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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Werner Herzog’s brilliantly surreal remake (or is it?) of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film is relocated to New Orleans where a corrupt, drug addled cop (Nicolas Cage) finds himself involved with a drug dealer (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner) who is suspected of murdering a family of African immigrants.

On top of this he struggles to keep his life in check, which includes his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes); his hot-headed partner (Val Kilmer); a local bookie (Brad Dourif) and all manner of surreal visions.

This sounds like it could be the premise of a conventional crime movie and there are elements of William Finkelstein’s script that bear the hallmarks of the traditional cop procedural. But filtered through the lens of Herzog, we have something different altogether.

As the story progresses Cage’s character takes gargantuan amounts of drugs (coke, heroin, crack), shakes down clubbers and then screws their girlfriends in front of them, runs up huge debts, threatens old age pensioners and does all this wearing an oversize suit with a funny looking revolver.

But this only scratches the surface, as Herzog adds some wildly surreal touches involving iguanas and alligators shot in extreme hand held close-up, whacky interludes involving dogs, horny traffic cops and hilariously over the top dialogue delivered by Cage in a couple of different accents (my favourite lines being “‘Shoot him again! His soul is still dancing!” and “to the break of DAWNNNN!!!!”).

Strange, out of control and defiantly off its head, it seems destined for cult status: appealing to cinephiles and late night stoner audiences.

When I first saw it last year I was unsure if it was a crazy joke or surreal genius. Having seen it again I’m sure it is the latter.

Not only does Herzog filter the material through his own unique mind, but Cage arguably gives his greatest performance in years, which is wild and out of control in all the best ways.

The Blu-ray transfer is crisp and sharp – in many ways a better experience than the print I originally saw it on – and in HD one can really appreciate the visual mood created by Herzog and his regular DOP Peter Zeitlinger.

The extras include interviews with the cast and key crew as well as a substantial 30 minute making of featurette which goes behind certain sequences, interviewing the key talent.

Most of it consists of Herzog setting up shots, discussing his creative process and we also get some interesting contributions from the cast and crew.

In years people will wonder how one of Europe’s greatest arthouse directors ended up making a film with Nicolas Cage in New Orleans, but they will be grateful for what is a unusually memorable collaboration.

> Buy Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans on Blu-ray and DVD
> Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans at IMDb

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray News

Apocalypse Now on Blu-ray

Details have been announced for the Blu-ray release of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in two different versions on October 19th.

Although this is the US release date, a UK and worldwide release should be confirmed relatively soon.

The epic about a US army captain (Martin Sheen) sent to assassinate a rogue colonel gone native deep in the jungle (Marlon Brando) is one of the great films of the 1970s and a vivid depiction of the insanity of the Vietnam War.

There will be a regular 2-disc set and a more comprehensive Full Disclosure edition which includes George Hickenlooper’s memorable making of documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), which will also be in 1080p.

The package will include the original 1979 theatrical cut and the extended Apocalypse Now Redux version (released back in 2001) and both will be presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

For previous DVD releases cinematographer Vittorio Storaro made the curious decision to modify it to 2.00:1 (the Univisium format), which he thinks should be a universal ratio for all films.

But now audiences will be able to see the film in high definition as well as in its original theatrical aspect ratio for the first time.

The extras for the two editions break down like this:

2 FILM SET

  • Apocalypse Now – 1979 Cut
  • Apocalypse Now Redux
  • “A Conversation with Martin Sheen” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
  • “An Interview with John Milius” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Complete Francis Ford Coppola interview with Roger Ebert at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival
  • Monkey Sampan “lost scene”
  • Additional Scenes
    • “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” end credits with audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola
    • “The Hollow Men,” video of Marlon Brando reading T.S. Eliot’s poem
  • Featurettes:
    • The Birth of 5.1 Sound
    • Ghost Helicopter Flyover sound effects demonstration
    • A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now
    • The Music of Apocalypse Now
    • Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now
    • The Final Mix
    • Apocalypse Then and Now
    • The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
    • PBR Streetgang
    • The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
    • The Synthesizer Soundtrack” article by music synthesizer inventor Bob Moog

FULL DISCLOSURE EDITION

Like the 2-Film Set above, plus the following:

  • Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse
  • Optional audio commentary with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola
  • 48-page collectible printed booklet with special note from Francis Ford Coppola, never-before-seen archives from the set, behind the scenes photos and more
  • John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Ford Coppola Notes
  • Storyboard Gallery
  • Photo Gallery, including images from photographer Mary Ellen Mark
  • Marketing Archive

[Via IGN UK]

> Apocalypse Now at Wikipedia and IMDb
> Pre-order the Blu-ray of Apocalypse Now at Amazon UK

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 26th July 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Second Sight): This haunting tale about a group of schoolgirls who go missing whilst on a picnic in 1900 remains of the iconic films in Australian cinema. Its release in 1975 signalled the arrival of Peter Weir as a major director and the hypnotic, lyrical qualities have not diminished since then.

Adapted from the novel by Joan Lindsay, it isn’t actually a true story (even though at times it has the feel of one) but remains a powerful exploration of innocence, time and mystery.

The locations, from the girl’s school to the picnic in the countryside, are beautifully captured by cinematographer Russell Boyd and as the film progresses it becomes a memorable tale of loss and regret.

An important part of the atmosphere is the indelible music which features Gheorghe Zamfir on pan pipe and Marcel Cellier on the organ.

Special features are pretty substantial and include the following:

  • Feature-length documentary: A Dream within a Dream (120 mins)
  • A Recollection: Hanging Rock 1900 – Joan Lindsay interview
  • Hanging Rock and Martindale Hall: Then and Now
  • Short film: The Day of St Valentine (the first screen adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel)
  • Audio interviews
  • Stills and poster gallery
  • Scenes deleted for the director’s cut

> Buy Picnic at Hanging Rock on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about the film at Wikipedia and the IMDb

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (Palm Pictures): This ground-breaking 1984 concert film featuring Talking Heads directed by Jonathan Demme remains one of the essential rock movies. Filmed over three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, it captured the group as they were touring their album Speaking in Tongues.

What made the film stand out from others in the genre was Demme’s innovative approach to shooting a concert.

With Talking Heads he found a band who were not only interested in stage craft but were also willing to allow him an unusual amount of creative freedom in capturing them live.

The lack of audience shots, unusual lighting choices for each song and the visible presence of the stage crew are just some of the elements which mark this out from the bog standard concert movie.

Front man David Byrne is a charismatic presence throughout and his stage persona was arguably a big influence on lead singers like Michael Stipe and Bono in later years, whilst the energy of the rest of band is just as infectious.

This was Demme’s first documentary and his use of handheld cameras, along with longer-than-usual shots, gives the film a distinctive flavour which chimes in a band who were never a slave to fashions and trends of the early 1980s.

The Blu-ray is being released by Palm Pictures and includes the following bonus features:

  • Previously unreleased 1999 press conference with all four Talking Heads
  • The short film “David Byrne Interview…David Byrne”
  • Versions of “Cities” and “Big Business/I Zimbra” not featured in the original film.

Film fans might note references to Dr. Strangelove and Breathless, theatre buffs may spot the influence of Japanese Noh theatre and R.E.M. fans may notice the influence of this on Tourfilm (1989).

> Buy Stop Making Sense on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Talking Heads at Wikipedia

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ALSO OUT

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Cats and Dogs (Warner Home Video) [DVD]
Clash of the Titans (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray with DVD]
Fantastic Planet (Eureka) [Blu-ray]
Hierro (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Paranoiac (Eureka) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Remember Me (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / with DVD]
Shank (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Sons of the Wind – Bangkok Ninjas (Manga Entertainment) [DVD]
The Bounty Hunter (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Vengeance Is Mine (Eureka) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 23rd July 2010 including Toy Story 3

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 7th June 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

A Prophet (Optimum Home Entertainment): One of the standout films of last year was this scintillating prison drama about a lowly Arab criminal named Malik (Tahar Rahim) who is drawn into the inner circle of a Corsican mafia group, led by the ruthless CĂ©sar Luciani (Niels Arestrup). After a tough initiation, Malik learns how to read and write, and starts to learn how power works inside and outside the prison.

Directed by Jacques Audiard, it features two outstanding lead performances from Rahim and Arestrup, and quickly established itself as an instant classic, scooping the Grand Prix at Cannes and topping many critic’s end of year polls. Audiard doesn’t shy away from the dark brutalities of prison life, but manages to construct a compelling portrait of how criminal empires are born. An absolute must see. [Blu-ray / DVD]

A Single Man (Icon Home Entertainment): Adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel, it explores a day in the life of a grieving English college professor (Colin Firth) during the early 1960s. A highly impressive directorial debut for fashion designer Tom Ford, it co-stars Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult.

The stand out element here is a wonderfully nuanced performance from Firth, who was desrvedly nominated for an Oscar, along with some excellent production and costume design. Regrettably, Ford and co-screenwriter David Scearce tinker too much with the source novel (making one major alteration) but there is still much to admire here, not least the fact that Ford largely funded the project himself, which is highly unusual even for the richest filmmakers in Hollywood. [Blu-ray / DVD]

Ponyo (Optimum Home Entertainment): The latest animated film from renowned director Hayao Miyazaki is a story of friendship between a five-year-old boy and a goldfish princess who wants to be human.

Featuring the voices of Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett and Tina Fey it loosely adapts Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid into a contemporary Japanese setting. Although not quite up to the standards of his finest work, this is still a delight. Stylistically, it is something of a departure with more sparse compositions but the positive vibes, reflected in the bright pastel colors and energy of the film make it a highly pleasurable introduction to Miyazaki’s work for newcomers. [Blu-ray + DVD]

Extras include:

  • Storyboards
  • The Five Genuises Who Created Ponyo – interviews
  • Japanese trailers and TV spots
  • Intro by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (3:19)
  • A Conversation with Hayao Miyazaki and John Lasseter (3:30)
  • Behind the Microphone: the Voices of Ponyo (6:01)
  • Creating Ponyo (3:55)
  • Ponyo and Fujimoto(2:56)
  • The Nursery (1:57)
  • Scoring Miyazaki (7:17)
  • The Producer’s Perspective: Telling the Story (2:25)
  • The Locations in Ponyo (9:39)
  • Hayao Miyazaki interview (14.00)
  • Toshio Suzuki interview (29:00)
  • Dubbing Session and interview with Japanese cast 25:00)
  • Music Video of the theme song (3:30)

Spaghetti Western Collection – A Fistful Of Dollars/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly/For A Few Dollars More (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Sergio Leone’s iconic Western trilogy, which established Clint Eastwood as an international star, is re-released on Blu-ray as part of “Eastwood month”, celebrating his 80th birthday, and features A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

There has been a lot of debate about the transfer of these classic westerns to Blu-ray – with HD enthusiasts less than happy with the finished result – but the films are enduring enough to make a purchase worthwhile. The plentiful extras from the DVD versions are included with contributions from film historian Christopher Frayling and commentaries on all three films. The featurettes include Clint Eastwood looking back on the making of the trilogy, location comparisons and two solid pieces on Leone himself. [Blu-ray / DVD]

Food Inc. (Dogwoof): A disturbing but enlightening documentary from director Robert Kenner which explores the dark side of America’s food industry and the way in which deregulation has affected what people eat.

Featuring many eye opening sequences featuring chickens, pork chops, soybean seeds, and even tomatoes that won’t go bad, there is a lot here to chew on, both figuratively and literally. Featuring interviews with Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and progressive social entrepreneurs like it is a compelling tale of how food gets to US tables. [DVD]

ALSO OUT

Absolute Power (Warner Home Video)
Bad Boys (Sony Pictures Home Ent.)
Brothers (Lionsgate UK)
Chris Ryan’s Strike Back (2 Entertain)
Doctor Who – The New Series: 5 – Volume 1 (2 Entertain)
Exam (Sony Pictures Home Ent.)
Heartbreak Ridge (Warner Home Video)
Home (Universal Pictures)
Kelly’s Heroes (Warner Home Video) 
Pacific – The True Stories (Revolver Entertainment)
RoboGeisha (Showbox Media Group)
The Rookie (Warner Home Video) 
The Story of Science (2 Entertain) 
The Wolfman (Universal Pictures) 
Tora! Tora! Tora! (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) 
Where Eagles Dare (Warner Home Video)

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 4th June including She’s Out of My League, 4,3,2,1 and Death at a Funeral

Categories
blu-ray News

Donnie Darko on Blu-ray

Cult film Donnie Darko is getting a UK Blu-ray release from Metrodome on July 19th.

It will be a 2-disc version featuring the original feature as well as the expanded director’s cut, and comes with the following extras:

  • Feature commentary with director Richard Kelly
  • Feature commentary with cast & crew
  • Feature commentary with director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith
  • They made me do it featurette
  • They made me do it too featurette
  • They made me do it art gallery
  • Production Diary – optional commentary by steven poster, director of photography
  • B-roll footage
  • Cast & crew interviews
  • Additional scenes: 20 scenes with optional commentary by richard kelly – deleted & Extended scenes from the original theatrical cut
  • Cunning visions informercials with optional commentary
  • The Philosophy of Time Travel
  • Original tv spots x 5
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • The director’s cut trailer

> Pre-order Donnie Darko from Amazon UK
> Donnie Darko at the IMDb

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 24th May 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Up In The Air (Paramount): One of the most acclaimed films of last year was this comedy-drama about a man (George Clooney) who specialises in firing workers in a smooth and efficient manner because managers have outsourced this difficult process. Addicted to travel, air miles and an open relationship with a fellow traveller (Vera Farmiga), he is alarmed when his boss (Jason Bateman) makes him train a new recruit (Anna Kendrick) who advocates firing people via video-link.

Directed by Jason Reitman, it manages to combine breezy, observational comedy with more serious themes of work and finding love. The script even updates the themes of the book to the current era (one sequence is dated as happening in February 2010) by having recently fired workers essentially play versions of themselves.

Clooney is perfectly cast in the lead role and the supporting cast is generally excellent with Farmiga, Kendrick and Batemen contributing fine work. The technical aspects of the film are first rate across the board; with Dana Glaubetman’s editing worthy of special mention as it helps keep proceedings ticking along beautifully. Compared to Reitman’s previous films, it has the delicious wit of Thank You for Smoking and the unsentimental emotions of Juno, but actually surpasses both in terms of mixing up the light and heavy elements.

The HD transfer is of the high standard you might expect from a contemporary Hollywood studio and although this isn’t the kind of film that is a banquet for the eyes, the Blu-ray looks wonderfully clean and sharp. [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]

The special features include the following extras, which are all in high definition:

  • Commentary by writer/director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steelberg and first assistant director Jason Blumenfield
  • Shadowplay: Before The Story
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Jason Reitman:
    • To Know Me is To Fly With Me
    • Real People Firing and Irate Employee
    • Thumper and Extended Boat Scene
    • Omaha Montage
    • Spacesuit
    • Do You Live At The Hilton?
    • Nosey Neighbour
    • Natalie In Restroom
    • Natalie Vid-Chats
    • Angry Ryan Checks In
    • Goalquest Invite
    • Maynard Finch Commercial/Kara Calls Ryan
    • Barely Squeaking By / Natalie Calls
  • Trailers
  • “Help Yourself” music video by Sad Brad Smith
  • Storyboards
  • American Airlines Prank

Road to Perdition (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Sam Mendes made a big splash with American Beauty, his feature film debut which scooped several Oscars in 1999, and his eagerly anticipated follow up in 2002 was this Depression-era crime drama about a hitman (Tom Hanks) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Tyler Hoechlin) after the rest of his family are killed by the wayward son (Daniel Craig) of a mobster (Paul Newman).

Although this wasn’t as well received as his debut film, the technical aspects are excellent with the late Conrad Hall winning a richly deserved Oscar for his cinematography. DreamWorks made the bizarre decision to open it right in the middle of the summer season, meaning its Oscar chances were considerably reduced, but it still stands up well compared to the other films that won that year. [Buy it on Blu-ray]

The extras are as follows:

  • Sam Mendes Feature Introduction (HD)
  • A Cinematic Life: The Art & Influence of Conrad Hall (HD)
  • The Library: A Further Exploration of the World of Road To Perdition
  • Previously released bonus material is presented in standard definition, except as noted:
  • Commentary by director Sam Mendes
  • Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Sam Mendes)
  • The Making of Road To Perdition

Capitalism – A Love Story (Paramount Home Entertainment): from Michael Moore examines the effect of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans, especially in the light of the recent global economic meltdown. Although the buzz on this film was mixed when it premiered at Venice and Toronto back in the Autumn, it is a more thoughtful film than some critics have given it credit for. The title is misleading as it’s more of a critique against the winner-takes-all capitalism ushered in by the Reagan administration and how the policies under Clinton and Bush have contributed to the current financial crisis.

There are some sequences that drag a little, but for the most part it is a thought provoking examination of how we’ve got to where we are as a society. Strangely, it could actually win Moore audiences amongst the right-wing Teabaggers as well as his core liberal audience, as his criticisms of the TARP scheme chime in with theirs. [Buy it on DVD]

The extras on the DVD feature a lot of material that didn’t make the theatrical cut, including:

  • Sorry, House-Flippers and Banks: You’re Toast In Flint, MI
  • Congressman Cummings Dares to Speak the Unspeakable
  • NY Times Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges on the Killing Machine Known as Capitalism
  • The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place Reserved for Them!)
  • What if, Just if, We Had Listened to Jimmy Carter in 1979?
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma? It’s Capitalism
  • Commie Taxi Drivers: “You Talkin’ To Me?”, in Wisconsin
  • How to Run the Place Where You Work
  • The Socialist Bank of… North Dakota?
  • The Bank Kicks Them Out, Max Kicks Them Back In

ALSO OUT

St. Trinians 2 – The Legend Of Fritton’s Gold (EIV) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Did You Hear About The Morgans? (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Precious (Lionsgate) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Armageddon (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
City of the Living Dead (Arrow) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Anesthetize (KSCOPE) [DVD + Blu-ray]
Heartless (Lionsgate) [DVD / Blu-ray]
S.N.U.B (Isis) [DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 21st May including Prince of Persia and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Psycho on Blu-ray

Universal have announced a “meticulously restored” version of Psycho to be released on Blu-ray this August.

It will be the second major Hitchcock film to get a high-definition release – after Warner Bros’ splendid North By Northwest Blu-ray – this will be a 50th Anniversary Edition that comes in a regular and steelbook version.

The sound has been fully remastered with a new 5.1 mix, whilst the mono audio track will also be available for viewers who want to experience the film in its original form.

It will also feature the following extras:

  • Psycho Sound: A never-before-seen piece that looks at the re-mastering process required to create a 5.1 mix from the original mono elements using Audionamix technology.
  • The Shower Scene: A look at the impact of music on the infamous “shower scene.”
  • The Making of Psycho: A feature-length documentary on Hitchcock’s most shocking film.
  • In the Master’s Shadow – Hitchcock’s Legacy: Hollywood filmmakers discuss Hitchcock’s influence and why his movies continue to thrill audiences.
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interviews: Excerpts from a 1962 audio interview with Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Audio Commentary: Feature-length audio commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho”)
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho: Vintage newsreel on the unique policy Alfred Hitchcock insisted upon for the release of the film.
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass: Original storyboard design.
  • Production Notes: An essay on the making of the film.
  • The Psycho Archives: Gallery of on-set photo stills from the film’s production.
  • Posters And Psycho Ads: Gallery of original posters and ads from the theatrical campaign.
  • Lobby Cards: A gallery of promotional lobby cards from the film’s theatrical campaign.
  • Behind-The-Scenes Photographs: Rare photos showing the cast and crew at work.
  • Theatrical Trailer: Original promotional trailer from the film’s theatrical campaign.
  • Re-Release Trailers: Promotional trailer created for the re-release of the film.

> Psycho at the IMDb
> Pre-order the Psycho Blu-ray at Amazon UK

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 17th May 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Minority Report (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi thriller arrives on Blu-ray and has already garnered high praise for the quality of the transfer and extras. Adapted from Philip K Dick’s short story, it is set in Washington, 2054 where crime can be predicted by a specialised police unit using advanced technology and three psychics. When the head of the ‘Precrime’ unit (Tom Cruise) is shocked to see himself as a future murderer, he goes on the run and tries to figure out a murder he is going to commit.

Possibly Spielberg’s best film of the last decade, Minority Report featured a stellar supporting cast (Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow) and a convincingly dystopian view of the future. Like Blade Runner it combines a film noir narrative with a vision of a divided society where technology throws up recurring ethical dilemmas. The production design and distinctive look of the film, especially the visual effects, have made it a favourite in tech circles as the touch screen technology appears to have had an influence on devices (iPhone, iPad) and operating systems (Windows 7) since its release.

The Blu-ray has already got raves for the quality of the transfer. Gary Tooze of DVD beaver has described it as:

“impeccable – representing the film with pin-point authenticity. Achieving the intended appearance so succinctly I’d have to say this image quality is quite perfect – as perfect as I have seen in a while. It appears to look EXACTLY as the film was meant to. If you aren’t keen on the appearance blame the filmmakers not this pristine transfer”

There is actually a second Blu-ray disc featuring a lot of extras in HD as well as the features that were included in the standard 2002 DVD release.

The extras break down like this:

  • The Future According to Steven Spielberg (18-part – 34:03 in HD)
  • Inside the World of Precrime (10:11 in HD)
  • Philip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg and Minority Report (14:19 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Future Realized (6:22 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Props of the Future (9:42)
  • Highlights from Minority Report From the Set (2 pieces): The Hoverpack Sequence (6:06 in HD); The Car Factory Sequence (2:57 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Commercials of the Future (3:55 in HD)
  • Previz Sequences: The Hoverpack Sequence Previz (1:43 in HD); Maglev Chase Previz (2:10 in HD)
  • Previously Released Special Features (duplicated from the last DVD – all in SD)
  • From Story to Screen (19:03 in total): (2 pieces): The Story/The Debate (9:36); The Players (9:27)
  • Deconstructing Minority Report (42:06)
  • The Stunts of Minority Report (26:45)
  • ILM and Minority Report (6-part – 20-minutes in total)
  • Final Report (3:59)
  • Production Concepts / Storyboard Sequences
  • Three Trailers in HD

[Buy Minority Report on Blu-ray]

The Road (Icon Home Entertainment): The film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel is a haunting tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world featuring two outstanding lead performances. It depicts the journey of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) across an America which has descended into savagery after an unspecified environmental and social collapse. Part of the story’s raw power is the absence of any explanation as to why the world is collapsing, which shifts the focus on to the central relationship and the day to day struggle to survive.

Given that the story involves suicide, cannibalism and humans acting like savages you have to give credit to director John Hillcoat (who made the gritty Australian western The Proposition in 2005) and screenwriter Joe Penhall (author of the acclaimed play Blue/Orange) for properly translating the horrors and emotions of the novel into a film. It was this authentic rawness that probably meant that it was never going to be a huge box office hit, but there is much to admire here. The visuals look particularly striking: cinematographer Javier Aguirresa opts for a brownish palette to depict the harsh, ash-ridden environment; the art direction and production design also makes very clever use of rural US locations to create a chilling post-apocalyptic world.

Audiences unfamiliar with the novel may be taken aback by how bleak the story is and the film certainly doesn’t pull its punches: roaming gangs of cannibals, potential suicide and houses filled with half alive bodies are just some aspects that will disturb, although the most notorious scene from the book is omitted. Another thing to look out for is the interesting supporting cast, which is filled with excellent performances – most of which are extended cameos – from Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce. The soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis strikes an appropriately mournful tone with a notable piano motif reminiscent of Arvo Paart.

The special features on the Blu-ray include:

  • Special features include:
  • Director’s commentary
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • The Making of The Road
  • Two theatrical trailers
  • BD-Live
  • movieIQ+sync

[Buy The Road on Blu-ray / Buy it on DVD]

ALSO OUT

About Last Night (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Atonement (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Creepshow 2 (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [DVD]
Institute Benjamenta (BFI) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Night of the Living Dead (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [Blu-ray]
Ninja Assassin (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Porcupine Tree: Anesthetize (Kscope) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Pride and Prejudice (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray]
Privilege (BFI) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Rhythm Is It! (Wienerworld) [Blu-ray]
Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Sherlock Holmes (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Slugs (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [DVD]
Spread (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
St Elmo’s Fire (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
The Man Who Would Be King (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD]
The Party’s Over (BFI) [Blu-ray & DVD]
The Pleasure Girls (BFI) [Blu-ray + DVD]
True Blood: Season 2 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / DVD]
True Blood: Seasons 1 and 2 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Valhalla Rising (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 14th April including Robin Hood, American: The Bill Hicks Story and Lebanon

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 10th May 2010

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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]

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ALSO OUT

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]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 7th April including A Mightmare on Elm Street, Hot Tub Time Machine and Four Lions

Categories
blu-ray Competitions

Competition: Where the Wild Things Are on Blu-ray

We have 3 copies of Where the Wild Things Are to give away on Blu-ray, courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment.

This adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s much loved 1963 children’s book has been expanded to a feature length film and is about a young boy (Max Records) who ventures to a magical land where he is anointed king by a group of strange creatures.

Director Spike Jonze has crafted an ambitious and moving treatment of the book and the result is a magical film – one of my favourites of last year in fact.

The casting is excellent: Records is not a typical child actor, with a raw quality that fits just right whilst the voice cast is every bit as good.

The choice of James Gandolfini to voice Carol (the wild thing Max becomes closest to) was inspired – brilliantly playing off his Sopranos persona, it highlights 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, beautifully captured by cinematographer Lance Acord, also add a visual richness to the film which wouldn’t have been the same if done on green screen soundstages.

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Some adults may complain that Jonze has made a children’s film that slants towards to older audiences, but this is exactly what makes the film special.

Instead of sugar coating the story and patronising the viewer, he has (along with co-screenwriter Dave Eggers) treated the source material and cinema audience with the respect they deserve.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Where the Wild Things Are on Blu-ray just answer the following question:

Which film starring Catherine Keener did Spike Jonze direct in 1999?

The closing date is Monday 31st May and winners will be notified by email.

Where the Wild Things Are is released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 10th May

> Where the Wild Things Are at the IMDb
> Find out more about the book at Wikipedia

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 3rd May 2010

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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]

* Listen to our interview with Jenny Agutter about The Railway Children *

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 30th April including Iron Man 2 and The Disappearence of Alice Creed

Categories
blu-ray Cinema DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 26th April 2010

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UK DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Mad Men Season 3 (Lionsgate): One of the best Blu-ray releases of the year also happens to be the third season of the best show currently on television. Depicting the professional and personal lives of those who work at fictional New York ad agency Sterling Cooper, this series is set during 1963 and explores tensions with the new British owners, the ongoing personal conflicts (and infidelities) in the office and the gradual changes in US society.

The first two seasons touched on events such as the 1960 US election and the death of Marilyn Monroe, but this series manages to gradually combine the serious social changes of the era with the complex emotional situations facing the characters, culminating in brilliantly orchestrated season climax. *Read our full review here* [Blu-ray / DVD]

Avatar (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): James Cameron’s futuristic sci-fi epic about a paraplegic marine (Sam Worthington) who ventures to another planet and becomes one of the alien natives through a host body (or ‘avatar’) was a box office phenomenon that surpassed expectations to become the highest grossing film of all time. After a 12 year absence from feature films Cameron utilised ground breaking visual effects to craft a tale that was a dazzling 3D experience at cinemas and one that resonated with cultures around the globe.

Although some of the dialogue didn’t match the eye-popping visuals, there was something pleasing about the way in which vast technological resources of the Hollywood machine were used to create a film with a simple anti-war, pro-environmental message. Because the Blu-ray release is so hotly anticipated, it is worth stating that there are no extras at all on this version. Cameron said he didn’t have the time to do them right and there will be a fuller package later this year with extended extras. Also, for this release Cameron has opted to use go for the 1.78:1 version (that was screened in IMAX cinemas) and not the 2.35:1 version that most people saw in 3D at the cinema. Despite that, the Blu-ray transfer is stunning and the visuals (including the live action sequences) are rendered with stunning detail and depth. [Blu-ray / DVD]

The Kreutzer Sonata (Axiom Films): Based on a story written by Leo Tolstoy in response to Beethoven’s eponymous composition, director Bernard Rose dissects a modern marriage between a wealthy philanthropist (Danny Huston) who becomes possessive of his pianist wife (Elisabeth Rohm). Following up his superb drama Ivansxtc, Rose continues his reworking of the great Russian novelist’s work, and this is the second part of a planned trilogy.

Danny Huston, who was outstanding in Ivansxtc, returns with another excellent performance, and the film is an interesting exploration of fairly juicy themes including love, sex and obsession. Whilst not quite as good as its predecessor, it represents another interesting chapter in Rose’s career outside the Hollywood mainstream. [DVD]

ALSO OUT

Prince Valiant (Eureka) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Saving Private Ryan (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
Smokin’ Aces (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray]
Sword of the Stranger (Beez Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
The Girlfriend Experience (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Mad Men: Seasons 1-3 (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Carriers (Paramount Home Entertainment) [DVD]
Dillinger (Icon Home Entertainment) [DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 23rd April including Date Night and Centurion

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Mad Men Season 3

The latest season of Mad Men is another reminder of why it is one of the outstanding TV shows of the past decade.

Depicting the fictional New York advertising agency Sterling Cooper during the early 1960s, it explores lives of those that work there and the quality of the writing puts it on par with landmark shows such as The Wire and The Sopranos.

Created by Matthew Weiner, it centres around creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his wife Betty (January Jones) and and various characters at the agency such as Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) and Bert Cooper (Robert Morse).

It has deservedly won huge critical acclaim along with consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Drama since it first premiered on US cable channel AMC in 2007.

Season One introduced us to the world of Madison Avenue in 1960, a place filled with surface glamour and backward social attitudes where many of the characters struggle to deal with their professional and personal lives.

Season Two explored the enigma of protagonist Don Draper, his mysterious past and professional ambitions, as well as examining the changes during 1962 for various female characters in the office.

Season Three is set during 1963 and explores tensions at the agency with the new British owners, the ongoing personal conflicts (and infidelities) in the office and the gradual changes in US society as it entered a tumultuous decade.

One thing that distinguishes Mad Men from the mediocrity of contemporary televison is just the intelligence of the writing but the fact that it somehow manages to highlight contemporary uncertainties through the prism of history.

Much of the early appeal of the show was the excellent period detail, but the show’s astute probing into emotional issues (divorce, social attitudes) against the backdrop of famous events has proved to be a killer combination.

The first two seasons touched on events such as the 1960 US election and the death of Marilyn Monroe, but this series manages to gradually combine the serious social changes of the era with the complex emotional situations facing the characters, culminating in brilliantly orchestrated season climax.

Although the period details are excellent, the show mines a lot of dramatic irony out the way in which characters often seem initially oblivious to seismic events: characters flirt whilst the March on Washington can be heard on the radio; a man turns off the TV just before Walter Cronkite is about to make an important announcement.

This series picks up soon after the events of Season Two and Don is still having fidelity issues (taking a special interest in a local teacher) whilst Betty has her own dalliances, despite recently giving birth to a son.

Meanwhile, at the ad agency, tensions continue with the new British bosses and many of the staff have to face big changes in their working and personal lives.

Perhaps the biggest development this season is the way in which the changes in American society closely mirror those of the main characters. In the hands of less skilled writers this could have been clunky but Weiner and his team pull it off with taste, skill and intelligence.

With its detailed period look, costumes and production design it is perfectly suited to the high definition Blu-ray format. On a purely technical level, it is one of the best looking shows I have ever seen on an HD television.

The 13 episode box set has is supplemented by various featurettes and audio commentaries on key episodes, with insights from the show’s creator Matthew Wiener, cast members and directors.

Over the three discs the extras include the following:

  • Audio Commentaries: On the Blu-ray there are several commentaries from cast and crew (a lot more than is usual for a TV series) with two for each episode. Matthew Weiner is a ubiquitous presence on the tracks with some insight and context for the creative choices in each episode, but the commentaries from actors are also insightful and witty. The sheer amount of commentaries might seem a bit much, but for a show as layered as this, they are a welcome addition for aficionados.
  • Mad Men Illustrated (HD, 14:01): One thing you may have noticed about the popularity of Mad Men is the various avatars fans use online (especially Twitter) based on characters from the show. (The official website has a section where you called MadMenYourself). These drawings are the work of illustrator Dyna Moe who knew an actor on the show and was initially recruited to do Christmas cards for the cast and crew. When she put them up online they were an instant hit and her subsequent illustrations of characters and scenes from the show have become something of a phenomenon. This short featurette is an extended interview with her alongside her work.
  • Clearing the Air (HD, Part 1 25:28 & Part 2 19:58): This lengthy two-part documentary is a fascinating exploration about the history of how tobacco companies advertised cigarettes to the American people. (Fans of the show will remember the pilot episode featured a plot line about a tobacco company and this season also features a key plot strand involving Lucky Strike) It features several academics, historians and experts who discuss the often ingenious ways in which tobacco companies sold the myth of tobacco, from recruiting Hollywood stars, to downplaying research and how various different companies targeted different demographics. For instance, we find out that Marlboro initially targeted women despite later becoming famous for the image of the ‘Malboro Man’ and an eye-popping revelation about Philip Morris brands.
  • Flashback 1963 (HD): This is an interactive photo feature that charts the big historical and cultural moments of the year.
  • Medger Evers: Unsung Hero (HD, Part 1 39:13 & Part 2 31:15): Another two part documentary, which explores the life of civil rights campaigner Medgar Evers, the NAACP field secretary who was assassinated in his driveway in 1963. Told through lengthy interviews with Medgar’s brother, Charles; his widow, Myrlie; and daughter, Reena. A moving portrait of a one of the key figures in the battle to end segregation.
  • We Shall Overcome: The March on Washington (HD, 16:56): A simple but powerful feature in which the full audio of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” in August 1963 is accompanied by images from the March on Washington.

Mad Men Season 3 is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 26th April

> Buy Mad Men Season 3 on Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon UK
> Official AMC site
> Find out more about Mad Men at Wikipedia

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 19th April 2010

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UK DVD & BLU-RAY RELEASES

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]

ALSO OUT

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]

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> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 16th April including The Ghost and Cemetery Junction

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 12th April 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

The Bicycle Thieves (Arrow Films): A welcome re-release for Vittorio De Sica‘s classic 1947 neorealist film about desperation and struggle in post-war Italy, is the tale of a poor man (Lamberto Maggiorani) and his son (Enzo Staiola) searching the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to be able to work.

Based on the novel by Luigi Bartolini, it was adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini and used non-professional actors to create a telling picture of poverty in post-war Europe. A landmark film in many ways, it still contains scenes of great power and is ultimately a very moving depiction of the love between father and son.

The special features on this re-release by Arrow Films include:

  • Timeless Cinema: A documentary on Vittorio De Sica
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Original Poster Artwork & Lobby Stills

Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno (Park Circus): A hybrid documentary and part reconstruction of Henri-Georges Clouzot‘s unfinished project L’Enfer (‘Inferno’), an enigmatic film about a hotel manager who becomes possessed by the demons of jealousy. The story of how this project got made is a fascinating one: Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea managed to persuade Clouzot’s second wife, InĂšs de Gonzalez, to give permission to use footage from Clouzot’s original film, which they then supplemented with interviews of cast and crew members.

Among the contributors are production assistant Catherine Allégret, director Costa Gavras, and assistant cinematographer William Lubtchansky. Bromberg also recreates certain scenes with actors Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin. A notable arthouse feature on the festival circuit last year (screening at Cannes, Toronto, New York and London) it also received the César Award for Best Documentary. [Buy on DVD]

Wonders of the Solar System (2 Entertain): One of the best TV series to air on the BBC this year sees Professor Brian Cox visit notable locations around Earth to illustrate how the laws of nature have carved natural wonders across the Solar System. The five episodes explore: the Sun; the Rings of Saturn; the atmosphere of Earth and Titan; the size of planets, volcanoes and the moon Io; and the search for life on other worlds, focusing on Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Cox is an engaging and informative host and along with the BBC shows Galapagos and Planet Earth, it is well worth checking out on Blu-ray as it is full of stunning imagery that looks fabulous in HD. The show’s better than expected ratings pleasantly surprised BBC bosses, who according to Cox’s Twitter account have commissioned another series, called ‘Universal’, which they begin shooting next month. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

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ALSO OUT

Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 – The Squeakquel (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] 
Being Human: Complete Series 2 (2 Entertain) [DVD]
Dolan’s Cadillac (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Law Abiding Citizen (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Raging Phoenix (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Descent: Part 2 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Tombstone (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
Bad Behaviour (Lionsgate UK) [DVD]
Blood and Oil (2 Entertain) [DVD]
Clint Eastwood: Westerns (Warner Home Video) [DVD]
Crude (Dogwoof Digital) [DVD]
Ghost Machine (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [DVD]
Glee: Season 1 – Volume 1 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [DVD]
Henry Lee Lucas – Serial Killer (Lionsgate UK) [DVD]
Humpday (Momentum Pictures) [DVD] 
I’m Gonna Explode (Artificial Eye) [DVD]
OSS 117: Lost in Rio (ICA) [DVD]
Starsuckers (Network Releasing) [DVD]
The Big I Am (E1 Entertainment UK) [DVD]
Vietnam (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [DVD]
We Live in Public (Dogwoof Digital) [DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 9th April including Shelter and Whip It

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray Interviews

Interview: Joe Pilato on Day of the Dead

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George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead has recently been released on Blu-ray in a special two-disc 25th Anniversary edition and I recently spoke to one of its stars Joe Pilato about the film and the enduring legacy of the horror series.

The third instalment in Romero’s ongoing zombie saga sees the living dead take over the world and only small pockets of human resistance survive. One group of survivors, a motley crew of scientists and soldiers, are holed up in a 14-mile long underground missile silo where tensions begin to erupt as the zombie hoards surround them.

The bleakest and goriest of Romero’s zombie films to date, Day Of The Dead has often been overshadowed by its more illustrious predecessors, but in recent years it has found greater appreciation, with Tom Savini‘s ground breaking make-up effects and the social commentary on Reagan’s America becoming more apparent.

This Blu-ray edition features a restored presentation of the film, a new hi-def soundtrack, four alternate sleeves, a double-sided poster, a 24-page collector’s booklet ‘For Every Dawn There Is A Day’, plus a very special collector’s comic – ‘Day Of The Dead: Desertion’ – featuring a brand new ‘Bub’ storyline.

Two all-new documentaries were also commissioned for this release: In ‘Joe Of The Dead’ (directed by Calum Waddell) Joe talks about his career in movies – from his early appearance in the little-seen Pittsburgh horror outing ‘Effects’ (which also featured Romero regulars Tom Savini and John Harrison) to his small parts in ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ and ‘Knightriders’ and his work as Captain Rhodes in Day Of The Dead.

In ‘Travelogue of the Dead’ (directed by Naomi Holwill), we join Pilato as he travels across Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow in October 2009 celebrating the 25th anniversary of Day Of The Dead and witness him meeting the fans, reciting his most famous lines from the movie – live and on stage – and drinking with the best of them.

Calum Waddell also penned the ‘For Every Dawn There Is A Day’ collector’s booklet, which is an essay on the making of the movie that collects brand new interviews with Romero, Savini, editor Pasquale Buba, assistant director/composer John Harrison and actors Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille and Gary Steele.

I recently spoke to Joe about the film’s Blu-ray release and you can listen to the interview here:

[audio:http://filmdetail.receptionmedia.com/Joe_Pilato_on_Day_of_the_Dead.mp3]

You can download this interview as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here

The two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition Day Of The Dead is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
> IMDb entry
> Pre-order the Blu-ray from Amazon UK

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 5th April 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Day of the Dead (Arrow Films): The third film in George A Romero‘s zombie trilogy has often been regarded as something of a letdown after the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the iconic Dawn of the Dead (1978). It does lack the vitality of its predecessors but over the years has become a more telling satire of the Reagan era than many realised at the time.

Set inside an underground US military complex as zombies have overrun the earth, it explores the tensions between various army and scientific personnel as well as depicting the possibility of ‘humanising’ a zombie. Tom Savini’s landmark make-up effects still hold up strongly and Romero’s direction is smarter than some gave it credit for at the time. The Blu-ray comes with a raft of new extras including new commentaries and featurettes. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]

Delicatessen (Optimum Home Entertainment): With Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s latest film Micmacs not getting the love or attention it deserved at UK box offices, Optimum have re-released the 1991 that put him on the map. Along with co-director Marc Caro, he crafted a delightfully surreal tale about a clown (Dominique Pinon) who moves into a run down apartment building with a delicatessen on the ground floor and falls in love with the butcher’s daughter, Julie Clapet (Marie-Laure Dougnac).

Shot entirely in and around the delicatessen, it is inventive and displays a remarkable visual flair reminiscent of silent comedy and proved very influential, especially on subsequent TV commercials. I’m not sure why there isn’t a Blu-ray version yet, but if you haven’t already got the DVD it is highly recommended. [Buy the DVD]

Funny Games U.S. (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.): Michael Haneke‘s U.S. remake of his own 1997 film was a gruelling affair, even by his own dark standards, but remains a powerful piece of work. Made in 2007, it followed the exact same story with a well-to-do couple (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) and their son who are slowly terrorised by two mysterious young thugs (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett) whilst at their holiday home.

Some critics were appalled by what they saw as the pointless sadism of the film, but the fact that it provoked such a hostile reaction – often from the very bourgeois perspective the film directly assaults – was perhaps telling. It is a genuinely horrific film, with little in the way of catharsis or intellectual ambiguity, but remains a bracing and intriguing example of a director revisiting his own material for a different audience. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]

George Carlin: Collection – Volume 1 (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK): A collection of four of the great US comedians best stand up performances taped for HBO which include: George Carlin – On Location – University of Southern California (1977), George Carlin Again (1978), George Carlin at Carnegie (1984) and George Carlin on Campus (1984).

Brilliant observations about life are mixed with some hilarious social commentary and these groundbreaking performances demonstrate why he is still one of America’s greatest comedians, just two years after his death. [Buy the DVD]

* N.B. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is out on Blu-ray this week and would normally be one of my picks. However, the box set consists of the theatrical cuts (with hardly any extras) and I’d recommend waiting until the extended Blu-ray editions come out. *

ALSO OUT

30 Rock: Season 3 (Universal/Playback) [Buy the DVD]
Married, Single, Other (2 Entertain) [Buy the  Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]
The International (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Universal Soldier: Regeneration (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the Blu-ray] 
Who Dares Wins (Arrow Films) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Battle Royale (Arrow Films) [Buy the DVD]
Big Bad Mama (In 2 Film) [Buy the DVD]
Burn Notice: Season 2 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy the DVD]
Chappelle’s Show: Season 2 (Best Medicine) [Buy the DVD]
Feast Trilogy (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Forever Green: Series 2 (Network) [Buy the DVD]
Geisha Assassin (MVM Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Ghost Hunt: Complete Series 1 (Manga Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Ginger Baker and Friends: Live at the Jazz Cafe (Voiceprint) [Buy the DVD]
Laurel and Hardy: Collection (Lace) [Buy the DVD]
Le Professionnel (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Smokin’ Aces/ Smokin’ Aces 2 – Assassin’s Ball (Universal Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
The Bridge (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 2nd April including Clash of the Titans, How to Train Your Dragon and Kick-Ass

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 29th March 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

2012 (Sony Pictures): Roland Emmerich’s latest big-budget blockbuster sees an ancient Mayan prophecy come true as Earth’s techtonic plates unleash global destruction after a solar flare. An alarmed US government scientist (Chiwetel Ojiofor) discovers the disaster; a limousine driver (John Cusack) struggles to protect his family amidst the chaos; the US president (Danny Glover) tries to be stoic; the chief of staff (Oliver Platt) enacts a secret plan and various other characters all respond differently to the coming apocalypse.

Although the film isn’t in any danger of winning any awards for acting or screenwriting, the set pieces are impressively rendered and the sheer scale of CGI destruction is a sight to behold, even if there are too many ”just in the nick of time’ escapes.

The transfer to Blu-ray is excellent and although sometimes high definition can spotlight weak visual effects, here they stand up very well indeed with tsunamis, earthquakes and collapsing buildings and all manner of destruction coming across in pristine detail.

The extras are fairly extensive too, the most notable being the BD-Liveℱ enabled movieIQ, which allows you to access updated information on the film’s cast, crew, production and soundtrack while watching the film. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]

Blu-ray Special Features

  • movieIQ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie
  • Interactive Mayan Calendar – Enter a date to reveal your horoscope and personality profile! Delve even further into the secrets by watching Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar
  • Picture-In-Picture: Roland’s Vision-Includes Pre-Visualization, storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with filmmakers, cast and crew
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Designing The End Of The World
  • Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic
  • Science Behind The Destruction
  • The End Of The World: The Actor’s Perspective

DVD Special Features

  • Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic

Stargate (Optimum): The other Roland Emmerich release of the week is his 1994 sci-fi adventure about an academic (James Spader) and a military unit (headed by Kurt Russell) who venture through a teleportation gateway to another planet.

The third collaboration between director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin – they had worked Moon 44 (1990) and Universal Soldier (1992) – was on a bigger budget and they crafted something more entertaining and polished. Here you can see the roots of the mega sci-fi success they would have with Independence Day (1996) – although we’ll politely ignore Godzilla (1998).

Stargate was one of the first Lionsgate Blu-ray releases back in August 2006, but that had hardly any extras and the audio was only lossy DTS High Resolution. This version has both the theatrical and the extended cuts of the movie, and four hours of extras, including three new featurettes, a trivia track, and a gag reel. [Buy the Blu-ray]

The Informant (Warner Home Video): Steven Soderbergh’s latest film bears some resemblance to Erin Brockovich (2000), an entertaining exposĂ© of real life corporate chicanery concerning a biochemist (Matt Damon) who in 1992, became an informant for the FBI after his company got involved in price fixing.

What makes it unusual is the breezy comic tone and the extraordinary behaviour of the central character (who seems to be an undiagnosed manic depressive). Much of the comedy comes from the continual frustration of the FBI with their star witness who often tells the truth, but unfortunately mixes it with lies. It got a rather muted reception on the festival circuit last year, but Damon shows great comic timing in the central role, whilst Marvin Hamlisch’s score and the distinctive visuals (shot by Soderbergh under his regular pseudonym Peter Andrews), all add to the mix. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]

Homicide – Life On the Street: The Complete Series (Fremantle Home Entertainment): Fans of The Wire can now enjoy the first TV series that was inspired by the reportage of David Simon, as this box set includes all 122 episodes spread over 33 discs. A dark and realistic crime series that ran from 1993-1999, it was adapted from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the non-fiction book based on his experiences with a Baltimore Police Department homicide unit.

The action centres on the homicide division of an inner-city Baltimore police station, with a large and fluid cast passing through the precinct’s door during the series’ seven seasons on the air. Simon was a consultant and producer on the series and although not as good as The Wire, it is still one of the landmark US TV shows of the 90s. [Buy the DVD]

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ALSO OUT

Bunny and the Bull (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Cracks (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Planet 51 (EV) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
South Park: Series 13 (Paramount) [Buy the Blu-ray]
The House of the Devil (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Lionsgate UK) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Catweazle: The Complete Series
(Network) [Buy the DVD]
Extreme Prejudice (Optimum) [Buy the DVD]
Glorious 39 (Momentum Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
Godzilla (Sony Pictures) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Holly (Soda Pictures)
Impact (Sony Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
Jason and the Argonauts (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [Buy the DVD]
Johnny Handsome (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Seraphine (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 26th March including The Blind Side and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 22nd March 2010

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UK DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Dumbo (Walt Disney): One of the greatest animated films from Disney, this story of a shy little elephant with some large ears arrives on Blu-ray for the first time. Separated from the rest of the circus animals, he befriends a mouse who encourages him to exploit his ears for fame and fortune.

After being goaded by a group of crows, Dumbo discovers that his ears have given him the ability to fly. The animation and writing is magical and the Blu-ray comes with a decent selection of extras including behind the scenes featurettes, bonus short features, and a copy of the DVD. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Fish Tank (Artificial Eye): Writer-director Andrea Arnold’s second feature-length film, and another deeply impressive piece of work after her Oscar winning short Wasp(2005) and Red Road (2006). The tale of a teenage girl named Mia (Katie Jarvis) chronicles her struggle with her mother and younger sister on an poor Essex housing estate.

Frustrated with her life and lack of options, things begin to change when she strikes up a friendship with her mother’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). Unlike many British films which feature aristocrats in period costume or gangsters who swear a lot, this takes what seems like humdrum material and does something really special with it. For some reason the Blu-ray is only being released two months after the DVD (read our longer review here), but is well worth buying if you haven’t yet seen it. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Edition (Universal Playback): With Season 2 of Twin Peaks finally being released in the UK, Universal Playback have decided to release Season 1 and Season 2 on a definitive box set. Directed by David Lynch, this series picks up from the first season cliff-hanger that saw Agent Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) shot repeatedly as he closed in on the mystery surrounding the brutal murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).

Twin Peaks originally aired between 1990 and 1991 and quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed and popular TV series around the world. Taking root in popular culture, even today it regularly features in lists of classic TV shows. [Buy it on DVD]

The Double Life of Veronique (Artificial Eye): A 1991 French-Polish drama directed by Krzysztof Kieƛlowski stars Irùne Jacob in a dual role as two women, one in Poland (Weronika) and one in France (Veronique), who have a mysterious connection.

A thoughtful and beautifully constructed film, it has an entrancing central performance from Jacob, some inventive cinematography from SƂawomir Idziak and also anticipates the Three Colours Trilogy (1992-94) which cemented Kieƛlowski as one of the great European filmmakers of his generation. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

The Passion of the Christ (Icon Home Entertainment): Mel Gibson‘s unflinching and brutal retelling of the final hours of Jesus (Jim Caviezel) was one of the most successful and controversial films of 2004. From a purely technical level there is much to admire in the film: Caleb Deschanel‘s cinematography, the costumes, make-up and use of the Italian town of Matera, all combine to paint a highly convincing picture of the period.

Even for a non-believer, the spectacle of suffering and persecution is moving, even if Gibson lays it on a bit too relentlessly. The claims of anti-Semitism against the film, fuelled by the depiction of the Jewish priests as Christ killers (as they are in the Gospels), were off-base, although Gibson’s drunken rant rant in 2006 gave one pause about his own personal beliefs. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Under the Sun of Satan (Eureka/MOC): A re-release for this 1987 allegorical drama, adapted from the Georges Bernanos novel of the same name, sees a French priest (Gerard Depardieu) struggle to save the soul of young woman (Sandrine Bonnaire).

An impressive examination of good versus evil, it won the Palme d’Or at the 1987 Cannes Festival, which led to verbal protests from sections of the audience and defiant gesture from director Maurice Pialat. This new release has had a new anamorphic transfer in its original aspect ratio, with new and improved English subtitle translations. The extras are also plentiful with interviews, lengthy featurettes, on set footage and a 36-page booklet. [Buy it on DVD]

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ALSO OUT

Blood On Satan’s Claw (Odeon Entertaiment) [Buy it on DVD]
Bodysong (BFI) [Buy it on DVD]
Bullet Boy (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Galaxy Quest (DreamWorks) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Harry Brown (Lionsgate UK) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Katyn (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Paranormal Activity (Icon) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Drakes Avenue Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on DVD]
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek 5 – The Final Frontier (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: First Contact (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: Generations (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: Insurrection (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: Nemesis (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Straightheads (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Talk to Me (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Neverending Story (Warner Home Video) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (E1 Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Twin Peaks: Series 2 (Universal Playback) [Buy it on DVD]
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 19th March including The Bounty Hunter, Old Dogs and I Love You Phillip Morris

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Elizabeth

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Aside from reinvigorating the British historical drama, Elizabeth (1998) also helped launch Cate Blanchett as a major actress.

Exploring the early reign of Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett), it depicts the intrigue and betrayals that shaped her early years: the failure of Queen Mary I (Kathy Burke) to restore Catholicism to England; her duty to political allies Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) and Cecil (Richard Attenborough) and her love for childhood sweetheart Dudley (Joseph Fiennes).

It also depicts the plotting of Catholic conspirators who want to kill her, such as the Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston) and a Vatican spy (Daniel Craig).

 

Buy Elizabeth on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
Click here to buy Elizabeth on Blu-ray from Amazon UK

Although the film takes considerable liberties with the historical truth, it managed to create a feistier and more energetic Elizabeth to the screen, mainly thanks to Blanchett’s portrayal.

Indian director Shekhar Kapur managed to bring a different perspective to a well known historical figure, contrasting the opulence of court life with the dark treachery that often underpinned it.

The period details are generally excellent and the locations of Northumberland, Derbyshire, North Yorkshire – along with studio work at Shepperton Studios – manage to recreate the period convincingly. (Also look out for small supporting roles for Eric Cantona and a 12-year-old Lily Allen).

Shown at the major 1998 film festivals (Venice, Toronto), it reaped deserving acclaim with Oscar nominations for Best Actress (Blanchett), Best Art Direction (John Myhre), Best Cinematography (Remi Adefarasin), Best Costume Design (Alexandra Byrne), Best Original Score (David Hirschfelder) and Best Picture (Alison Owen, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan).

On Blu-ray, the transfer is sharp and detailed, with the high definition format showing off the production design and costumes to impressive effect.

Elizabeth is out now on Blu-ray from Universal

> Elizabeth at the IMDb
> Buy Elizabeth on Blu-ray from Amazon UK

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 15th March 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

A Serious Man (Universal): The Coen Brothers returned from the Oscar success of No Country For Old Men, with this exquisitely crafted black comedy exploring the pointless nature of suffering. Beginning with a seemingly incongruous prologue set in an Eastern European shtetl, it moves on to explore the hellish suburban existence of a Jewish maths professor named Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) in Minnesota, during 1967.

With a hectoring wife (Sari Lennick) who wants a divorce, her annoying widower lover (Fred Melamed), a leeching brother (Richard Kind), a pothead son (Aaron Wolff ) into Jefferson Airplane, dithering academic colleagues, an awkward Korean student and a succession of perpetually useless rabbis, he appears to living in a modern day version of The Book of Job. One of the best films of the year, it might just be the Coen Brothers’ finest film to date. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

The White Ribbon (Artificial Eye): Director Michael Haneke won the Palme d’Or at Cannes back in May with this expertly crafted drama about the strange and disturbing things that start to happen in a German village on the eve of World War I. The action revolves around the dominant characters in the stern Protestant community: the Baron (Ulrich Tukur), the pastor (Burghart Klaussner) – who wields a significant influence on the local children – and the doctor (Rainer Bock).

As you might expect of a Haneke film the technical aspects are superb, especially Christoph Kanter’s production design and Christian Berger‘s stark black and white photography. The deliberate lack of a musical score helps add to the sense foreboding as viewers get a chilling glimpse of the generation that would grow up to embrace Nazism. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Johnny Mad Dog (Momentum): A riveting and brutal examination of child soldiers in Africa from director Jean-StĂ©phane Sauvaire ranks amongst the best war films in recent memory. Although nominally set in an unnamed African country, it was shot in Liberia – still recovering from a long civil war – and makes use of former child soldiers and documentary-style techniques to create a hellish recreation of a contemporary issue.

Based on the 2002 novel Johnny Chien MĂ©chant by the US-based Congolese author Emmanuel Dongala, it is a remarkable achievement even if many audiences might not make it through the gut wrenching opening sequence. [Buy it on DVD]

Elizabeth (Universal): This 1998 historical drama explored the early reign of Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) and how she became one of the most iconic rulers in British history. Torn between her duty to political allies – Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) and Cecil (Richard Attenborough – and her love for childhood sweetheart Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), she also has to see off Catholic conspirators such as the Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston) and a Vatican spy (Daniel Craig). Capably directed by Shekhar Kapur, it plays fast and loose with historical details, but remains an absorbing look at one of the most fascinating periods in British history. The production design and costumes are convincing and all look terrific on Blu-ray. Nominated for several Oscars, it helped launch Blanchett as a star and also look out for small roles featuring Eric Cantona and a 12-year-old Lily Allen. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Zombieland (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): One of the sleeper hits of last summer was this horror comedy about a group of survivors (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin) trying to stay alive after a zombie apocalypse hits the USA.

A road trip film of sorts, it bears quite a few similarities to Shaun of the Dead in its jokey, referential humour. That said it is an entertaining ride and a welcome antidote to the scores of gory, horror remakes which have sprouted up in the last decade. Strangely, it also bears some similarities to Adventureland, which also starred Jesse Eisenberg, as well as featuring a theme park. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

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ALSO OUT

Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Universal) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Ninja (Lionsgate UK) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Pink Floyd: Momentary Lapses (Classic Rock Productions) [Buy it on DVD]
Survival of the Dead (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
The Beatles: A Magical History Tour (Classic Rock Productions) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
The Crimson Wing (Walt Disney) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
The Fourth Kind (EV) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Cold Souls (Universal) [Buy it on DVD]
Goal! III – Taking On the World (In 2 Pictures) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Seven Ages of Britain (2 Entertain) [Buy it on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 12th March including Green Zone and Shutter Island

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 8th March 2010

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

An Education (E1 Entertainment): Coming of age dramas can often fall prey to clichĂ© or sentimentality but this manages to avoid avoid such pitfalls to become something really special. Based on journalist Lynn Barber‘s memoir of growing up in the early 1960s, it explores the life lessons learnt by a 16 year old girl named Jenny (Carey Mulligan, outstanding in the central role) as she falls for an older man (Peter Sarsgaard) and the glamorous lifestyle he appears to offer her. Skilfully directed by Lone Scherfig from an intelligent and heartfelt script by Nick Hornby, it evokes the charming drabness of the period whilst accurately depicting the emotional minefield that teenage years can be. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

Bright Star (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): The latest film from director Jane Campion explores the last years of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Beautifully filmed and acted, it is a surprise that this hasn’t got a UK Blu-ray release given the stunning Vermeer-like cinematography from Greig Fraser. [Buy on DVD]

Toy Story (Walt Disney): The first feature from Pixar finally arrives on the Blu-ray format. The 1995 film directed by John Lasseter had a brilliantly simple concept: what happens to toys when they’re not played with? The main characters it introduced us to were: Cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), the favourite toy of a young boy named Andy, who tries to calm his colleagues during a difficult time of year – the birthday – when they may be replaced by newer toys. Along comes the snazzy Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who mistakenly believes he is a real space ranger and not a toy. What could have been cheesy and overly commercial was instead a magical, innovative landmark in film history. Lasseter and his team won a richly deserved special Oscar “for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film”. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

Toy Story 2 (Walt Disney): The 1999 sequel to Toy Story gets a simultaneous Blu-ray release in preparation for the third film, which is out at cinemas in June. As the only sequel Pixar have done (so far) Toy Story managed to preserve the quality of the original and in certain sequences surpass it. Toy collecting becomes the focus here, as Woody (Tom Hanks) – a rare doll from a popular 60s children’s show – gets kidnapped by a greedy collector and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) hatches a rescue mission with Andy’s other toys. A massive box office success, the second film demonstrated that Pixar were not only innovators in terms of CG animation but that they had tremendous story telling skills which have continued to delight audiences over the last decade. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

Afterschool (Network Releasing): A US indie which explores the experiences of a teenage student at an elite East Coast school who accidentally captures on camera the tragic deaths of two female classmates. Their lives become memorialised as part of an audio-visual assignment intended to facilitate the campus-wide healing process, with the technophile Robert eventually overseeing the project, which creates unexpected tensions and unease. An interesting and distinctive debut film from first time director Antonio Campos which explores new and disturbing issues for a generation who have grown up in a world connected by the web. [Buy on DVD]

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ALSO OUT

Julie and Julia (Sony Pictures) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
Kill Zone (Showbox Media Group) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
Saw VI (Lionsgate UK) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
The Great Rift (2 Entertain) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
200 Motels (Tony Palmer Films) [Buy on DVD]
Amelia (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy on DVD]
Don’t Worry About Me (Verve Pictures) [Buy on DVD]
Mister Lonely (ICA) [Buy on DVD]
Motherhood (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy on DVD]
Reservoir Dogs (Lionsgate UK) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
Taking Woodstock (Universal Pictures) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
The Mentalist: Season 1 (Warner Home Video) [Buy on DVD]
Track 29 (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy on DVD]
True Lies (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 5th March including Alice in Wonderland, Legion, Chloe, Case 39 and Ondine

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 1st March 2010

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Fantastic Mr Fox (Fox): Wes Anderson‘s animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s book was pleasingly off beat and featured an all-star voice cast in telling the tale of a fox (George Clooney) who lives underground with his wife (Meryl Streep) and family (which includes Jason Schwartzman) whilst attracting the ire of local farmers (Michael Gambon, Adrien Brody and Brian Cox). The stop motion animation is artfully realised and the witty script is complemented by some nicely deadpan voice-over work from the cast. [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]

Dawn of the Dead (Arrow Films): George A Romero‘s classic 1978 horror film finally comes to Blu-ray and his follow-up to Night of the Living Dead still stands up after 32 years which have seen countless imitators, remakes and homages (most notably Shaun of the Dead). The story revolves around four people trapped inside a shopping mall after the rest of society has turned in to flesh eating zombies and the satirical jabs at Western consumerism have a new relevance in the modern era. This version is the 128 minute theatrical cut and features extras including audio commentaries, trailers, still gallery and an 85 minute documentary. [Buy it on Blu-ray]

Jacob’s Ladder (Optimum): A creepy psychological 1990 horror from director Adrian Lyne, this is the tale of a Vietnam veteran (Tim Robbins) who thinks he is going insane after his nightmares begin spilling into his waking life and he comes to think it has something to do with a powerful drug tested on him during the war. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin, it features solid supporting performances from Elizabeth Peña, Ving Rhames and Danny Aiello. It remains a powerful film even if the ending will probably prove divisive among viewers. [Buy it on Blu-ray]

ALSO OUT

Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (Warner Bros) [Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-ray]
Nurse Jackie – Season 1 (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD]
In Plain Sight – Season 2 (Universal) [Buy on DVD]
An Inspector Calls (1954) [Buy on DVD]
The Horseman (Kaleidoscope) [Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-ray]
Triangle (Icon) [Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-ray]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 26th February including Everybody’s Fine, Extraordinary Measures, The Crazies and Capitalism: A Love Story

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Wings of Desire

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After a spell making films in the U.S., director Wim Wenders returned to his native Germany for Wings of Desire (1987), a beautiful meditation on existence in a Berlin that was heading towards the end of the Cold War.

The story follows two angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) as they observe and listen in on the lives of Berlin’s citizens, most notably a trapeze artist, Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and Peter Falk (playing himself) who is in the city making a film.

Co-written with frequent collaborator Peter Handke, Wenders manages to contrast the poetic ruminations of the angels with the doubts and anxieties of the humans to stunning effect: monochrome is contrasted with colour, the camera goes from the skies above to the streets below and the journey of one of the angels is a touching reversal of what usually happens in these kinds of stories.

Wenders the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the film spawned a decent – though inferior – sequel in 1993 with Faraway, So Close! and a Hollywood remake (City of Angels) which is best left forgotten.

An instant art house hit when it was originally released, the film has gained an extra layer of poignancy given the seismic changes the Berlin it so lovingly documents was about to undergo when the Wall fell in 1989.

This Blu-ray release is a massive improvement on existing DVDs and is a restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by Wenders and the 1080p rendering looks fantastic, with the details and black and white being rendered more faithfully than ever before.

Extra features include:

  • 1080/23.98p 1.66:1 Widescreen (extras in SD PAL format)
  • German 5.1 DTS-HD MA with optional English subtitles
  • Feature-length commentary with Wim Wenders and Peter Falk
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary
  • ‘Conversations on Wings of Desire’ featurette
  • Trailer
  • Exclusive limited edition 24 page collector’s booklet

Wings of Desire is out on on Blu-ray from Axiom Films

> Buy Wings of Desire on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry
> Find out more about Wim Wenders at Wikipedia
> Check out screen grabs of the Blu-ray at DVD Beaver

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 22nd February 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Wings of Desire (Axiom): One of the classic European films of the 1980s is Wim Wenders‘ classic tale of a guardian angel (Bruno Ganz) listening to the thoughts of mortals living in West Berlin only to find himself entranced by a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) who makes him yearn to be human. Co-written with Peter Handke and beautifully shot in monochrome and colour by Henri Alekan, it won Wenders the Best Director prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and remains his most celebrated film. This is the first time it has been available on Blu-ray in the UK and has a newly restored picture and sound mix supervised by the director. [Read the full review here]

M (Eureka/MOC): Fritz Lang’s classic early talkie is a crime drama set in 1930s Berlin which involves an elusive serial killer (Peter Lorre) who preys on children – based on the real life DĂŒsseldorf killings – and the efforts of the police and the criminal underworld to catch him. Filmed in Germany, M established Fritz Lang’s reputation in America and was massively influential on other films with its innovative use of sound and visuals.

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ALSO OUT

9 (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
City Girl (Eureka/MOC) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Jennifer’s Body (Fox) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Just Like the Son (Eureka) [Buy it on DVD]
Katalin Varga (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on DVD]
Law & Order: UK – Series 2 (Universal Playback) [Buy it on DVD]
Lucky Bastard (Eureka) [Buy it on DVD]
Michael Jackson’s This Is It (Sony) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Open Graves (Icon) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Rob Zombie Presents
.The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (Anchor Bay) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Sons of Anarchy Season 1 (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
Taking Woodstock (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Beaches of Agnes (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on DVD]
The Day of the Triffids (2009) (Showbox) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Shinjuku Incident (Cine Asia) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
There’s Always Tomorrow (Eureka/MOC) [Buy it on DVD]

 

 

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Pierrot le fou

One of the key films of the French new wave, Pierrot le fou (1965) is Jean-Luc Godard‘s landmark drama about two lovers who go on the run.

Based on Lionel White‘s novel Obsession, it is the story of Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a young intellectual married to a rich Italian, who is utterly disillusioned with his luxurious bourgeois existence. When his new babysitter for his young daughter turns out to be his former lover, Marianne (Anna Karina) he sees a chance to escape.

When he and Marianne leave for the south of France, they confront criminals, petrol attendants, and American tourists as they discover more about themselves and become a kind of existential Bonnie & Clyde.

Godard here returned to the territory of A bout de souffle (1959), but this is arguably a more complex and challenging work which features musical numbers, as well as allusions to painting, literature and cinema itself.

The striking use of colour is just one of the many visual treats, as is the breaking of the fourth wall with characters looking into the camera and some innovative editing.

The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:

  • Introduction by Colin McCabe, Godard expert
  • Godard, Love and Poetry: Documentary on Godard (53 mins)
  • Documentary film analysis by Jean-Bernard Pouy (106 mins)
  • Trailer
  • German TV Advertisement
  • Posters (5)
  • BD Live
  • Booklet: Analysis of the movie by Roland-Francois Lack, Senior Lecturer in French and Film at University College London.

The technical specs are:

  • Cert: 15
  • Region B
  • Feature Running time: 105 mins approx
  • Blu-ray Feature Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Colour PAL
  • Feature Audio: DTS Master Audio Dual Mono
  • English language
  • Video: 24p 1080
  • Disc Type: BD50
  • Cat no: OPTBD0826
  • RRP: ÂŁ24.99

Pierrot le fou is out on Blu-ray now from Optimum Home Entertainment as part of The Studio Canal Collection

> Buy Pierrot le fou on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
>Pierrot le fou at the IMDb

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: The Ladykillers

One of the classic comedies produced by Ealing Studios, The Ladykillers (1955) sees a criminal mastermind (Alec Guinness) and his gang rent a London flat from a sweet old lady (Katie Johnson) only to find that things don’t go as planned.

It features an excellent supporting cast that includes Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and Danny Green, although it is the two leads of Guinness and Johnson who really shine with pitch perfect performances.

There is a restrained classiness to Alexander Mackendrick‘s direction whilst William Rose‘s screenplay has a marvellous blend of wit and economy.

Look out too for the effective use of London locations and the sparring between Lom and Sellars, which anticipates their roles in the Pink Panther films a decade later.

The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:

  • Introduction by Terry Gilliam
  • Commentary with Phillip Kemp
  • Forever Ealing: Documentary (49 mins)
  • Interview with Allan Scott (10 mins)
  • Interview with Ronald Harwood (7 mins)
  • Interview with Terence Davies New (14 mins)
  • Cleaning Up The Ladykillers: featurette
  • Trailer
  • BD-Live
  • Booklet: Analysis by film critic David Parkinson

The technical specs are:

  • Cert: PG
  • Region B
  • Feature Running time: 91 mins approx
  • Blu-ray Feature
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 PB – 1.33:1 (4×3)
  • Colour PAL
  • Feature Audio: DTS HD Master 2.0 (Mono)
  • English Language
  • Video: 24p 1080
  • Disc Type: BD50
  • Cat no: OPTBD0602
  • RRP: ÂŁ24.99

The Ladykillers is out on Blu-ray now from Optimum Home Entertainment as part of The Studio Canal Collection

> Buy The Ladykillers on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> The Ladykillers at the IMDb

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: The Go-Between

Adapted from L.P Hartley’s classic 1953 novel exploring the loss of childhood innocence, The Go-Between (1970) was the third collaboration between director Joseph Losey and writer Harold Pinter, following The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967).

Continuing their exploration of class and desire, it explores a middle-aged man (Michael Redgrave) recalling a childhood summer at a country estate when, as a boy (Dominic Guard), he became a messenger between an aristocratic woman (Julie Christie) an a local farm worker (Alan Bates).

Beautifully filmed in the Norfolk countryside, it transcends the period setting to become a powerful meditation on human relationships and the social rules which govern them.

It is also a meditation on memory and the tricks it may or may not play on us, as the clever narrative gradually makes clear.

Christie and Bates had previously starred together in Far From the Madding Crowd, and there is a definite sense of melancholy here that can be found it the works of Thomas Hardy, alongside the sharp jabs at the cruelties of the British class system.

The period details and costumes are all excellent and the memorable, driving score by Michael LeGrand adds an extra layer of emotion to the story.

It won several BAFTAs, including one for Pinter’s screenplay, and was one of four films awarded a grand prize at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.

The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:

  • SD: Interviews with Joshua Losey (10 mins) / Michael Billington (8 mins) / Patricia Losey (12 mins) / Gerry Fisher (21 mins) / John Heyman (7 mins)
  • Horlicks Advert directed by Joseph Losey / Audio recording of Joseph Losey interviewed by Dilys Powell in 1973 (100 mins)
  • HD: Trailer / BD Live
  • Booklet: Piece by Gavrik Losey, Reprint of essays by Nick James, Editor of Sight & Sound and Dylan Cave, contributor, from Sight & Sound June 2009.

The technical specifications are as follows:

  • Cert: PG
  • Region B
  • Feature Running time: 116 mins approx
  • Blu-ray Feature Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • Colour PAL
  • Feature Audio: DTS Master Audio Dual Mono
  • English Language
  • Video: 24p 1080
  • Disc Type: BD50
  • Cat no: OPTBD1195

The Go-Between is out on Blu-ray now from Optimum Home Entertainment as part of The Studio Canal Collection

> Buy The Go-Between on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> The Go-Between at the IMDb
> Find out more about L.P. Hartley’s novel at Wikipedia

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: Up

Up (Disney): The latest animated film from Pixar continues their extraordinary run of success with a superbly crafted odd-couple adventure which deservedly reaped huge critical acclaim and box office success.

Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) is a widowed ex-balloon salesman who, at the age of 78 and threatened with eviction, decides to go on an adventure by tying hundreds of balloons to his house and flying off to South America.

When he discovers mid-flight that a persistent young Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai) is on board, they embark on a journey which takes them to the jungle, where they encounter various creatures and a mysterious explorer (Christopher Plummer) from the past.

Pixar have become so good at feature length animation that it’s easy to take their brilliance for granted: the visuals are vibrant, imaginative and beautifully rendered; the characters are wonderfully crafted – from the contrasting leads to the supporting cast of exotic birds and talking dogs – and the expert pacing makes the 89-minute running time fly by.

Directed by Pete Docter, who was also behind ‘Monsters, Inc.’ (2001) as well as co-writing ‘Toy Story’ (1995) and ‘WALL-E’ (2008), it is the second highest grossing Pixar film (after Finding Nemo).

Much of the appeal was almost certainly cross-generational, with much of the comedy coming from the clash between grumpy old Carl and the naively innocent Russell.

The use of colour, from the balloons to the creatures and plants in the jungle, is as good as any Pixar film and gave it a captivating quality well suited both to 3D in the cinema and Blu-ray in the home.

The physical comedy, especially scenes involving a bird named Kevin and a talking golden retriever called Dug, is also a real treat, providing a lot of laughs and charm.

There is also a wordless sequence near the beginning which is among the most perfect I’ve ever seen in a mainstream film: over just five minutes, a whole marriage is portrayed with incredible economy and deep reserves of emotion.

Michael Giacchino’s score is his best yet for Pixar, with the melodies and instrumentation managing to complement the energetic set pieces and quieter moments with considerable skill and class.

If I had one complaint, it would be that when the film enters into the final act, it evokes a feeling of deja vu with the action seeming a little formulaic (e.g. characters fighting, getting out of scrapes in the nick of time).

The transfer for the Blu-ray is also a marvel to behold. Animated films benefit from coming from a digital source, which means unlike some of their celluloid counterparts, there is no digital noise, grain or flaws to speak of.

Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver has posted some screen grabs here.

Disney are releasing it on DVD and Blu-ray in the following packages:

DVD Deluxe

  • Theatrical Short, Partly Cloudy
  • Exclusive Short, Dug’s Special Mission
  • Home Theatre Maximizer
  • Director Commentary w/ Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
  • Feature Documentary, Adventure is Out There
  • Alternate Scene, The Many Endings of Muntz
  • Learn How to Take Your Favourite Movies on the Go

Blu-ray Disc One

  • Cine-Explore
  • Easter Egg, The Egg

Blu-ray Disc Two

  • Global Guardian Badge Game
  • Documentaries:
  • Geriatric Hero
  • Canine Companions
  • Russell: Wilderness Explorer
  • Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin
  • Homemakers of PIXAR
  • Balloons & Flight
  • Composing for Characters
  • Alternate Scene, Married Life
  • Promo Montage
  • Trailer #2
  • Trailer #3

> Buy Up at Amazon UK on DVD or Blu-ray
> IMDb Entry

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 15th February 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Up (Disney): Pixar’s latest animated film is the tale of a retired balloon salesman named Carl (Ed Asner) who, at age 78, decides to use his balloons to finally go on a trip down to South America along with an unexpected young stowaway named Russell (Jordan Nagai). [Read the full review here]

The Go-Between (Optimum): A Blu-ray only release for this 1970 adaptation of L.P Hartley’s novel, directed by Joseph Losey and adapted by Harold Pinter. Set over a Norfolk summer in 1900, it sees a young boy become a pawn in the illicit relationship between an aristocratic woman (Julie Christie) and a local farmer (Alan Bates). [Read the full review here]

Pierrot Le Fou (Optimum): A Blu-ray only release for one of the iconic films of the French New Wave, which is Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 film about a couple – Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Marianne (Anna Karina) – who get caught up in a mysterious gun-running scheme involving Marianne’s brother (Dirk Sanders). [Read the full review here]

The Ladykillers (Optimum): A Blu-ray only release for this classic 1955 Ealing comedy directed by Alexander Mackendrick. It stars Alec Guinness stars as criminal mastermind who leads a group of thieves about to commit the perfect crime and rents a room from sweet and harmless old lady (Katie Davies) in her crooked London house. [Read the full review here]

The Leopard (BFI): Luchino Visconti’s classic 1963 adaptation of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s best-selling novel, which stars Burt Lancaster as the head of an ageing  Sicilian family coming to terms with the emerging unified Italy in the 1800s. Finally released on Blu-ray – a fitting format for one of the most sumptuous epics ever made. This is the complete and uncut version released by the BFI in collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc.

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ALSO OUT

Cirque Du Freak – The Vampire’s Assistant (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Life on Mars: The Complete Series (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
Ong Bak: The Beginning (Sony) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Pandorum (Icon) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 12th February including The Wolfman, Ponyo and A Single Man

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 8th February 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Adventureland (Walt Disney): Director Greg Mottola followed up Superbad (2007) with this marvellous coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1987 about a recent college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) who takes a nowhere job at a local amusement park, where he falls in love and learns a few life lessons.

Superbly made and acted it features some terrific performances from Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds (seriously) and Bill Hader. Although it didn’t make a huge amount of money at cinemas, it was one of the best films of last year and will almost certainly become a cult favourite in the future.

Plus, it has a memorable use of Falco’s ‘Amadeus‘ and the line “status obsessed witch” is one of the killer movie phrases in recent memory.

Extras include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Just My Life: The Making Of Adventureland
  • Feature Commentary — With Writer/Director Greg Mottola And Actor Jesse Eisenberg
  • A Satiric “How To” On Inflicting Unexpected Pain

* Buy Adventureland on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK *

Mystic River (Warner): A release on Blu-ray for Clint Eastwood‘s 2003 adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, which is set in Boston and deals with three childhood friends (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon) who are reunited after one of their daughters gets killed.

A powerful and well acted drama, it features fine supporting performances from Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden and Laurence Fishburne. Tastefully shot (by Tom Stern) and edited (by Joel Cox), it bears all the hallmarks of Eastwood’s classy dramas over the last decade and won Sean Penn and Tim Robbins Oscars for their performances.

Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver has posted some screen shots of the Blu-ray and is impressed with the transfer and the overall package, saying:

“…contrast and colors leap ahead. …this looks very good and occasionally even impressive with some desirable depth. Dependant on your system – the superiority is moderate to heavy over the previous SD-DVDs”

This includes all the extras from the R1 DVD release that were never included on the UK R2 DVD.

  • Commentary by Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon
  • Dennis Lehane Tours the Boston Neighborhood Setting of His Novel in Mystic River: Beneath the Surface
  • Featurette Mystic River: From Page to Screen
  • The Charlie Rose Show Interviews with Clint Eastwood, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon
  • Theatrical Trailers

* Buy Mystic River on Blu-ray from Amazon UK *

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Paper Heart (Anchor Bay): A new film starring Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera as fictionalized versions of themselves in a “hybrid documentary” about love. Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, it also features Yi travelling across America asking various people about their experiences of love.

Extras include:

  • Paper Heart Uncut
  • “The Making of Paper Heart”
  • Live musical performances by Charlyne Yi
  • “Heaven” music video by Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera
  • Love interviews with the comedians
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer

* Buy Paper Heart on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK *

ALSO OUT

Blue Dragon Complete Series 1 (Manga) [Buy it on DVD]
Couples Retreat (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Death Note Relight: Visions of a God (Manga) [Buy it on DVD]
I Love You, Beth Cooper (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
In the Electric Mist (High Fliers) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Kamikaze Girls (Special Edition) (Third Window Films) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Lala Pipo (Third Window Films) [Buy it on DVD]
Long Weekend (2008) (Showbox) [Buy it on DVD]
The Time Traveler’s Wife (EIV) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Ugly Truth (Sony) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Unit Season 4 (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 5th February including Invictus and Astro Boy

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: Broken Embraces

Broken Embraces (Pathe) is the latest film from Spanish director Pedro AlmodĂłvar and a ‘romantic noir’ spanning 16 years.

Set in 2008, with flashbacks to 1992 and 1994, it focuses on a film director (Lluis Homar) who’s lost the love of his life (Penelope Cruz) as well as his eyesight to a jealous lover.

The tricky structure is a dramatic device used to comment on and explain the events of the present and although this seems to have put some viewers off – judging by the  mixed reaction it got at Cannes – is still handled impressively.

It also explores guilt and how it can weigh heavily on human relationships, suggesting that the director was possibly drawing on his own life and art, and this is served by some convincing performances.

Homar convey’s a director’s restless desire for his life and art, even when he can’t see, whilst Cruz is as emotionally convincing as she is physically striking.

Her performance is almost a post-modern wink to the relationship between a director and a leading lady.

As you might expect, AlmodĂłvar fills the frame with some captivating images, using primary colours (especially red) as a counterpoint to the heavy emotional situations and characters.

If there is a flaw with the film, it is that it exists almost too neatly within it’s cinema-drenched world: not only is the protagonist a director, but it even references numerous auteurs such as Powell, Hitchcock, Malle, Fellini and even his own 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Whilst this makes it a treat for cinephiles and an undoubtedly personal work for AlmodĂłvar, it lacks the heart and feeling of his more recent works like Talk to Her and Volver.

The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc include:

  • Short Film: The Anthropophagic Council Woman La Concejala Antropofaga (7 mins 32 secs)
  • 3 x Deleted Scenes (11 mins 50 secs)
  • Directing in Girls and Suitcases (5 mins 30 secs)
  • Original UK Theatrical Trailer (2 mins)
  • Photo Gallery

Broken Embraces is out now from Pathe

> Buy the DVD or Blu-ray Disc from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre (Revolver) is a highly impressive drama about immigrants trying to reach the US (the title is Spanish for “without name”) directed by Cary Fukunaga.

Seeking the promise of America, a young Honduran woman, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), joins her father and uncle on an odyssey to cross the gauntlet of the Latin American countryside en route to the United States.

Along the way she crosses paths with a teenaged Mexican gang member, El Casper (Edgar Flores), who is manoeuvring to outrun his violent past and elude his unforgiving former associates.

A highly accomplished debut feature, it has some fine performances and has a compelling sense of realism which may have been a result of the director’s extensive research, which involved travelling with immigrants on trains in Central America.

Although the story treads a well worn path, both literally and figuratively, it manages to steer well clear of cliché and tedium thanks to the skill and attention to detail behind the camera.

Cinematographer Adriano Goldman gives the film a remarkable look, blending the rugged landscapes and harsh urban environments with considerable grace and panache, fully deserving of its awards at Sundance last January.

The exras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc include:

  • Audio commentary
  • Deleted scenes

Sin Nombre is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Revolver

> Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon UK
> IMDb entry

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 1st February 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Sin Nombre (Revolver): A deeply impressive drama about immigrants trying to reach the US (the title is Spanish for “without name”) directed by Cary Fukunaga. The story explores a young Honduran woman (Paulina Gaitan) who wants to start a new life with her father and uncle in New Jersey and a Mexican gang member (Edgar Flores) and his desire to escape his violent past. [Read the full review here]

Broken Embraces (Pathe): The latest film from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar is about an ill-fated love triangle lasting 16 years (set in 2008, with flashbacks to 1992 and 1994) focused on a film director (Lluis Homar) who’s lost the love of his life (Penelope Cruz), as well as his eyesight to a jealous lover. [Read the full review here]

ALSO OUT

Aliens in the Attic (Fox) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Away We Go (E1 Entertainment) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Halloween II (2009) (EIV) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
I Hate Valentine’s Day (EIV) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Naruto Unleashed Complete Series 7 (Manga) [Buy it on DVD]
Naruto Unleashed Series 8 Part 2 (Manga) [Buy it on DVD]
Sherlock Hound: The Complete Series (Manga)
Stan Helsing (Anchor Bay) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Army of Crime (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Day of the Triffids (2009) (Showbox) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Firm (2009) (Warner) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Invention of Lying (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Soloist (Universal) [Buy it on DVD]
Waterworld (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]

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> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 29th January including Edge of Darkness and Precious

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Magnolia

A classic 1999 ensemble drama written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia (EIV) was a stunning mosaic of several interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.

Starring John C. Reilly, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and Jeremy Blackman, it blends nine different stories that involve several people during one day in Los Angeles.

Even more audacious than his stunning breakthrough film Boogie Nights (1997), it explores heavyweight themes such as love, death, chance and family with supreme confidence and style.

A homage of sorts to Robert Altman‘s ensemble dramas of the 1970s, it examines the universal by focusing tightly on the personal and is notable for Anderson’s dazzling wide-screen compositions and camera movements.

Regular collaborators such as cinematographer Robert Elswit and editor Dylan Tichenor add their usual impeccable contributions and the acting across the board was first rate, with an especially eye-opening turn from Tom Cruise as a loathsome sex guru.

At just over three hours long it is a sprawling epic, but one which engages fully with its sublime mix of technical virtuosity, wit, emotion and memorable soundtrack from Aimee Mann, whose songs inspired some of the script.

It is a film that can divide viewers (some always seem to have a problem with the climax) but it got mostly positive reviews and still stands as one of the best films of a particularly outstanding year. Also look out for the numbers 8 and 2 which are liberally scattered throughout the film as visual clues to a key sequence.

DVD Beaver have posted some screen grabs compared to the DVD versions if you want to gauge the quality of the transfer.

The Blu-ray comes with roughly the same extras as the 2 disc DVD and includes a lengthy video diary detailing much of the production.

Extras include:

  • Magnolia video Diary
  • Frank T.J. Mackey Seminar
  • Seduce and Destroy television commercials
  • Aimee Mann Save Me Music Video
  • Theatrical trailer and TV Spots

Magnolia is out now on Blu-ray from EIV

> Buy Magnolia on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Magnolia at the IMDb

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD and Blu-ray Releases: Monday 25th January 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Magnolia (EIV): The classic 1999 ensemble drama written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, which is a mosaic of several interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley. [Read the full review here] [Buy it on Blu-ray]

Fish Tank (Artificial Eye): Writer-director Andrea Arnold’s second feature-length film, which is an absorbing tale of a teenage girl (Katie Jarvis) on an Essex housing estate who strikes up a friendship with her mother’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). [Read the full review here] [Buy it on DVD]

Mesrine Parts 1 & 2 (Momentum): An epic two part crime saga starring Vincent Cassel as a the real life criminal who gets involved in a series of hold-ups, prison breaks and kidnappings throughout the 1970s and 80s across several continents. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (Sony): A charming animated comedy, based on the book by Judi and Ron Barrett, about a young scientist who invents a weather machine which inadvertently starts raining food down on his town. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

The Double Life of Veronique (Artificial Eye): A Blu-ray release for this 1991 French-Polish drama directed by Krzysztof Kieƛlowski, which stars Irùne Jacob as two women who have a mysterious connection. [Buy it on Blu-ray]

Thirst (Palisades Tartan): A vampire story from director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) about a priest saved by a blood transfusion , which also transforms him into a vampire. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

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ALSO OUT

A Town Called Eureka Season 3.0 (Universal Playback) [Buy it on DVD]
Bullet Boy (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on DVD]
Candy (ICA)
Copying Beethoven (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray| Buy it on DVD]
Fame (2009) (EIV) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Gaea Girls & Shinjuku Boys (Second Run) [Buy it on DVD]
House [Hausu] (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy it on DVD]
Katyn (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Universal) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Love Exposure (Third Window Films) [Buy it on DVD]
Lubitsch in Berlin (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy it on DVD]
Ocean Waves (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
Passchendaele (High Fliers) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Permissive (BFI) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Pontypool (Kaleidoscope Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Privilege (BFI) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Red Road (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Smokin’ Aces (Universal) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassin’s Ball (Universal) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Straightheads (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
That Kind of Girl (BFI) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Undercover (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
Une Femme Mariée (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Whiteout (Optimum) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Zidane (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 22nd January including Armored, Ninja Assassin and The Boys Are Back

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer (Fox): A smart and inventive romantic comedy that explores the failed romance of a couple (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) in a quirky and non-linear fashion.

Directed by Marc Webb and scripted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber it became a something of a minor hit back in the summer and has earned plaudits for its unconventional approach to the genre.

Although it occasionally suffers from a bit too much kooky quirkiness, the two lead performances are good value as is the sequence which makes creative use of Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams”.

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc contains the following extras:

  • Director’s Commentary
  • Lost Days of Summer: 9 Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Digital Copy

Whilst the Blu-ray has the following exclusives:

  • Bank Dance Directed by Marc Webb
  • Mean’s Cinemash: “Sid and Nancy/ (500) Days of Summer
  • Music Video: SWEET DISPOSITION by Temper Trap
  • Conversations with Zooey and Joseph
  • Acting Vs Reality
  • Creative Process
  • Favourite Parts of L.A
  • Karaoke
  • Los Angeles
  • Music

(500) Days of Summer is out now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

> Buy the DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> IMDb Entry

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove (Sony): The Blu-ray release of Stanley Kubrick’s classic Cold War satire is one of this year’s major releases on the format.

Released in 1964, it stars Peter Sellers (in a remarkable performance encompassing three roles: US president, the scientist title character and a British RAF group captain), George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden.

Loosely based on Peter George’s novel Red Alert it depicts the chaos that ensues when an unhinged US Air Force general launches a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

With its splendid mix of intelligence, wit and technical brilliance it remains one of Kubrick’s finest works and also one of the truly great films of the 1960s.

This Blu-ray release came out last summer in the US and was based on a 4K restoration by Sony (although sadly no sign of the famously deleted cream pie fight).

There are a couple of visual issues surrounding this release worth noting as they apply to any classic work restored for Blu-ray.

Firstly, the aspect ratio is done in 1:66. As The Digital Bits reported:

The original theatrical presentation varied between 1.33 and 1.66. In recent years however, we’re told that Kubrick’s associates (who manage his estate) have become more comfortable with the 16×9/1.78:1 aspect ratio of HD displays, and they believe that Kubrick himself – if he’d really had the chance to look into it – would have preferred his full frame films to be presented on home video (in HD) at a steady 1.66 to take better advantage of the 1.78:1 frame. So that’s the reasoning for the decision.

The other issue which caused some debate was that of grain. The basic argument here revolves around how much grain should be removed in the transfer process. Purists argue that grain should be preserved as it was part of the original negative, whilst others think that if directors would have removed grain if they had access to modern digital tools.

To complicate the issue, there are some who think that that the whole issue is a non-starter and that grain is an inherent part of the film image.

There isn’t really a definitive answer, as it depends on the film and your viewpoint, but given the heated arguments around such releases of The French Connection and The Third Man, it is likely to remain an issue that crops up in future.

Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver thinks grain was always an important part of the film:

Grain has always been an important part of the visual texture to this film – it’s preserved here nicely without becoming a distraction. This is a great B&W, 1080p presentation. The new TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is also quite good, offering the expected improvements in clarity and resolution. For those who prefer it, however, the original mono audio is here too.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere felt badly let down by the grain in the image, describing it as:
…more than a visual disappointment — it’s a flat-out burn. I paid $35 bills for it yesterday afternoon and I’m seething. It’s hands down the worst grainstorm experience since Criterion’s The Third Man because Sony’s preservation and restoration guy Grover Crisp went the monk-purist route in the remastering and retained every last shard of grain in the original film elements.
Glenn Kenny of Some Came Running took a different position, arguing that Kubrick wanted grain in the film:
Of course this brings up all the old arguments as to grain and its place in a motion picture’s image, the rather absurd supposition by some that if dead filmmakers could return from the grave they’d immediately avail themselves of digital technology and erase all the film grain from their oeuvres, etc., etc. I don’t think I’m going that far on a limb to say that Kubrick in particular liked a little grain in his images.
Whatever the debate over the visual transfer it is still an essential film for any collection and the extras are plentiful, including:
  • Coded for all regions (A, B and C), extras are in SD. Features include:
  • 1080P 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English and Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • English Mono
  • Hungarian, Czech and Polish DD5.1
  • Subtitles (Main Feature): English, English HOH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Slovak, Spanish (Castilian), Swedish, Turkish
  • Subtitles (Extra Features): English, Spanish
  • BD Exclusive: The Cold War: Picture-in-Picture and Pop-Up Trivia Track – Embark on a journey into the very heart of the Cold War exploring, in fascinating detail, the military and political world in which Dr. Strangelove takes place. What did the film get right and where did it take liberties with established military procedures? And just how close were we in the early 1960s to a real atomic exchange? This multimedia experience includes Graphic-in-Picture pop-up trivia and Picture-in-Picture commentary that help shed some light on an era of secrets and heightened paranoia, all of which helped inspire this classic film. Picture-in-Picture interviews include:
  • Thomas Schelling (RAND* Corp. employee during late 1950s and early 1960s – wrote article on novel “Red Alert” that prompted Kubrick’s interest in adapting the book to a film)
  • Richard A. Clarke (Author of “Against All Enemies,” counter-terrorism and command and control systems expert)
  • Daniel Ellsberg (RAND Corp. employee during late 1950s and early 1960s; consultant to JFK admin., Dept. of Defense)
  • George Quester (Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland; expert on nuclear proliferation, deterrence, and nuclear diplomacy)
  • David Alan Rosenberg (Temple University professor; Historian of Nuclear Strategy; ex-military)
  • No Fighting in the War Room or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat
  • Inside: Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove
  • Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove Remembered
  • An Interview with Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara

Dr Strangelove is out now on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

> Buy the Blu-ray at Amazon UK
> IMDb Entry
> Find out more about Dr Strangelove and Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 18th Janaury 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Dr Strangelove (Sony): The Blu-ray release of Stanley Kubrick‘s classic Cold War satire is undoubtedly one of the major releases of the year on the format. Released in 1964, it stars Peter Sellers (in a remarkable three roles: US president, the scientist title character and a British RAF group captain), George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden. Loosely based on Peter George’s Cold War novel Red Alert it depicts the chaos that ensues when an unhinged US Air Force general launches a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. [Read the full review here]

(500) Days of Summer (Fox): A smart and inventive romantic comedy that explores the failed romance of a couple (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) in a quirky and non-linear fashion. Directed by Marc Webb and scripted by Scott Neustadter
and Michael H. Weber it became a something of a minor hit back in the summer and has earned plaudits for its unconventional approach to the genre. [Read the full review here]

ALSO OUT

A Challenge for Robin Hood (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
A Perfect Getaway (Momentum) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Bustin’ Down the Door (Metrodome) [Buy it on DVD]
Creation (Icon) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Cry the Beloved Country (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
Doctor Who: Peladon Tales (2 Entertain) [Buy it on DVD]
Dorian Gray (Momentum) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray] 
Fame Season 2 (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
Fireball (E1 Entertainment) [Buy it on DVD]
Fright (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
Funny People (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Gamer (EIV) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Heart of Fire (Metrodome) [Buy it on DVD]
Howling II (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
In Plain Sight Season 1 (Universal Playback) [Buy it on DVD]
It Might Get Loud (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Night of the Comet (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
Secret People (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
Suspiria (Nouveaux) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Green Berets (Warner) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The High Command (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
The Moonraker (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]
The Queen of Spades (Optimum) [Buy it on DVD]

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> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 15th January including Up in the Air and The Book of Eli

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blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 11th January 2010

DVD & BLU-RAY PICK

The Taking of Pelham 123 (Sony): The remake of the much loved 1974 thriller sees Denzel Washington take on the role of a MTA dispatcher who has to deal with the head of a criminal gang (John Travolta) who have hijacked a train in New York.

Directed by Tony Scott and scripted by Brian Helgeland, it largely came about because Sony had bought MGM and had the rights to remake certain titles in their library.

Although the original film is so distinctive and of its time, this version manages to be something more than just a rehash, mainly due to the fact that Helgeland went back to the original novel and changed some key plot points.

It features solid work all round from the two leads down to a fine supporting cast, which includes John Tuturro, James Gandolfini and Luis Guzman.

Scott directs in his usual frenetic, multi-camera setup style but there is something pleasingly straightforward about the way in which it is all delivered.

It disappointed at the US box office and got a mixed critical response but deserved better as it is a highly efficient nuts and bolts thriller even if Scott directs and edits in his usual ADD manner.

The DVD comes with the following extras:

  • English and Italian DD5.1 Surround
  • English Audio Description Track
  • Subtitles: English, English HOH, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Commentary with Director Tony Scott
  • Commentary with Writer Brian Helgeland and Producer Todd Black
  • No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 123
  • The Third Rail: New York Underground
  • Marketing Pelham
  • From the Top Down: Stylizing Character

The Blu-ray Disc is coded for all regions (A, B and C) and the extras are in a mix of SD and HD, including:

  • 1080P 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • English, German and Italian 5.1 DTS-HD MA
  • English Audio Description Track
  • Subtitles: English, English HOH, Danish, Finnish, German, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish
  • Commentary with Director Tony Scott
  • Commentary with Writer Brian Helgeland and Producer Todd Black
  • No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 123
  • The Third Rail: New York Underground
  • Marketing Pelham
  • From the Top Down: Stylizing Character
  • BD-Live: cinechat

Although I wasn’t sent the Blu-ray for review purposes, I would imagine the transfer looks very good, given that it’s a Sony release.

Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver says it “looks very strong on Blu-ray” and that the transfer is “thick and heavy – balancing nicely between over-saturation and textured grain” and that overall it is a “marvellous presentation”. He has several screen shots here.

* Buy the DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK *

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ALSO OUT

And Then There Were None (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Antichrist (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-ray]
Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (Arrow Video) [Buy on DVD]
Doctor Who Winter Specials 2009 (2 Entertain) [Buy on DVD]
Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (2 Entertain) [Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-ray]
Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Last Action Hero (Sony) [Buy on Blu-ray]
Law & Order: UK – Series 1 (Universal Playback) [Buy on DVD]
Night Boat to Dublin (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Nine Men (Optimum)
Painted Boats (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Shadows in the Sun (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
Sorority Row (E1 Entertainment) [Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-ray]
Spring and Port Wine (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Street Trash (Arrow Video) [Buy on DVD]
The Lost Continent (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
The Proud Valley (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
The World Ten Times Over (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Tickle Me (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead ( Fox) [Buy on DVD]

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> UK cinema releases for Friday 8th January including It’s Complicated, The Road and Daybreakers
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for 2009