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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 19th October 2009

UK DVD Bluray Releases 19-10-09

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Frozen River (Axiom Films): An deservedly acclaimed American indie drama about a desperate single mother (Melissa Leo) living in upstate New York who resorts to smuggling illegal immigrants into the United States as a means of making ends meet. Written and directed by first-timer Courtney Hunt, it co-stars Misty Upham and Charlie McDermott. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, it is well worth seeking out, especially for Leo’s performance which won her an Oscar nomination earlier this year. Axiom Films are releasing it on DVD priced at £15.99 (RRP) and on Blu-ray.

Features include:

  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DD2.0 and DD5.1 Surround
  • Exclusive interviews with writer/director Courtney Hunt and star Melissa Leo
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for hearing impaired (feature only)

[Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

The Essential Michael Haneke (Artificial Eye): A substantial 10-disc box set entitled of the Austrian director’s work which includes all his previously released films including both the original and American re-make of Funny Games, his breakthrough film, and his adaptation of The Castle, based on the unfinished novel by Franz Kafka, which is released for the first time in the UK as part of this set.

The collection contains the following:

  • The Seventh Continent
  • Benny’s Video
  • 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance
  • Funny Games (Original)
  • The Castle
  • Code Unknown
  • The Piano Teacher
  • Time of the Wolf, Hidden and Funny Games US.

Extra features on individual discs are identical to the original releases, with the addition of the previously unreleased documentary called ’24 Realities per Second’, which is a 60 minute documentary on Haneke and which has never been seen before on these shores.

At a whopping £74.99 it is pricey in these recessionary times, but this Haneke is one of Europe’s most accomplished living directors. The release of this coincides with Artificial Eye’s theatrical release of Haneke’s Palme D’Or winning film, The White Ribbon. [Buy on DVD]

The Complete Fritz Lang Mabuse Boxset (Eureka/Masters of Cinema): Throughout his career director Fritz Lang built a trilogy of thrillers focused on an entity who began as a criminal mastermind, and progressed into something more amorphous: fear itself, embodied only by a name – Dr. Mabuse. For the first time on DVD, all three of Fritz Lang’s Mabuse films have been collected for one package, in their complete and restored forms.

  1. Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler [Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler] (1922) – Lang’s two-part, nearly 5-hour silent epic detailing the rise and fall of Dr. Mabuse in Weimar-era Berlin.
  2. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse [The Testament of Dr. Mabuse] (1933) – A thriller with supernatural elements, all revolving around an attempt by the now-institutionalised Mabuse (or someone acting under his name and possibly his will) to organise an “Empire of Crime”.
  3. Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse [The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse] (1960) – Fritz Lang’s final film, in which hypnosis, clairvoyance, surveillance, and machine-guns come together for a whiplash climax that answers the question: Who’s channelling Mabuse’s methods in the Cold War era?

A four-disc set, the features include:

  • Original German-language intertitles for ‘Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler’ along with newly translated English-language subtitles for each film
  • Newly recorded feature-length audio commentaries on all three movies by film-scholar and Fritz Lang expert David Kalat
  • Three video-featurettes totalling an hour-and-a-half in length on: the score of Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler; the creation of Norbert Jacques’ “Mabuse” character; and the motifs running throughout the works
  • 2002 video interview with Wolfgang Preiss, the star of Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse
  • An alternate ending to Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse taken from the French print of the film
  • Optional English-language dub track for Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse
  • 3 lengthy booklets containing a new translation of Fritz Lang’s 1924 lecture on “Sensation Culture”; an essay by critic and scholar Michel Chion on the use of sound in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse; new writing on Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse by critic David Cairns; extracts from period interviews with Fritz Lang; an abundance of production stills, illustrations, and marketing collateral – and more.

All three films are presented in their complete and restored forms, refreshed and improved from previous Eureka releases of the first two films. Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse is released here for the first time ever on home video in the UK. [Buy on DVD]

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ALSO OUT

35 Shots of Rum (New Wave Films)
Columbo: The Complete Series (Universal Playback)
Darker Than Black Volumes 3 & 4 (Manga)
Devil May Cry (Manga)
Horsemen (Icon)
I Sell The Dead (Anchor Bay)
King of the Hill (Optimum)
New Town Killers (High Fliers)
Phantom & Die Finanzen des Großherzogs (Eureka/Masters of Cinema)
Rudo y Cursi (Optimum)
Staunton Hill (Anchor Bay)
24 Season 7 (Fox)
The Haunting of Molly Hartley (Icon)
The Holly & The Ivy (Optimum)
The Keeper (Optimum)
The Last House on the Left (2009) (Universal)
The Uninvited (Paramount)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox)
X: Volume 1 (MVM)

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 16th October)

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 12th October 2009

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases 12-10-09

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Coraline (Universal): Based on the book by Neil Gaiman, this stop-motion animation written and directed by Henry Selick follows an adventurous girl named Coraline who finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but has sinister secrets.

* Listen to our interview with Henry Selick about Coraline *

Available on 1-Disc DVD (£19.99 RRP), 2-Disc Limited Edition DVD (£19.99 RRP) and Blu-ray Disc (£24.99 RRP), the 2-Disc DVD and Blu-ray Disc release will include both the 2-D and 3-D version of the main feature and 4 pairs of 3-D glasses. Got that? Phew.

Features on all of the different versions are as follows:

1-Disc DVD – Includes the 2-D version of the main feature and the following extras:
Deleted Scenes
The Making of Coraline
Feature Commentary with Director Henry Selick and Composer Bruno Coulais

2-Disc Limited Edition DVD – As above plus a second disc with the 3-D version of the main feature and 4 pairs of 3-D glasses.

Blu-ray Disc – Includes both the 2-D and 3-D versions of the main feature plus 4 pairs of 3-D glasses. Features include:

  • 2-D and 3-D Presentations
  • 1080P 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • French, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Greek and Traditional Chinese subtitles
  • U Control – Picture in Picture (2-D Feature Only)
  • U Control – Tours and Voice Sessions (2-D Feature Only)
  • U Control – Picture in Picture Animatic (2-D Feature Only)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making of Coraline – Director and screenwriter Henry Selick hosts this behind the scenes feature about how this hand-crafted, stop-motion animated film was made
  • BD Exclusive: Voicing the Characters – Coraline’s acclaimed cast and filmmaker Henry Selick talk about their experiences working on the film, including defining the perfect voice for their characters
  • BD Exclusive: Creepy Coraline – Director and screenwriter Henry Selick and Coraline author Neil Gaiman take fans deeper into the darker intricacies of Coraline’s alternative worlds
  • Feature Commentary with Director Henry Selick and Composer Bruno Coulais

Looking For Eric (Icon): The unlikely pairing of French footballer Eric Cantona and English director Ken Loach is the tale of a Manchester postman (Steve Evets) undergoing a midlife crisis. When his idol Cantona appears to him in a series of visions, he manages to inspire him with his distinctive brand of philosophy.

Although much of the publicity surrounding the film focused on ‘King Eric’, the two real stars are Steve Evets and Stephanie Bishop who deliver excellent performances. It also features the hallmarks of Loach’s best work: sensitive treatment of social issues; well rounded characters with believable flaws; and a lack of cheap sentiment.

The script by Paul Laverty deserves a lot of credit for working in social issues (gun crime, football ownership) alongside some of Cantona’s reflections on life and existence in a way that isn’t forced or cheesy. Whilst some of the reactions at the Cannes film festival were correct in observing that it is lighter than usual for a Loach film, that is no bad thing as it contains some marvellous feel good scenes (especially the climax).

Available on Blu-ray Disc (£24.99 RRP) and 2-Disc DVD (£19.99 RRP), extras include:

  • Audio Commentary
  • United We Stand Documentary
  • Extended Meditation Scene
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Happy Ending Short Film
  • Music Video
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Director’s Shorts

Synecdoche, New York (Revolver): Charlie Kaufman‘s directorial debut (pronounced “Syn-ECK-duh-kee”) is so Kaufman-esque that it takes his ideas to another level of strangeness. The story centres around theatre director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who starts to re-evaluate life after his health and marriage start to break down. He receives a grant to do something artistically adventurous and decides to stage an enormously ambitious production inside a giant warehouse.

What follows is a strange and often baffling movie, complete with the kind of motifs that are peppered throughout Kaufman’s scripts: someone lives in a house oblivious to the fact that it is permanently on fire; a theatrical venue the size of several aircraft hangars is casually described as a place where Shakespeare is performed; and visitors to an art gallery view microscopic paintings with special goggles.

But despite the oddities and the Chinese-box narrative, this is a film overflowing with invention and ideas. It explores the big issues of life and death but also examines the nature of art and performance – a lot of the film, once it goes inside the warehouse, is a mind-boggling meditation on our lives as a performance.

Imagine The Truman Show rewritten by Samuel Beckett and directed by Luis Buñuel and you’ll get some idea of what Kaufman is aiming for here. I found a lot of the humour very funny, but the comic sensibility behind the jokes is dry and something of an acquired taste. Much of the film hinges on Seymour Hoffman’s outstanding central performance in which he conveys the vulnerability and determination of a man obsessed with doing something worthwhile before he dies.

The makeup for the characters supervised by Mike Marino is also first rate, creating a believable ageing process whilst the sets are also excellent, even if some of the CGI isn’t always 100% convincing. The supporting cast is also impressive: Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Hope Davis, Tom Noonan and Dianne Weist all contribute fine performances and fit nicely into the overall tone of the piece. Although the world Kaufman creates will alienate some viewers, it slowly becomes a haunting meditation on how humans age and die.

Revolver Entertainment are releasing it, priced at £19.99 RRP on DVD and £24.99 RRP on Blu-ray Disc.

Extras include:

  • Infectious Diseases In Cattle: Bloggers’ Roundtable
  • The Story of Caden Cotard
  • Script Factory Interview with Charlie Kaufman
  • Charlie Kaufman Animations
  • In & Around Synecdoche, New York

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ALSO OUT

12 Rounds (Fox)
B-Girl (Anchor Bay)
Cherry Blossoms (Dogwoof)
Claymore Volumes 5 & 6 (Manga)
Doghouse (Sony)
Hell Ride (Warner)
Heroes Season 3 (Universal Playback)
Inside (Momentum)
Momma’s Man (Diffusion Pictures)
Skin (ICA)
Smallville Season 8 (Warner)
Spooks Season 7 (E1 Entertainment)
Two and a Half Men Season 6 (Warner)

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 9th October)

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 5th October 2009

DVD & Blu-ray Releases 05-10-09

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Katyn (Artificial Eye): A drama based on the true story of Polish army officers massacred by the Russia secret police in the Katyń forest during World War II, it was Poland’s nominee for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars earlier this year.

Directed by Andrzej Wajda, it stars Artur Zmijewski, Andrzej Chyra and explores the continuing struggle over the memory of the event as well as the Russian cover up that prevented Poles from commemorating those that had been killed.

Available on DVD, although there hasn’t been a Blu-ray announced yet, the extras include an interview with the director and a making of featurette. Unlike some editions of the film Artificial Eye have presented this in the proper aspect ratio of 2:35.

Beaufort (Trinity): Although already out on regular DVD, the Blu-ray release of this 2007 drama is just coming out now.

It was Israel’s entry for the 2007 Oscars and is about an IDF unit stationed at the Beaufort post in Southern Lebanon during the South Lebanon conflict, and their commander, Liraz Librati, who was the last commander of the Beaufort castle before the Israeli withdrawal in 2000.

Directed by Joseph Cedar, it was co-written by Cedar and Ron Leshem, and based on Leshem’s novel of the same name. Ironically filming finished in 2006, just before the Second Lebanon conflict broke out that summer.

The new Blu-ray is playable in all regions and the transfer is presented at 1.85:1 rather than the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the audio has both 2.0 and 5.1 DTS HD Audio Master mixes (the DVD release only had a Dolby Digital 2.0 track).

The extras include:

  • A Making of Featurette (23:42): This has interviews, footage of the sets being built and some scenes being shot.
  • Deleted Scenes (16:41): A couple of which are extended scenes, which fill out the characters a bit more.
  • Trailers: There is a short trailer (1:24) and a long trailer (2:09) for the film.

Time Bandits (Optimum): Terry Gilliam‘s 1981 fantasy film, which he co-wrote with Michael Palin, tells the story of a group of dwarves who leave their jobs with ‘The Supreme Being’ for a life of crime with a map they’ve stolen from their workplace.

The map holds the secrets to time-holes in the fabric of creation, allowing the holders to go forward and back as they please. One such journey lands them in the bedroom of a young boy Kevin (Craig Warnock), who joins them on their journey.

The supporting cast includes Ian Holm, John Cleese, Sean Connery, David Warner and Ralph Richardson.

Priced at £15.99 RRP on DVD and £19.99 RRP on Blu-ray Disc, extras include:

  • New and exclusive interview with Terry Gilliam
  • Trailer
  • Scrapbook

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ALSO OUT

Big Fat Important Movie (Anchor Bay)
Blind Dating (Universal)
House – Season 5 (Universal Playback)
Inside (Momentum)
Jack Said (Optimum)
My Name is Earl Season 2 (Fox)
Red Baron (Showbox)
Rogue (Icon)
sleep furiously (New Wave Films)
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li (Optimum)
Surviving Evil (Kaleidoscope)
The Uninvited (aka “4 Inyong Shiktak”) (Palisades Tartan)

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 2nd October)

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 14th September 2009

DVD and Blu-ray 14-09-09

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Beyond the Clouds (Second Sight): Near the end of his professional career in 1995, Michelangelo Antonioni embarked on this co-project with Wim Wenders, an erotic drama based on his own short stories, which includes four tales linked by a director (John Malkovich) in search of his next picture.

Taking place in Ferrara, Portofino, Aix en Provence and Paris, each story features a woman at the centre of the story and the cast features Sophie Marceau, Irene Jacob, Fanny Ardant, Jean Reno, Vincent Perez, Peter Weller, Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau.

Included on this release is ‘To Make A Film Is To Be Alive’ a 52 minute documentary and an audio essay by Seymour Chatman (author of Antonioni: The Complete Films), along with a with production stills gallery.

Although not in the same league as Antonioni’s very best work, it is a fascinating project with some marvellous visuals, aided by an evocative score featuring memorable contributions from Brian Eno and U2 (aka Passengers).

Is Anybody There? (Optimum): Set in a sleepy British seaside town in the 1980s, this drama tells the story of a morbid, bookish 10-year-old boy Edward (Bill Milner) who becomes increasingly obsessed with the afterlives of the residents of the old peoples’ home which his parents run, until he is distracted by the arrival of ‘The Amazing’ Clarence (Michael Caine), an anarchic retired magician and grieving widower who is determined to age disgracefully.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray, the extras include:

  • Interview with Michael Caine
  • Interview with John Crowley
  • Interview with Bill Milner
  • Interview with Ann-Marie Duff
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots

Leon (Optimum): The Blu-ray release for Luc Besson‘s 1994 thriller is part of a bunch of releases for the French director. Given the lacklustre quality of his recent output, it is worth revisiting this sharply written tale of a French hitman (Jean Reno) in New York befriending a young girl (Natalie Portman), whose family have been killed by corrupt cops (led by a splendidly nutty Gary Oldman).

Although the HD transfer has got mixed to negative reviews, the quality of the film makes it worth buying as it probably won’t get a re-release for a while.

The extras and technical specs are:

  • Theatrical & Director’s Cut Versions
  • 1080P 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio & 2.0 Stereo LPCM
  • Optional English subtitles (only on Director’s Cut)
  • Jean Reno – The Road to Leon
  • 10 year making of retrospective
  • Natalie Portman – Starting Young
  • Trailer

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ALSO OUT

Angels & Demons (Sony)
Bundy: A Legacy of Evil (Lionsgate)
Crank 2: High Voltage (Lionsgate)
Diary for My Children (Second Run)
Entourage Season 5 (HBO)
Knight Rider (2008) Season 1 (Universal Playback)
La Belle Captive (Second Sight)
Lie to Me Season 1 (Fox)
Massive (2 Entertain)
Sexy Killer (Momentum)
Splinter (Anchor Bay)
That Sinking Feeling (2 Entertain)
The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (Icon)
Two Pints of Lager and A Packet of Crisps Series 8 (2 Entertain)

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 11th September)

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DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 1st December 2008

DVD PICKS

Hancock (Sony): Although this Will Smith summer blockbuster attracted a mixed critical response it remains an entertaining and interesting riff on the superhero genre. The biggest movie star in the world plays a depressed, drunken superman who is reviled by Los Angeles because he causes mass destruction when fighting crime. After saving the life of a PR man (Justin Bateman) he is persuaded to change his ways and become a proper hero but complications ensue when his past catches up with him. Directed by Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, The Kingdom) from a script by Vince Gilligan & Vincent Ngo, the action is efficiently handled and the humor (especially between bateman and Smith) nicely played.

Thr two-disc edition is the one to get as it Includes both the theatrical and extended versions of the film with the following features:

  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English and Czech DD5.1 Surround
  • English Audio Description
  • Subtitles (Main Feature): English, English HOH, Czech, Dutch, Hindi and Slovak
  • Subtitles (Extra Features): English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese
  • Superhumans: The Making of Hancock behind-the-scenes documentary
  • Seeing the Future – takes eight scenes from the actual film footage or B-roll footage and shows side by side comparisons of the conception during the pre-visualization creation
  • Building a Better Hero special effects featurette
  • Bumps and Bruises – breakdown of action sequences in the film
  • Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with ‘Dirty Pete.’ – Interview with director Peter Berg
  • Home Life – – Shows via time lapse photography the building of the homes and buildings used in the film
  • Suiting Up – featurette on the film’s costume design
  • Digital copy of the theatrical cut for consumers to play on their PC or PSP® (PlayStation® Portable) System  

The French Connection – Bluray (Fox): Although I’m still in a state of Blu-ray limbo (a subject of a future post) this is one title I’d be really keen on getting. A landmark film of the early 1970s, it is the story of two New York City policemen trying to intercept a heroin shipment coming in from France. Directed by William Friedkin, it stars Gene Hackman (as detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle), Fernando Rey (as French heroin smuggler Alain Charnier) and Roy Scheider (as Jimmy’s partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo). It also features Eddie Egan and Sonny “Cloudy” Grosso, the real-life police detectives on whom Hackman’s and Scheider’s characters were based.

The Blu-ray disc has exclusive new high-def content including an introduction by William Friedkin, an ‘Anatomy of a Chase’ featurette, Friedkin and Grosso remembering the real French Connection, and a featurette about the music of Don Ellis.

It also features the following:

Disc 1:

  • William Friedkin Introduction to The French Connection
  • Audio Commentary by William Friedkin
  • Audio Commentary by Gene Hackman and Roy Schieder
  • Trivia Track
  • Isolated Score Track
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • French Connection II BD Trailer

Disc 2:

  • 9 Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by William Friedkin (12 mins 50 secs)
  • Anatomy of a Chase (20 mins 36 secs)
  • Hackman on Doyle (12 mins 14 secs)
  • Friedman and Grosso remember the real French Connection (19 mins 34 secs)
  • Scene of the Crime (6 mins 19 mins)
  • Colour Timing The French Connection (13 mins 21 secs)
  • Cop Jazz: The Music of Don Ellis (10 mins 11 secs)
  • Rouge Cop: The Noir Connection (13 mins 56 secs)
  • BBC Documentary: The Poughkeepsie Shuffle (53 mins)
  • Making the Connection: The Untold Stories of The French Connection (60 mins)

There is also a double disc edition that contains The French Connection 2.

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ALSO OUT

24: Redemption (Fox)
Aled’s Christmas Carols (2 Entertain)
Einstein and Eddington (2 Entertain)
Just the Ticket: The British Transport Films Collection Volume Nine (BFI)
Lotte Reiniger – The Fairy Tale Films (BFI)
Meet Dave (Fox)
Phil Daniels’ Football Match Day Madness (Fremantle)
Space Chimps (EIV)
Strictly Come Dancing The Workout With Kelly & Flavia (2 Entertain)
The British Transport Films Collection (BFI)
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (Sony)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal)
Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage (Lionsgate)

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> Buy Hancock and The French Connection at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 28th November)