A sweeping romance told in flashback, it was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 5, though much to Lean’s chagrin it lost Best Picture to The Sound of Music. Full of stunning imagery and sequences, including a frozen dacha, the cavalry charge in Moscow and a battle seen through a pair of spectacles, it is tailor made for the Blu-ray format. Warner Bros appear to have done an amazing job on the transfer and extras include everything from the previous 2-disc DVD edition, plus a new 40-minute documentary, with the discs coming in a large 50-page digi-book including photos, essays and bios. [Blu-ray / DVD]
Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Home Video): Maurice Sendak’s much loved 1963 children’s book has been expanded to a feature length film about a young boy (Max Records) who ventures to a magical land where he is anointed king by a group of strange creatures. Charming and beautifully filmed, it marks a change of pace for director Spike Jonze, who deserves credit – along with co-screenwriter Dave Eggers – for preserving the spirit and tone of the book.
The casting is excellent. Records is not a typical child actor and has a pleasingly raw charm. The voices of the wild things are superb with James Gandolfini an inspired choice as Carol (the wild thing Max becomes closest to) as it brilliantly plays off his Sopranos persona, highlighting his joy, vulnerability and anger. Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose and Paul Dano also chip in with excellent vocal performances, making their characters as varied and complex as they should be. The Australian locations are also beautifully captured by cinematographer Lance Acord. The transfer is good (although a little dark in places) and the extras are solid, featuring an array of amusing videos from the set. [Blu-ray / DVD]
A Scanner Darkly (Warner Home Video): The best adaptation of a Philip K Dick novel since Blade Runner is this 2006 film set in a not-too-distant future where America has lost its “war” on drugs, and an undercover cop (Keanu Reeves) is one of many people hooked on Substance D, which causes its users to develop split personalities, which causes majors problem in trying to track down a notorious drug dealer and figuring out who he really is.
Directed by Richard Linklater, it was filmed in live-action, and then animated using the same process used in his previous film, “Waking Life”, which perfectly suits the paranoid themes of the book which include the perils of drug abuse the surveillance society. Beacuse this was transfered directly from a digital source, it looks pristine with with terrific detail and depth. The extras are the same as the DVD release, including two insightful featurettes “One Summer in Austin: Filming A Scanner Darkly” (26 mins) and and “The Weight of the Line: Animation Tales” (20 mins), both of which include a lot of video diary footage. The audio commentary from Linklater, Phillip K. Dick’s daughter Isa Dick-Hackett and producer Tommy Pallotta is also very insightful with regard to Dick’s life and work. [Blu-ray / Normal]
44 Inch Chest (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray /DVD] Adoration (Drakes Avenue Pictures) [DVD] Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1-5 (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / DVD] Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / Box Set] Caligula: Uncut Edition (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / DVD] Charlie Chaplin: The Great Dictator (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / DVD] Charlie Chaplin: The Kid (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / DVD] Delgo (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [DVD] Departures (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / DVD] Dorothy (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Eric Rohmer: The Essential Eric Rohmer (Artificial Eye) [DVD] George Carlin: Collection – Volume 2 (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) It’s Complicated (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD] Nowhere Boy (Icon Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Paul Blart – Mall Cop (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Day of the Jackal (UCA) [DVD] Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Me and Orson Welles (cinemaNX): This enjoyable period drama set in 1937 is about a teenager (Zac Efron) who joins the Mercury Theatre production of “Julius Ceasar” directed by a young Orson Welles (Christian McKay). Directed by Richard Linklater and co-starring Claire Danes, it was shot in the Isle of Man back in the spring of 2008 and lingered on the shelf after failing to get a distributor at various festivals. However, production company CinemaNX released it theatrically themselves (a rarity for a national release in the UK) sharing print and ad costs with Vue Entertainment. For the DVD release they have struck an exclusive arrangement with supermarket behemoth Tesco. [DVD]
The Railway Children (Optimum Home Entertainment): Adapted from E. Nesbit’s novel, Lionel Jeffries 1970 film adaptation quickly established itself as perennial favourite amongst family audiences and after a re-release at cinemas last month arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. It is the tale of a family forced to move from London to a house in Yorkshire after the father is imprisoned on a mysterious charge. There the three children, Roberta (Jenny Agutter), Peter (Gary Warren) and Phyllis (Sally Thomsett), are entranced by the nearby railway and become friendly with the locals, such as the station porter (Bernard Cribbins) and the Old Gentleman (William Mervyn) who takes the 9:15 train. It was a critical success on its initial release – receiving three BAFTA nominations – and has since become a much loved film through regular broadcasts on television. [Blu-ray | DVD]
The Last Emperor (Optimum Home Entertainment): Bernardo Bertolucci‘s 1987 epic explores the extraordinary life of Puyi, who became the Emperor of China at the age of 3 and ended up as a lowly gardener after his country was engulfed by twentieth century events. Told in flashback, the epic scope of the narrative is matched by the lavish visuals which include remarkable use of real life locations in China. It was the first Western production allowed to shoot inside Beijing’s Forbidden City and the recreation of various historical periods remains a remarkable technical achievement. Vittorio Storaro‘s sumptuous cinematography matches his finest work and the film deservedly won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]
Inland Empire (Optimum Home Entertainment): Director David Lynch followed up the critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive with an even weirder mystery. Shot on digital video, it tells the story of an actress (Laura Dern) who becomes ever more disturbed after her strange experiences with a director (Jeremy Irons); her co-star (Justin Theroux; husband (Peter J. Lucas). Add to this a strange Polish couple and a trio of giant stage-bound rabbits (voiced by Naomi Watts, Scott Coffey and Laura Harring) and you have arguably Lynch’s most surreal film. Shot over two and a half years, without a formal script, the bizarre symbolism and obtuse narrative are strangely compelling. Not for everyone but for Lynch fans it is an essential purchase. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]
Earth: The Complete Series (2 Entertain) [DVD] Hamlet (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] Nine (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD] Poseidon (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD] Stag Night (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.) [DVD] The Box [Icon Home Entertainment] [Blu-ray] The Men Who Stare at Goats (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD] Bitch Slap (Momentum Pictures) [DVD] Boogie Woogie (E1 Entertainment UK) [DVD] The Stepfather (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD] The Thick of It: Collection (2 Entertain) [DVD] The Thick of It: Series 3 (2 Entertain) [DVD]