Skip or Double Dip?: 'Unforgiven,' 'Ben-Hur,' 'The Town' and 'Day of the Dead 3D'

Skip or Double Dip?: 'Unforgiven,' 'Ben-Hur,' 'The Town' and 'Day of the Dead 3D'

Feb 29, 2012

Unforgiven: 20th Anniversary Edition

In 1992, director-producer-actor Clint Eastwood shot holes through everything stale and dusty about Westerns and crafted a dark tale of an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job after long since becoming a farmer. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Gene Hackman) and Best Film Editing.

What's New?: Unforgiven first debuted on Blu-ray on Halloween in 2006, making it one of the first wave of titles to be released on the format. It contained a robust collection of featurettes, including the feature-length documentary Eastwood on Eastwood. This new 20th anniversary edition ports over the exact same extras, same picture quality and, more perplexing, the same lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track you would expect on a DVD. The only thing new is the packaging: a hefty 54-page digibook packed with production photos, sketches, annotated script pages, studio correspondence and an essay by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel.

Skip or Double Dip?: Although the new book is handsome, we can't forgive Warner Bros. and buy the exact same Blu-ray again just to look at it, especially when there has been no improvement in sound quality or bonus features. Skip it.


Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Edition

Ben-Hur is the quintessential Hollywood epic starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur—a Jewish nobleman who is enslaved by the Romans and unleashes hell on his tormentors in the arena during the classic chariot race. The film won a record-setting 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture—an achievement repeated only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

What's New?: For its Blu-ray debut, the massive Ben-Hur Ultimate Collector's Edition housed two hardcover books, including a reproduction of Heston's personal journal chronicling his daily schedule on the production. The amount of extras on the discs themselves is biblical, including a documentary on Charlton Heston, the original 1925 silent movie Ben-Hur, several more documentaries and featurettes as well as highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards. Previously only on sale at Best Buy, this slimmed-down 50th Anniversary Edition—available either as a standalone Blu-ray or a BD/DVD combo pack—jettisons the books as well as many of the extras for a lower price. Now the only extras that remain are a commentary track, a music-only track and a few trailers.

Skip or Double Dip?: Ben-Hur is one of the top three Oscar winners of all time, so it makes sense that Warner Bros. keeps double dipping on this title so consumers can choose the edition that fits their needs. If you already own the Ultimate Collector's Edition, you deserve to be thrown to the lions for buying a budget edition of a movie of which you already own a superior version. Skip it.


The Town: Ultimate Collector's Edition

In his sophomore directorial effort, Ben Affleck also stars as a Boston bank robber who becomes romantically entangled with a woman who doesn't know that he was her captor during a heist. The crime thriller co-stars Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively and—although based on Chuck Hogan's pulp novel—is essentially the movie Set It Off with a bunch of white dudes instead of four female African-American bank robbers.

What's New?: The Town first came out on disc in December 2010, and only the Blu-ray edition included a commentary by Affleck for the extended cut and six mini-documentaries under the heading "Ben's Boston." This new Ultimate Collector's Edition has those extras as well as the new documentary "The Town: A Director's Journey." The bulked-up set includes the theatrical, extended and extended-with-alternate-ending versions of the film as well as a personal letter from Affleck, a 48-page photo booklet, four film-prop reproductions and a poster-size map of Charlestown.

Skip or Double Dip?: Not everyone—including this writer—thinks that The Town is a movie that warrants this kind of special treatment, but if The Town is your Twilight for some reason, you'll want this version with all the doodads.


Day of the Dead 3D (3D Blu-ray)

This loose remake of George A. Romero's 1985 zombie flick stars Mena Suvari as a military grunt helping to quarantine her small Colorado town after an undead epidemic begins. The surprisingly exciting and gleefully gory redo is directed by Steve Miner and co-stars Ving Rhames—who coincidentally also appears in the remake of Dawn of the Dead as a different character—as well as Nick Cannon and AnnaLynne McCord.

What's New?: Day of the Dead rose on disc in December 2008 with several bonus features, including commentary, interviews, an on-set featurette and a still gallery. This new Blu-ray 3D leaves all of those extras buried elsewhere. In addition, even though the packaging boldly states "Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray on One Disc," there is more to the story. Yes, it appears that both the 2D and 3D version are included on the new Blu-ray 3D, but there isn't any way to choose which version you would like to watch. If you put the disc in a Blu-ray 3D player, you're going to get the 3D version of the movie even if you would like to watch the 2D version. The only way to view the 2D version on the Blu-ray 3D disc is to play the disc on a regular Blu-ray player, which kind of defeats the purpose of buying the movie on 3D to begin with.

Skip or Double Dip?: Although the 3D effect of blood and body parts flying at you is a fun upgrade to a decent zombie flick, the lack of extras and the inability to choose the 2D or 3D presentation means that you shouldn't bury your original Day of the Dead Blu-ray if you double-dip for this one.

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