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Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Tim Salmons of The Digital Bits

Clerks: 15th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

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Clerks: 15th Anniversary Edition
1994 (2011) - Miramax (Lionsgate)
Released on Blu-ray on April 26th, 2011
Also available on DVD
Original DVD still available


Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 16.5
Audio (1-20): 15
Extras: A-

"Just because they serve you doesn't mean they like you."

Kevin Smith's low budget masterpiece Clerks is one of those "love it" or "hate it" kind of movies. It gave birth to countless imitators and was a major part of the raging independent film scene in 1994. Shot for $26,000 with a crew of amateur filmmakers and actors, the film managed to find its way into the Sundance Film Festival, and eventually, into the hands of Miramax.

The film spoke to a generation of teenagers and young adults who were stuck behind counters across the country and gave them a film with a premise that they could truly relate to. Smith's penchant for witty dialogue and his ability to write colorful characters with true to life sensibilities is what made the film successful. Not only did he manage to carve out his own personal niche and fan base in the film market, but being outside of the cookie cutter filmmaking system allowed him to accept more personal opportunities rather than professional ones. People have constantly criticized him and his work over the years, but he has always maintained that the personal statements that he makes within his work are far more important than aesthetic or style. The same argument could be made for Clerks. In addition to being cited by critics and fans alike as his most honest work, it's also regarded as one of the most enduring independent films ever made.

For its 15th Anniversary, the rights to the film have been handed over to Lionsgate for the Blu-ray release. Shot on 16mm film with a black & white camera and blown up for theatrical release, Clerks has certainly never been seen as a cosmetic wonder. Its grainy monochrome look has always had the appeal of discovering an old worn-out VHS. Thankfully for this release, there's been nothing done to enhance that lack of quality. There aren't any signs of unnecessary augmentation or digital manipulation to be found anywhere. The contrast is high and brings out more prominently the deep grain embedded in the print, especially in the white areas of the frame. It also helps to alleviate the slightly soft focus stemming from the original production. You'll be pleased to know that this is still a 16x9 enhanced frame-correct version, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (which was cropped and letterboxed on the original DVD release). The presentation isn't the best quality that the format has to offer, but again, this film has never been seen in that kind of light. The digital clarity is an improvement, but only marginally so.

The audio is also nothing to leap for joy over either. With only one option available, English 5.1 DTS-HD, this master audio track is not a surround sound system's dream come true by any stretch. Similar to the video presentation, the lack of aural aesthetic is really to blame here and the multiple channels aren't really a benefit or an improvement. For instance, the rear channels only see real use during the soundtrack portions without opening things up. The dialogue and sound effects are all audible and clear, but they tend to dominate the front speakers. So don't expect to be wowed by the acoustics, or lack thereof. However, I don't perceive this to be a huge negative because of the nature of the film itself, but for reviewing purposes, I have to judge accordingly. For those that require subtitles, you'll find a multitude of options including English, English SDH and Spanish.

The extras included have been culled mostly from the Clerks X DVD release and supplement the film well. New to this release is an intro by Kevin and the unreleased documentary Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. For the theatrical version, there's an audio commentary with Kevin, Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes and Brian O'Halloran. The Enhanced Trivia Track has also been included again but updated to match the style of the menu design. For the original cut of the movie, titled The First Cut, the very entertaining video commentary has also been carried over featuring Kevin, Scott, Brian, Jason and Jeff Anderson. Also present is the introduction to The First Cut by Kevin and Scott in which they jokingly make a request to do a fan commentary for a future DVD release of Road House (which they did). There's also three multi-angle viewing modes for the commentary: picture in picture, full screen or audio only. The video quality of The First Cut is just as terrible as it was on the previous release of the movie while the video commentary has also been downgraded quite a bit. Regardless, it's still nice to see its inclusion. The Clerks Restoration featurettes, Restoring the Clerks Sound with Scott Mosier and Restoring the Clerks Look with David Klein, as well as the intro by Kevin and Scott, have all also been carried over. All of the Original Clerks Auditions along with the original intro by Kevin and Scott are also present, as is the great documentary Snowball Effect: The Story of Clerks, Outtakes from Snowball Effect, the 10th Anniversary Q & A, the Clerks: The Lost Scene animated segment, The Flying Car short film, the Soul Asylum's Can't Even Tell music video, the MTV Spots with Jay & Silent Bob, the theatrical trailer and, finally, the Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary short film with an intro by Kevin and Scott. Although this is a very wealthy set of extras, there's quite a plethora of mostly reading material that hasn't been included from previous releases. All of the reviews, articles and journal entries from Disc 3 of the Clerks X release haven't been included here. Also missing from that release is the original screenplay from the DVD-ROM extras, as well as the photo galleries and the insert booklet that included reproductions of posters, reviews and memorabilia. So if you're thinking of upgrading, I suggest hanging on to that release.

This Blu-ray release may not be flawless, but it's the best-quality version of the film available, and that's saying something. Clerks is not only one of the funniest films of the 90's, but it's also a snapshot of a bunch of amateur filmmakers pulling off a pipe dream. To be fair, the film isn't perfect - people flub lines, sound effects are a little silly and even the camera work is a little dodgy at times (not to mention the visual and aural quality). Despite all of that, it still endures.

Tim Salmons

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Blu-ray Disc)

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
2010 (2010) - Universal
Released on Blu-ray Disc on November 9th, 2010
Also available on DVD

DTS-HD Master Audio

Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 20
Audio (1-20): 20
Extras: A+

Scott Pilgrim, a young musician from Toronto, falls in love with the new girl in town: Ramona Flowers. The only catch to dating her is that he must defeat her seven evil exís who are all out to annihilate him.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name and drawing heavily from video games and anime for its frenzied and frenetic style, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ultimately failed to make a lasting impression at the box office during its initial theatrical release. However, that hasn't stopped it from being successful in its aftermarket life (only further proving that the filmís core audience is made up of a legion of geeks... myself included). This modern day Rocky Horror Picture Show is a living, breathing video game - meticulously brought to life by Edgar Wright and his team of special effects wizards. His over-the-top approach fits just perfectly within this kind of story, making for a roller coaster ride of a movie, but be forewarned: trying to follow any sort of logic in a movie like this is a waste of time. To be succinct, this soon-to-be cult classic will rock your socks off.

For its debut on Blu-ray, the video presentation alone is reason enough to purchase it. I have three words for you: flat-out beautiful. Images are crisp, grain is extremely minimal (if not non-existent) and the contrast is high without overdoing it. The color palette is absolutely solid and even, making for one lush visual presentation. Everything is so crystal clear and perfect that it deserves our highest of ratings. On the audio side of things, you have a few different options: English DTS-HD 5.1, DVS 2.0 and French & Spanish DTS Surround 5.1 tracks. The master audio track is extremely impressive. Enveloping the listener with a bass-thumping soundtrack while constantly being on the move helps make this a fantastic surround experience that will have your speakers bleeding pure sonic happiness (and make you want to rush out to buy the soundtrack). In the subtitle department, there's the standard English SDH, French and Spanish options for those who need them.

Regarding the supplements, this has got to be one of the most overstuffed packages of recent memory. Literally, this disc is bleeding with content. It would take forever just to list it all and wouldn't be very good reading anyways, so I'll try to minimize as much as I can without skipping anything. Kicking things off are a set of four audio commentaries: the first with Edgar Wright, co-writer Michael Bacall and graphic novel author Bryan Lee O'Malley; the second with Edgar and director of photography Bill Pope; the third with actors Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong and Brandon Routh; and finally the fourth commentary with actors Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Kieran Culkin and Mark Webber. There's also a Trivia Track, as well as a set of Deleted Scenes (including a bonus song that didn't make it into the final film). Following that are a set of outtakes entitled Scott Pilgrim vs. the Bloopers. More deleted footage follows in the Alternative Footage section, but this only scratches the surface as the bulk of the extras can be found in all of the documentaries and featurettes. The Documentaries section contains three featurettes, the Pre-Production Footage sub-section contains thirteen more items of interest, the Animatics sub-section contains seventeen animatics, the Rehearsal Videos sub-section contains eight featurettes and, last but not least, three sub-section featurettes closes this section out. The Music Promos section is split into two sub-sections containing four music videos & seven OSYMYSO remixes while the Visual Effects section has three options to check out. The next option on the list, Soundworks Collection: Sound for Film Profile, covers the massive amount of work put into the film's soundtrack. The Trailers section sports three theatrical trailers, eighteen TV spots and four video game trailers. Next is the Adult Swim: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World animated segment, the Scott Pilgrim vs. the Censors: TV Safe Version featurette, a set of fifteen video blogs from Edgar Wright that originally premiered on the film's website and, finally, a Galleries section that is broken up into twelve different areas of interest. There are several BD-Live options, as well as the option to digitally download two bonus movies: Pitch Black and Tremors. I have to be honest here and say that this option left me scratching my head a bit. In my opinion, the two films for optional download should have been Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - both owned by Universal AND both directed by Edgar Wright. That would have made much more sense to me than just simply picking a couple of movies at random. On the DVD version included in this set, you get four audio options: English 5.1, DVS 2.0 and French & Spanish 5.1. Subtitles include English SDH, French and Spanish. The extras that carry over include all four audio commentaries, the Trivia Track, the Deleted Scenes, Bloopers and Galleries. You also have the option to use pocketBlu with your mobile device to download the aforementioned bonus movies as well as a Digital Copy using the code from the paper insert thatís been included. All of this material is comprehensive and endlessly informative and should cover just about anything you would want to know about the film... to say the least.

And that brings us to the end of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on Blu-ray. Fans old and new will find nothing to complain about with this release. It has got to be one of the most exhaustive home viewing experiences available for a single film. There's no stone left unturned with the bonus content and the presentation is top notch. The additional internet and mobile phone options are a bit of a nuisance, but other than that, this is one marvelously well-put together package and well-worth your hard-earned dollars. Highly recommended.

Tim Salmons
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