DVD Reviews – July 5th, 2009

DVD Reviews – July 5th, 2009


TV-on-Blu-Ray Roundup

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Here’s the deal with Lost: It had better turn out well. This writer has been figuratively locked in a dark room for the majority of the last two weeks, reliving Lost: The Complete First Season and Lost: The Complete Second Season (, Buena Vista), and the results have been – well, they’ve been addicted. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed up too late soooo many times in a work week, because if Lost knows anything, it’s how to keep their viewers engaged. Every episode on these disc ends with a wonderful cliffhanger – it’s enough to keep you watching for hours and hours…

…but will it all be worth it? Sure, the Blu-ray 1080p presentations of these first two seasons are exceptional (season two looks a bit more fully-flushed, but both are a vast step up from broadcast-grade), and the lossless audio 5.1 sound mixes are marvelous achievements all around, but as I lose more and more of my life to the Lost universe, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s all sound and no fury. In any case, if you’ve never experienced the show, now’s the time to start catching up – by January, we’ll be knee-deep in the final go-round. If you’re a die-hard Lost-head, though, I’d rent these and save your pennies for the Blu-ray Complete Collection that should be coming out in late 2010.


What makes sense right here and right now, though, is that Bruce Campbell is a God. And if Burn Notice: Season Two (, Fox) serves any purpose at all, it’s that it continually reminds its viewers that you really can’t miss when you throw the Bruce-man into the mix. In fact, Campbell is Burn Notice’s greatest asset. The show has enough Florida tight-top, nice-suit Miami Vice heat to it, to be sure, but it never really gets going until a hard-drinkin’, Aloha-shirt-wearin’ Bruce pops up (which is thankfully at least a handful of times an episode).

A drag about this set, though, is that it doesn’t really utilize Blu-ray’s upgraded resolution to its fullest. The show’s 1.78:1 1080p transfers are just so-so (there’s quite a bit of artifacting and other issues to the series’ second-season presentation), and these are some of the least engaging DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mixes I’ve yet heard. But again, it’s hard to complain when Bruce is in town. He’s the king.


Blu-ray Upgrade Decisions

The Greatest Game Ever Played (, Buena Vista)


Pros: Who would have thought that Bill Paxton would turn out to be a subtly evocative director? This guy, known to many as the crass-talking older, imbecilic brother from Weird Science, has a nice touch with his camera, and where The Greatest Game Ever Played should be cheesy and dumb, it’s surprisingly relevant and touching (very Seabiscuit-esque). And on this Blu-ray Disc edition, we get lovely audio and video (1080p transfer, lossless audio mix) and a sea of bonus goodies.

Cons: Shia. This kid is everywhere these days, and while his turn in this picture constitutes some of his best work to date, he’s still Mr. LaBeouf. He’s more than a little oversaturated these days, and while I’m sure that’s good news for his pocketbook, it’s enough to make many of us groan.  

The Verdict: Worth a rental for sports nuts or tween girls with Transformers 2 posters already up on their wall.


Do the Right Thing (, Universal)


Pros: Spike Lee continues to be a filmmaker who has no problem following his vision wherever it needs to go. Do the Right Thing is his most instantly-recognizable film – and, along with his sprawling Malcolm X, his most mainstream-culturally relevant – and on this Universal Blu-ray Disc release, it’s easy to be reminded just why that is. Uncompromising dialogue, exceptional performances, a stunning soundtrack and a penchant not just for rawness but for real passion make this an undeniable film – it’s one for the time capsule.

Cons: Where it’s Lee’s most revered work, it’s not exactly his most easily watchable. Sure, the film looks and sounds wonderful here, and the vast majority of the excellent bonuses afforded the movie’s Criterion Collection DVD release are here, but I’d prefer a Lee box set – one that houses not just this one, but a few others. You know, something that flushes out his talent (how about an Early Spike Lee set with She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze and this one…?).

The Verdict: If you haven’t seen it, there’s no time like the present.


Morning Light (, Buena Vista)


Pros: The mere concept of this documentary about a couple of college guys who get in their yacht and sail from California to Hawai’i is enough to merit a watch. There’s enough churning seas, high-octane action and will-they-make-it? cliffhangers to fill a couple docs.

Cons: As a concept, Morning Light is air-tight. As a complete film, it plays things a little close to the bone. Patrick Warburton does a solid job of narration at the beginning of the picture, but he’s replaced by sailors reading their own log entries after a while, and it breaks the momentum of the film.

The Verdict: With a solid 1080p transfer and a pulsating DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix (not to mention a pair of HD featurettes), Morning Light makes a punchy Blu-ray Disc debut here. It may not be enough to merit a blind purchase, but it’s definitely a fine flick.


Last Year at Marienbad (, Criterion)


Pros:  Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad is a singular achievement, a film that is as complex as it is outlandish and, frankly, hard to understand. But on this Criterion Blu-ray edition, we see a wonderfully-presented tale of romance, woe and emotional confusion that truly has no equal. The packaging is wonderful, the bonuses are plenty, and while the 1080p transfer afforded the film doesn’t stand up alongside the gorgeous transfers given The 400 Blows and The Wages of Fear, it still goes without saying that you’ll be searching a long time to find the film looking and sounding better than it does here

Cons: It’s kind of a weird-ass, pretentious picture. Last Year at Marienbad is the kind of movie that is exceptionally easy to appreciate, but after watching the film and exploring the bonus features here, I’m still on the fence as to whether I actually liked it or not. Maybe that’s the point…

The Verdict: A one-of-a-kind film (for better and for worse). Fans of the picture should run out and purchase it immediately; all others might want to exercise a bit of caution first.