Recommendation of the Week:
The Killer (Blu-ray: $29.99 MSRP, much lower at most retailers)
This week's recommendation is a bit tongue in cheek, mostly because the video quality isn't the sharpest in the world. Granted, the source material is 21 years old, but I've seen what they can do with movies like The African Queen and The Wizard of Oz on Blu-ray, so why not one of director John Woo's and actor Chow Yun Fat's best films, The Killer? Still, all of that complaining aside, the film does look better than I've ever seen it look on home video format, and it runs circles around the murky theatrical print I saw back when I was in college. While probably not a disc you'll slap in to show off how much Blu-ray rocks, it still looks fantastic, and it's got a completely new interview on the disc with Woo (where's Yun-Fat, though?) that is well worth it. There's also a Q&A session where he talks about The Killer and Hard Boiled. This is being produced by Dragon Dynasty, a joint company venture from the Weinstein brothers and Genius Products, and I'm hoping things improve a bit in the transfer department. Let's get Chow Yun-Fat's God of Gamblers, A Better Tomorrow trilogy, City on Fire, and Treasure Hunt on Blu-ray, stat.
Xbox Live Video Marketplace (Xbox 360)
The Game (240[$3] SD, to rent; 800[$10] SD, to own)
Forget about the modern day ARG stuff that comes down the pipeline from time to time, David Fincher already nailed all of that stuff in The Game back in 1997. This is one movie that really messes with your mind, and you'll be just as confused as Michael Douglas is when his life starts to spiral out of control. Forget about mysterious USB keys, Nicholas Van Orton has to deal with perplexing messages, cars plummeting into rivers, and an extreme sense of paranoia that makes The Truman Show look like a walk in the park. Talk about a life-changing experience that you'll never forget, why aren't they offering these packages today? Without going into too much detail, so as to avoid spoilers, this would make one heck of a gift. Companies should offer high-adventure "The Game" travel packages and intervention sessions. Kicking that cigarette habit is a lot easier once you've stared death in the face. We've seen this on regular DVD and HD-DVD, so where's the Blu-ray or HD online versions already?
Netflix Watch Instantly (Mac/PC, Xbox Live, PS3 and now Wii!, subscription required: starts at $8.99 per month)
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Netflix is chock full of amazing goodness every day. You never know what's going to be added (or sadly, taken away), and in this case it's the wondrous joy given to us by Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen. Namely: Dr, Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Originally created for the internet so as to circumvent the WGA strike that was happening at the time, this project has gone on to appear on DVD, win numerous awards, and make enough money to pay back the cast and crew, who weren't paid during production. There's a sequel in the works, the film is coming to Blu-ray in May, and it even has its own musical commentary that you can download from iTunes. Never before has the ballad of an evil genius been so enjoyable, and so hilarious. If you've never experienced this before, this is your moment. If you have, enjoy it all over again. At least until the Blu-ray arrives. I'm really hoping that thing offers up some sweet extras. Like an included Commentary! The Musical.
PlayStation Store (PlayStation 3 or PSP)
Breaking Bad: Season Three, Episode Three I.F.T. ($2.99 HD, $1.99 SD, to own)
Yes, this one has already been thrown at you, but did you take me seriously? If you haven't gone out and watched the first two seasons of this show by now, then you are certifiably insane. That's just how good this show is. What? You dismissed it as a cheap imitation of Weeds? Shame on you. The good news is, you can still rectify this mistake. Netflix those first two seasons, or pick up the Blu-rays and catch up. Season three has only just started, and I'm already feeling the empty spot in my stomach that will come during the long wait for season four. Assuming there will be a fourth season. Besides the genius of Bryan Cranston, you have to experience the incredible acting of Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the scenery-chewing antics of Dean Norris as DEA Agent Hank Schrader, and the icy coldness of Anna Gunn as Walt's wife Skyler. There's a lot to love in this show, which is why we're double dipping with a second recommendation. I cannot rest until everyone is watching that show. I'm prepared for no sleep. And speaking of double dipping ....
Blu-ray Disc (PlayStation 3)
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy ($99.98 MSRP much lower at most retailers)
Like The Killer, this Blu-ray recommendation comes with a bit of a warning. In this case, there's a bigger, better box set coming something later this year. The press release for this set confirms that the Lord of the Rings extended editions will be coming to Blu-ray sometime later. So how can I recommend this? Simple. It's an affordable package of the movies you came to love in the theaters, on Blu-ray and ready to watch right now. For some people, these are the Lord of the Rings films. For others, you want the completist package of the extended editions, giving you more movie at a higher price. People all over Amazon are complaining about this set, but who's making them buy it? Either get this set, wait for the extendeds, or get both (or neither), but know that these look stupendous in HD. The same special features are ported over onto a standard definition DVD for each title, although "new Blu-ray features" are promised via Blu-ray live.
The Lord of the Rings: Original Animated Classic ($29.99 MSRP, much lower at retailers)
Also now out on Blu-ray is the original, fantastic, bizarre, Ralph Bakshi directed (and animated) The Lord of the Rings Remastered Deluxe Edition. Fantastic because the story stays very close to canon, but bizarre because it combines traditional 2D cel animations with rotoscoping, where animators trace live-action characters. It's pretty awkward at times because of that, and unfortunately they were unable to complete the entire story even though this was a moderate success. So this stands alone as an interesting artifact of the LotR's journey to the screen. Bakshi wanted to include Led Zeppelin music in this (imagine how cool that would have been), and Peter Jackson has cited this as an influence as his vision for the current movies, even reenacting certain shots directly. There's a terrific interview/documentary on the disc called "Forging Through The Darkness: The Ralph Bakshi Vision For The Lord of the Rings", and it provides a lot of insight into the difficult process it was bringing one half of Tolkien's trilogy to the screen. Thankfully, this won't be coming out in an extended edition, making this purchase quandary-free.
But enough of our yakkin', what are you watching?