For the week of December 4th, Warner Home Entertainment is bringing The Dark Knight Rises to Blu-ray. Director Christopher Nolan's epically scaled follow-up to his Academy Award-winning The Dark Knight arrived this past summer on a deluge of viewer anticipation. It wasn't enough for Nolan to satisfy the expectations set during The Dark Knight's finale; he also had to deliver a resonant and satisfying threequel. That's a task that master filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, George Miller, the Wachowski siblings, and Francis Ford Coppola have struggled with, but Nolan finds himself more than up to the task. If The Dark Knight Rises doesn't quite deliver a perfect capper - it's too long, for one, and some of the narrative machinations border on the predictable - it certainly comes close, marrying vibrant action with a surprisingly visceral emotional core. All that, and Nolan gets a couple of pitch-perfect supporting performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway that are, in their own ways, as good as Heath Ledger's revelatory Joker turn in The Dark Knight.
Kenneth Brown is effusive in his praise for the picture, writing that "The Dark Knight Rises begs repeat viewings. The film so thwarts expectation[s] that limiting yourself to a single viewing is to risk dismissing an amazing story and experience that only gets better upon each return. Nolan has accomplished something truly extraordinary with his Batman trilogy, and The Dark Knight Rises brings nothing but gratifying closure to three of the greatest comicbook movies of all time."
Disney is also using this week to offer up the HD premiere of a popular catalog title: Pixar's Finding Nemo. This animated comedy - which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film - saw Pixar in transition from the lighthearted fun of its Toy Story and A Bug's Life years to the adult-infused drama present in Ratatouille and Up; the story of a clown fish (voiced by Albert Brooks) looking for his missing son, Finding Nemo has the obligatory comic asides and wild sight gags expected in the contemporary family-film genre, but Brooks' air of melancholy lends this tale genuine pathos. We care about his struggle, and that's no rare feat.
Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review assesses the film from a current perspective, that he "recognize[s] every one of Nemo's flaws but are so swept out to sea by its grand underwater adventure and indelible characters that little else matters. Still, the years have indeed been kinder to the film's surprisingly viable animation than its beached-whale script and, beloved or no, Finding Nemo isn't the ultimate Pixar experience it once was. It's merely one of the famed animation studio's early delights, and a funny, exciting and memorable one at that."
For one of the title on this list, we need to go back to November 30th; Sony released Men in Black 3 on that date, the third feature in the popular Men in Black franchise. Men in Black 3 represents a return, of sorts, for the series after its underwhelming second installment. The film, which finds Agent J (Will Smith) joining forces with the thirty-years-younger iteration of his partner K (the great Josh Brolin) to stop a ghastly intergalactic assassin (Dinner for Schmucks' Jemaine Clement), has a balance of humor, action, and sentiment that's far closer to the well received first MiB adventure. It isn't perfect - the big finale hinges on a character we don't know well enough to care about, and Tommy Lee Jones, who reprises his role as present-day Agent K in the film's wraparound segments, seems like he wishes he were anywhere but here - but Rick Baker's make-up effects are peerless, and they get a big boost from the performances of Brolin, Clement, Alice Eve, Bill Hader, and Boardwalk Empire's Michael Stuhlbarg.
In his Blu-ray review, Martin Liebman expresses the same satisfaction, writing that the movie "is a fundamentally fun big-budget diversion that retains the spirit of its predecessors while going in a somewhat different direction via a drastic alteration of time. It boasts the usual assortment of Men in Black goodies, including cool characters, interesting aliens, sleek technology, high-powered action, and big time special effects. That basic Men in Black essence carries it through to a satisfying dramatic conclusion, and the film certainly redeems the series and returns it to prominence after a decade of bad taste left after Men in Black II. Best of all, however, is Josh Brolin's amazing performance as a young Agent K; here's hoping the filmmakers find a way to incorporate him into future installments"
Finally, TV-on-Blu-ray gets another big push this week with Paramount Home Media Distribution's release of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 2. The iconic sci-fi adventure's sophomore year saw the series evolving past the flaws of its inaugural run (hello, Whoopi Goldberg's Starship bartender Guinan; goodbye, Denise Crosby's Security Chief Tasha Yar) - along with Season Three, this is when Star Trek: The Next Generation began to stake its claim as one of television's most enduring dramas.
The Blu-ray set offers newly remastered versions of Season Two's twenty-two episodes alongside a bevy of bonus supplements. As Martin Liebman notes, "Star Trek: The Next Generation might sometimes stumble through its second season with a rather uneven grouping of episodes, but the season is more than the sum of its good-medicore-bad episode ratio. The better episodes are so good that they more than offset the forgettable and bad ones, and the various arcs and characters and character studies introduced within the season make it, arguably, a more substantial and substantive collection than season one. Season Two sees TNG about to really take off at warp speed, but it certainly doesn't just idle before making the jump."
Just so you guys know, I checked Best Buy's website and they have that MiB trilogy set on sale for $39.99 this week. Just a heads up! As for me this week, TDKR w/ BB Steelbook, Finding Nemo 3D, and Halo: Forward Unto Dawn.
Arriving from preorders this week are several highly anticipated films: Beasts of the Southern Wild (one of the best films of the year); The Dark Knight Rises (both blu-ray book and steelbook editions); Purple Noon (a major blu-ray upgrade for me); and, one of the blu-ray upgrades I've longed for the most: Brazil.
I'll definitely obtain Catch Me If You Can sooner rather than later. Both Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (a terrific documentary) and eXistenZ are likely in the same boat.
A helluva week for blu-rays. I purchased The Finding Nemo and TDKR steelbooks from Best Buy, TDKR digibook from Target, and TDKR bat cowl edition...with gift cards, reward zone certificates, and on-line certificates I spent less than $30.00...on a side note, I can't believe the bat cowl of TDKR is selling for upwards of $250.00 on ebay.