One could argue that the biggest Blu-ray of the week is Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season. Since its premiere on HBO last year, Game of Thrones has enjoyed the kind of success that bolstered The Lord of the Rings Trilogy during its theatrical run; strip away the series' attention-grabbing sex and violence, and Game of Thronesstill excels at making a complex fantasy text accessible to a wide spectrum of viewers.
Kenneth Brown gave the Blu-ray set high marks in his Blu-ray review, writing that, "more than the best new series of 2011, it's one of the finest shows to grace television…If [showrunners] D.B. Weiss and David Benioff can maintain their creative momentum, if the cast continues to excel, if the production design continues to sweep viewers away to Westeros, we're all in for something special."
In an amusing bit of cross-distributor synergy, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing its own much-venerated fantasy program on Blu-ray - the cult comedy favorite Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Thirty-eight years after its theatrical debut, the film impresses because of how uniquely Pythonian it is; the Monty Python troupe managed the not-inconsiderable feat of transferring the surrealism that made the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" television program so memorable without diluting any of the show's wild, unpredictable energy.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail stands as a landmark of absurdist comedy; as Martin Liebman's Blu-ray review noted, "The cast and crew…[have] found the perfect balance between absurdity as part of the plot and absurdity introduced just for the sake of absurdity…It all fits together, not just because it all shares the same look, generally, but because the characters, dialogue, and situations have been carefully assembled to produce just the right amount of comedy that's [simultaneously] head-scratching and gut-busting."
Less overtly fantastical but no less delightful is Paramount's To Catch a Thief Blu-ray. Alfred Hitchcock pulled off a neat trick with his 1955 caper; even when taking into consideration the director's other pure entertainments - North by Northwest or Foreign Correspondent, for example - To Catch a Thief feels particularly frothy and insubstantial, yet it succeeds through both Hitch's command of the medium and Cary Grant and Grace Kelly's peerless star turns.
Martin Liebman sums up the film perfectly when he asserts that "its strength lies in its adherence to simplicity and delicacy, weaving together a story of romance against a serious but decidedly serene and almost playful backdrop of high-dollar jewel thievery…This is a safe, easygoing slice of classic moviemaking that's the very epitome of simple and relaxing escapism."
Interestingly enough, Pedro Almodóvar's newest picture, The Skin I Live In, uses the template of a To Catch a Thief-style crowd-pleaser only to then subvert it. The film's sensuous, glossy surfaces – it looks like a big-budget studio release from the 1960's – belie much darker undercurrents, as Antonio Banderas' tortured plastic surgeon descends into obsession and brutality.
This disparity between beautiful aesthetics and ugly emotional content can be quite jarring for those not familiar with Almodóvar's cinematic mind games. Yet, to echo Martin Liebman's recent review, "The Skin I Live In is a rare film that's thematically disgusting but visually beautiful, the latter dominating the former and lessening the burden but in no way cheapening the story…The movie is impeccably assembled and perfectly acted; it's too emotionally disturbing and visually challenging and mature for younger audiences, but The Skin I Live In is one of 2011's must-see pictures for those with the patience to see it play out and the constitution to absorb all it has to offer."
Time will tell what all I end up with (Holy Grail and To Catch A Thief are certainties), but looks mostly like a week of back catalog titles for me.
Already have The Skin I Live In, yet another decent Almodovar film and a decent looking disc... look forward to his next one (and if Sony wants to fill out his back catalog, by all means go for it (I know, like that will happen)).
This week's a tough one for me. I'll definitely be picking up 'Mass Effect 3' and 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail', but possibly 'The Deer Hunter' and/or 'To Catch A Thief' and/or 'Parenthood' as well.
And I guess 'Harvey' really was pushed back, unfortunately.
For me, Monty Python soon (budget allowing).
Thrones is hard to resist. I'm seriously considering waiting until the series ends, however long I may wait. I'm sure HBO will (re)release all seasons in a super-duper-deluxe-platinum-directors-cut-with-all-the-bells-and-whistles-3D-enhanced edition!
Picked up Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Immortals, Mass Effect 3 = a Ben Franklin out of the wallet !
Hope I dont regret not picking up Game of Thrones. I never heard of it til last week and did some background on it and it certainly seems like something i would be into. And for only $35!!! Gonna be $60 after this week ends. Damm!
@NY Yankees 23 2 I strongly advise you to pick Game of Thrones right away. Not only is the best TV show right now but it's one of the best BD sets ever. And for $35 is a complete bargain. Pick it up now because you are certainly going to regret it later.
Add two more upgrades from DVD to Blu for me, "Holy Grail" and "To Catch A Thief" - though I'll probably keep at least part of my DVD of "Grail" as it included an "original film cell" - dumb but fun. As for "TCAT" - this'll be my 3rd purchase of it , and I'll probably keep the DVD version that has a commentary the Blu lacks
This is certainly a good week for new blu-ray releases. I received from my preorders The Skin I Live In (one of my top films from last year), plus two classics: The Deer Hunter and the newly restored Out of Africa.
In the future I'd like to buy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, To Catch a Thief, The Town UCE and Game of Thrones.