New on Blu: 'Game of Thrones,' Christian Bale and 'Margaret'
It seems impossible to imagine a high-definition release more awesome than Paramount Home Entertainment’s long-awaited Barbarella Blu-ray, but the studios nevertheless are determined to try. Oddly, the week that Comic-Con begins features far fewer geek-friendly properties than one might expect, but Warner Home Video is offering enough of a heavyweight fantasy release that the art house fare that it shares its release date with feels more like a complement to its content than its competition.
Check out this week’s new releases:
American Reunion (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
The Rundown: Universal resurrects the franchise that made R-rated sex comedies a viable genre but fails to stick the landing with a fourth installment that leaves its already common-sense-deficient character less mature than ever.
How It Looks: The transfer is warm and vivid, carefully preserving both Jim’s (Jason Biggs) sexual insecurities and the naked female bodies whose availability is meant to exacerbate them.
Best Extra: The extras on the disc are a race to the bottom, starting with a spectacularly unfunny featurette on how funny Biggs is and reaching a nadir in “The Out of Control” track, a pop-up track featuring the cast commenting on scenes – though infrequently and without any insights, comedic or otherwise.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Even for just the prurient appeal of naked women, Avoid
The Flowers of War (Lionsgate)
The Rundown: Former filmmaking outcast Zhang Yimou (Ju Dou) has become one of China’s most beloved auteurs, which is why he was given the biggest budget in the country’s history to make a period epic about the Rape of Nanking.
How It Looks: Yimou’s films have always had superlative imagery, and this film is no exception; thankfully, the transfer dutifully protects the scope of the filmmaker’s vision in terms of color, clarity and richness.
Best Extra: Although the majority of the bonus content seems borrowed from a Hong Kong DVD, a lengthy featurette entitled “Meeting Christian Bale” is by far the most interesting supplemental feature, especially since it offers both significant insights into Bale’s mysterious acting processes and a candid if optimistic portrait of China’s ambitions to penetrate the international market with films like this one.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Rent, unless you’re a Yimou fan, in which case Buy
Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video)
The Rundown: HBO’s runaway hit series arrives on home video, offering fans an opportunity to revisit every episode of the first season, pore over the mythology and look in-depth at what might be yet to come.
How It Looks: In 1080p with a DTS-HD soundtrack, it feels like the episodes look even better here than they did in their original broadcast, thanks to rich, sharp images; vivid and smooth transitions between locales;, and remarkable consistency putting them all together.
Best Extra: “The Complete Guide to Westeros,” an interactive map that allows viewers to investigate and examine the landscape and mythology of the series in meticulous detail.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy
Margaret (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Rundown: After finally reaching the end of its labyrinthine, seven-year journey to the big screen last year, Kenneth Lonergan’s masterpiece arrives on home video riding the crest of a wave of critical buzz, ensuring that the film’s sophisticated examination of one girl’s post-traumatic transformation gets seen, examined and appreciated for years to come.
How It Looks: It’s tough to tell how much of the transfer’s understated sheen is due to the actual cinematography of the film and how much is due to its transition to the small screen: colors are muted, the clarity is sometimes not as sharp as it feels like it should be, and overall it seems like a sort of gray cloud hangs over the picture. Again, this might be due in part to the original photography, but ultimately the film should look brighter than it does.
Best Extra: Lonergan’s extended cut, which runs an extra 36 minutes, preserves his original vision -- or most of it, anyway -- for the film. Unfortunately, it’s only on DVD, but its quality is comparable to the Blu-ray transfer of the theatrical cut.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy