It’s a good week to be an inhabitant of Middle Earth – the first stills of actor Martin Freeman as the lead in director Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” debuted in Entertainment Weekly, while the extended editions of the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy have finally made their way onto Blu-ray.
Yet, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work shouldn’t be the only ones rejoicing. Along with Tuesday’s announcement of the “Jurassic Park” trilogy’s release on Blu-ray for the first time ever, there are several highly anticipated films and television shows making their way onto the format this year.
Scene & Heard helps mark your calendars with the releases that are sure to excite fans of every genre.
“Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy” (June 28)
When the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy initially made its way onto the Blu-ray format in April 2010, it was met with disgust and disappointment from many of the series’ most loyal fans.
New Line Cinema had only released the theatrical cuts of each film, rather than the popular extended editions that director Peter Jackson had released on the DVD format.
New Line and Jackson look as if they have fulfilled their promise to make up for the previous release’s shortcomings – the new set has drawn raves from Blu-Ray aficionado sites like blu-ray.com.
“Beauty and the Beast” (July 19)
For many critics and viewers, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 retelling of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” tale still stands as the definitive version of the fantastical story.
Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast” release is being handled by the prestigious Criterion Collection, which specializes in transferring obscure and critically acclaimed films to both DVD and Blu-ray.
The film’s release is packed with essays by noted film scholars, documentaries about the film’s production, and a rare interview with cinematographer Henri Alekan, who is responsible for the look of the film’s many breathtaking fantasy scenes.
“The Blues Brothers” and “Animal House” (July 26)
Throughout the late ’70s and most of the ’80s, director John Landis’ name was synonymous with smash comedy and horror films ranging from “An American Werewolf in London” to “Coming to America.”
His third film, 1978’s “Animal House,” would go on to blockbuster success and endure years of frat boy fandom, while 1980’s “The Blues Brothers” has become a certified comedy classic and is still often considered the best film based on “Saturday Night Live.”
As first-time Blu-ray releases, “Animal House” will feature a documentary about the making of the film while “The Blues Brothers” will have a special cut that features 15 extra minutes of footage.
“Eastbound & Down” Season 1 and 2 (August 2)
For those whose sense of humor leans more towards black comedy, the release of both seasons of HBO’s acclaimed “Eastbound & Down” will more than suffice.
Actor Danny McBride has been playing the arrogant Kenny Powers for two seasons now on the hit show, with talent like David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, and “Anchorman” director Adam McKay stepping in behind the camera to help Powers in his attempt to return to the public eye as a professional baseball player.
If the quality of the first season’s DVD release holds true for these discs, then you’ll find commentary tracks that are just as funny as the episodes themselves and features that explore the creative process of the show’s demented writing and directing team.
“Citizen Kane” (September 13)
The release of director Orson Welles’s landmark film “Citizen Kane” on Blu-ray is sure to send many film fans into a frenzy.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Welles’ best and most acclaimed work, “Citizen Kane” will be receiving the royal treatment upon its release. The Ultimate Collector’s Edition will feature commentaries by Roger Ebert and “The Last Picture Show” director Peter Bogdanovich, along with reproduced marketing materials and a 48-page collector’s book.
“Citizen Kane” has long been a movie used to study the more academic side of filmmaking, and this release looks to offer fans even more to explore than previous DVD releases of this classic film.
“Star Wars: The Complete Saga” (September 16)
While many die-hard “Star Wars” fanatics will cry foul on series creator George Lucas all over again, this set looks to contain all the essentials for a nice evening of epic-scale space battles and a reminder that summer blockbusters weren’t always dumb.
Lucas has released the “Star Wars” series what feels like a million times at this point, but with loads of new commentaries and documentary features, this new Blu-ray collection will certainly please lots of “Star Wars” fans come September.
What will appeal to many casual “Star Wars” fans is that they will have the option to buy the original trilogy separate from the prequels. While many of the tweaks Lucas has made to the original “Star Wars” films will still be present, at least he’s decided to give people the option of not purchasing the ones they hate.
“Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy” (October 25)
Universal Studios released the Steven Spielberg-produced “Back to the Future” trilogy on Blu-ray last October to fan adoration, and he looks to duplicate that success with the release of the beloved “Jurassic Park” series.
With Spielberg promising in a June 3 interview with Ain’t It Cool News that he would no longer digitally enhance his classic films, fans should expect a pristine high-definition transfer of the dinosaurs they love to see terrorizing the humans that brought them back from the dead.
The set will feature all three “Jurassic Park” films, as well as exclusives that delve into the groundbreaking digital effects used to create the scaly dinosaurs, a look at early pre-production meetings for the film and explorations of both the Industrial Light and Magic and Stan Winston effects studios.