DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS
Shutter Island (Paramount Home Entertainment): Director Martin Scorcese followed the Oscar success of The Departed with an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel about a US Marshall (Leonardo DiCaprio) sent to investigate strange goings on at a secure psychiatric hospital off the coast of Massachusetts. Haunted by his past, he finds it difficult to trust the chief psychiatrist (Ben Kingsley) and slowly begins to suspect that something is afoot.
Although the performances are all solid and the technical aspects first rate, the underlying premise of the story feels an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Appropriately it references Hitchcock a lot (especially Vertigo), but never reaches the heights of Scorcese’s finest work, even if that is superior to most living directors.
This was a film that divided critics and I’m still split myself over where this fits into Scorcese’s body of work.
As one of the great directors of his era he is a victim of his own high standards and some observers felt Shutter Island was simply a hollow bag of tricks.
How you feel about the final act will possibly shape your overall perception, but keep listening to the very end and you may find there is more substance than some have alleged.
The extras include the following production featurettes, both of which are in HD:
• Behind the Shutters (17:11)
• Into the Lighthouse (21:11)
The technical aspects of the film, in particular the production design and costumes, are terrific and it appears that it has got a worthy transfer on to Blu-ray.
Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver says that it is ‘visually pristine’ and is also impressed with the audio:
This is dual-layered with a fairly high bitrate and contrast exhibits healthy, rich black levels.
… the DTS-HD Master 5.1 at, a powerhouse, 4725 kbps is as perfect (or more?) than the video transfer. There really is no way to critique it as it appears to be replicating the filmmakers intent with zeal.
…Audio is a good part of this presentation and the lossless track can’t be criticized.
Interestingly, there are some striking similarities between this and Christopher Nolan’s Inception: both feature a haunted protagonist played by Leonardo DiCaprio and explore the clash of appearance and reality.
> Buy Shutter Island on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Shutter Island at the IMDb
The Lives of Others (Lionsgate UK): The striking feature debut of writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck brilliantly explored tensions and repressions in communist East Germany. Set in East Berlin during 1984, the story involves a Stasi Captain (the late Ulrich Mühe) who secretly monitors a playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his partner (Martina Gedeck), a prominent actress.
The chilling drabness of a totalitarian regime is wonderfully evoked and the contrast of the historical setting against the personal desires at the centre of the story make it all the more moving.
One of the reasons the film opened to such enormous and richly deserved acclaim back in 2006, was the way in which it wrapped a powerful human story within the framework of a thriller.
There are numerous sequences filled with tension and the pacing means that it never gets bogged down in clumsy symbolism or pretentious longeurs. The clever plotting and surprising twists also give the film an extra emotional kick in its final stages.
Details of the extras are sketchy but are probably the same as the DVD release, which were:
- Filmmaker’s Commentary by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
- Making-Of Documentary (19 mins)
- Filmmaker Interview (30 mins)
- Deleted Scenes (9 mins approx)
> Buy The Lives of Others on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> The Lives of Others at the IMDb
The Most Dangerous Man in America (Dogwoof Pictures): A documentary former RAND military strategist Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked a 7,000-page document known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971. Disillusioned with ongoing deceptions of US involvement in Vietnam, he leaked the top secret documents which outlined the ‘secret history’ of the war and ultimately led to President Nixon resigning.
Although the form of the film is stylistically conventional – talking heads, library shots – the story is still a remarkable one and Ellsberg’s recollection of events is absorbing. It covers similar ground to his 2002 memoir Secrets, but manages to condense the personal and political in an efficient and tidy package.
Nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars earlier this year its release this week is timely in light of the recent leaked military documents to various media outlets by Wikileaks.
> Buy The Most Dangerous Man in America on DVD from Amazon UK
> Official site
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
From Paris With Love (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
I Love You Phillip Morris (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Invisible Target (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Persuasion (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Shelter (Icon Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Banquet (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Spy Next Door (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 30th July 2010 including The A-Team and The Karate Kid