Recommendation of the Week:
The African Queen (Blu-ray: $39.99 MSRP, much lower at most retailers)
Can you believe Humphrey Bogart only won one Oscar in his lifetime? It was for this movie. Personally, I think he was robbed from winning it for Casablanca, but The African Queen is a worthy win as well. He really delivers a powerful performance as Charlie Allnut, the rough and tumble boat captain working his boat, the African Queen. But it's Katherine Hepburn who really turns in a tour de force performance as Rose Sayer, a tough as nails missionary in East Africa. Paramount recently completed a massive 4k restoration on this title, and it looks simply amazing on Blu-ray. The standard Blu-ray set gets you the movie, while the slightly more expensive box set comes with a CD of the original radio production of The African Queen (with Bogart) and Hepburn's book The Making of The African Queen or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. Seriously good filmmaking and performances against a wonderful story based on C.S. Forester's novel of the same name. Highly recommended. Now someone just put Bogey's The Caine Mutiny on Blu-ray and I'll be happy.
Read on after the break for the rest of our recommendations, then chime in below!
Xbox Live Video Marketplace (Xbox 360)
Halo Legends (420($5.25) HD, 280($3.50) SD, to rent; 1360($17) HD, 1200($15) SD, to own)
I saw a sneak of some of this at Comic-Con last year, and while I love Halo as much as the next guy, I couldn't help but think, "Why anime?" In fact, I'm still not sure why they chose this style to further tell tales in the Halo universe. I think the makers thought they'd ride in on the coattails of other properties that went anime, like The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight. Once you get past the art style, however, you realize that the stories they're telling are pretty compelling. It might be hard to leave your finger off of the trigger and just watch a Halo story unfold, but Legends does a very good job of it. These seven stories let you find out about the Spartan's combat technique, why ODSTs and Spartans don't get along that well and of course more about everyone's favorite faceless protagonist, Master Chief.
Netflix Watch Instantly (Mac/PC, Xbox Live, PS3 and now Wii!, subscription required: starts at $8.99 per month)
Ghost in the Shell
Forget about the awful Ghost in the Shell 2.0, which was confusingly a reproduction of the original movie with updated CGI animation and new voices. The original Ghost in the Shell is where it's at. This is the animated movie that inspired the Wachowski Brothers to make The Matrix, and you can see its influence all over that trilogy. This dark and gritty movie was based on Masamune Shirow's manga of the same name, and it's truly an animated movie meant for adult audiences. It also featured an ass-kicking female lead in Major Motoko Kusanagi, who was is able to take massive opposition thanks to her cyborg body. There's all sorts of stuff to technogeek out on this movie, but the visuals, the story and the score are truly amazing. If you haven't seen Ghost in the Shell, it's time to treat yourself to some truly amazing Japanese moviemaking. The sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence wasn't that great, but the television series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is decent. Now go and blast your eyeballs.
PlayStation Store (PlayStation 3 or PSP)
Sherlock Holmes ($5.99HD, $3.99 SD, to rent, $14.99 SD to own)
Alright, this was one I went back and forth on. Seriously, this was a tough decision. Why? Because this is not a good Sherlock Holmes movie. I grew up reading the Sherlock Holmes adventures, and to be honest they're pretty boring and stodgy. Most of the action is of the intellectual variety, and Holmes certainly never acted like a preening buffoon. Now, having said that, this is an entirely entertaining movie. I just can't call it a Sherlock Holmes movie. Robert Downey Jr. is marvelous, as always, and Jude Law is a very active Watson, who is usually chubby and dimwitted in the other adaptations, even though he's perfectly capable on his own. Guy Ritchie's makeover of Holmes is splashy, fun, ridiculous and extremely over the top. You just have to divorce yourself from the notion that this is in any way faithful to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes novels. Stop worrying and learn to love the bomb, already. They've announced that a sequel to this is in the works, so expect more Holmes rebootage in the future.
Blu-ray Disc (PlayStation 3)
Toy Story 1 and 2 ($39.99 MSRP per title, lower at most retailers)
Do I really need to sell you on this? It's Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2 for pete's sake. Two of the most successful animated films of all time, and ones that burned Pixar into your brains as a company that could do no wrong. It's also one of the rare examples of a film where the sequel is better than the original. Stinky Pete for the win. Now they're on Blu-ray. What's not to love? These two films look as crisp as through they were pumped out of a render farm right onto your screen, the DTS-HD audio is crystal clear and the discs are packed with extras: over 90 minutes worth on Toy Story and 60 minutes worth on Toy Story 2. Plus, both of them include a regular DVD copy, which is becoming standard for Disney's Blu-ray titles -- a nice addition. There will surely be a box set that includes Toy Story 3 sometime later this year, but these are ready to watch right now. Seriously, these are top-tier Disney films for both kids and adults. Give the kids those standard DVDs and keep the Blu-rays for yourself, then watch them as a primer for Toy Story 3, due out this summer.
But enough of our yakkin', what are you watching?