entire movie, though you might wish they were to relieve the tedium that sets in when you remember this is an awkward mash-up of "sales people are evil" and "disease of the week" tropes. As with any picture directed by Edward Zwick, there are several very good sequence that make you wish the movie were as unconventional as the naked bodies are toned and fit. Rent.
6. 'Daughters of Darkness.' This is not a sparkly vampire movie. It's from 1971; as Luke Mullen reported, it stars Delphine Seyrig, "who eagle-eyed fans may recognize from Alain Resnais' 1961 classic and current Criterion Collection title, 'Last Year at Marienbad.' I haven't seen this particular film, but it looks to feature the famed Countess Bathory as the main character, played by Seyrig. Hopefully horror fans can count on the tagline to deliver 'an erotic nightmare of vampire lust.' Sounds good to me!" Ditto. Rent.
7. 'Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (Director's Cut).' Piano prodigy Glenn Gould redefined classical music and performance in the 20th Century, according to some, and this documentary sounds chock-full of his playing and personality, which makes it the most fascinating choise for non-fiction fans this week. Rent.
8. 'Burlesque.' Stop me if you've heard this one before: Christina Aguilera stars as a small town girl who heads to Los Angeles to make it in show business. Our own Jenni Miller declared: "'Burlesque' is not a great movie -- it might not even be a good movie -- but it is a ridiculously fun movie." Mine maybe a minority opinion, then, but here it is: Skip.
9. 'Faster.' Duane Johnson beats up people. William Goss felt it was one of the Top "Guilty Pleasure" movies of the year, "a dusty throwback to '70s vigilante flicks." Maybe I'm just getting old, because I remember '70s vigilante flicks as being much better than this. Skip.
10. 'Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.' This is why nostalgia can be a bad thing. The original animated series was truly awful, as in actively annoying. Remember: Only you can prevent sequels -- by not buying or renting them on home video. Skip.
Latest Blu-ray release announcements:
'Benny and Joon' - 4/5
'Black Swan' - 3/29
'Blue Crush' - 6/7
'Blue Crush 2' - 6/7
'Blue Valentine' - 5/10
'The Cincinnati Kid' - 6/14
'Country Strong' - 4/12
'Grand Prix' - 5/31
'Gulliver's Travels' - 4/19
'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Ultimate Edition' - 6/15
'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Ultimate Edition' - 6/15
'I Saw the Devil' - 5/10
'Lars and the Real Girl' - 4/5
'Little Fockers' - 4/5
'The Man Who Would Be King' - 6/7
'Marriage Italian Style' - 5/3
'Muay Thai Giant' (AKA 'Somtum') - 4/26
'Sunflower' - 5/3
'Thor: Tales of Asgard' - 5/17
'Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow' - 5/3
What Blu-rays Have You Been Watching Lately?
We also know from personal experience that Blu-ray owners tend to be in a perpetual catch-up mode, so we're always looking for personal recommendations, especially of films that have been out for a while. Here are the last two titles watched by yours truly:
'The Getaway.' Another classic McQueen title, this one from 1972, looks very good on Blu-ray. Released by Warner Home Video in February 2007, the transfer has a pleasingly, film-like quality in high definition. The audio is mono only, but that's satisfactory considering the merits of the fim itself. The real find here is the original score by Jerry Fielding, presented as an isolated track, along with a 30-minute documentary on the relationship between Fielding and director Sam Peckinpah.
'The Sand Pebbles.' As part of my research on the late, great Steve McQueen, I rented this mid-60s epic from Robert Wise and found it to be a well-meaning, if ultimately stodgy drama. But the Blu-ray from Fox, released in June 2008, looks absolutely splendid, with an immaculate transfer. And the collection of extras, all source from a previous DVD edition and presented in SD, still looked very good on a big screen at home. They include an hour-long "making of" (look for it in the "Road Show Scenes" section), plus "Side Bars" of current featurettes and several from the time of the film's release.
What have you been watching lately?
Poll: Express yourself! If you had enough money to buy one Blu-ray this week, what would it be?