Every week, we sift through all the new Blu-ray releases and single out the "must see" titles. Look for the column every Monday. This week: An avalanche of goodness (vote in our poll to find your fave), but we're spotlighting a disintegrating dancer and a classic riff on the Bible.
Our Top 5 Picks for This Week: What to Buy or Rent
1. 'Black Swan.' Natalie Portman deservedly won an Academy Award for her dramatic turn as a dancer cracking up under the strain of her first starring performance. New to home video. Buy.
2. 'The Ten Commandments.' Cecil B. DeMille's occasionally reverent version of the Biblical Exodus is anchored by Charlton Heston as a reluctant Moses. DVD upgrade. Buy.
3. 'Dogtooth.' From Greece comes a surprising, twisted family drama, "a patently surreal situation" that our reviewer found "darkly amusing." New to home video. Rent.
4. 'The Times of Harvey Milk.' Robert Epstein's documentary examines the life and death of San Francisco's first openly gay politician. DVD upgrade. Rent.
5. 'Soylent Green.' Charlton Heston, again teamed with Edward G. Robinson, this time as a cop in an overpopulated world groaning from the weight of all those people. DVD upgrade. Rent.
The Bible on Blu-ray Dazzles and Delights:
'The Ten Commandments'
This writer will not argue that the last feature by the legendary Cecil B. De Mille is a good movie, but it is filled with a multitude of visual delights and is a stirring tale. Multiple early reviews have been very positive about the new Blu-ray edition; DVD Beaver raves: "It is indeed a wide-eyed home theater experience that is definitely worth the price of admission."
Lightning in a Bottle, Documentary-Style:
'The Times of Harvey Milk'
The film, which won an Academy Award, is a "ragged, powerful documentary [that] captures the beloved spirit and energy of San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk," writes Jeffrey M. Anderson at Combustible Celluloid. "It's a classic document about hatred and bravery that is still essential today -- if not more so. ... Like the man himself, the film is lively but fiercely devoted; it pulses with life." The Criterion Collection Blu-ray includes a bevy of extra features.
Special Feature(s) of the Week:
Dario Argento's 1980 horror flick is "a frustrating but worthwhile viewing experience," according to Stuart Galbraith IV at DVD Talk, "incredibly stylish throughout, although this stylishness comes at the expense of coherence." He notes the two new high-def interviews with actors Leigh McCloskey and Irene Miracle; both include surprising insights into the careers of the two performers.
5 More Blu-rays to Rent:
Normally we'd list Blu-rays that can safely be skipped, but there's so many interesting releases this week, we decided to pick five more unexpected delights for your viewing pleasure.
'Against All Odds.' If you can put out of your mind that it's a remake of a classic ('Out of the Past'), it plays quite well on its own as a modern, sensual noir. With Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods.
'The Long Kiss Goodnight.' Tremendous fun, with Geena Davis as a loving mother with a hidden past as a deadly assassin. Directed by Renny Harlin; written by Shane Black.
'The Secret of NIMH.' The back story is that animator Don Bluth broke away from Disney to focus on classic animated storytelling. The front story is a beautiful picture exploring the concept of family and what it means. Completely captivating.
'Sherlock Holmes: Complete Collection.' Watch one and you may be tempted to go for the whole enchilada, all 14 films that featured Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Dave Kehr of the New York Times says they look "gorgeous ... with a healthy dose of the natural grain that too many Blu-rays try to suppress."
'Teen Wolf.' Rent this one just to get it out of your system. Michael J. Fox is adorable as a high school kid who must face up, whiskers and all, with his family heritage.
Check out all of this week's new DVD and Blu-ray releases
Latest Blu-ray Release Announcements:
'Scarface.' Brian De Palma's controversial remake, based on a script by Oliver Stone, stars Al Pacino as the ambitioius and ruthless Tony Montana. In every way that counts, it is way over the top and all the more enjoyable decadent as a result. With Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Loggia. A limited edition "hand-crafted Scarface-themed humidor" will also be made available, priced at just $999.99 (?!). The more modestly-priced, limited edition Steelbook packaged version will include various features, 10 exclusive art cards and a DVD of the original 1932 'Scarface.'
'American: The Bill Hicks Story.' 6/7
'Big Jake.' 5/31
'Billy Madison.' 6/7
'Daydream Nation.' 5/31
'Dementia 13.' 4/26
'Drive Angry 2D and 3D.' 5/31
'The Enforcer (AKA My Father is a Hero).' 4/26
'The Five Deadly Venoms.' 5/17
'Happy Gilmore.' 6/7
'The Last Legion.' 4/19
'The Libertine.' 5/10
'A Man Called Horse.' 5/31
'The Mechanic (2011).' 5/17
'Miss Potter.' 4/5
'The Misfits.' 5/10
'The Nanny Diaries.' 4/5
'No Strings Attached.' 5/10
'Once Upon a Time in the West.' 5/31
'Poor Pretty Eddie.' 4/26
'Rio Lobo.' 5/31
'Waiting for Forever.' 5/3
Blu-rays We've Been Watching This Week: Stop-Motion Classics
'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.' Ray Harryhausen is a genius. He'd already worked his magic on 'It Came From Beneath the Sea' and '20 Million Miles to Earth,' but 'Sinbad' represented a leap forward in ambition, as his live-action hero had to conquer a slew of stop-motion monsters on a mystical island. The Blu-ray looks very good and is packed with extras.
'Jason and the Argonauts.' Spectacular, as the heroic Jason must battle flying Harpies, a hydra, and, best of all, an army of skeletons, in a sequence that I happily replayed about a dozen times. The Blu-ray looks awesome and, like 'Sinbad,' is filled with interesting extras.
Poll: (Last week's top vote-getter, in a landslide: 'Stand By Me' with 46%. Runners-up: 'The Sandlot,' 14.3% and 'How Do You Know,' 11.1%).
If you had enough money to buy one Blu-ray this week, what would it be?