ReelThoughts: March 11, 2008

"Video View"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


The demise of HD-DVD has opened up shelf space for Blu Ray discs at many retailers. When I stopped by at Best Buy a couple days ago, their Blu Ray section had all but gobbled up the HD-DVD area. It was possible to get American Gangster and a couple of other titles but, for the most part, it wasn't the happy site those who received HD-DVD players for Christmas were hoping for. No clearance sales, though. It looks like HD-DVD may fade away without any big price breaks. Meanwhile, Blu Ray is taking advantage of its new sole proprietorship of the high def market. Four prominent catalog titles are debuting this week in the format: Independence Day, Gattaca, Dogma, and I, Robot. While I might dispute the choice of titles, it's hard to argue with the principle.

2008's Best Picture Oscar winner, No Country for Old Men arrives on store shelves this week in both standard DVD and Blu Ray. It's a well-timed release. The movie had pretty much exhausted its box office potential and DVD availability so soon after the Oscars will maximize its selling potential for home viewing. The second biggest release of the week is Bee Movie, which is coming out in the three separate versions (widescreen, full screen, two-disc special edition), none of which are high def. An HD-DVD version was scrapped but for an all-digital animated motion picture not to have something high def available is a major gaffe. Also available this week are a bunch of second-rate titles: the cloying August Rush (standard and Blu Ray); the toothless but not sleuthless Nancy Drew (standard only); the Olivier-free version of Sleuth (standard and Blu Ray); the unromantic romantic comedy Dan in Real Life (standard and Blu Ray); and the stylishly violent Hitman (a zillion different versions including rated and unrated, standard and Blu Ray).

If you're holding out for a TV show, wait till next week. The Zooey Deschanel riff on Oz, Tin Man, is available but, unless you're a die-hard fan of Deschanel or the concept, it's hard to justify a purchase. Mod Squad Season One Volume 2 is available, as is Love American Style Season One Volume 2. What's with the multi-volume season sets?

There are a couple of direct-to-DVD movies worth noting, one of which is popular and the other of which is not. Stargate: The Ark of Truth is a sequel to the Sci-Fi Channel's defunct series, and its placement at the top of Amazon.com's DVD pre-sales chart (ahead of No Country) is a testament to the fan base's loyalty. One can hope that something similar might happen with Battlestar Galactica after Sci-Fi milks its fourth season for all it's worth. (Which raises a question: If Sci Fi is so reluctant to part with Galactica, why not guarantee it a fifth season rather than creating one by breaking the fourth season into two pieces?) The other direct-to-DVD feature is Bachelor Party 2, a sequel to the '80s Tom Hanks movie. Surprisingly, Hanks is not in this one.

There are no new box sets this week (at least none worth mentioning), but there are three separately available entries in the Fox Film Noir series. They're reasonably priced at about $13 (discounted) each. Considering that all three could be had for about the list price of the upcoming Patton Blu Ray disc, it's not a bad deal. (I'll discuss pricing and Patton when that 2-disc set comes out.) The titles are: Daisy Kenyon, Dangerous Crossing and Black Widow.


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