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Digital Divide: May 2010

| April 30, 2010

It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Blue

Fox Home Entertainment

I’ll admit it: I’m probably one of only 20 people in America who didn’t see Avatar in the theaters. Yet I felt no sense of shame or desperation about not taking part in the group collective, because I knew that the eventual home-video release would be stellar. I’d be able to put the big screen and Blu-Ray player through their paces, getting the most out of the technology and allowing me to rationalize ponying up hard-earned coin for gee-whiz gadgetry instead of, you know, paying bills and stuff. You’d think if ever there was a film tailormade to serve at the altar of techno-geek fetishism, it’s a no-brainer that it would be Avatar.

How wrong I was. Turns out, the rapid Blu-Ray release just made me angry. More on that in a moment.
The film itself is a marvel, no disputing that. From the technical and visual standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find a film more impressive to look at. But since director James Cameron has always been an innovator, with each film surpassing the last in terms of technical achievement, this should come as no surprise. The motion-capture technique used for Avatar alone could indeed revolutionize the way films are made.

Unlike a lot of films with monster production costs, Cameron’s films always look like they cost beaucoup bucks to make. The story may not live up to the cost, but every penny of it can be seen on the screen.

As far as the story is concerned, I think I actually liked Avatar better when it was called Dances With Wolves — it’s essentially the same story.

On Pandora, a moon orbiting a gas giant light years from Earth (which seemingly sprung from a Roger Dean Yes album cover), a military grunt named Jake Sully assimilates to the local culture while the powers-that-be plot to take over the land and resources. Of course, Sully is converted to the ways and means of the locals, and soon realizes that land grabs and genocide are, indeed, a bad thing.

But the story truly is secondary to the brilliant look of the film, which brings us to the Blu-Ray release. In a word: Horrible.

It’s a cash grab, nothing more.

During Avatar‘s theatrical run, you couldn’t turn the TV on without running into some network doing a feature on how it was made, who was in it, how much it cost, and so forth. So you would think that the home-video release would be so rich with special features, and possibly the 3D version included, that it might come out as a box set. There’s no doubt that version is coming, but for now all we get is a release with the film only. Special features? None. Zero. Zip. Nada. It’s simply a way to get a version to the masses and get their money before offering up a loaded version and getting everyone’s money yet again.

Maybe I’m wrong, however. Maybe people want to buy as many versions as they can. With almost 7 million units moved the week of its release, that looks to be the case.

Film: *** Features: zero

Crazy Heart
Fox Home Entertainment

Ever notice how some actors who are perennially nominated for Academy Awards and the likes never seem to actually win for the role they deserve to win for?

Well the Academy finally got it right with Crazy Heart, as Jeff Bridges submits the best performance of his career as Bad Blake, a washed-up country singer looking to find a way back.

Bridges has constantly turned in quality work over the course of his decades-long career, yet none have been as powerful and riveting as Bad Blake. Writer/Director Scott Cooper coaxes every last ounce of passion from him, and surrounds him with an equally strong supporting cast. There’s Maggie Gyllenhaal as Blake’s music journalist love interest with scars of her own and a son in tow, Robert Duvall showing up and being Robert Duvall (always a treat,) and even Colin Farrell as Blake’s protégé gone big-time turns in a surprisingly strong performance.

The Blu-Ray features 10 deleted scenes, as well as short bits with Bridges, Gyllenhaal, and Duvall, and a digital copy of the film. It’s a bit overpriced for the relative lack of features, but at least it has features.

Film: ***1/2 Features: **1/2

— Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Digital Divide, Monthly

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