Due to the lack of options that Blu-ray enthusiasts were presented with over the last few weeks, it’s been a while since I’ve written a proper column. Though I had originally planned to combine two weeks’ worth of HD titles into one write-up, I ultimately decided against it because, well, even that selection wasn’t very inspiring. It’s a different story today, however, with three must-buy titles and several more worth checking out.
The Blu-ray release of “Watchmen” has been the subject of attention since before the movie even arrived in theaters, but that’s what happens when you adapt something as popular as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking graphic novel. The good news is that after all the legal issues with 20th Century Fox and the film’s less-than-stellar box office performance, Warner Bros. has still come through with one of the coolest Blu-rays of the year. Not only does it feature a director’s cut with over 20 minutes of additional footage, but the three-disc set also introduces the much-publicized Maximum Movie Mode, which is kind of like Universal’s U-Control feature on steroids. Quite simply, this is the future of Blu-ray, with Zack Snyder hosting an in-depth look at key sequences (often pausing the movie to discuss certain details), while other extras — like a timeline comparing historical events from Our World to Their World, picture-in-picture interviews with the cast and crew, and storyboards and comic book comparisons — supplement the experience. Also included are a series of video diaries that you can hop over to while watching the film, as well as a second disc packed with featurettes on the graphic novel, the psychology of vigilantes, and the science of “Watchmen.” If there’s one release that should help convince consumers why Blu-ray is better than DVD, this is it.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” might have the bigger fanbase, but Henry Selick’s latest stop-motion adventure, “Coraline,” is by far the better of the two films. Then again, when you consider that the source material was written by Neil Gaiman, it isn’t at all surprising that the movie would turn out as good as it did. Though it’s debatable whether or not “Coraline” will scare the younger crowds, the film is unequivocally a must-see for any fan of Selick’s past work. The Blu-ray release makes the experience even better, too, with the option to watch the film in 2-D or 3-D (glasses included), as well as a host of awesome extras ranging from a director commentary to an in-depth making-of featurette that might as well have been called Stop-Motion 101. The two-disc set also includes Universal’s standard U-Control feature with a picture-in-picture video track filled with behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and the ability to watch the full-length animatic alongside the movie. Were it not for the fact that Warner Bros. was releasing “Watchmen” on the same day, this easily would have been the best release of the week, and possibly the month.
With the number of different editions already available, Zack Snyder’s “300” is quickly shaping up to be the new “Army of Darkness.” Of course, it’ll be hard for Warner Bros. to milk the movie any more now that they’ve put out The Complete Experience, because unlike last year’s lackluster Limited Collector’s Edition, this is one release well worth the double-dip. All of the extras from the previous versions have been preserved (except for the “To the Hot Gates: A Legend Retold” documentary”), but the real standout is “The Complete 300: A Comprehensive Immersion,” a new interactive experience that delivers picture-in-picture video, trivia and mini-featurettes for three unique perspectives: Creating a Legend, Bringing the Legend to Life, and The History Behind the Myth. Better yet, a three-button HUD in the top left corner of the screen alerts you whenever new material is available, so you can either skip around or stick to one set path. Director Zack Snyder has also recorded a new commentary track where he compares the finished film to the original blue screen composite (shown via picture-in-picture), while the original test footage that Snyder shot is no longer hidden as an Easter Egg. Oh yeah, and the movie looks absolutely amazing in high-definition, but you really didn’t need me to tell you that, now did you?
Also Out This Week: