This week sees the high-def premiere of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the fourth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise and the box-office smash that helped rehabilitate Tom Cruise's slightly tarnished public image (no small feat, given both his couch-jumping shenanigans and 2010's financial disappointment Knight and Day). While Ghost Protocol does not reinvent the blockbuster genre, it provides over two hours of effortless escapist filmmaking, thanks to director Brad Bird's zippy confidence guiding the many action scenes, Cruise's movie-star charisma, and a couple of engaging supporting performances from Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg.
One small caveat: those purchasing the Blu-ray through Amazon will miss out on more than sixty minutes of bonus supplements; only Best Buy carries a deluxe edition with these additions on a separate disc. It is Best Buy's version that Martin Liebman calls "a must-own package" in his Blu-ray review, a high-definition release that ranks as "one of the best releases of 2012 to date...It's not at all convenient that fans cannot buy this version through Amazon, but those interested in the full slate of extras have no choice."
No supplementary concerns surround the upcoming Shame Blu-ray; however, the film weathered far greater controversies during its theatrical run. Shame's graphic sexual content netted the feature an NC-17 rating and drew the ire of many critics who asserted that director Steve McQueen used sex to give weight to his film's otherwise prosaic and obvious addiction story.
Though McQueen is covering well-trod ground - at times, Shame's heightened, relentless intensity recalls Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream - his striking eye for composition sets Shame apart, as does Michael Fassbender's lead performance. Fassbender brings so much raw honesty to his role as a sex addict hitting bottom; he trusts the audience to plumb the depths with him, yet no matter how depraved his situation gets, he and McQueen never exclude the possibility of redemption.
The theme of "redemption" has been the most powerful agent behind the television series Treme, which completed its second season last year; David Simon and Eric Overmyer's post-Hurricane Katrina study follows a diverse cast of characters trying to redeem themselves and their beloved city in the wake of the storm, a task that grows ever thornier - as this last season displayed - with New Orleans' escalating crime problems.
This is humane, deeply compassionate entertainment, and Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review gives it the highest praise, noting that, "you'd be hard pressed to find another show whose characters are as convincing, whose arcs evolve as naturally as those in Treme...[which] is a masterstroke that lifts the curtain on New Orleans, both its majesty and its unseemliness, as brilliantly as The Wire lifted the curtain on Baltimore."
One of the week's most interesting curios is the Blu-ray debut of Roadracers. Director Robert Rodriguez's work first premiered on Showtime as part of the channel's short-lived "Rebel Highway" series; following the success of his ultra-low budget El Mariachi, Rodriguez used Showtime's accelerated production schedule and million-dollar budget to give him a crash course in constructing - in his own words - his "first Hollywood film." The end result is pure Rodriguez: despite its too-grim finale, Roadracers plays like a ragged-but-satisfying live-action cartoon, overstuffed with loud music and wild sight gags.
If nothing else, the film demonstrates how thoroughly Rodriguez has absorbed the concept that passion and creativity can compensate for the smallest of budgets, inspiring Martin Liebman to brand Roadracers as "a rare accomplishment for a picture made for television and on a relatively low budget at that. Today's filmmakers working under similar constraints could take a lesson or two from the Roadracers playbook rather than phon[ing] their movies in week after week."