When talking about this week's notable Blu-ray releases, we need to go back to November 9th; Sony released The Amazing Spider-Man on that date, the rebooted beginning to the Spider-Man franchise. The worst thing anyone can say about the new film is how similar its setup is to Sam Raimi's 2002 box-office smash Spider-Man. Both The Amazing Spider-Man and the earlier film focus on how brainy high-schooler Peter Parker became...well, The Amazing Spider-Man. However, with (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb helming Spidey Version 2.0, the film has pleasing grit and understated heart. The CGI-based theatrics are fairly rote, but the development of Peter and Gwen Stacy (the wonderful Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone) feels quirkier and less familiar - these two could have stepped straight out of The Breakfast Club, and for that fact alone, The Amazing Spider-Man merits a viewing.
In his Blu-ray review, Martin Liebman expresses the same satisfaction, writing that the movie "works on every level. It's not just a 'cool new movie' but also a rather deep character study and human drama mixed together with polished action and fine visual effects. The movie is a little slow out of the gate and the digital monster doesn't look seamlessly fantastic, but otherwise this is a real winner, a superb picture and an excellent movie revamp of a franchise that, perhaps, didn't scream out as needing a second look but that definitely benefits from it. Director Marc Webb's slightly more human take on the series works very well, as does the ensemble cast that largely beats out the primaries from the earlier films."
Another high-profile new release is Disney/Pixar's Brave. This animated adventure didn't net Pixar the same critical and commercial praise that films like WALL•E and Up drew; the story of a Scottish princess trying to forge her own destiny, Brave is a little too familiar, a little less inspired. It is also (give me a minute) funny, exciting, heartfelt, and genuinely engaging. This might be lesser Pixar, but it's worthy lesser Pixar, and hardly deserving of the scorn that met the Cars series.
Kenneth Brown reviewed the film, noting that "it's easy to dismiss Brave. It isn't as moving, awe-inspiring, invigorating, intelligent or sweeping as Pixar's best. But it also has valuable things to offer those who won't notice how familiar it all feels, who won't see its squandered potential, or care about its small-scale ambitions. A lesson in respect, honor and love. A tale of a family capable of weathering the worst storms. An adventure built on the notion that youthful impulse and tradition aren't mutually exclusive, and the idea that one is inadequate without the other. A magnificently animated entry in a master animation studio's catalog. Lesser Pixar film or no, Brave is all these things, and children, especially little girls, will adore everything it has to give."
One of cinema's crown jewels finally hits the HD format this week with the Blu-ray release of Lawrence of Arabia. No small screen can adequately display David Lean's masterful epic; Lean crafted every shot for maximum big-screen absorption, and even though Sony has spared no expense in providing Lawrence of Arabia with a sparkling 4K restoration, the grand visuals suffer somewhat on even the largest big-screen television. However, that format concern is the only issue plaguing this classic, which remains the great screen spectacle. Robert Bolt's screenplay is literate and highly relevant, and Peter O'Toole's performance as the title character is one for the time capsule.
Martin Liebman's Blu-ray review expresses the highest praise for the feature, how "film just doesn't get better than Lawrence of Arabia. This is an epic masterpiece if there ever was one, the cinephiles' film, the picture that defines everything that's great about its medium. The film boasts perhaps the finest direction and cinematography ever to shape a film, never mind its outstanding score and exacting acting. It's an unforgettable viewing experience...No surprise that this is perhaps the best Blu-ray release of the year -- save, perhaps, for the larger collector's edition set with added supplements and incentives"
Finally, the world of TV-on-Blu-ray gets a big addition with the release of Friends. One of the most popular series to ever air on television, David Crane and Marta Kauffman's iconic sitcom focuses on six young professionals sharing an apartment together in Manhattan. The program, which ran for ten years on NBC, made international stars out of its young cast, which includes Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer; the deluxe Blu-ray set compiles all ten seasons in one twenty-one-disc package.
This is an expensive week for me. Amazing Spider-Man, Brave 3D and FRIENDS!!!!!! I'm not happy that the Friends box set does not include the extended scenes but who am I really punishing by not buying the set? Me or the studio, so my vote is I'm BUYING IT!!!!
I was lucky enough to catch the one-day-only theatrical re-release of the restored Lawrence of Arabia. WOW, to put it mildly. It also alerted me that there area now a few studios doing such limited theatrical releases of restored classic movies. I've seen more movies in the last couple of months than in the last couple of years before that period :-)
My copy of the restored blu-ray collector's edition release should arrive in the next two days :-) Not as magnificent an experience but certainly more convenient for access.
Arriving from my preorders are four films I've been very excited about: Pasolini's Trilogy of Life box set; and Godard's Weekend (1967); plus two all-time favorites I've long yearned for on blu: Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (blu-ray book); and, the biggest and best of all, Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (the 50th Anniversary Limited Collectors Edition).
In the future, I'll likely buy The Amazing Spider-Man (probably in 3D); both versions of The Postman Always Rings Twice; and Watchmen (the Collector's Edition).
Down the line, especially with a sale, I may also buy Savages and Twilight's Last Gleaming