Despite the ever-widening range of options to watch your favorite television shows and movies, Blu-rays endure as a consistently high-quality format for cinephiles and collectors. Unlike on cable, the content is always in high definition, and unlike via streaming, there are myriad supplements, options and alternatives for the straightforward viewing experience. All of which is why “Blu-ray Collector” should quickly become your go-to destination for an inside look at the latest high-definition home video releases.
In the weeks to come, look for in-depth listings of the highest-profile and most highly anticipated Blu-ray releases, descriptions of their bonus content, and overall evaluations of their worthiness as the latest titles to join your personal movie collection.
The Fly (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
The One-Liner: Before David Cronenberg creeped out sci-fi fans with his gloriously gory 1986 remake, Vincent Price costarred in this 1958 film about a scientist whose attempts to create a “matter transporter” ends in a biological nightmare, and later, murder.
Picture Perfect? Despite the film’s age, the transfer looks great, preserving the grain of the source material without sacrificing vividness or clarity.
What Else Is There? A commentary track featuring star David Hedison sheds light on the creative process, and the context in which the film was released, while a vintage newsreel offers more historical perspective on how it was presented to audiences.
How Badly Do I Want It? Although it’s indisputably goofier than Cronenberg’s film, The Fly is a genre classic worth checking out, and the combination of superlative presentation and insightful extras makes it a worthy rental if not a welcome addition to your horror collection.
Frankenstein’s Army (Dark Sky Films)
The One-Liner: Although found-footage has become a dubious and wildly inconsistent creative choice for genre films, at least director Richard Raaphorst pairs it with a genuinely unique idea: During World War II, a battalion of Soviet soldiers discovers the laboratory of a deranged scientist after being stranded behind enemy lines.
Picture Perfect? While the film’s would-be vintage look (supposedly 8mm, shot in HD) holds up poorly in high definition, it looks satisfyingly clean for modern audiences, offering clarity and consistency as the camera bounces through the action.
What Else Is There? Making-of materials offer background on how the filmmakers brought to life their rogue’s gallery of monsters, and provide insights how the movie was made, but none of it is particularly revelatory.
How Badly Do I Want It? A film that’s infinitely more interesting in concept than execution, it’s worth renting or streaming if you are intrigued, but there’s little here of long-term interest for anyone other than the filmmakers themselves.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 8 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
The One-Liner: Charlie, Dennis, Dee and Mac are back for another season of completely irresponsible hijinks.
Picture Perfect? Shot in HD for its network broadcasts, the series looks bright and clean on Blu-ray, where you can pore over every detail in Paddy’s Irish Pub.
What Else Is There? Commentary tracks on select episodes offer fans a chance to go behind the creative process – not to mention enjoy a few more jokes – while featurettes such as “Fat Mac: In Memoriam” revisit the show’s odd choices, one of which being Rob McElhenney’s decision to gain a ton of weight.
How Badly Do I Want It? While not as strong as other seasons of the show, completists will definitely want to pick this set up, and its presentation and extras make it a rewarding time-filler.
Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The One-Liner: J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated sequel to his 2009 series reboot reunites the crew of the Enterprise as they face their deadliest foe ever.
Picture Perfect? While the 3D occasionally succumbs to mild ghosting (mostly in the cityscape sequences with the most spatial depth), the 2D digital presentation is virtually immaculate, offering stunning clarity and vividness that beautifully captures every detail of the action.
What Else Is There? A collection of featurettes, viewable all together or individually, offers specific insights into the creation and execution of various ideas and set pieces, but the absence of a commentary track – which is available as an iTunes extra only – fails to provide scene-by-scene explanations of the filmmakers’ narrative and conceptual choices.
How Badly Do I Want It? If you’re at all a fan of Star Trek, this is a must-own set, but its dearth of extras makes it a disappointment in comparison to the content on earlier films.
Star Trek: Stardate Collection (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The One-Liner: Paramount collects the first 10 films – the Original Series and Next Generation films – in an expansive Blu-ray set for the first time.
Picture Perfect? The Blu-rays for each of these films, previously available separately, have offered remarkably clear and detailed transfers, ensuring that Trek fans can examine every inch of every frame of film.
What Else Is There? Every film features at least one commentary track, but all of them include hours of bonus content, including trivia tracks (presented as view screens) with information about Trek hardware, alien species and more. Additionally, an extra disc includes a “Summit” between the captains and first officers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which gives them an opportunity to wax rhapsodic about their time at the helm of the Enterprise.
How Badly Do I Want It? Two collections released a few years ago collected most of the material here, but as one-stop shopping for Trek fans and the most complete assembly of extras in the series’ history on HD, this cannot be beat.
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