DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS
Doctor Zhivago (Warner Home Video): David Lean‘s epic adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel explores the impact of the Russian Revolution on several characters: poet and physician Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif); his wife Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), his mistress and true love Lara (Julie Christie), the scheming politician Komarovsky (Rod Steiger); Zhivago’s half-brother Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) and the mysterious Strelnikoff (Tom Courteney).
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]