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DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 2nd February 2009

DVD Picks 02-02-09

DVD PICKS

John Adams (HBO): Based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography of the second president of the United States, this HBO miniseries arrives on DVD in the UK after winning several awards and garnering considerable critical acclaim.

For those unfamiliar with the title character, he was one of the key figures in the creation of the United States and its struggle for independence from Great Britain.

An impressive cast features Paul Giamatti as John Adams, Laura Linney as his wife Abigail, Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, David Morse as George Washington, Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin and Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton.

The seven episodes chronicle the key chapters of Adams’ life, which span the first fifty years of the¬†United States:

  1. Join or Die:¬†The first episode deals with the¬†Boston Massacre¬†and Adams defending British troops because of his belief in a fair trial for everyone. We also see his cousin¬†Sam Adams¬†(Danny Huston) and his involvement in the ‚ÄúSons of Liberty,‚ÄĚ a group opposed to British rule. It also shows the tensions over the¬†Coercive Acts¬†and Adams’ election to the¬†First Continental Congress.
  2. Independence: The second episode covers the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the disputes among the members of the Second Continental Congress towards declaring independence from Great Britain. Adams is depicted as the lead advocate for independence despite all the danger that entails.
  3. Don’t Tread On Me: The third episode sees Adams travel to Europe during the War of Independence to seek alliances with foreign nations hostile to Britain. He meets up with¬†Benjamin Franklin¬†in the court of¬†Louis XVI¬†and then goes on to the¬†Dutch Republic¬†to obtain financial support for the Revolution.
  4. Reunion:¬†The fourth episode shows Adams being notified of the end of the Revolutionary War before he is sent to Paris to negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783. While there, he spends time with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and reunites¬†with Abigail. After being appointed the first United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom he relocates to the British Court of St. James’s but is poorly received by the British. He then returns to Massachusetts for the first presidential election which sees George Washington become the first President of the United States and Adams first Vice President.
  5. Unite or Die: ¬†The fifth episode explores Adams as Vice-President, presiding over the¬†Senate¬†and the strains within¬†George Washington‘s cabinet members, especially¬†Thomas Jefferson¬†and¬†Alexander Hamilton, the struggle to enact the¬†Jay Treaty¬†with Britain and his inauguration as the second president.
  6. Unnecessary War: The sixth episode explores¬†Adams’s term as president and the bitter rift between the Hamilton-led¬†Federalists¬†and Jefferson-led¬†Republicans. Adams’s neutrality alienates both factions and his shaky relationship with his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, is damaged after a breakdown in relations with the French and the signing the¬†Alien and Sedition Acts. Adams disowns his son Charles, who soon dies as an alcoholic vagrant. He eventually prevents a war with France, but loses the election of 1800 to Jefferson and retires back home to Massachusetts.
  7. Peacefield: The concluding episode examines the last years of his life in retirement which include the tragic deaths of his daughter to cancer and his wife to typhoid fever. However, Adams does live long enough to see his son, John Quincy, elected president. Adams and Jefferson are reconciled through correspondence towards the end of their lives, and both die mere hours apart, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.   

A hugely ambitious project, this miniseries offers us a fascinating insight into the early years of the United States as seen through the lens of one of the key founding fathers.

Director Tom Hooper (who was also behind HBO’s ‘Elizabeth I’) and writer Kirk Ellis have done an amazing job of distilling McCullough’s 700-page book into seven epiosdes that are rich with drama and detail.

Technically, it is first rate with some marvellous cinematography by Tak Fujimoto capturing the candle lit interiors and and outdoor landscapes superbly well.

The sets and locations are also extremely impressive, making clever use of CGI which is nicely woven into the action without ever being distracting.

It was filmed in the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area in Virginia and Hungary for the European locations and also features 125 speaking roles, so it is mounted on a scale unusual even for an HBO project.

However, unlike some historical dramas it goes beyond the settings and costumes to grapple with the underlying themes and and issues at stake in the birth of the United States of America.

Part of what makes the series so attractive is the extraordinary nature of Adams’ life – one that encompassed so many crucial events in a remarkable period of history.

He personally embodied many of the ideals upon which the nation was founded and also had a remarkably strong relationship with Abigail, his feisty wife of 54 years.

Given the importance of the War of Independence you might wonder why it has been so poorly represented on screen but perhaps the shadow of the disastrous Revolution (1985) still hangs over anyone that attempts to pitch a project set in the era.

A good deal of credit then must go to producer Tom Hanks and HBO for attempting such a bold and sweeping project, with a reported budget of $100 million.

It has paid off with plaudits and¬†swept the board at the 2008 Emmy Awards with 17 nominations and 13 wins including, ‚ÄėOutstanding Actor‚Äô, ‚ÄėOutstanding Actress‚Äô and ‚ÄėOutstanding Mini-series‚Äô and¬†also won four awards at the 2009 Golden Globes.

This 3-disc, 7 part mini series clocks in at 501 minutes and comes with the following extras:

  • David McCullough – Painting with Words:¬†Explore the artistry of this two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and his approach to writing history.
  • Making of John Adams: A behind the scenes feature with the cast and crew as they talk about bringing the book to screen, and including an on-set and location tour.
  • On Screen Historical Guide: An on screen guide which pops up historically relevant information about John Adams and his time period during each of the 7 episodes.

Overall it is a landmark piece of television and one of the best DVD releases to come out this year.

Appaloosa (EIV): Based on the 2005 novel by Robert B. Parker, this superb western centres around a lawman named Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two friends who are hired to defend a lawless 1880s town from a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons). Their efforts are disrupted and friendship tested by the arrival of a woman (Renée Zellweger).

Although it followed the fate of most westerns by dying at the UK box office, is a rich and highly accomplished film, well worth seeking out on DVD.

The extras on the disc include:

  • Commentary by Ed Harris and Screenwriter-Producer Robert Knott
  • Bringing the characters of Appaloosa to life
  • Historic accuracy of Appaloosa
  • The Town of Appaloosa
  • Dean Semler‚Äôs return to the Western
  • Deleted scenes
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ALSO OUT

Alfresco: The Complete Series (Network)
Category 6: Day of Destruction (Brightspark)
Death Race (Universal)
Faintheart (Vertigo Films)
Fear(s) of the Dark (Metrodome)
Igor (Mometnum)
Immortal Beloved (Icon)
JCVD (Revolver)
Life – Season 1 (Universal Playback)
Paris (Optimum)
Quo Vadis (Warner)
Redbelt (Sony)
Roadkill 2 (Fox)
RocknRolla (Warner)
Step Brothers (Sony)
The Accidental Husband (Momentum)
The Black Balloon (Icon)
The Chaser (Metrodome)
The Cosby Show – Season 4 (Universal Playback)
Trip to Asia: The Quest for Harmony (Axiom Films)
Unrelated (New Wave Films)

> Buy John Adams and Appaloosa at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 30th January)
Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

The Best DVDs of 2008

Best DVDs of 2008

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Every year I usually compile a list of the best films but since I started doing regular DVD roundups it was clear that there was a lot of re-issues and special editions of films worth compiling in an end of year list.

This is my selection of the best films to come out on DVD during 2008 and all of these titles are ones that I would recommend to buy or put in your online rental queue.

When you click on the title of each entry it will take you to my original post on it or the entry in Amazon where you can buy the DVD.

JANUARY

FEBRUARY

MARCH

APRIL

MAY

JUNE

Best DVD releases of 2008

JULY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

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N.B. As I’m based in the UK, all of these DVDs are UK titles but if you live in a different region of the world check out Play.com or your local Amazon site and they should have an equivalent version of the film.

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check

> Check out the best selling DVDs at Play
> Amazon US pick their best DVDs of 2008 (these are Region 1 DVDs)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 15th-29th December 2008

DVD PICK

Man on Wire DVD coverMan on Wire (Icon): In what is quite a barren Christmas period for notable DVDs, there is only one that truly stands out which is this stunning documentary by director James Marsh,who made Wisconsin Death Trip. 

It chronicles Frenchman Philippe Petit, who on August 7th 1974 gave an incredible high-wire performance by walking between between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center eight times in one hour.

The act itself almost defies belief but what the film does brilliantly is capture the tension, beauty and brilliance of Petit’s highly illegal operation.¬†

Born out of a dream and an idea, Petit and his team of accomplices spent eight months planning the execution of their ‘coup’ down to the most intricate detail.

Like a team of bank robbers planning their most ambitious heist, the tasks they faced seemed virtually impossible: they would have to bypass the WTC’s security; smuggle the wire and rigging equipment into the towers; suspend the wire between the towers; secure the wire at the correct tension to withstand the winds and the swaying of the buildings; to rig it secretly by night ‚Äď all without being caught.

Then there would be the walk itself.

One of the finest documentaries to come out in the last few years, the DVD has the following extras:

  • Audio commentary from James Marsh (director) and Simon Chinn (producer)
  • Interview with Phillipe Petit
  • Unseen footage

 * Listen to an interview we did with Philippe Petit about the film *

Man on Wire is released on Friday 26th December

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ALSO OUT

Friday 26th December 

Battle of Wits (Metrodome)
Lipstick Jungle – Season 1 (Universal Playback)
Mum & Dad (Revolver Entertainment)
Steep (Metrodome)
The Love Guru (Paramount)
The Strangers (Universal)

Monday 29th December 

Babylon A.D. (Fox)
Bangkok Dangerous (EIV)
Ben X (Momentum)
Cass (Optimum)
Death Note: L ‚Äď Change the World (4 Digital Asia)
Doctor Who: Battlefield 2 (2Entertain)
Hellsing Ultimate Volume 2 (Manga)
Make it Happen (Optimum)
Naruto The Movie 2 : Legend of the Stone of Gelel (Manga)

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> Buy Man on Wire at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 12th December)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 24th November 2008

DVD PICKS

WALL-E (Disney): The new film from Pixar starts far into the future with the last robot on earth, a trash collector called WALL-E, being visited by another robot called EVE. When they come across plant life it triggers a response from the rest of mankind, who for centuries have existed on a giant mothership faraway.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (who also made Finding Nemo in 2003), this magical tale contains some of the most stunning visuals yet seen in animated films. Added to that is a surprisingly moving love story between two very different robots and a narrative filled with interesting themes such as: the environment, our relationship with technology and even obesity.

The extras on this impressive two-disc set are:

Disc 1

  • ‘Presto’: Theatrical short that was seen in cinemas (5.30)
  • BURN-E: An exclusive short about a minor character in the film.
  • ‘Up’ Teaser for the new Pixar film
  • Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Stanton
  • Deleted scenes
  • Easter Eggs

Disc 2

  • Deleted scenes
  • The Imperfect Lens making of featurette
  • Captain’s Log featurette
  • Notes on a Score featurette
  • Life of a Shot featurette
  • Robo-Everything featurette
  • WALL-E & EVE featurette
  • Buy-n-Large Industrial Shorts (x5)
  • WALL-E trailers
  • Poster gallery
  • The Pixar Story documentary*
All in all it is a highly impressive DVD package and one of the essential films of the year. 
L’Argent (Eureka): A¬†UK DVD release of Marcel L’Herbier’s classic film as part of their Masters of Cinema Series. Adapted from √Čmile Zola‘s novel of the same name, Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Argent [Money] is a notable film of late-silent era cinema. Filmed in part on location at the Paris stock exchange, it explores a world of intrigue, greed, decadence, and ultimately corruption and scandal when business dealings and amorous deceit combine. (Particularly relevant for the current financial climate!).

Never before released on home video in the UK, The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the UK edition of a restoration that won the prestigious Best Silent Film DVD award at the 2008 Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, Bologna, Italy.

A raft of special features on the two-disc edition include:

  • A pristine transfer from a fine grain print struck from the original negative, featuring the director‚Äôs cut fought for by L‚ÄôHerbier over many years, the film speed as projected in the late 1920s, and the entirety of each frame fully displayed
  • New and improved English subtitles
  • Newly improvised musical accompaniment by French composer and pianist Jean-Fran√ßois Zygel, who also provides a video introduction to the film and a documentary about accompanying silent cinema
  • About L‚ÄôArgent (Autour de L‚ÄôArgent) (1928) ‚Äď Jean Dr√©ville‚Äôs 40 minute ‚Äúmaking of‚ÄĚ documentary
  • Archival footage of star Brigitte Helm (fresh from Fritz Lang‚Äôs Metropolis) arriving in Paris for the shooting of L‚ÄôHerbier‚Äôs film
  • Archival screen tests of the L‚ÄôArgent actors
  • Marcel L‚ÄôHerbier: Poet of the Silent Art (Marcel L‚ÄôHerbier: Poete de L‚ÄôArt Silencieux) (2007) ‚Äď a 54 minute documentary profiling the director
  • A demonstration of L‚ÄôHerbier‚Äôs innovative sound techniques, which used 78rpm records during key scenes of L‚ÄôArgent
  • A lavish 80-page perfectly-bound booklet with archival publicity stills, a long essay by noted professor of French film Richard Abel (French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929; French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 1907-1939; The Cin√© Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914), newly translated interviews with L‚ÄôHerbier, and newly translated extracts from the director‚Äôs biography.

The film might seem a distant arthouse oddity but given the paucity of decent DVD releases this week, it is well worth buying.

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ALSO OUT

ER Season 13 (Warner)
Lead Balloon – Series 2 (2 Entertain)
Mamma Mia! (Universal)
Merlin – Volume 1 (2 Entertain)
Mister Maker ‚Äď Let‚Äôs Make It! (2 Entertain)
Oasis of Fear (Shameless)
Ray Winstone’s Football Blinders and Blunders (4DVD)
Roary the Racing Car: Stars ‚Äėn‚Äô Cars (2 Entertain)
Seed (Metrodome)
Survivors – Series 1 to 3 (2 Entertain)
The Armstrong and Miller Show (2 Entertain)
The Discovery of Heaven (Eureka)
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (Fox)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – 10th Anniversary (Universal)
World War II ‚Äď Behind Closed Doors (BBC)

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> Buy¬†WALL-E¬†and¬†L’Argent¬†on DVD at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 21st November)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 10th November 2008

DVD PICKS

Savage Grace (Revolver Entertainment):¬†Directed by Tom Kalin, this is the true story of the life and death of¬†Barbara Daly Baekeland¬†(Julianne Moore), the socialite¬†who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland (Stephen Dillane), the heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. It explores the tensions in their marriage and Barabara’s unusually close relationship to their only son¬†Tony (Eddie Redmayne), who is a failure in his father’s eyes. Based¬†on the book¬†by Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson, the film impressively peels back the layers of a sordid true life episode amongst American high society. Moore is excellent in the title role and although the film won’t be to everyone’s tastes, there is much here to admire. This edition is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen but the only extra is a 16-minute making of featurette. [Cert 15]

Black God White Devil (Mr Bongo Films): A very interesting 1964 Brazilian film directed and written by Glauber Rocha, which tells the story of a peasant farmer (Geraldo Del Rey) who kills his tyrannical boss before going on the run with his wife.  A kind of Brazilian spaghetti western, it helped start the Cinema Novo movement, which addressed the socio-political problems of 1960s Brazil.

The great¬†Luis Bu√Īuel described the film as:¬†

The most beautiful thing I have seen in more than a decade, filled with savage poetry.

An important re-issue of an overlooked film. 

The Mist (2 Disc Edition) (Momentum): Writer-director¬†Frank Darabont‘s adaptation of¬†Stephen King’s¬†1980¬†novella¬†of the same name¬†is perhaps one of the darkest horror films released in recent memory. But instead of the cheap sadism and gore that has unfortunately dominated the genre recently, we have a thoughtful examination of what happens to society under extreme pressure. Set in King’s usual location of Maine, it explores what happens to a local artist (Thomas Jane) who becomes trapped in his local supermarket after a mysterious mist descends upon the town. A¬†siege mentality¬†then takes hold of the people inside, with fear and paranoia erupting amongst them on what they should do. Although not a flawless film, there is much to chew on with a haunting sense of despair running through the film and some convincing performances from Jane,¬†Marcia Gay Harden,¬†Toby Jones¬†and¬†Andre Braugher.

The 2 disc edition is the one to go for as it features an alternate cut of the film in black and white (which is how Darabont actually intended to shoot it) as well as the following extras:

Disc 1

  • Feature Commentary by Writer/Director Frank Darabont
  • A conversation with Stephen King
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • Drew Struzan: An Appreciation of an Artist
  • Behind the scenes Webisodes
  • Trailer Gallery

Disc 2

  • B&W Feature
  • Director Introduction
  • When Darkness Came ‚Äď Making of the Mist
  • Taming the Beast: The Making of scene 35
  • Monsters Among Us: The Creature FX of¬† The Mist
  • The Horror of It All: The Visual FX of The Mist

Although a horror, it functions as a highly effective parable of post-9/11 America and features some jump-out-of-the-seat moments and a memorable climax. [Cert 15]   

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ALSO OUT

Baraka: Remastered Р2 Disc Special Edition (Second Sight)
Donkey Punch (Optimum)
Elf Bowling РThe Movie: The Great North Pole Elf Strike (Lionsgate)
Family Guy РSeries 7 (Fox)
Fighters / Real Money (2 disc set) (Second Run)
Frankie Boyle Live (4DVD)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2 Disc Edition) (Paramount)
National Lampoon’s Class Reunion¬†(Fremantle)
Neighbours РThe Iconic Episodes (Shock/Fremantle)
Prisoner Cell Block H Vol.1 (Shock/Fremantle)
Russell Brand’s Ponderland – Series 1¬†(Universal)
Souls at Sea (Eureka)
Space Camp (Fremantle)
Speed Racer (Warner)
The Black Shield Of Falworth (Eureka)
The Flamingo Kid (Fremantle)
The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete First Series (BBC)
Tinker Bell (Disney)
Ugly Betty РSeason 2 (Disney)
Viva La Diva РDarcey Bussell and Katherine Jenkins (Warner Music)
War Requiem: 20th Anniversary Edition (Second Sight)
Who’s Harry Crumb?¬†(Sony)

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> Buy Savage Grace and Black God White Devil and The Mist on DVD at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> 
Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
>  
Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 7th November)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 27th October 2008

DVD PICKS

Iron Man (Paramount): The first summer blockbuster of this year saw another Marvel comic book character getting the big screen treatment. Robert Downey Jnr plays Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist and arms dealer who changes his war-profiteering ways after being kidnapped in Afghanistan. After building a robotic suit in order to escape he decides to protect the world as Iron Man. Directed by Jon Favreau and co-starring Terence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow it impressed a lot of critics and audiences with its combination of special effects, witty dialogue and fine performances.

The 2 Disc edition is the one to go for as it comes with a lot of decent extras, which include:

  • I Am Iron Man – seven-part in-depth look at the making of the film.
  • The Invincible Iron Man – extensive explorations of the origins of the character in a six-part featurette.
  • Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man.
  • The Actor‚Äôs Process (scene rehearsal with cast).
  • Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test.
  • Still Galleries
  • The Onion: ‘Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted into Full Length Film

This is the first feature film Marvel funded themselves (Paramount were just the distributor) and although The Dark Knight stole a bit of its thunder, this was one of the best comic book adaptations for quite some time. After all his off-screen problems Downey Jnr proved he could shine as a leading man in this kind of film and Favreau got the blend of character, action and humour just right. Another aspect worth praising is the terrific SFX work ILM and the late Stan Winston achieved in creating the Iron Man suit. [Cert 12]

Charley Varrick (Freemantle):¬†Freemantle Home Entertainment¬†have two batches of films arriving on UK Region 2 DVD this month. Although most of them have been out here before on various labels, a few others are making their UK DVD debuts. This is¬†a 1973¬†crime drama directed by¬†Don Siegel¬†and starring¬†Walter Matthau¬†in the title role. It came two years after Siegel’s Dirty Harry and also stars two actors from that film:¬†Andrew Robinson¬†and¬†John Vernon. Based on the novel ‘The Looters’¬†by¬†John H. Reese¬†it is an enjoyable slice of 70s crime movie. ¬†¬†

Wim Wenders’ Documentaries (Axiom Films): This five-disc set brings together five of the director’s documentaries on the nature of film and filming that cover three decades of his career. They include:

  • Nick’s Film (Lightning Over Water) (1979):¬†A moving portrait of Hollywood maverick Nicholas Ray.¬†Special features include a¬†Feature-length commentary with Wim Wenders and a ‘Nicholas Ray: Especially For Pierre’ lecture (38 mins).
  • Room 666 (1982):¬†Fifteen directors, including Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog and Steven Spielberg, discuss the future of cinema in Room 666 of a hotel during the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.
  • Tokyo-Ga (1985):¬†The legacy of Japanese master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu is explored during a journey through contemporary Tokyo.¬†Special features include some deleted scenes.¬†
  • Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989):¬†The relationship between fashion and film is examined in an intimate portrait of Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto.¬†Special features include:¬†Feature-length commentary with Wim Wenders,¬†Deleted scenes with commentary, ‘Yamamoto: 12 Years Later’ featurette.¬†
  • A Trick of Light (1996):¬†The story of the Skladanowsky brothers, pioneers of early cinema, celebrates a century of cinema.¬†Special features include:¬†Feature-length commentary with Wim Wenders,¬†Deleted scenes.¬†

Also included in the 5-disc box-set is a 24-page booklet containing essays on each of the films, plus an 8-page booklet containing an exclusive interview with Wim Wenders discussing his documentaries.

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ALSO OUT

Another Cinderella Story (Warner)
Dead Space Downfall (Anchor Bay/Manga)
Dirty Sexy Money РSeason 1 (Disney)
Fighters / Real Money (2 disc set) (Second Run)
Flood (2 Disc Extended Edition) (Lionsgate)
Fonejacker РSeries 2 (4DVD)
Gray Lady Down (Fremantle)
Hell In The Pacific (Fremantle)
House РSeries 4 (Universal Playback)
Junior Bonner (Fremantle)
Land Of Plenty (Axiom Films)
Leo (Universal)
Lou Reed’s Berlin¬†(Artificial Eye)
Mad Money (Lionsgate)
My Name Is Earl РSeries 3 (Fox)
Never Apologize (Drakes Avenue Pictures)
One Who Set Forth – Wim Wenders’ Early Years¬†(Axiom Films)
The Red Desert (BFI)
Rick And Steve РThe Happiest Gay Couple In All The World (4DVD)
Seagal Six Pack Collection (Today You Die/Black Dawn/Flight of Fury/Shadow Man/Attack Force/Pistol Whipped) (Sony)
Sleeping Beauty (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) Р2 Disc DVD (Disney)
Snipes Six Pack Collection (7 Seconds/Unstoppable/The Marksman/The Contractor/The Detonator/Hard Luck) (Sony)
Starfish Hotel (4Digital Asia)
Strait Jacket (Manga)
Strip Nude For Your Killer (Shameless)
Van Damme Six Pack Collection (Derailed/The Order/In Hell/Second In Command/Wave Of Death/The Shepherd) (Sony)
XXXholic РSeries 1 Part 1 (Manga)

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If you have any questions about this week’s DVD releases or any upcoming titles then just email me or leave a comment below.

> Buy Iron Man, Charley Varrick or Wim Wenders’ Documentaries on DVD at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 24th October)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray dvd pick dvd releases

UK DVD Releases: Monday 20th October 2008

DVD PICKS

Vertigo¬†(50th Anniversary Edition) (Universal):¬†Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic tale of a private investigator (James Stewart) who becomes obsessed with a blonde woman (Kim Novak) returns to DVD, celebrating its 50th anniversary with a two-disc set boasting new extra features.

These include: 

  • Feature Commentary with Associate Producer Herbert Coleman, Restoration Team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz
  • ‘Obsessed with Vertigo’ ‚Äď A making of documentary
  • ‘Partners in Crime: Hitchcock‚Äôs Collaborators’ – New documentary
  • ‘Hitchcock and the Art of Pure Cinema’ – New featurette
  • The Vertigo Archives
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interviews

Although it isn’t quite the masterpiece some critics have claimed, it still is one of Hitchcock’s most interesting films. Not only is it a deceptively dark tale of desire and obsession but it also appears to reflect a lot of Hitchcock’s own personal concerns. The slow pace and haunting tone to the film along with some beautiful production design make it one of his most unusual and durable films. [Cert 15]

Reservoir Dogs (2-Disc Collector’s Edition) (Lionsgate): The stunning debut film of writer-director Quentin Tarantino became an instant cult favourite in 1992 and established him as one of the hottest directors of the 1990s. It followed a group of gangsters, who all refer to one other by colour-coded pseudonyms, and the aftermath of a heist gone wrong. Previously released in the UK by Momentum, Lionsgate have taken over distribution duties and this 2-disc edition appears to match their 2006 15th Anniversary Edition Region 1 release.

The extras include: 

  • Limited edition petrol can steel case with matchbox inlay
  • Collector‚Äôs art cards
  • Newly remastered/6.1 DTS-ES audio/5.1 Digital Surround EX audio
  • Pulp Factoid Viewer
  • Playing It Fast and Loose
  • Tipping Guide
  • Commentary with Quentin Tarantino, cast and crew
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Critics‚Äô Commentary
  • Profiling the Reservoir Dogs
  • Class of ‚Äô92 ‚Äď Sundance interviews
  • Tarantino‚Äôs Sundance Institute Film-makers Lab
  • An Introduction to Film Noir ‚Äď Writers and Film-makers feature
  • Reservoir Dolls
  • Securing the Shot ‚Äď Location Scouting with Billy Fox
  • Reservoir Dogs style guide
  • Dedications ‚Äď Tarantino on his influences
  • Interviews with Quentin Tarantino and others
  • K-Billy Super Sounds of the ‚Äė70s

If you don’t already own this seminal film then this is a very solid package. [Cert 18] ¬†

Eraserhead (Scanbox):¬†Director David Lynch made his feature length debut with this surreal story of a retired printer (Jack Nance) stuck in dark, urban landscape. Lynch has supervised a brand new transfer, overseeing¬†the painstaking process of cleaning, restoring and remastering the film frame-by-frame. It still remains a classic cult film and as Lynch once said, a ‘dream of dark and troubling things’.¬†The extras include¬†an interview with David Lynch about the making of the film. [Cert 18]

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ALSO OUT

Anaconda 3: Offspring (Sony)
Casino Royale (3-Disc Deluxe Edition) (Sony)
CBeebies: Bedtime (BBC)
Dear Ladies РSeries 2 (Acorn Media)
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (Fox)
Killer Of Sheep (BFI)
My Brother’s Wedding¬†(BFI)
Orphee (BFI)
Family Guy РPeter Griffin РBest Bits Exposed (Fox)
Shaun The Sheep РAbracadabra (2 Entertain)
Sisters (Sony)
Solstice (Icon)
That Mitchell And Webb Look РSeries 2 (Fremantle)
The Benny Goodman Story (Eureka)
The Clouded Yellow (Eureka)
The Horses Mouth (Eureka)
The Short Films of David Lynch (Scanbox)
The Unit РSeason 3 (Fox)
Tortured (Sony)
Triangle (Manga)
Vanessa (Severin Films)
Wanted (Universal)

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If you have any questions about this week’s DVD releases or any upcoming titles then just email me or leave a comment below.

> Buy Vertigo, Reservoir Dogs or Eraserhead on DVD at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 17th October)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 6th October 2008

DVD PICKS

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Contender): This low budget US indie film is proof that sometime low key gems from outside the studio system can find an audience.¬†Directed by¬†Alex Holdridge¬†it follows a young¬†29-year old man (Scoot McNairy), recently moved to LA, who faces¬†New Year’s Eve alone. When his best friend (Brian McGuire) persuades him into posting a personal ad on Craigslist. It leads him to a young woman¬†(Sara Simmonds)¬†desperate to be with the ‘right’ man as the New Year kicks in and explores the connection between this unlikely couple. Since it¬†premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007 this has become a real festival favourite around the world and even got a limited run at UK cinemas earlier this year.¬†

John Carpenter: The Collection (Optimum): A lavish box set of the films of John Carpenter which includes some of his very best films: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), Prince of Darkness (1987) and  (1988). Although his career has tailed off quite badly in the last 20 years his best work is smart and splendidly entertaining. Although Halloween and The Thing are now famous horror films, this set gives new viewers a chance to check out gems like Assault on Precinct 13, a low budget cult classic and They Live, his 1988 film about the greed and deception of the Regan era which is now more relevant than ever. You can get it on Amazon UK for just £39.98, which even in these credit crunch times is a bargain.

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ALSO OUT

A Secret (Arrow):¬†Writer-director Claude Miller’s adaptation of Philippe Grimbert’s novel, stars C√©cile De France, Patrick Bruel, Ludivine Sagnier, Julie Depardieu and Mathieu Amalric in the story of a 15-year-old boy who unearths a family secret.

Assault on Precinct 13 РSpecial Edition (Optimum): This John Carpenter cult classic from 1976 about an LA police station under siege from gangs is being re-released by Optimum.  (See above for the Carpenter box set) 

Battlestar Galactica РSeason 4 (Universal): While technically Season 4 of the re-imagined sci-fi series has been split into two parts for broadcast (with the second batch of episodes yet to air) the first part consisting of 10 episodes is being released here on UK DVD as Season 4.

Bullet Boy (Verve Pictures): A re-release for the London set drama from director Saul Dibb, starring Ashley Walters as a young man caught up in London criminal gang. (Note the appalling cover art for this title)

Buso Renkin РVolume 2 (Manga): Based on the popular manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki, this action-adventure anime series mixes comedy, drama, fantasy and romance. 

Code 46¬†(Verve Pictures): Michael Winterbottom’s overlooked sci-fi drama with Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton set in a future where travel is restricted and thoughts and emotions can be controlled by drugs.¬†

Criminal Justice (Acorn Media): Originally screened on BBC1 in July over five consecutive nights, this drama centres around Ben Coulter (Ben Whishaw) a normal 21 year old who, after one crazy night finds his life changed forever. This two-disc set includes all five hour-long episodes.

Days of Darkness (Revolver): The debut directorial feature from British ex-pat Jake Kennedy (Fangoria: Blood Drive II), is a gory hybrid of alien bodysnatcher movie and traditional zombie film. The plot involves a group of people Рmysteriously unaffected by a killer extraterrestrial bug that has infected humanity Рholed up in a remote compound under siege from a horde of undead human flesh-eaters intent on feeding on the last of the living.

Death Note РVolume 3 (Manga): Based on the best-selling manga by writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata (Hikaru no Go), the supernatural thriller Death Note tells the story of Light Yagami, a high school student who suddenly finds himself holding the power of life and death in his hands in the form of the Death Note.

Diff’rent Strokes РSeason 1 (Sony): Diff’rent Strokes tells the story of the Drummonds, a wealthy Manhattan family headed by Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain), who adopt their former maid’s children following her death. When Willis (Todd Bridges) and Arnold (Gary Coleman) move in with their new family, a comedy of errors begins that would run for eight seasons. 24 episodes are spread across 3 discs with the behind the scenes features.

Entourage РSeason 4 (HBO): Loosely based on the personal experiences of executive producer Mark Wahlberg as an up and coming movie star, the fourth season of Entourage opens with a behind-the-scenes documentary look at the filming of Vince’s (Adrian Grenier) new film Medellin on location in Bogota, Colombia.

Felon (Sony): Val Kilmer, Stephen Dorff, Harold Perrineau, Jr. and Sam Shepard star in this prison drama, the story of a family man who is convicted of murder for killing an intruder who enters his home, threatening the lives of his wife and son.

Female Agents (Revolver): A WWII action-drama starring Sophie Marceau, Julie Depardieu, Marie Gillian and Deborah Francois. Directed by Jean-Paul Salome, the film is set in Spring 1944 where grieving Resistance sniper Louis Desfontaine (Marceau) is asked to recruit a team of five to rescue a British agent who has fallen into German hands.

Her Name is Sabine (ICA Films): Directed by Sandrine Bonnaire, this is a very personal portrait of Sandrine’s younger sister Sabine. Combining film footage taken at Sabine’s current care home as well as 25 years of home-movies, Sandrine charts the heartbreaking journey of her sister from a young independent woman with special needs to an adult in need of constant supervision.

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I Dream of Jeannie РSeason 1 (Sony): Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman star in this 60s TV series about a US astronaut whose life is turned upside down when he crash lands on a remote island and unwittingly releases a beautiful and mischievous genie from a bottle. Returning home, it isn’t long before Jeannie is granting her master’s every wish, turning his life upside down. 30 episodes are spread over 4 discs.

Impact Point (Sony): A pro beach volleyball star encounters a psychotic stalker in this psychological thriller starring Brian Austin Green and former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Melissa Keller.

King Lear (Metrodome): Recorded in High Definition at Pinewood Studios, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s King Lear stars Ian McKellen and is directed by Trevor Nunn and Chris Hunt. The tragedy is about a headstrong ageing king who decides to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters, depending on which declares their love the strongest. Cordelia (Romola Garai) is the only daughter to reply truthfully yet Lear disowns her, and so follows one of the most compelling stories of greed, betrayal and blindness to one’s self ever committed to the stage. 

Moonlighting РSeason 1 & 2 (Sony): First two seasons of the hit 80s series which combined drama, comedy and wit with a huge amount of sexual tension, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as private detectives who take on quirky cases. 

Reeker 2 (Metrodome): In this horror sequel, a sheriff and his son chase casino robbers, only to find the all of them are being chased by something else.

Spooks РSeason 6 (Contender): In its sixth season spy-drama Spooks takes on a new format as it explores one storyline over the course of its 10 episode run.

Takeshi Kitano: Collection (Second Sight): One of Japan’s most well known and all encompassing entertainment personalities, Takeshi Kitano has forged a name for himself as one of his country’s most beloved and internationally renowned directors. This six disc box set comprises of the legendary actor/director’s first six films; Violent Cop, Boiling Point, Sonatine, Getting Any?with A Scene At The Sea and Kids Return making their UK DVD debut.

The Entrance¬†(Entertainment):¬†Directed by Damon Vignale, this is a ‘supernatural and psychological’ chiller ‘inspired’ by true events.¬†

The Go Master (ICA Films): Tian Zhuanzhuang’s The Go Master is a biopic of Wu Quingyuan, considered by many to be the greatest player ever of the table game Go. Developed in ancient China but finding a new home in post-Meiji Japan, Go’s adherents treated its rules and regulations in a fashion far stricter and more disciplined than that of its Chinese roots.

The Passage (Entertainment): Stephen Dorff stars in this horror from first-time director Mark Heller which is shot entirely on location in Morocco.

The Vanguard (Lionsgate): The Vanguard tells a gruesome, bloody and merciless story where the world is in utter chaos and the future of mankind hangs in the balance. 

Timber Falls (Scanbox): Directed by Tony Giglio (Chaos) and starring Josh Randall, Brianna Brown and Beth Broderick, Timber Falls is a tale of hikers in peril.

Two And A Half Men РSeries 4 (Warner): Charlie Sheen stars as an unconventional family man in this hit sitcom about two brothers and a son, as well as the crazy and charismatic women who surround them.

We Dreamed America (Drakes Avenue Pictures): This documentary about the Americana music scene in the UK examines the relationship and ongoing exchange between British and American roots of music. Director Alex Walker looks at the fascination with the most American of genres.

Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! – Zombies vs Strippers¬†(Revolver):¬†Strippers – Dakota (FHM model Jessica Barton), Dallas (Former Mrs. Oahu Lyanna Tumaneng) and Harley (Hollie Winnard from America‚Äôs Beauty and the Geek ‚Äď go up against Zombies in this horror film.¬†

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If you have any questions about this week’s DVD releases or any upcoming titles then just email me or leave a comment below.

> Buy In Search of a Midnight Kiss or John Carpenter: The Collection on DVD at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 3rd October)

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray releases

DVD Releases: Monday 4th August 2008

Here are the UK DVD releases for this week, along with our picks.

DVD PICKS

The Elephant Man – Special Edition (Optimum): The DVD highlight of the week is this special edition re-release of David Lynch’s superb 1980 period drama about the life of Joseph Merrick (he is named John on the film). Based on the real story of a man so disfigured he was dubbed ‘the Elephant Man’, it explores how he was taken in by a doctor and his struggle to be recognised as a dignified human being in Victorian London. [Read our full review here]

Escape From New York (Optimum): John Carpenter’s smart, dystopian thriller from 1981 gets re-released on regular DVD and Blu-ray. It imagines a futuristic New York where crime has spiralled out of control to the point where Manhattan has been turned into a maximum security prison. When Air Force One crashes over the island, the prison governor (Lee Van Cleef) recruits a notorious criminal named “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go in and rescue the leader of the free world. The major snag is that he has less than 24 hours to complete his mission and must survive in a completely lawless and hostile environment. [Read our full review here]

Total Recall (Optimum): Optimum have released a selection of Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies from the 80s and 90s on regular DVD and Blu-ray. The best of these is this 1990 sci-fi adaptation of Philip K Dick‘s story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale‘ directed by Paul Verhoeven, which stars the Teutonic Austrian as a blue collar worker who dreams of Mars. When he visits a company offering him a virtual holiday by implanting memories, it inadvertently unlocks his ‘real’ past as a secret agent and all hell breaks loose as he escapes to the red planet for real. [Read our full review here]

ALSO OUT

  • Aces: Iron Eagle III (Optimum): The third part of the series of films about a young fighter pilot that came out in the same year as the more successful of Top Gun.
  • Cliffhanger (Optimum): A Blu-Ray release for this surprisingly satisfying 1993 action film with Slyvester Stallone battling it out with a bunch of crooks on a mountain.
  • First Blood (Optimum): A Blu-Ray release for the first of the Rambo series – probably the best of the lot as it has a darker and more serious vibe, exploring a drifting Vietnam veteran (Sylvester Stallone) who is hunted by the police in Washington State.
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II (Optimum): A Blu-ray release for the 2nd of the Rambo films, which despite it’s confusing title was the most successful. A balls-to-the-wall 80s action film with Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) going back to Asia to get POWs missing in action from Vietnam. Efficiently done, even if the climactic speech is unintentionally hilarious.
  • Rambo III (Optimum): The 3rd Rambo film also gets the Blu-ray treatment and this is perhaps the most fascinating as the plot – set in 1988 – involves Rambo allying with freedom fighters in Afghanistan against the Russian invaders. These allies would of course go on to destroy the World Trade Centre spark global warfare, but as Stallone told me earlier this year ‘who knew?’.
  • Flash Gordon (Optimum): Mike Hodges’ 1980 film version of the famous comic book character gets a DVD release and although its just too campy and dated it does have its moments notably Brian Blessed‘s immortal cry of ‘Gordon’s Alive!’.
  • Hell’s Ground (TLA Releasing): A release for this ‘Danger After Dark’ title which is notable for being Pakistan‚Äôs ‚Äúfirst-ever splatter flick‚ÄĚ about zombies attacking teenagers in a remote location.
  • How She Move (Paramount): The current craze for dance themed movies continues with the release of this film about a young woman’s battle to escape her crime-filled neighbourhood through step-dancing.
  • Iron Eagle II (Optimum): The 1989 sequel to Iron Eagle, which saw a Perestroika-style team-up between US and Soviet forces in order to combat an unnamed Middle Eastern country.
  • Lupin the Third: Secret of Mamo (Manga): A release for this Manga film – the first of five animated features based on the popular Lupin the Third manga character created by ‚ÄėMonkey Punch’ (aka manga writer and illustrator Kazuhiko Kato).
  • Raw Deal (Optimum): A pedestrian Schwarzenegger vehicle from 1986 in which he plays a cop taking on the mob. The highlights were probably the tag line “NOBODY gives him a raw deal….” and the scene where he shoots someone and then pours sweets over them – indications that this probably wasn’t Arnold’s finest hour.
  • Red Heat (Optimum): One indication that the Cold War was coming to an end was that Russians started becoming allies in movies rather than villains. This 1988 action film saw Arnold Schwarzenegger play a Russian cop who comes to Chicago to hunt down a vicious fellow countryman (Ed O’Ross). James Belushi starred as the mismatched cop he must team up with, whilst Walter Hill directed.
  • Red Sonja (Optimum): A re-release for for this sword and sorcery action film in which Arnold Schwarzenegger took on more of a supporting role (despite the then recent success of the Conan films) and Bridgitte Nielsen took centre stage as a mystical warrior. Rose McGowan will soon star in a remake.
  • Space Adventure Cobra (Manga): Based on the comic books by Buichi Terasawa, this feature has been described as ‘an animated space opera packed with unfeasibly pneumatic heroines, psychedelic drug-inspired imagery, cracking cosmic combat sequences, a Darth Vader-like villain and a retro-styled, wise-cracking hero for whom saving the universe is about as taxing as a walk in the park’. Well that’s alright then.
  • Stargate- Special Edition (Optimum): The 1994 action film from director Roland Emmerich gets a regular DVD and Blu-ray re-release. Despite spawning a seemingly never-ending TV spin off, the action and effects hold up reasonably well in this tale of marines and a scientist finding a portal to another world.
  • The Arnold Schwarzenegger Collection (Optimum): A DVD box set of all the recent Schwarzenegger films re-released by Optimum in one handy package which includes: Total Recall, Raw Deal, Red Heat and Red Sonja.
  • The Fog (1979): A Blu-ray release for the John Carpenter original rather than the ropey 2005 remake. Be warned though that there are no extras on this disc, so only get it if you are dying to see it in HD.
  • Trouble in Mind (Nouveaux): A re-release for this 1985 neo-crime drama directed by Alan Rudolph and starring Kris Kristofferson, Keith Carradine, Lori Singer, Genevieve Bujold, Joe Morton and Divine.
  • Vantage Point (Sony): A regular DVD and Blu-ray release for this thriller about an assassination in Spain on the US president, seen from multiple perspectives. Directed by Pete Travis, it stars Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, √Čdgar Ram√≠rez and William Hurt.

If you have any questions about this week’s DVD releases or any upcoming titles then just email me

(To buy any of the DVDs above just click on the title and you will be redirected to our Amazon affiliate)

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray Essential Films

DVD Pick: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood was one of the finest films of last year – a bold and mesmerising drama charting the rise of an oil man in the early years of the 20th century.

Daniel Day Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for his stunning central performance – the driven and obsessive Daniel Plainview, who starts off as a silver miner before slowly establishing himself as a hugely successful oil prospector.

For writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson it was yet another marvellous addition to his already dazzling filmography (which now includes Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love).

But this was an unusual departure for him – unlike his last three films it is away from his usual San Fernando Valley setting, eschews most of his favourite actors (such as John C Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore) and has a haunting, other-worldly feel to it.

A lot of this mood is created by Jonny Greenwood‘s unusual and innovative score, which was shamefully disqualified for Oscar recognition.

The film also saw Anderson re-team with cinematographer Robert Elswit, who won the Oscar for his remarkable visuals in a particularly strong year.

Technically, the film is quite astonishing with Jack Fisk‘s meticulous production design, David Crank‘s art direction and Dylan Tichenor‘s clever editing all of the highest order.

Revisiting the film again on DVD is interesting, as the bold narrative jolts and intensity subside to deeper feelings about the themes of the film.

Although viewers may have theories on the film tied in with America’s current adventures in the Middle East, Anderson doesn’t deal in clumsy metaphors but instead creates a compelling take on America’s obsession with oil, money and business.

Given how outstanding the actual film is, it is a little disappointing that this 2-disc special edition is lacking a little in features.

For the third time running, Anderson has chosen not to record a commentary. Perhaps he feels it should ‘speak for itself’, but given the excellence of his commentary on the marvellous R1 Boogie Nights DVD his audio absence is still sorely missed.

That said, what is here is still very good. The feature takes up the first disc and the transfer of the film is superb – the colours, lighting and sound are all wonderfully reproduced.

But the extras on the second disc – whilst interesting – are a little sparse given the importance of this film.

They include:

  • The Story Of Petroleum: This vintage featurette (1923-7) from The National Archives was created by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in collaboration with the Sinclair Oil Company as a promotional film. It runs for almost just over 25 minutes and provides some fascinating historical and social context. It shows how early oil pioneers looked for and extracted oil from the ground, as well as providing many useful nuggets of information. A nice touch is that Jonny Greenwood’s score is layered over what is an old silent film, making a stronger connection with Anderson’s feature.
  • ’15 minutes’ slideshow: This is a highly effective 15 minute montage of shots from the film inter-cut with archive images the filmmakers used for their research. It is striking to see how influential these photographs were on the finished visuals – some are almost reproduced shot-for-shot. Again, Jonny Greenwood’s score provides a beautiful counterpoint to the visual mix.
  • Deleted Scenes: The first of the deleted scenes is called ‘Fishing’ and at just over 6 minutes long feels like something Anderson cut out late in the edit process. It show’s how Plainview’s men are badly delayed after their rope breaks and use a process called ‘fishing’ to recover their tools at the bottom of the oil well. There is also a notable exchange with Eli’s father that touches upon the central themes of faith and fathers. The second is a called ‘Haircut/Interrupted Hymn’ which is a strange mix of scenes from the film involving Plainview and H.W.
  • Dailies Gone Wild (Outtake): Taken from the sequence of Plainview and H.W. in the restaurant, it seems to shed a bit of light on Daniel Day Lewis’ acting methods and culminates in one of the lighter moments he had on set with his young co-star.
  • Trailer: The mysterious first teaser trailer was unusual in that PTA cut it and uploaded it on to YouTube without telling the studio, which freaked them out – until they saw all the positive comments left by users of the site (alas Paramount have since pulled it from YouTube). The fuller theatrical trailer reveals more about the plot and does a good job of compressing some of the juicier elements of the film.

Strangely, Buena Vista Home Entertainment (the UK distributor) have gone for a rather odd packaging which consists of folded card.

There Will Be Blood - DVD cover

Although the design is nice, the way the discs slide out like an envelope doesn’t seem too practical in the long term.

Despite that, maybe we can hope for a beefed up special edition somewhere down the line. Until then, this remains an essential purchase for any true film lover.

To conclude, here is PTA discussing the film last September when it had a surprise world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas:

There Will Be Blood is out now on DVD from Buena Vista Home Entertainment

> Buy There Will Be Blood on DVD at Amazon UK
> Official site
> There Will Be Blood at the IMDb
> Check out reviews at Metacritic
> There Will Be Milkshakes – popular viral video and a discussion board
> New York Times interview with Daniel Day Lewis about the film
> AV Club interview with Paul Thomas Anderson about There Will Be Blood
> Extensive article in American Cinematographer magazine on Elswit’s work in There Will Be Blood
> PTA and Day Lewis have a lengthy discussion with Charlie Rose about the film
> An interview with Robert Elswit and production designer Jack Fisk about There Will Be Blood

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Pick: The Dirty Harry Collection

Dirty Harry is one of the most iconic cops in the history of cinema and Warner Bros have just released a DVD box set of all five movies entitled The Dirty Harry Collection.

It is a pretty lavish affair and if you are a fan of the character or Clint Eastwood then it is well worth purchasing.

WARNING: There are spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t seen any of the films then be warned.

DIRTY HARRY (1971)

The first and best of the series saw Clint Eastwood take on the role of Harry Callahan – a no-nonsense cop in San Francisco who has to deal with a rooftop sniper named Scorpio.

The success of the film took his career to another level, establishing him as one of the major box office stars of the 1970s.

It remains a landmark cop film that influenced a generation of filmmakers with films like Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and Speed all being inspired by it to some degree.

Revisiting the film is interesting experience – the craft of the film is quite striking and for director Don Siegel it was the high watermark of his long collaboration with Eastwood.

As a police procedural thriller it is is slick, absorbing and tightly plotted. There is very little narrative waste here but visually it is interesting too. Cinematographer Bruce Surtees and director Siegel make great use of the fabulous San Francisco locations.

The low lit night time sequences are also unusually dark – an interesting foretaste when you consider Eastwood’s fondness for low lighting as a director in later years.

As an actor Eastwood brings the same dry, distant quality that he brought to the Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. The loner cop figure can be seen as an extension of the bounty hunter figure from those films – a violent avenger who understands the blurry differences between justice and the law.

As for the villain, Andy Robinson is remarkably creepy as Scorpio, with his childlike insults and temper tantrums. The clash between the cop and the sniper is interesting as it is Harry who behaves in a way that is deemed unacceptable in the eyes of the law.

It was this sense of moral ambiguity and the underlying rage at bureaucracy in the wake of the Miranda and¬† Escbedo rulings in the 60s (the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney) that gave ammunition to the films’ critics.

Most notably, Pauline Kael of The New Yorker loathed the film, denouncing it as a:

“right-wing fantasy [that is] a remarkably simple-minded attack on liberal values”

Viewing the film now, these criticisms seem a little outlandish, but there is no doubt that the film does touch on the cultural conflicts of the times. Scorpio abuses Harry as a ‘pig’, wears a CND peace sign on his belt and also knows the rights that have been given to him by the liberal 60s.

But the film and the central character are more libertarian than right wing: Harry hates the complacency and opportunism of his bosses; is perturbed by the lack of concern towards the victim’s rights; plus, there also seems to be a lingering class resentment towards his superiors, especially in the scene where he argues with the District Attorney and a Judge.

Another aspect of the film that doesn’t often get talked about is the violence. Although by today’s standards the acts depicted on screen seem relatively tame, the sadistic behaviour of Scorpio is disturbing. He shoots a young black boy in the head, leaves a 14-year old girl to suffocate to death, hijacks a school bus and revels in his own cruelty.

Although based on the Zodiac killer, he seems to represent a new kind of murderer ushered in by Charles Manson – one who was concerned with their public notoriety as much as they were with brutalizing the innocent.

But interestingly the film points out parallels between cop and killer – they both loners who hate authority and they both break the law, albeit to very different ends. It is worth noting that Harry only brings Scorpio to justice when he is on leave and effectively outside the law.

It is also fascinating to view this film after Zodiac, the film which last year explored the killings that inspired Dirty Harry.

There are a number of intriguing parallels: Don Siegel’s film contracts to a vivid resolution whilst David Fincher’s keeps expanding to an inconclusive mystery; Harry and Scorpio represent two different sides of the same violent coin whilst Dave Toschi, Robert Graysmith and Paul Avery form a triangle of characters obsessed by a lone killer who is never truly revealed; and whilst Dirty Harry is a thriller with political overtones, Zodiac is a drama with existential vibes. Both are very different but still somehow connected.

Like a lot of first films in a series, it remains the best and none of the successive Harry films could match it.

Here are some facts about it:

  • Frank Sinatra was originally meant to play Harry but had to pull out because of a hand injury. John Wayne and Paul Newman then declined the role which then went to Clint Eastwood.
  • As Harry foils the bank robbery near the beginning of the film, he walks past a theatre showing Play Misty for Me, which Eastwood directed and starred in.
  • Writer John Milius made a major contribution to the film (as well as Dirty Harry’s mystique). He wrote the lines Harry quotes to punks about “Did he fire six shots or five?” and the immortal “Do you feel lucky, punk?
  • The Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver Harry uses is not actually considered a practical weapon for police officers due to the excessive recoil which makes re-aiming at the target difficult.
  • When director Don Siegel fell ill during the shoot, Clint Eastwood took over and directed the scene where Harry rescues a would-be suicide jumper and the encounter with a homosexual in Mt. Davidson Park.
  • Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood cast Andrew Robinson for the role of Scorpio after seeing him in a production of Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s The IdiotRobinson was so convincing that he received death threats after the film was released.
  • The line where Scorpio says “My, that’s a big one” when Callahan removes his gun was an ad-lib by Andrew Robinson. The crew cracked up laughing at the double entendre but the line stayed.
  • Scorpio’s real name is never revealed through out the entire movie – the end credits simply list him as “killer”.
  • The gravel pit at the end of the film was a place Clint had gone to as a child with his parents.
  • The final scene where Harry throws his badge in the river is a homage to a similar scene from High Noon but Clint was uneasy about doing it until he was convinced otherwise by Siegel.
  • Albert Popwell who plays the ‘punk’ Harry taunts in the bank sequence would go on to appear in every “Dirty Harry” film except The Dead Pool – playing a different character in each movie.

MAGNUM FORCE (1973)

In what seemed to be a reaction to the criticisms of Dirty Harry, the plot of Magnum Force saw Harry dealing with evil inside the police force as a group of vigilante traffic cops take the law into their own hands by killing criminals who seem beyond the law.

The film was directed by Ted Post, who also directed Clint in TV’s Rawhide and Hang ‘Em High. Although it isn’t as good as the first one, it is still of some interest.

Although it was probably a coincidence, in retrospect the plot seems to tap into the distrust of authority in the early 70s with the Watergate scandal about to end the Nixon presidency.

More interestingly, the screenplay was written by John Milius (who worked uncredited on the original film) and Michael Cimino – two writers who would go on to direct war movies that some found to be conservative (The Deer Hunter) or right wing (Red Dawn).

The vigilante officers or Magnum Force of the title also feature actors who would go on to greater fame such as Tim Matheson, David Soul and Robert Urich. Hal Holbrook also turns up in a memorable role as Harry’s boss Lt Briggs.

It moves along at a fair pace although the editing and direction are not in the same class as the first film.

Here are some facts:

  • At one point when Harry is in his apartment by himself, he looks at a photo of him and his wife: the only time the audience ever gets to see the late Mrs. Callahan who was mentioned in the previous film.
  • Harry’s tagline for this film was “A man’s got to know his limitations”, or variations on this phrase. This replaced the line from the first film “Do you feel lucky?”.
  • David Soul‘s performance as one of the vigilante cops, led to his being cast as Detective Ken Hutchinson in the classic cop series Starsky and Hutch (1975).
  • According to writer John Milius, the reason the sex scene with the Asian woman is in the script is because Clint Eastwood received many fan letters from Asian women that contained sexual propositions.

THE ENFORCER (1976)

The final Dirty Harry film of the 1970s sees Callahan take on a group of left wing revolutionaries called The People’s Revolutionary Strike Force, who start to terrorise San Francisco.

It also sees Harry team up with a female partner, Insp. Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), so whilst the film was swinging back to the right politically, it also made concessions to feminism in the 70s.

Directed by James Fargo, it is a much more perfunctory film than it’s predecessors although it does have some memorable moments, especially the climax on Alcatraz prison.

Here are some facts:

  • Originally titled ‘Moving Target’, the script was left for Eastwood at his Carmel restaurant, The Hog’s Breath Inn, by two aspiring screenwriters, (Gail Morgan Hickman and S.W. Schurr). ¬†Eastwood was interested enough to turn it over to two of his favorite script doctors, Sterling Silliphant and Dean Riesner
  • The two militant organizations depicted in the film – the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force and Uhuru – were modeled after two real-life militant groups, the Symbionese Liberation Army (which kidnapped Patty Hearst) and the Black Panthers.
  • In the 80s, Daly was cast as detective Mary Beth Lacey in the hit TV show Cagney and Lacey.
  • Father John Voss – the priest who shields the gang – is played by M.G. Kelly – in real life a noted DJ and radio personality.
  • 3 years later Eastwood was back on Alcatraz for the prison drama Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

SUDDEN IMPACT (1983)

Although the series was meant to end with The Enforcer, the popularity of the character was such that Warner Bros persuaded Clint to do a fourth film.

This one sees Harry forced to take a vacation after a run in with a local gangster. There he comes across a vigilante (Sondra Locke) who is trying to get revenge on the criminals who raped her and her sister.

Although it is a weak entry to the series it became famous for a catchphrase that people often (wrongly) attribute to the first Dirty Harry: “Go ahead , make my day“.

It proved to be so popular that even President Regan used it in a speech about taxes.

As for the film, it is watchable with the usual funny one liners but is fairly pedestrian as a thriller.¬† The reason for it’s commercial success would appear to be the presence of Eastwood and the public’s nostalgia for a cop like Harry in the Regan era.

Here are some facts:

  • This was the highest-grossing of the Dirty Harry film series.
  • It is the only Dirty Harry film not primarily set in San Francisco.
  • The reason the film was made at all had to do with a survey Warner Bros did for the Sean Connery Bond remake Never Say Never Again (1983). They asked movie goers to name an actor and a famous part that actor played. Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry” scored so high in the survey results, the studio told Eastwood it would be “open” to making another and Eastwood made this film as a result.
  • Although Clint Eastwood made the phrase “Go ahead, make my day” famous, it was originally used a year earlier by actor Gary Swanson in the movie Vice Squad (1982). Swanson, who played a Hollywood vice cop, said the line, “Go ahead scumbag, make my day,” to actor Wings Hauser, who played a pimp, during a bust.
  • Bradford Dillman is seen in the film as Captain Briggs; in the previous film, The Enforcer, he portrayed Captain Jerome McKay. It is unknown if McKay and Briggs are distant relatives. Hal Holbrook played Lieutenant Briggs in Magnum Force.

THE DEAD POOL (1988)

The fifth film in the series is almost a homage to the character – a film who’s enjoyable moments are guilty pleasures rather than anything especially substantial.

The plot sees Harry drawn into a murder plot as a serial killer bumps off several people connected with a death pool run by a film director (Liam Neeson).

The main motivation for this film being made would appear to be the fact that Warner Bros needed a reliable title for the summer of 1988.

It also coincided with a relative creative slump in Eastwood’s career when he was making too many average films (such as Pink Cadillac and The Rookie) before his renaissance in the 90s with Unforgiven.

The main pleasures here are seeing a 26 year old Jim Carrey play the obnoxious rocker who is the first victim and the presence of Guns N’ Roses on the soundtrack.

Welcome to the Jungle was chosen as the tie-in track for the film and by 1988 when the film was released they had become massive.

There are also early roles for Liam Neeson and Patricia Clarkson – two actors who would go on to bigger things.

Here are some facts:

DVD EXTRAS

The extras on the DVD are extensive and are spread out on each of the discs.

Dirty Harry – Special Features:

  • A fine and informative commentary by longtime Eastwood associate/biographer Richard Schickel
  • The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry: New featurette on the influence and legacy of Dirty Harry
  • Dirty Harry: The Original: with Clint Eastwood and the film’s creators looking back at the creation of the Dirty Harry character
  • Dirty Harry’s Way:¬† A promotional short focusing on the toughness of the movie’s main character.
  • Interview gallery: With Patricia Clarkson, Joel Cox, Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Evan Kim, John Milius, Ted Post, Andy Robinson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Urich
  • Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso: A 1993 TV program on his life and career, including scenes from his work and interviews with friends, fellow actors and crew members
  • Trailer gallery: Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool

Magnum Force – Special Features:

  • New commentary by director and Magnum Force screenwriter John Milius (in which Milius – within the first 10 minutes – appears to call for the vigilante style execution of Enron executives – I assume he is joking!)
  • A Moral Right: The Politics of Dirty Harry: Another featurette with filmmakers, social scientists and authors on the politics and ethics of the Dirty Harry films.
  • The Hero Cop: Yesterday and Today: Another featurette

The Enforcer – Special Features:

  • New commentary by Enforcer director James Fargo
  • The Business End: Violence in Cinema: Featurette on the violence in the films
  • Harry Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special in Films: Another featurette on the character.

Sudden Impact – Special Features:

  • New commentary by filmmaker and Eastwood associate/biographer Richard Schickel
  • The Evolution of Clint Eastwood: Featurette on the film in the context of Eastwood’s career as a director

The Dead Pool – Special Features:

  • New commentary by Dead Pool producer David Valdes and Dead Pool cinematographer Jack N. Green
  • The Craft of Dirty Harry: Featurette on the cinematography, editing, music, and production design of the Dirty Harry films.

The box set also contains:

  • Clint Eastwood: Out Of The Shadows – On a separate DVD this is a fine feature length documentary from 2000 about Eastwood’s career, narrated by Morgan Freeman.
  • A 44 page hardcover book on the films.
  • A Dirty Harry wallet with metal badge and removable Inspect. Harry Callahan ID card
  • Five 5″ x 7″ lobby poster reproduction cards and an exclusive Ultimate Collector’s Edition card
  • A Scorpio Map: 19″ x 27″ map of San Francisco detailing Harry’s hunt for the killer in the first film
  • A one-page personal note from Clint
  • Reproductions of telegrams from Warner Bros to Clint (and vice versa) throughout the making of the series.

Overall this is a highly impressive box set, even if the films themselves do decline in quality somewhat.

That said, Warner Bros deserve great credit for the care and attention they have put into this set of films from one of their most consistent and legendary stars.

Plus, as a studio they deserve special praise for allowing you to skip straight to the menu instead of being forced to watch godawful piracy ads or trailers of upcoming films. Why can’t other major studios be like this?

Anyway, the Dirty Harry Collection is highly recommended as a package, especially at the reasonable price of under £30.

Will Eastwood ever return to the role? Let’s leave the last word to him:

> Buy the Dirty Harry Collection on DVD from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Dirty Harry at All Movie
> Clint Eastwood at the IMDb
> Analysis of Dirty Harry at Filmsite
> Film America with locations from the Dirty Harry movies

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray Film of the Week

DVD Pick: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was one of the major cinematic achievements of the past year – a film of outstanding technique and extraordinary emotional depth.

It is adapted from the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of French Elle magazine who’s privileged life came to a halt after a devastating stroke¬† left him with Locked-in Syndrome – a condition which meant he could only move his left eye.

The film documents his struggle in hospital as he gradually learns how to communicate by blinking to speech therapists as they recite the most used letters of the alphabet.

Director Julian Schnabel brought a sense of beauty and wonder to a difficult story and Ronald Harwood’s script found a clever way of dealing with the seemingly unfilmable aspects of the original book.

The way in which things are shot from the central character’s point of view is ingenious and also highly effective in conveying his condition.

Performances across the board are first rate, with Mathieu Amalric outstanding in the lead role and excellent support too from Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze and Max Von Sydow.

In a year of dark films, this was notable in that it found hope, humour and humanity amidst the terrible condition of its main character.

It didn’t really get the audience it deserved at cinemas, so it is essential viewing now if you missed it first time around.

Pathe have done a fine job on the DVD release which contains the following extras:

  • Feature commentary with director Julian Schnabel: An engaging and thoughtful commentary from Schnabel which manages to convey his ideas about the film without overdoing the anecdotes. The film clearly means a lot to him and his comments are enlightening about the real life Bauby and how the film was constructed.
  • Submerged: The Making of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (12 mins): This behind the scenes featurette contains interviews with the filmmakers and producers detailing their involvement and thoughts about the film.
  • Cinematic Vision (7 mins): Producers John Killick, Kathleen Kennedy and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski explain the experience of working with Schnabel.
  • Charlie Rose interviews Julian Schnabel (20 mins): A meaty interview which provides a decent overview of the story and how Schnabel ended up making the film.

Check out the trailer for the film here:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is out now on DVD from Pathe

> Buy the DVD from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry
> Official site
> Read other reviews at Metacritic (it scores a highly impressive 92/100)
> Find out more about Jean-Dominique Bauby at Wikipedia

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray Film of the Week

DVD Pick: Juno

One of the most surprising and charming hits of last year was Juno.

The title character is a teenage girl (Ellen Page) who has to deal with an unexpected pregnancy by her best friend (Michael Cera) and decides to give up the baby to an adoptive couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner).

It also stars J. K. Simmons as her father, Allison Janney as her stepmother and Olivia Thirlby as her best friend Leah.

Directed by Jason Reitman and scripted by Diablo Cody it was nominated for several Oscars (with Cody winning Best Original Screenplay) and went on to become Fox Searchlight‘s first film to gross over $100 million at the box office.

It stands up well on a second viewing and although the sharp and witty dialogue was probably what most people loved first time around, the emotional undercurrents and nuanced performances are what stand out when revisiting the film.

Fox have done a good job on the DVD with a solid transfer and some nice extras which include:

  • Audio Commentary with Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody: An excellent commentary from the director and screenwriter. They make a highly engaging pair as they reel off anecdotes about the production including bloopers (like the abortion clinic door and the wrong phone codes in the Pennysaver), ideas behind certain scenes, the actors on screen and the fact that the DJ Cut Chemist actually play’s Juno’s chemistry teacher.
  • Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Reitman & Cody): The deleted scenes are nearly all of the ‘I-can-see-why-they-were-deleted’ variety and often quite short, but there are a couple of notable sequences including an alternate montage of the film’s climax with a rockier music track.
  • Gag Reel: A collection of outtakes with a variety of actors corpsing.
  • Gag Take: An intriguing outtake of a scene in the shop where Rainn Wilson (who plays the guy behind the counter) gets into an argument with Reitman about how to hold shopping bags. It actually looks like a real on-set spat but given that it is called a ‘gag reel’ then maybe its some kind of joke. Ellen Page’s instant reaction to an insult is particularly funny.
  • Cast & Crew Jam: A weird motange of the cast and crew jamming with instruments.
  • Screen Tests: These are sometimes included on DVDs and in the case of this film are interesting raw versions of scenes from the film. The tests with Page and Cera stand out as you can see how they nailed their roles even at an early stage.
  • Featurettes: There are several mini-documentaries that focus on various aspects of the production including ‘Way Beyond Our Maturity Level: Juno-Leah-Bleeker’, ‘Diablo Cody is Totally Boss’, ‘Jason Reitman for Shizz’ and ‘Honest to Blog! Creating Juno’. All of them have some interesting parts but they tend to be the kind of EPK on set interviews that crop up on traditional ‘making of’ shows.

Here is a trailer for the film:

Juno is out on DVD today from Fox Home Entertainment

> Buy the DVD from Amazon UK
> Juno at the IMDb
> Read more reviews at Metacritic
> Official UK website

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Pick: No Country for Old Men

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men is one of the finest films to come out of America in recent years.

Set in West Texas during 1980 and is the story of a hunter named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who comes across on a suitcase full of cash at the scene of a drug deal gone horribly wrong.

Taking the money, he is then relentlessly pursued by a sinister hitman named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who has been hired to retrieve it.

As Moss tries to evade Chigur a local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to keep pace with both men and protect Moss’s wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald).

By their own high standards, the Coen Brothers in recent years had lost their way a little with two mainstream disappointments in The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty.

No Country for Old Men was not only a startling return to form, but scooped the Best Picture Oscar earlier this year and saw them awarded writing and directing honours too.

Often the winner of the Best Picture at the Oscars is a case of the Academy ignoring the better film in favour of one that makes them feel good.

This is perhaps why Chicago triumphed over The Pianist (2002), Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas (1990) and Ordinary People won instead of Raging Bull (1980).

But the last couple of years has seen a different mood at the Academy with The Departed winning Best Picture last year and now this dark tale taking home the gold statuette.

Alongside The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and Barton Fink it stands as one of the Coen’s very best films – if not the their finest.

The performances are outstanding: Brolin is a revelation as Moss, Jones gives a career best performance as Bell and Bardem deservedly won Best Supporting Actor for his chilling portrayal of Chigur – one of modern cinema’s most memorable villains.

Kelly MacDonald and Woody Harrelson also chip in with fine work, whilst regular Coen collaborator Roger Deakins captures the dark, harsh beauty of West Texas with some truly stunning cinematography.

Paramount’s DVD release for the UK is mostly very. The transfer is excellent, capturing the original colours and tones with precision and care.

The extras are solid, if not spectacular, and contain the following featurettes:

  • The Making of No Country For Old Men: This is a making of featurette that runs for about 24 minutes. It contains interviews from the set with the filmmakers and cast and most of it provides a good insight into the production and how certain sequences were put together.
  • Working with The Coens: Although shorter at about 8 mins this section features Bardem, Brolin, Jones, MacDonald and exec producer Robert Graftalk about working with the Coens and their working methods.
  • Diary Of A Country Sheriff: Another short featurette (about 6 mins long) that focuses on the importance of Sheriff Bell, Anton Shigur and the Texan landscape to the movie. The actors and the Coens discuss the importance of these elements to the film.

I’m guessing that a 2-disc edition with more beefed up features may be a possibilty somewhere down the line but for admirers of the film, this is still an essential addition to anyone’s DVD collection.

I spoke to Kelly Macdonald about about the film back in December and you can listen to the interview here:

[audio:https://www.filmdetail.com/podcast/get.php?fla=podcast-2008-01-14-12630.mp3]

This is the trailer:

No Country for Old Men is out now on DVD from Paramount.

> Buy the DVD via Amazon UK
> IMDb entry for the film
> Read reviews of the film at Metacritic
> Official site for the film

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Pick: In the Valley of Elah

There were quite a lot of films about the current war on terror to come out last year but the best from a major Hollywood studio was In the Valley of Elah.

Written and directed by Paul Haggis it is the story of a retired soldier (Tommy Lee Jones) who is searching for his missing son, who has just returned from duty in Iraq.

When he arrives at his military base in Texas, no-one seems to know what has happened and he enlists the help of a local detective (Charlize Theron) to find out what exactly is going on.

Whilst it didn’t make any waves at the box office, it earned Jones an Oscar¬† nomination for Best Actor and managed to be a quietly subversive film about the effects of the current war on terror on those soldiers asked to fight it.

Based on true events described in a Playboy article by Mark Boal, the film explores many of the hot button issues brought up by the recent Iraq conflict such as: post-traumatic stress, the abuse of prisoners, the recording of the war by soliders and the nature of American patriotism.

Although the main plot ticks along like a procedural police thriller, it actually proves a clever way of uinearthing the disturbing fallout from the recent conflicts and how they relate to how wars are fought.

Optimum have done a nice job with the DVD putting on some extras which inlcude:

  • ‘After Iraq’ and ‘Coming Home’ Featurettes: These explore how Haggis approached the film by hiring real soldiers for certain roles, on set interviews with the cast and the parents of the real life soldier who inspired the film.
  • UK Exclusive Interview with writer-director Paul Haggis
  • Additional Scenes (including one startling sequence with a wounded soldier)
  • Trailer
  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DD2.0 and DD5.1 Surround

Back in December I spoke to Paul Haggis about the film and you can listen to the interview here:

[audio:https://www.filmdetail.com/podcast/get.php?fla=podcast-2008-01-23-29394.mp3]

You can also download this interview as an MP3 file by clicking here.

In the Valley of Elah is out now on DVD from Optimum Releasing

> Buy the DVD at Amazon UK
> In the Valley of Elah at the IMDb
> Death and Dishonour – The Playboy article by Mark Boal that inspired the film
> CBS article about the same events that inspired the film
> Paul Haggis at the IMDb
> Official website for In the Valley of Elah
> Reviews of the film at Metacritic