One of the paradoxes of how we record and watch films in the modern era is the stack of unwatched material that gradually builds up over time.
Over the last decade, as home audiences replaced their videos with DVDs, a revolution gradually happened as the rise in online rental services (Netflix in the US and LoveFilm in the UK) and PVRs meant that audiences could timeshift their viewing.
Online DVD rentals are paid for by a monthly subscription fee, so there are no deadlines to return the discs, and with a PVR you can record plenty of films for later viewing.
But what happens when it comes to actually watching these films you have rented or stored?
Back in 2006, an article in Newsweek by Brad Stone titled Netflix Guilt articulated this modern dilemma.
Stone used an unwatched copy of City of God to make his basic point:
I had “City of God” in my possession for 11 months, during which I paid $18 a month for a three-DVD-at-a-time Netflix subscription.
Finally, I returned the movie in defeat while delusionally re-adding it to the end of my queue. By that time, my wife and I were talking about a dangerous new force in our lives: Netflix guilt.
Since 2006, the problem has accelerated with movies on iTunes, larger PVRs and faster connection speeds to deliver them to homes.
The basic issue seems to lie in the enormous choice of films and how it is much easier to select what you want.
Or, to be more accurate, what you think you want.
It is still hard for an individual to actually select something that hits their particular tastes.
In other words, what we think we want to see, isn’t actually what we want to see, as this cartoon points out:
But it isn’t merely a case of mainstream versus art house: often mainstream films that look promising turn out to be awful and more independent fare is gripping.
Leaving aside old favourites, this means that the central problem still remains: how can we accurately select films we want to watch?
After.Life (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD] Bent (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / with DVD] Black Lightning (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD] Doctor Who – The New Series: 5 – Volume 4 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] Entourage: Season 6 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD] Exit Through the Gift Shop (Revolver Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Kick-Ass (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD / Limited Edition] The African Queen: Restoration Edition (ITV DVD) [Buy it on Blu-ray] The Brit Indie Collection (4DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Last Song (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Official 2010 World Cup South Africa Review (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] True Inspiration Collection (4DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD]
MONDAY 13th SEPTEMBER
Breathless (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Date Night (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] Delicatessen (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray] Dogtooth (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Glee: Complete Season 1 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (BFI) [Blu-ray and DVD combi] Hung: Season 1 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD] Inferno (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / DVD] Kandahar Break – Fortress of War (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Lost: The Complete Seasons 1-6 (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Lost: The Complete Sixth Season (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Buy it on lu-ray or DVD] Mountain Gorillas (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] Mulholland Drive (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray] Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD / Combi pack] The Graduate (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray] The Pianist (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray] The Third Man (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray] Unthinkable (E1 Entertainment UK) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Vincere (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / DVD]
MONDAY 20th SEPTEMBER
Death Note (4Digital Asia) [Blu-ray / with DVD] Forbidden Planet (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD] I Spit On Your Grave (101 Films) [Blu-ray / with DVD] Lang Lang: Live in Vienna (Sony Classics) [Blu-ray / DVD] Mars Attacks! (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal] Mother (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Robin Hood (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] The Back-up Plan (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Ghost (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Special Relationship (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] The Sword With No Name (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD] The World at War (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] Tooth Fairy (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] [Rec] (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD] [Rec] 2 (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
MONDAY 27th SEPTEMBER
A Nightmare On Elm Street (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD] American – The Bill Hicks Story (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Lionsgate UK) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD] City of Life and Death (High Fliers Video Distribution) [Blu-ray / DVD] Death at a Funeral (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] Fringe: Season 2 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD] Fringe: Seasons 1 and 2 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Box Set] House: Season 6 (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / Box Set] Infernal Affairs (Palisades Tartan) [Blu-ray / DVD] She’s Out of My League (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Space Chimps 2 – Zartog Strikes Back (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD] Stephen Hawking’s Universe (Demand DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD] StreetDance (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD] Tetro (Soda Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Deep (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Killer Inside Me (Icon Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Wake Up Sid (UTV) [Blu-ray / DVD] Warren Miller: Dynasty (Demand DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Originally based on based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book ‘Imperial Life in the Emerald City’, it follows a ‘WMD hunter’ (played by Damon) as he begins to suspect something is wrong with the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
People Miller comes across in his search for the truth involve: the newly arrived US Administrator of Iraq (Greg Kinnear); a CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson); a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan); a local Iraqi (Khalid Abdalla); and a special forces Major (Jason Isaacs).
Although I have more than a few reservations with the historical approach to the material, there is no doubt that Greengrass is a master at creating suspense and a vivid sense of realism.
The production design is particularly impressive and Baghdad circa 2003 is recreated with some excellent use of sets and CGI, whilst Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography pulls us right into the frenetic world of political and military intrigue.
Presumably worried that audiences would reject the fiercely critical tone of the film towards the US government, Universal tried to market this as ‘Bourne in Iraq’.
This was a strategy doomed to failure as when mainstream American audiences finally did see it, as they continued their ongoing rejection of films about the Iraq debacle.
There is still a lot to commend Green Zone and despite being a costly production that reportedly lost a lot of money, it may be a film that earns slow burning respect over time.
The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:
Deleted scenes – Play with Video Commentary by Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
Deleted scenes – Play without Video Commentary
Matt Damon: Ready for Action
Inside the Green Zone
Feature commentary with Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
U-Control – Video Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
U-Control – Picture in Picture
BD Live / pocket BLU App / social BLU App
DVD Beaver report that the Blu-ray image is not as sharp as some might expect, but that this is intentional:
[The image] isn’t going to turn you on your ear with deft detail and magnificent sharpness. Not supposed to. What it does do is support Greengrass’ visual intentions in crafting the film. Earthy browns are prominent and the dusty desert achieves it’s lifeless, clandestine, dim aura. When colors shine the infrequency exports a brilliance by comparison. has a genuineness about it that gives me the feeling it is supporting the film appropriately.
Bubba Ho-Tep (Anchor Bay): This bizarre cult gem from 2002 is well worth a look on Blu-ray, especially if you are fan of genuine cult cinema. Directed by Don Coscarelli, the story features Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell), a man claiming to be John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) and a rogue Egyptian mummy in a Texas nursing home.
Although the scenario is off-the-wall, it is a refreshing change from the po-faced horror remakes of recent times and Campbell actually gives a very funny performance as ‘The King’.
Coscarelli is probably best known for his work on the Phantasm films and he reunited with some of the crew that worked on those films. This has some of the sensibility of those films and is probably best enjoyed late at night and in the right frame of mind.
The image on the Blu-ray actually highlights the low budget nature of the film but that isn’t too much of the problem given the overall design (this isn’t exactly a David Lean-style epic).
The extras are the same as the DVD and include:
Exclusive introduction by Bruce Campbell
Audio commentary by director Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
Audio commentary by “The King”
Optional 5.1 and DTS audio
Joe R. Lansdale reads from his original short story “Bubba Ho-Tep”
Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
“The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep” featurette
“To Make a Mummy” – make-up and effects featurette
“Fit for a King” – Elvis costume featurette
“Rock Like an Egyptian” – featurette on the music of “Bubba Ho-Tep”
“The King and I” – an in-depth excavation with Don Coscarelli;
UK Premiere Q&A with Don Coscarelli
“Bruce Talks Bubba” – an interview with Bruce Campbell
The Book of Eli (EV): Set in a post-apocalyptic America, this action-drama is about an enigmatic traveller named Eli (Denzel Washington) on a mysterious journey towards the west coast involving a valuable book. Along the way he comes across marauding bandits, a town ruled by the villainous Carnegie (Gary Oldman), and a young woman who he befriends (Mila Kunis).
Although The Hughes Brothers haven’t made a film since From Hell (2001), they manage to craft an entertaining and well-paced film with a satisfying twist. Although it owes a lot to other films in this genre (notably Mad Max 2) there are some nice ideas sprinkled in amongst the well-staged action sequences. Shot on the high-definition Red One camera, the visual look of the film is striking due to the heavy use of filters and the Blu-ray transfer is satisfyingly smooth. [Blu-ray / DVD]
The extras include the following featurettes:
A Lost Tale: Billy
Behind The Story
Deleted / Alternate Scenes
The Book of Eli Soundtrack
BD Exclusive: Picture-in-Picture Feature : Behind the Scenes and Interviews
The Damned United (Sony Pictures Home Ent.): This biopic of legendary English football manager Brian Clough was adapted from David Peace’s bestselling novel about his turbulent spell in charge of Leeds United during the 1970s. Starring Michael Sheen as Clough, Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor, Colm Meaney as Don Revie and Jim Broadbent as Sam Longson, it was adapted by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and directed Tom Hooper (Longford, John Adams).
Although the light-hearted tone tends to gloss over the riveting, dark tone of Peace’s book, the film is powered by several fine performances, with Sheen and Spall on top form. The production design impressively evokes the atmosphere of the 1970s, and the Blu-ray transfer is excellent with an impressively detailed image. [Blu-ray / DVD]
The extras for the Blu-ray include:
1080P 1.85:1 Widescreen
English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
English Audio Description Track
English, English HOH and Hindi subtitles
Commentary with Director Tom Hooper, Michael Sheen and Producer Andy Harries
Deleted Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary
Cloughisms with Optional Director’s Commentary
Perfect Pitch: The Making Of The Damned United
The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies
Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on ‘Old Big ‘Ead’
Alice in Wonderland (Disney) [Blu-ray + DVD] Armored (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] Astro Boy (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray + DVD] Bodyguards and Assassins (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray + DVD] Daybreakers (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / DVD] La Boheme: Royal Opera House (Opus Arte) [DVD] One Night in Turin (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] Romantic City: Venice [Blu-ray] Salome: Royal Opera House [Blu-ray] The Sky Crawlers (Manga Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Winter in Wartime (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
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
Do You Live At The Hilton?
Natalie In Restroom
Angry Ryan Checks In
Maynard Finch Commercial/Kara Calls Ryan
Barely Squeaking By / Natalie Calls
“Help Yourself” music video by Sad Brad Smith
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
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]