There are quite a few big Blu-ray releases in the month of September, and two of them (“Braveheart” and “Gladiator”) are headlining the rollout of Paramount’s new Sapphire Series premium label. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive either one in time to review for this week’s column, which is too bad, because I’m hearing that the subpar transfer on the “Gladiator” disc is going to cause a major ruckus in the Blu-ray community. There are still a few cool releases coming out today, but nothing that absolutely demands your attention… or your money.
I wasn’t very fond of nature documentaries before seeing BBC’s “Planet Earth,” but now that I have, I can’t imagine seeing one even remotely as good again. The people at Disney must feel the same way, because instead of going out and trying to make their own nature doc, they decided to just reuse footage from the award-winning miniseries to create a feature-length version. Simply titled “Earth,” the 90-minute film is narrated by James Earl Jones and plays out like a Greatest Hits of the documentary’s best moments – from the more narrative-driven stories about families of polar bears, elephants and humpback whales to an amazing look at caribou migration and the birds of paradise. Fans of “Planet Earth” probably won’t be interested in the more ADD-friendly edition, but at least Disney has included some cool extras for those thinking about buying “Earth” for their kids, like a pop-up trivia track and a new Blu-ray feature (Living Menu) that offers nature facts and video clips every month.
The third season of “Heroes” was supposed to be a return to form for the superhero drama, but despite an excellent season premiere, it turned out even worse than its harshly criticized sophomore year. The meaningless deaths of a few fan favorites certainly didn’t help the situation, but there were a few positives to be drawn from what could effectively be called a train wreck of a season. For starters, Zachary Quinto proved that he could play a good guy just as well as a baddie, while guest stars Robert Forster and Zeljko Ivanek delivered memorable performances as the show’s marquee villains. Season Three may not have lived up to its promises, but the Blu-ray release of the show continues to deliver with picture-in-picture audio commentaries, a slew of production featurettes, and more. The HD edition also includes additional behind-the-scenes footage and a sneak peek of Season Four. It doesn’t make up for the disappointing string of episodes, but if the show really does get back to its roots this year, you’ll want Season Three to complete your collection.
Watching Universal’s big screen adaptation of “State of Play” after having already seen the original BBC miniseries is kind of like watching “The Usual Suspects” a second time. While the story and the characters remain just as intriguing, the film’s climactic ending doesn’t feel quite so, well, climactic. The final product is still better than you might expect, but while “State of Play” succeeds both as a political thriller and a commentary on the future of print media, you’d be better off just watching the original instead. Granted, that’s almost exactly what I said about the film back in April when I wrote my review, and it hasn’t changed one bit since then. Just like “Duplicity,” “State of Play” failed to drive in the adult moviegoers it was targeted at, but its poor box office performance shouldn’t influence your decision. The Blu-ray might be a little light in the special features department, but the movie is more than good enough to stand on its own.
Also Out This Week: