DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS
The World at War: The Ultimate Restored Edition (Fremantle Home Entertainment): The landmark documentary series about World War II is rightly regarded as one of the greatest in the history of television. It took four years to produce the 26 episodes which were produced by Jeremy Isaacs and narrated by Laurence Olivier.
The range of material is breathtaking, featuring a broad spectrum of people involved in the war including civilians, soliders, officers and politicians.
Key interviewees include Albert Speer, James Stewart, Curtis LeMay, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, Alger Hiss, Paul Tibbets, Anthony Eden and Traudl Junge.
Originally screened in the UK on ITV between October 1973 and May 1974, it has subsequently become a staple of history channels around the world.
This new version has undergone a painstaking restoration process with the audio enhanced and a new widescreen presentation. The decision to convert the aspect ratio from the original 4:3 to 16:9 meant that restored masters were created for multiple use (for Blu-ray, DVD and broadcast).
The aspect ratio conversion was done by going back to the original materials and then using a special pan and scan process which was set to strict guidelines.
The ten hours of special features include:
- Brand new – Restoring the World at War – narrated by Sir Jeremy Isaacs, this feature explores every element of the restoration process
- 11 features including the making of the original series
- Photo galleries
- Biographies Speeches and songs
- Newsreels and maps.
The Ghost (Optimum Home Entertainment): Adapted by Robert Harris from his own novel, the story sees a journalist (Ewan McGregor) agree to ghost write the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), who bears a striking similarity to Tony Blair.
When the writer sets to work at the PM’s residence in Martha’s Vineyard, he finds out that his predecessor has mysteriously drowned as well as some other unnerving things.
Lang could be guilty of war crimes, specifically colluding with the US on torturing terrorist suspects, and after talking to his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall) he uncovers murky inconsistencies about the political leader’s background.
The first and most obvious aspect of The Ghost is the quality of the film making. Although it isn’t up there with his best work (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist) it is a highly absorbing and technically proficient thriller.
Its stately pace and considered approach are so old fashioned as to be positively revolutionary in these times, but it is a reminder that a veteran European director can still make a relevant and accessible film about contemporary issues.
The extras on this version include:
- The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality? (10:46 in HD)
- The Cast of The Ghost Writer (11:48 in HD)
- World Premiere in Berlin (1:52)
- Press Conference to Berlinale (36:33 in HD)
- Interviews with McGregor (2:11), Brosnan (2:53), Harris (3:58), Olivia Williams (3:23), Polanski (8:33 in HD)
- Trailer (2:17 in HD)
- Photo Gallery (1:30 in HD)
The Special Relationship (Optimum Home Entertainment): The third film to explore the career of Tony Blair is a well staged drama about his political relationship with Bill Clinton. Screenwriter Peter Morgan previously dramatised key periods in the career of the former British Prime Minister in The Deal (2003) and The Queen (2006), both of which were directed by Stephen Frears.
The latest charts Blair’s relations with Clinton in the 1990s as he sought to form an alliance with a political soul mate who could package ‘third-way’ liberal politics to an electorate that had fallen for Thatcher and Regan.
The bulk of it deals with Blair (Michael Sheen) and Clinton (Dennis Quaid) debating various issues in the late 1990s, whilst Cherie Blair (Helen McCrory) and Hilary Clinton (Hope Davis) look on and provide commentary on this transatlantic relationship.
As in his previous works depicting modern history, Morgan offers some sharp insights into Blair’s political journey from a Prime Minister dazzled by the trappings of power, to one who soon becomes too enamoured with spin and military intervention.
Clinton comes across as some kind of unlikely soothsayer, but director Richard Longcraine puts things together with a good deal of technical skill – despite having a TV premiere it has the feel of a feature film – and it will provide a lot of talking points for people in a month which has seen the real life Blair issue his memoirs.
The extras aren’t exactly extensive on this one, featuring the following:
- B-roll footage
Mother (Optimum Home Entertainment): After the success of his 2005 monster film The Host, director Bong Joon Ho has returned with this strange but compelling thriller set in rural Korea about a devoted mother (Kim Hye Ja) who goes to desperate extremes to protect her mentally disabled son (Won Bin).
A mixture of psychological thriller, mystery and domestic drama, it features an outstanding central performance from Kim Hye Ja, several satisfying twists, some killer editing and a vaguely unsettling sense that mad things will happen at any moment.
The extras are:
- The Making of Mother
- The transformation of Hye-Ja Kim
- Cast and crew reflect
Arn – Knight Templar (High Fliers Video Distribution) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Camp Rock 2 – The Final Jam (Extended Edition) Walt Disney Studios Home Ent. [Blu-ray / DVD]
Cop Out (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Death Note (4Digital Asia) [Blu-ray / with DVD]
Forbidden Planet (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
I Spit On Your Grave (101 Films) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Lang Lang: Live in Vienna (Sony Classics) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Mars Attacks! (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Robin Hood (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD / Limited Edition]
The Back-up Plan (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Sword With No Name (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Tooth Fairy (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
[Rec] (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
[Rec] 2 (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]