September 19, 2015
        “Inside Out”: Looking at potential Best Animated Feature Contenders                "Black Mass" could get Johnny Depp back in the Oscar game                J.J. Abrams and Denis Villeneuve: Ten potential first time writer/director nominees for Oscar in 2015                Roger Deakins offers up some of his very best cinematography in "Sicario"                "The Martian" launches itself as an awards hopeful at the Toronto Film Festival                "Steve Jobs": Oscar predictions for September                "Sleeping with Other People" is one of the most charming films of 2015                Sandra Bullock looks like a contender in the Trailer for "Our Brand is Crisis"                Sam Smith will sing the theme song for the upcoming 007 film "Spectre"                Richard Gere is an under the radar Best Actor contender for "Time Out of Mind"                Telluride and Venice launch festival debuts into the Oscar race                “The Hateful Eight”: Looking at potential Best Original Screenplay Contenders                David O. Russell and Ridley Scott: Which filmmaking contenders this year are most due for their first win?                Telluride Announces 2015 Lineup - Steve Jobs, Black Mass, Suffragette                “Sicario”: Ten Films to see in September        

“The Karate Kid” combo transfers first two films to Blu

By Sean O’Connell stays on top of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases so you know which films are worth your time and money. This week, we review:

“The Karate Kid” and “The Karate Kid II” (Blu-ray)

Combing through the DVD collection, I was surprised to discover I didn’t own John G. Avildsen’s “Karate Kid.” Parts two and three were on the shelf, but the original — and by far the best — was absent.

Not that I needed a physical copy of the first “Kid.” Virtually every frame of the high-school “Rocky” had been committed to memory, and not just by me, but by a generation of movie lovers who still can affect the arching crane stance or jokingly quote “wax on, wax off” anytime they’re cleaning a car.

With a remake on the way, Sony Home Entertainment put Avildsen’s inspirational drama (and its equal sequel) through the Blu-ray filter, packaging them into a collectible set and giving me the opportunity to finally add the modern classic to my collection.

So why did millions of us connect with underdog Daniel (Ralph Macchio), a New Jersey fish out of water drowning in a Southern Californian pond who’s assisted by surrogate father Miyagi (Pat Morita) and instructed in the ancient ways of karate? Macchio and Morita chalk it up to their palpable chemistry on the multi-part “Way of the Karate Kid,” an added supplement on the “Kid” Blu-ray. It must have helped that Avildsen had been through the pacings of a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps with Sylvester Stallone’s boxing drama. But successful casting decisions made with Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, and the fantastic Martin Kove only fortified an already powerful formula.

The good vibes continued when the “band” reunited for “Karate Kid II” two years later. With Avildsen at the helm, the screenplay flipped Macchio and Morita’s roles so that the wise teacher became the needy student while on a trip back to Miyagi’s homeland of Okinawa.

Both films look good in Blu-ray, with minimal amounts of grain and strong audio transfers. In comparison, the first “Kid” receives better treatment because of an abundance of extra materials. Supplements include commentary tracks, modern interviews with the cast, multiple “Making of” featurettes, and the Blu-ray exclusive pop-up trivia track. The “Pop-Blu” continues on “Kid II,” but there’s only one other feature — “The Sequel” — on the DVD.

The Karate Kid – ***1/2 out of 4
The Blu-ray – ***1/2

The Karate Kid II – *** out of 4
The Blu-ray – *** out of 4

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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