Blu-ray is generally shown to its best advantage with movies that have been filmed in vivid outdoor locations or whose special effects pop even more with high-definition enhancement. The latter is demonstrated this week with the release of the two "Tron" movies.
"Tron: Legacy" (Disney/Blu-ray, 2010, PG, two discs, $39.99).
"Tron: The Original Classic" (Disney/Blu-ray, 1982, PG, two discs, $39.99). "Legacy" was a great ride in theaters last year, with Jeff Bridges essentially playing two roles, one of them being a computerized younger Bridges (a la "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). Actually, that aspect is kinda creepy, as is often the case with computer-animation "realistic" humans.
In addition, the plot isn't particularly fresh, as Bridges' son (Garett Hedlund) tries to find out what happened to dad when he disappeared 30 years earlier. Those who have seen the original "Tron" know that pop was sucked into a video-game world of his own making. So, naturally, sonny boy winds up being sucked in as well, and after a reunion, he helps the older, wiser Bridges battle his younger, evil, alter-ego program.
But plot doesn't really matter here. As with the original "Tron," this is all about the special effects, with races and chases designed to pump up the adrenalin. And on that level, it succeeds. (There is also a number of tricked-out bonus features on the Blu-ray disc.)
Both films do lose a bit of the magic when reduced to the smaller home screen, but they're still fun. (I can't imagine what they're like on a phone.) And "Legacy" is a real trip, with nice support from Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen and Bruce Boxleitner (reprising his role from the first film), and special note should be made of the music by Daft Punk, which perfectly complements the action.
The Blu-ray release of the original "Tron" emphasizes that the special effects may not be as sophisticated as the new film, but they can be admired for what they were striving for at the time. It's easy to see that some were simply unable to catch up with the filmmakers' ideas.
The primary bonus feature on "Tron Legacy" is a talky 10-minute faux documentary, "The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed," with Boxleitner and Hedlund, about what happens to Encon after the film's conclusion.
Extras: widescreen, audio commentary (on "Tron: The Original Classic"), featurettes, music video (on "Tron Legacy"), trailers
"Wallenberg: A Hero's Story" (Paramount, 1985, $16.99). Well before Steven Spielberg made "Schindler's List," there was this two-part TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain about another man of conviction who tried to circumvent the Holocaust.
Raoul Wallenberg was a diplomat at the Swedish embassy in Hungary working in league with the United States to aid Hungarian Jews, eventually leading to more than 100,000 being rescued after Nazi leader Adolph Eichman vowed to exterminate every Jew in the country as his parting shot at the end of World War II.
Big-budget production values help this riveting, gripping story, one of Chamberlain's best miniseries, and his performance is first-rate.
Extras: full frame, two episodes, recap, preview
"Arthur"/"Arthur 2: On the Rocks" (Warner/Blu-ray, 1981/1988, PG, $19.98). Dudley Moore is in top form as the title character of these films, and, as you might expect, the original is much better than the sequel. "Arthur" was one of Moore's biggest hits, earning him his only Academy Award nomination. (And what a coincidence that a remake is out this week.)
Arthur is a fabulously wealthy but spoiled man-child who is pampered and cared for by his butler, a stoic, acid-tongued but loving father-figure (John Gielgud in a hilarious performance that won the best supporting actor Oscar).
The plot has Arthur being forced into an arranged marriage when he meets and falls for a free-spirited working-class waitress (Liza Minnelli), forcing him to decide whether love is more important than money.
Lots of clever quips bolster this one, which was deliberately constructed as an old-fashioned screwball comedy (albeit with a few modern-day vulgar gags).
In the 21st century, it may be a bit more difficult to laugh at someone who is so obviously an alcoholic, but it's witty enough to get away with it most of the way. ("Arthur 2" has a few laughs but isn't nearly as inspired.)
"Midway to Heaven" (Excel, 2011, PG, $19.99). Veteran local actor Michael Flynn makes his directing debut with this beautifully photographed (in Midway) adaptation of the Dean Hughes novel.
The plot has a longtime widower (Curt Doussett) dating again and not handling it well, especially since he's also trying to accept his new prospective son-in-law (Kirby Heybourne), who seems too perfect to be true.
Some of the jokes seem poorly thought out, falling flat a bit too often, but it's a sweetly well-intentioned effort.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scene, featurette, outtakes, trailer
"Bill Moyers: The Language of Life" (Athena, 1995, three discs, $59.99). This documentary series combines interviews with 18 writers with readings and performances of poetry in front of live audiences to celebrate language.Comment on this story
Extras: full frame, eight episodes, text biographies/guide to poetry festivals; 16-page booklet
"iCarly: Season 2, Volume 3" (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2009-10, three discs, $19.99). These are the final episodes of Season 3, as Carly, Sam, Freddie, Spencer and Gibby participate in fan awards, speed dating and the (extended) episode where Carly is saved by Freddie from a runaway taco truck and begins to see him in a new light.
Extras: full frame, 17 episodes, featurettes, pilot episode of "T.U.F.F. Puppy"