Blu in Your Face: January 15th, 2013

By Luke Y. Thompson in DVDs
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

Highlighting the best and/or most notable of today's new-to-Blu-ray releases.

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Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season. As the final season hits its swing on U.S. shores, relive the penultimate one to see what you missed - if, like me, you vowed to pretty much not care until they got to the good bits of Morte d'Arthur and now want some backstory, this is for you. Yes, it's a watered-down Arthurian legend, and yes, some of the choices they make seem arbitrary and just for the sake of being different. But it was becoming a fan of this series that persuaded my fiancee to watch Excalibur, so it was worth it.

Taken 2. Speaking of Excalibur, it's been quite a career arc for the "big fella" who played Sir Gawain in that movie, a.k.a. Liam Neeson. He came to our attention in movies like that and Darkman, became Mr. Serious in stuff like Schindler's List, and now is back to kicking ass again. He's about the only thing we have in the action world nowadays to an old-school tough guy like Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson, believably intimidating without the aid of a perfectly sculpted physique or martial arts prowess, and happy to star in movies with completely reactionary politics (girls, if you don't obey your strict dad, you'll get molested and enslaved by evil foreigners!). But the throwback feature I embrace the most in Mr. Neeson would have to be his "Amurrrrican" accent. Like Arnold, albeit with a different underlying brogue, he never quite got the hang of it. And it makes him more awesome.

Wake in Fright - Rerelease of an insane 1971 Australian flick (from the director of First Blood and Weekend at Bernie's), in which a teacher gets stranded in a small Outback town, and ends up getting absolutely wasted with dubious doctor Donald Pleasence, as they periodically hunt kangaroos (real kangaroo hunt footage is used, which would be illegal today) and drink massive amounts of beer. Basically, an exaggerated cautionary tale about your most reckless drinking buddies and the way they constantly threaten to drag you down to their level permanently. Highly recommended.

Branded - I never saw this trippy-looking satire of commercialism, in which advertising billboards appear to turn into CG monsters and mess with people's heads. It only lasted a week in theaters, but based on reviews I did see, I suspect that even if it sucks, it will suck in bizarre ways I've never seen before. Can't wait.

Readers - I'm still not sure whether to create a new category for Blu-rays, or keep it in DVDs, since technically the full name of a Blu-ray is a Blu-ray DVD. Any thoughts?

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