New on Blu: 'Singin' in the Rain', 'Blade II' and 'Down By Law'
Abel Ferrara's "4:44 Last day on Earth" and Douglas Trumbull's "Brainstorm" are also among the titles covered this week.
After Comic-Con, it feels a little bit like the nerds won: there’s nothing more highly-anticipated than The Dark Knight Rises, even from the likes of Rush Limbaugh. But the Blu-ray market is making its case for classic cinema this week with the release of a remastered masterpiece, while offering up a few titles from different eras to demonstrate that there’s plenty of entertainment to choose from that doesn’t feature a cape, cowl and bat-signal.
Check out a collection of the week’s new releases:
4:44 Last Day on Earth (IFC Films)
The Rundown: Abel Ferrara returns to the fray with this apocalyptic containment drama about a man and woman who seclude themselves in a Manhattan high-rise and wait for the world to end.
How It Looks: Ferrara and director of photography Ken Kelsch do a great job of making the film’s central location – one apartment – looks pretty beautiful, offering a consistent and impressive clarity without sacrificing substantive and vivid imagery.
Best Extra: The film’s theatrical trailer is its only bonus feature, but that trippy clip is more than enough to convince you this is a film that must be watched, and immediately.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Rent
Blade II (Warner Home Video)
The Rundown: Director Guillermo Del Toro turns up the fun in this second installment in the Blade series, which transforms vampire-killing into remarkably brutal business.
How It Looks: The HD transfer unobtrusively preserves Del Toro’s visuals, which are peppy and bright even when Blade is rummaging around in darkness for his next victim.
Best Extra: A “Director’s Notebook” offers additional insights and in-depth portraits of the process Del Toro underwent to bring the film to life, adding to an existing slate of extras that were released on its initial DVD.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: As our favorite in the franchise, Buy
Brainstorm (Warner Home Video)
The Rundown: Douglas Trumbull’s brain-busting science-fiction film was the last one in which actress Natalie Wood appeared before she died, but looking back at it 30 years later it’s a reminder that technophiles were fighting for the advancements we take for granted today, even then.
How It Looks: Because Trumbull shot the “flashback” sequences in widescreen 70mm, the aspect ratio changes often in the film, but it’s more of a marvel than a distraction, especially since it fits in with the film’s visceral, vividly clear idea of what dreams should or could look like.
Best Extra: There’s only a theatrical trailer, which is disappointing since Trumbull is an endlessly fascinating filmmaker.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Rent, then Buy
Down By Law (Criterion)
The Rundown: Jim Jarmusch’s sophomore effort introduced American to Roberto Benigni, and unleashed one of the great dry comedies of the last few decades.
How It Looks: Thanks in no small part to Robby Muller’s exception black and white cinematography, it’s a gorgeous film, and the Jarmusch-approved transfer retains all of the film grain without sacrificing clarity.
Best Extra: Most of the bonus content comes from the 2002 DVD release of the film, but a q&a session with the filmmaker is some of the funniest and most informing stuff that you’ll ever hear about Jarmusch, while his screed on dubbing his films into other languages ends with an impersonation of a dubbed voice in a martial arts movie that is side-splittingly hilarious.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy
Singin’ in the Rain (Warner Home Video)
The Rundown: The iconic musical comes to Blu-ray in a deluxe new set that celebrates and fully examines its enormous influence, not to mention entertainment value.
How It Looks: Maintaining the film’s 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the high-definition transfer looks amazing, thanks to a careful restoration that sharpens up the clarity of the images and restores the color of the film to a hypnotizing luster.
Best Extra: “Raining on a New Generation” features a cross-section of contemporary choreographers and performers who offer their comments and insights on why the film remains so engaging today, and explain how it inspired or influenced their work.
Buy Rent or Avoid: It’s an absolute buy for any fan of the film, but if you can’t swing the deluxe-set price, at least rent it until they come out with a more affordable edition.
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