Blu Tuesday: The Hurt Locker, Moon and 8 1/2

After the craziness of the holiday shopping season, the home video market tends to slow down considerably for a few weeks. Now that we’re all back in the swing of things, however, the studios have commenced their usual release schedule, and with the holidays leading to a significant increase in Blu-ray ownership, it’s going to get really crazy. This week’s selection features two of the year’s best films, an old favorite, and much more.

“The Hurt Locker” (Lionsgate)

Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq war thriller is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen, piling on the tension so high that you’ll literally spend the entire film on the edge of your seat. It also happens to be one of my favorite movies of the year and is a highly considered favorite to take home this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. Jeremy Renner is a marvel to watch as the bomb squad thrill junkie at the center of the story, but the real star is Bigelow, who takes an otherwise barebones script and transforms it into a series of memorable set pieces that continually upstage the one before it. The included special features aren’t as great as they probably could be, but the audio commentary by Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boals (not to mention the Q&A track that plays over a 23-minute photo gallery slideshow) is definitely worth a listen.

“Moon” (Sony)

It wasn’t that long ago that Sam Rockwell was being hyped as the next big actor of his generation, and although his career never really reached the level that many expected, the guy has been turning out great performance after great performance for years. However, in Duncan Jones’ directorial debut, “Moon,” Rockwell delivers the performance of a lifetime as a contract astronaut working on a moon-based space station where he monitors the mining of a green-energy source called Helium-3. The indie sci-fi flick takes a trippy but exciting turn when Rockwell’s character discovers a doppelganger tasked with the same mission. With no one else to play off but himself (and Kevin Spacey’s voice as a HAL-like computer called Gerty), Rockwell takes an already good story and makes it that much better. Yet another great sci-fi film to add to 2009’s ever-growing list.

“8 ½” (Criterion)

With Rob Marshall’s “Nine” finally arriving in theaters, it’s only inevitable that Criterion would plan a Blu-ray edition of “8 ½” (the film on which the musical is based) in conjunction with its release. Though I’m not as in love with the Federico Fellini classic as most cinephiles, there’s still a lot to appreciate about the film – particularly Marcello Mastroianni’s incredibly memorable performance as Fellini-esque film director Guido Anselmi. As for the disc itself, Criterion’s near-flawless track record continues with a sharp high-def video transfer and surprisingly crisp uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Most of the extras have been ported over from the original DVD release – including an audio commentary by Gideon Bachmann and NYU film professor Antonio Monda, a newly restored version of “Fellini: A Director’s Notebook,” and a documentary on longtime composer Nino Rota – but Criterion has sweetened the pot by including the 2003 documentary, “The Last Sequence.” Suffice it to say that any fan of Fellini, Italian cinema, or film in general will definitely want to update their collections.

Also Out This Week:

“Fame” (MGM)
“In the Loop” (MPI)
“Post Grad” (20th Century Fox)
“Halloween II” (Weinstein Co.)
“The Brothers Bloom” (Summit)

  

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