You’d be hard-pressed to find a group more anxious than “Star Trek” fans on the date director J.J. Abrams was tapped to reboot the franchise. It was a tall order. “Trek” had notably faltered at the box office after the dreadful “Nemesis,” and had been unceremoniously dumped from the airwaves after the lackluster “Enterprise.” And now here was a guy who openly boasted that he had barely watched “Star Trek.” Even his directing credentials were thin — a few television episodes here and there and one feature film in “Mission: Impossible III.” It all made for a very skeptical fanbase for a franchise many thought should lay dorment to catch its breath.
But as we know, J.J. Abrams shocked critics and Trekkers alike by stylishly crafting his own “Star Trek” universe without stepping on Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. By telling the story of James T. Kirk’s origin in the Federation, and the beginnings of his relationship with Spock, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and McCoy, Abrams brought a reborn franchise to the masses as a loud, wiz-bang summer blockbuster. And now “Trek” is dropping on DVD and Blu-ray. As could be expected, this is one of the most visually spectacular films of the year and especially on Blu-ray, looks absolutely pristine. Likewise for the audio, which delivers every phaser blast and fiery explosion with wall-shattering accuracy. The three-disc edition absolutely brims with extras, including a feature-length director’s commentary, and over two hours of behind-the-scenes documentaries that take viewers inside the considerable special effects, casting process, starship design, sets and more (catch a peek at the bonus features here). In short, this is one of the top releases of the year.
The other new theatrical offering is “Brüno,” Sasha Baron Cohen’s flamboyant follow-up to his wildly successful “Borat.” The film follows Cohen crisscrossing the United States in character as Brüno, a flashy Austrian fashionista. Like “Borat,” Brüno looks to expose prejudices and cast a sense of social experiment by placing ordinary Americans in incredibly awkward situations. Like with “Borat,” the meat of the Blu-ray and DVD are deleted and extended scenes from the film, and this disc provides more than an hour of those (including one scene with Paula Abdul that you can watch here).
The rest of the week’s big releases fall in the Blu-ray camp. David Fincher’s “Fight Club” gets a high-def remastering and some new HD extras (sound design and backstage at the Spike Guys Choice awards). Of particular note is a gag devised by Fincher himself: upon placing the disc in your player, the title screen for Drew Barrymore’s “Never Been Kissed” is displayed for a few seconds, before melting into “Fight Club.” Har.
Also new is “The Kevin Smith Collection,” a Blu-ray set that includes “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” While the extras are mostly repackaged from earlier editions, “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” do feature a few new additions, mostly on the “Chasing Amy” side where we get a new commentary by Smith, and a nearly 90-minute high-def look at the making of the film.
Other Blu-ray releases this week include the complete series of HBO’s “Rome,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Léon: The Professional,” and appropriately enough, “Galaxy Quest,” the comedic ode to “Trek.”
Lastly, for those vintage film fans out there, “Gone with the Wind” is celebrating its 70th birthday with an “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” that comes in a velvet-covered, foot-long hard case. The print has been completely restored for this high-def update, and has never looked or sounded better. It also comes with hours of special features, with the new additions being a Hollywood-minded documentary which looks at the year 1939, and new interviews and looks at shooting locations.
DVD & BLU-RAY NEWS:
The anti-whaling doc “The Cove” is set for December 8. Charlize Theron’s indie flick “The Burning Plain” has been announced for January 12, with the Oscar potential “Bright Star” coming a week later on January 19. Marvel’s animated “Planet Hulk” will smash things on February 2, the same day “To Live and Die in L.A.” hits Blu-ray.
Judd Apatow’s latest “Funny People,” Tom Hanks goes Roman in “Angels & Demons,” Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon have a wacky holiday in “Four Christmases,” and assorted catalog and television titles (including the first season of “The Sopranos” dropping on Blu-ray.