Blu Tuesday: The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy

While we all patiently await Guillermo del Toro’s big screen adaptation of “The Hobbit” (currently scheduled to be split into two parts and rumored for a 2011 release date), Warner Bros. has decided to whet our appetites by releasing “The Lord of the Rings” on Blu-ray. It’s certainly been one of the most requested titles since the format first arrived on the scene, but now that it’s finally here, the release has only been mired in controversy. Although a lot of fans have been aggressively vocal about the studio’s decision to only release the theatrical editions at this time (one look at Amazon’s product page shows an average rating of 1.5 stars), the reasoning behind the boycott is absolutely ridiculous.

It’s not as if Warner Bros. is trying to dupe consumers into buying two versions of the movies like they did with the DVDs. In fact, they were kind enough to announce fairly early on that HD versions of the extended cuts would be made available closer to the release of “The Hobbit” in theaters, namely because director Peter Jackson wants to produce all-new bonus material for that set. So why the outrage? Quite simply, because the only thing fanboys know how to do better than overhype a movie is complain about it. Sure, it sucks that fans of the extended editions have to wait so long, but to think that the studio has some kind of secret agenda is pure hogwash. Plus, some people actually prefer the theatrical editions to the overly long extended cuts (myself included), so it’s nice to see that Warner Bros. is offering that option from the get-go. If you don’t like it, too bad.

After all, you don’t hear fans of the theatrical editions complaining about the lack of new bonus material on this set, and that’s actually a more viable argument. You still get all of the special features from the original two-disc DVDs (with the exception of a new video game trailer in place of the old ones), as well as digital copies of each film, although it’s hard to imagine watching “LOTR” on such a tiny screen. It would have been nice if they had included a few new extras with this release, but that shouldn’t really affect whether you buy the trilogy on Blu-ray, because it’s really about the movies themselves, and they look and sound better than ever.

Each film is presented in full 1080p video (and in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio) and boasts a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 lossless audio track with a thunderous bass that won’t disappoint. The picture is also crisp and clean for the most part, although some might notice that “The Fellowship of the Ring” looks a little soft compared to the other two films. That’s likely a result of the way it was filmed as opposed to anything having to do with its transfer to HD, but I’m sure everyone will have their own theories. Still, even with a few minor imperfections, this remains a must-own for any fan of Jackson’s epic trilogy. Those who disapprove of the release can complain all they like, but after seeing just how awesome these movies look on Blu-ray, they’re going to find it pretty hard to resist.

  

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Raimi & Spidey part company; Hanks to direct again with Roberts in tow; history repeats on “Thor”; an auteur departs; ASC, WGA, and ACE noms; Nikki Finke makes a friend

Spiderman

My highly esteemed colleague Will Harris has been right on top of  the huge small screen stories that seem to be breaking right and left at the TCA conference this week. Still, it’s not like there hasn’t been any news in movieland. It’s almost hard to know where to start.

* The Hollywood Reporter as well as Nikki Finke and new stablemate Mike Fleming (more on that below) are carrying the news that, in the wake of ongoing script problems, the kibosh has been put on Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman IV” with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and a 2012 reboot, written by James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac“) announced. The new film will feature a once-again teenage Peter Parker, so Taylor Lautner is no doubt already in touch with his agent.

THR says the script problems had something to do with a disagreement over supervillains between Raimi and Sony and/or Marvel Studios. Finke also notes that the fourth installment would probably not have been in 3-D and it seems reasonable that that might have been a factor, given the current mania for the process.

* In another apparent scoop for new Deadline team member Mike Fleming, Tom Hanks is returning as a writer-director for the second time since making his 1996 charmer, “That Thing You Do!” A comedy, “Larry Crowne” will reteam him with his “Charlie Wilson’s War” co-star, Julia Roberts. Like “Up in the Air,” according to Fleming it’s somewhat topical in that’s it’s about a middle-aged guy forced to reinvent his career at a time when past generations where just starting to settle down.

While he’s at it, Fleming also has the word on Shia LaBeouf not going agentless after all and signing with CAA. Agents around the world can all breathe easier now.

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