- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Here’s a look at a pair of “R”-rated films in the Blu-ray and 4K formats with one being a classic and the other with the potential to become a cult classic.

When Harry Met Sally … : 30th Anniversary Edition (Shout! Factory, rated R, 96 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $29.99) — Director Rob Reiner’s quirky romantic comedy celebrates an anniversary by returning to home theater screens with a digital facelift and a bountiful collection of extras to give fans a nostalgic dose of a very funny movie.

The always wise-cracking Billy Crystal stars as New York City political consultant Harry Burns. Viewers are privy to his character’s ever-evolving friendship with the grounded but lovable Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) that threatens to burgeon into a full-blown romance over the course of over a decade.

The laughs simmer throughout with a zippy script from Nora Ephron and with Mr. Crystal at his peak of hilarious obnoxious. Plenty of support to dissecting male and female interactions also arrives from Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher as the pair’s friends.

The breezy and fun film also shines with Mr. Reiner embracing the Woody Allen mentality of New York City relationships with some pretty great shots of the city from cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld.

Boasting a new 4K scan of the original camera negative transferred to only the high-definition format, the screen-filling presentation looks exceptionally sharp with vivid colors highlighting rosy skin tones and fall and winter in the Big Apple.

The visuals actually look better than when I originally saw them on a theater screen three decades ago.

A great jazzy soundtrack featuring Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr. further adds to the romantic ambiance as the never-ending battle for love plays out between the sexes.

Best extras: Before diving in, I was exhausted just reading the list of bonus content included on this single Blu-ray disc.

First, new as well as highly recommended, watch a 45-minute conversation between a pair of good friends, Mr. Reiner and Mr. Crystal. It’s funny and often worth a smile as they banter about their memories of the movie as well as their relationship during the production, admitting at one point that they are Harry and Sally.

They often analyze specifics touching on the 61 takes it required to shoot the four-person phone scene, the married couple vignettes, the creation of the orgasm-faking scene in the Jewish deli and Mr. Crystal’s improvisation of dialogue.

Both also deliver plenty of well-deserved back patting and compliments to each other (they laugh about it, multiple times).

The rest of the extras are culled from various DVD and Blu-ray releases over the years.

The best extras include an optional commentary track from 2008 with Mr. Reiner, Mr. Crystal and the late Ephron; a 33-minute documentary on the film from 2000; and a 20-minute conversation between the writer and the director from 2008.

Bad Times at The El Royale (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, 142 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $23.30) — Writer and director Drew Goddard’s underperforming crime noir thriller from 2018 looks for a cult following from home theater fans with its move to the ultra-high definition format.

In 1969, a nearly abandoned but opulent hotel straddling the Nevada and California state line becomes the setting for a scattered tale intersecting the lives of seven strangers harboring dark secrets.

I won’t give too much more away other than note that the large ensemble cast really shines throughout, led by Jeff Bridges as a bank robber impersonating a priest, Cynthia Erivo as an exploited soul singer, Dakota Johnson as a woman trying to rescue her sister from a cult, Jon Hamm as an FBI agent, Lewis Pullman as the hotel clerk and Chris Hemsworth as a Charles Manson-type cult leader.

Although Mr. Goddard wades too deep in the Tarantino genre of filmmaking with its jagged script structure, title cards, flashes of ultra violence and a classic soundtrack (mainly Motown in this case), he delivers an entertaining film that slowly simmers like a multi-tiered Clue game as each character’s story resolves.

The pure 4K presentation (culled from the digital intermediate created from 35mm film) highlights the 1960s-entrenched period piece and masterful work of production designer Martin Whist with a cornucopia of color and crisp detail.

The resulting visuals are truly memorable — be it the varied textured wallpaper, drapery and furnishings of the individual rooms; the vintage costuming and vehicles; and, best of all, the cult leader Billy Lee and his minions walking through a field of goldenrods.

Best extras: Devoid of any optional commentary track by Mr. Goddard, the included Blu-ray version of the film only offers a 29-minute overview of the production.

If viewers can wade through the constant compliments of cast and crew, they will find interesting segments on the detailed hotel (the structure and its parking area was actually built on a 60,000-square-foot sound stage); and its rooms’ custom pattern designs, down to the color choices representing Nevada (purples, silvers an blues) and California (golden oranges and browns).

They also get plenty on the strategy of costume design by Danny Glicker and learn about Mr. Bridges’ love of taking behind-the-scenes photographs during the movie making.

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