New on Blu: 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', 'Silent House' and 'Last Days of Disco'
In addition to the sci-fi series' highly-anticipated arrival on Blu-ray, not one but two of Whit Stillman's comedies come to HD thanks to Criterion Collection.
With Comic-Con 2012 in the rearview mirror, it’s now up to movie and home video distributors to keep those fanboys and –girls entertained for another year via releases of films and Blu-rays that thrill their senses and satisfying their nerdy appetites. This week, distributors are aiming for different kinds of nerds – some typically sci-fi driven, but some who are cinephiles looking for great work from independent artists. But, either way, this week’s offerings are not just entertaining, but well produced, with great presentation and extras, ensuring that consumers’ time is appropriate filled – until next week, at least.
Check out this week’s new releases:
Last Days of Disco (Criterion)
The Rundown: Stillman’s third film is his most sweeping and ambitious, as he examines the early 1980s while still retaining the arch, incisive and intellectual comedic sensibility that made Metropolitan and Barcelona such engaging slices of upper-crust life.
How It Looks: Stillman’s cinematography in the film is pretty great by itself, but Criterion’s HD transfer retains the lush, saturated colors of the period’s hedonism, without sacrificing clarity or the filmmaker’s understated formalism.
Best Extra: Stillman’s commentary track holds little back, as the filmmaker tells a detailed backstory about how he sought Winona Ryder for the role that Chloe Sevigny played, but Sevigny’s audition was so good that they decided to ignore their own offer to Ryder.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Good as it is, it’s not quite the masterpiece that Metropolitan is, so maybe Rent, at first anyway
The Rundown: Stillman’s debut as a writer-director remains a hilarious and insightful portrait of high-class New York adolescence, even as it satirizes know-nothing intellectualism in this comedy of manners.
How It Looks: Although it doesn’t shine with the clarity of Last Days of Disco – thanks mostly to its source material – the transfer looks good. That said, it’s not substantially better than the DVD version that was released last year.
Best Extra: Again, Stillman’s commentary track, this time featuring his cast regulars Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigemann, who discuss their own career origins in the context of Stillman’s.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: If you don’t have the DVD, Buy, but if you do, then probably Avoid – there’s nothing new here
Silent House (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
The Rundown: A remake of the 2010 Uruguayan film La casa muda, this continuous-take horror film highlights Elizabeth Olsen’s budding skills as a leading lady and offers some solid scares in real time.
How It Looks: Given the limitations of the technology used to photograph it, it looks okay – faithful at least to its source material – even if it lacks the polish and consistency of some larger-scale horror films, or even just other digitally-photographed ones.
Best Extra: An incredibly specific, honest commentary track by filmmakers Laura Lau and Chris Kentis reveals how they shot a series of 12-minute takes and stitched them together to make them look seamless, and offers a behind-the-curtain look at the tricks they employed to bring the film to life.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Rent
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 1(Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Rundown: Trek fans finally get a cleaned-up version of Season 1 of The Next Generation, prompting Original Series fans to reconsider their undying allegiance to the first iteration in the franchise’s history.
How It Looks: Stunning. Although the beefed-up effects in TOS episodes give them a slight edge of modernity to balance out their otherwise delightfully classical aesthetic, it’s remarkable how well executed the effects were, even in 1986, in the rendering of the Enterprise, while the picture and sound quality for the rest of the material looks not only better than it ever has, but as good as it ever will need to.
Best Extra: In "Stardate Revisited: The Origin of Star Trek: The Next Generation," cast and crew members discuss in detail the process of relaunching the franchise on the small screen, from its conceptual foundations to its logistical demands.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy, even if like us you’re a TOS fan