Video View

May 06, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

A bit of consumer advice: if you don't have a Blu-Ray player at this time and you live in the United States, don't use your stimulus rebate check to buy one. Wait until November - that's when price cuts and sales will drive down prices into a range that's close to reasonable. Right now, if you walk into a Best Buy to get one, the cheapest unit you'll find is $400. There are several stand-alone players available at that price as well as the PS3 (which, because of its upgradeability, is the best choice at the moment). However, by the time the holiday buying season arrives, there will be a big push to sell Blu-Ray players. A $100 drop in price is not out of the question, and there may be opportunities to nab something as inexpensive as $250. So, if you want to go high-def but have six months' worth of patience, you'll be rewarded. Besides, there are not a lot of exciting titles arriving on Blu-Ray in the next few months, even with both Paramount and Universal entering the market.

This week's roster of new titles is dreadful, but that's to be expected now that Hollywood is drawing on the early 2008 theatrical release roster for their prime DVD titles. Movie-goers showed little excitement for films that came out between late January and late April. DVD watchers will have the same complaint from now until August. Iron Man could show up on DVD any time between late August and early October. Until then, don't get too excited about home video. If you avoid theaters and simply wait for the DVDs, now you'll see why so many people were unenthused this past winter.

Leading the way this week is a late-2007 leftover, P.S. I Love You, an insipid romantic weeper that is being released in both standard and Blu-Ray formats. This week's other dual format release is the comedy First Sunday. The artsy Bob Dylan bio-pic I'm Not There, which features Heath Ledger in one of his final roles, is available in standard DVD only. Also out: Teeth, an offbeat coming of age story about a girl with a unique defense system that ensures she'll never be raped, and Over Her Dead Body, which sounds like a horror movie but is actually a romantic comedy. Then, for those who want to see how bad it can get, there's The Hottie and the Nottie.

Three catalog titles arrive on Blu-Ray this week: Twister, which should benefit greatly from the enhanced video and audio - this is an event movie that's entirely driven by spectacle; The Devil's Own, a Harrison Ford/Brad Pitt vehicle; and Shall We Dance, an inferior American re-make of a Japanese film. I can readily understand why Twister is being released in high-def, but who's going to buy the other two?

The TV-to-DVD roster is light this week as well. There's The 4400 Season 4, Bewitched Season 6, and Crossing Jordan Season 1. Now that virtually everything from the TV vaults is available, I'm wondering how long it will be before the Blu-Ray repackaging starts. HD-DVD already tried with Battlestar Galactica Season 1 and Star Trek Season 1, so how many months until we see the Fonz in high-def?