Is it coincidence or clever strategy that Universal and Lionsgate released perfect (and perfectly complementary) counterprogramming to one another with their Blu-rays this week? Between Jaws and The Hunger Games, it feels like there’s not a movie-lover alive who can’t find something to entertain them in one or the other of these classics (one established, the other imminent). But if for some reason neither of these terrific crowd-pleasers are your cup of tea, thankfully there’s a wealth of really interesting alternative fare to keep you occupied, from the visceral to the sublime and quite a bit in between.
Check out a list of the week’s new releases:
The Hunger Games (Lionsgate)
The Rundown: 2012’s first bona fide phenomenon and heir apparent to the dwindling Twilight empire arrives home, offering fans a new opportunity to examine the film’s interpretation of the world created by Suzanne Collins.
How It Looks: Great – colors are vivid and focus is sharp – although some of the CGI work is more conspicuous on the small screen, such as during the opening ceremonies when Donald Sutherland is presiding over the Star Wars prequels’ intergalactic senate.
Best Extra: There’s tons of great content in this set – even though, weirdly, the special features are on a separate disc – but the personal favorite is “Letters From the Rose Garden,” which is a featurette detailing Sutherland’s remarkable interpretation of his character and his deconstruction of the power structure within the world of the film.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy
Jaws (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
The Rundown: Steven Spielberg’s game-changer transformed movies into blockbusters, thanks to three incredible performances and one of the most engaging, entertaining and scary monsters in cinema history.
How It Looks: The restoration of the film is nothing short of miraculous, not just in cleaning up aging materials but balancing light levels, improving clarity and focus, and generally making the movie look better than it ever has before.
Best Extra: While “The Shark is Still Working” is technically a documentary from 2007, it’s still terrific; but the restoration demo is one of the more incredible pieces to watch as it shows the subtle changes and improvements the filmmakers implemented to make the HD viewing experience as beautiful as possible.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy Buy Buy
Kill List (MPI Home Video)
The Rundown: This candidate for 2012’s best film made more waves last year on the festival circuit, but the home-video version ensures that Ben Wheatley’s sophomore effort sticks with you literally as you attempt to come to terms with its remarkable, visceral and philosophical complexities.
How It Looks: Despite the darkness that shrouds so much of the movie (both literal and metaphorical), the picture quality is pretty stunning, offering a well-rounded, resonant, sharp and vivid image.
Best Extra: While interviews with cast and crew members are certainly interesting, Wheatley’s commentary track is the highlight, especially since he addresses both the production logistics and the conceptual underpinnings.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: You should probably Buy, but if you’re hesitant to take a chance, at least Rent it.
The Raid: Redemption (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Rundown: Gareth Evans made an incredible breakthrough as a director with this bone-breaking, epic action film about a cop who’s forced to fight his way out of a multi-story tenement building teeming with baddies.
How It Looks: Despite the film’s low-budget approach, the transfer looks great, maintaining the muted color quality Evans bathes the film in.
Best Extra: A conversation at Los Angeles’ Cinefamily with Evans and co-composers Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese yields some insightful and engaging discussions about how the filmmakers pulled off so many of the film’s incredible stunts, such as compositing three shots together to make it look like an assailant broke his back after falling off a ledge.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy
The Royal Tenenbaums (Criterion)
The Rundown: Wes Anderson’s third film was a major breakthrough for the filmmaker, earning critical attention for his meticulously-detailed aesthetic. It was also an incredible, hugely entertaining movie, and this Blu-ray offers a glorious celebration of its merits in HD.
How It Looks: The director-approved transfer looks absolutely stunning – the picture quality is bright, colorful, and pristine, reducing film grain without sacrificing the warmth or texture of the characters, costumes and settings.
Best Extra: Everything on this set is essentially carried over from its SD version, but there’s nothing better to watch than vintage interviews with the notoriously cantankerous Gene Hackman, who effectively reveals that he’s gonna do whatever he wants, and the filmmaker – in this case a notoriously specific auteur – has just got to deal with it.
Buy, Rent or Avoid: Buy