If you’re an owner of a 3D-capable HDTV, then today is a hell of a day for you. By my count nine 3D Blu-rays hit story shelves today, which should give you plenty of new content to watch. Some of it’s bound to be more of a priority than others – for example, A Christmas Carol is sure to be a more exhilarating watch than Open Season – but if you’ve spent all that money on a 3D TV, player and glasses, you’re probably going to want to stock up on as many 3D titles as possible.
Unless of course one of those titles is The Last Airbender, which has the double-whammy fail of being the worst feature film of the year as well as the worst 3D film of the year. I’m not sure why anyone would want to watch it and I’m even less sure why they’d want to watch it again in 3D.
Even if you don’t have a 3D TV, there are still a handful of Blu-ray highlights this week to consider:
Top Shelf – Any elaborate collector’s editions or box sets.
Middle Shelf – Standard releases of fairly well known movies available at a reasonable price.
Bottom Shelf – Titles that are either A) suspiciously cheap or B) being released with very little fanfare.
The Movie: I’m not sure why Robert Zemeckis’ take on Charles Dicken’s classic tale received such a tepid reaction when it hit theaters last year. It may not be the most restrained adaptation of the story ever made, but that is precisely what makes it so unique. Most adults over the age of, say, 50 are going to look at its motion-capture animation and scoff at how technology gets in the way of good ‘ole fashioned storytelling, but that’s not who this movie was made for.
Zemeckis’ Christmas Carol is made for kids who think every other version of the story is boring. It’s full of the kind of whizbang spectacle that entertains kids regardless of the content, and to that end I actually admire Zemeckis’ film even more simply because it’s the cinematic equivalent of bubblegum flavored toothpaste; it’s good for the youngsters and they don’t even know it. Plus, on the animation front, the movie simply looks dynamite. Zemeckis’ special brand of mo-cap is really coming into its own, even if it’s still clear that at this stage it’s a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
The Features: Not only can you watch the entire film as it was originally performed in its motion capture environment, but you can watch it as a picture-in-picture with the completed film for immediate comparison AND you can toggle on-and-off a feature length commentary track from Zemeckis explaining exactly how everything was done. It’s innovative, customizable special features like this that really showoff how more advanced Blu-rays can be than DVDs.
There’s also a more formal Making-Of segment on the disc, which is interesting because it contains input from the actor’s perspective a bit more than similar featurettes do. It’s not as technically comprehensive as the ones found on Beowulf, but if you have a kid who is interested in filmmaking at all, this should spur their interest even more.
Who Should Buy It: Parents looking to expand their family watching library. The presentation of the film is stunning and it’s faithful enough to Dickens’ story to make it worthwhile for adults, but it’s also just zany enough to keep the kids interested.