This week’s Blu-ray releases are either highbrow and so lowbrow they’re almost no-brow. Um, I just made that up and I have no idea what it means. Yup, it’s that kind of Tuesday morning – late for work and desperate to get my blog post done. In short, grab the Criterion discs, if you know what’s good for you!
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1. YI YI
- “The extraordinary, internationally embraced Yi Yi (A One and a Two . . .), directed by the late Taiwanese master Edward Yang (A Brighter Summer Day), follows a middle-class family in Taipei over the course of one year, beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral. Whether chronicling middle-age father NJ’s tentative flirtations with an old flame or precocious young son Yang-Yang’s attempts at capturing reality with his beloved camera, the filmmaker deftly imbues every gorgeous frame with a compassionate clarity. Warm, sprawling, and dazzling, this intimate epic is one of the undisputed masterworks of the new century. “
It’s hard to believe Edward Yang is gone. At only 59 years old, the world lost a modern master of the Thai New Wave when he succumbed to cancer in 2007. It breaks my heart that we’ll never get to see the animated feature he was preparing to produce through his newly formed company at the time of his passing. But we’ll always have his incredible 2000 masterpiece Yi Yi (“A One and a Two”), looking and sounding better than ever now on this brilliant Criterion Collection Blu-ray. The disc is a definite step up from the previously available DVD, showing stronger colour reproduction, far more detail and improved contrast, with strong, dialogue-heavy Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. There aren’t a ton of supplements here but with a three-hour run-time eating into the available space on the disc, we’re lucky to have the excellent bonus features included.
Highest possible recommendation!
- Newly restored digital transfer with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
- Audio commentary by writer-director Edward Yang and Asian-cinema critic Tony Rayns
- Video interview with Rayns about Yang and the New Taiwan Cinema movement
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitle translation by Yang and Rayns
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Kent Jones and notes from the director
- “This intensely personal film from Louis Malle (The Lovers, My Dinner with André) tells a heartbreaking story of friendship and devastating loss concerning two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie—until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Malle’s own childhood, Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children) is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening.“
Another brilliant Criterion Collection upgrade from a previously available DVD, this time, however, without its companion films. Au revoir les enfants was initially released by Criterion in 2006 in a Louis Malle boxed set, along with Murmur of the Heart and Lacombe, Lucien and quite a bevy of bonus features. Though there isn’t any sign of the other two films showing up on Blu anytime soon, a number of the bonus features that were available on a fourth disc in the set have now found their way onto this new release. As you’d expect, the visual presentation here is beyond reproach, exhibiting a marked improvement over the DVD, along with a pitch-perfect, clean uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
Highest possible recommendation!
- Restored digital transfer supervised by director of photography Renato Berta with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Video interviews with Louis Malle biographer Pierre Billard and actress Candice Bergen, Malle’s widow
- Joseph: A Character Study, a profile of the provocative figure from Au revoir les enfants, created by filmmaker Guy Magen in 2005
- The Immigrant, Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 short comedy, featured in the film
- Audio excerpts from a 1988 AFI interview with Malle
- Original theatrical trailer and teaser
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critic Philip Kemp and historian Francis J. Murphy
3. THE FIGHTER
- “Academy Award® Nominees Mark Wahlberg (The Departed), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) and Amy Adams (Doubt) star in this “remarkable” film*. Based on a true story, two brothers, against all the odds, come together to train for a historic title bout that has the power to reunite their fractured family and give their hard-luck town what it’s been waiting for: pride. Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is a struggling boxer long overshadowed by his older brother and trainer, Dicky (Bale), a local legend battling his own demons. Their explosive relationship threatens to take them both down – but the bond of blood may be their only chance for redemption. *Joe Morgenstern, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL “
The winner of both Best Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars this year is available on Blu-ray today from Paramount (Alliance, if you’re in Canada, like me). The Fighter clocks in at near perfection, with a gorgeous 1080p transfer and a thunderous DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. Extras include a commentary track with director David O. Russell, almost 20-minutes of deleted scenes, a half-hour long “making of” featurette and more!
4. BMX BANDITS
- “After THE OTHERS, Quentin Tarantino says, this is my favorite Nicole Kidman performance! The future Academy Award® winner made her movie debut at 16 years old as the pouffy-haired star of this action/comedy about a cache of stolen walkie-talkies, three BMX-riding friends, and the ruthless bank robbers who will pursue them through every graveyard, shopping mall, construction site and waterpark in New South Wales, Australia. It s a high-flying ride to adventure filled with wild stunts, cool BMX outfits, creepy innuendo, cheezy synth music, an obnoxious fat kid, and gobs of fast & furious fun. John Ley (MAD MAX), David Argue (RAZORBACK) and Bryan Marshall (THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY) co-star with thrilling cinematography from future Oscar® winner John Seale (THE ENGLISH PATIENT) in this Down Under 80s cult classic from Ozsploitation master Brian Trenchard-Smith, the legendary director of TURKEY SHOOT, DEAD-END DRIVE IN and STUNT ROCK!“
Man, I’m excited to watch BMX Bandits on Blu-ray. Severin has been knocking it out of the park recently bringing cult titles like Santa Sangre an Birdemic to Blu-ray and I’m certain they’ve maintained their level of quality here, with this kitschy ’80s release. Extras include a director’s commentary track, a retrospective documentary, “Nicole Kidman on Young Talent Time” and more.
- “It is known as S-11, a diabolical hybrid of shark and octopus created by genetic scientist Nathan Sands (Oscar®-nominee Eric Roberts of THE EXPENDABLES and THE DARK KNIGHT) as the U.S. Navy’s next super-weapon. But when its control implants are damaged during a training experiment, the beast escapes to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a taste of sun, sand, bikini babes, jet-skiers, spring breakers and beyond. Now a hotshot mercenary, an investigative reporter, and Sand’s biomechanical engineer daughter must stop a creature like none ever witnessed before: It has superior intelligence. It attacks without warning. And it likes to snack on bungee jumpers. Kerem Bursin and Sara Malakul Lane co-star with a hilarious cameo by legendary producer Roger Corman in the unforgettable Syfy Original Movie about the 8-tentacled eating machine called SHARKTOPUS! “
Roger Corman. Giant, hungry, mutant shark, genetically spliced with an octopus. Eric Roberts. Awesome!
Get a bunch of pals over to drink in this SyFy channel stinker and you won’t mind that the 1080p transfer is just a mild step-up from it’s broadcast origins or that the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track sounds oceans better than it has any right to. All you’ll care about is that a shark has been combined with an octopus and it’s out for blood. Oh yeah, Roger Corman and his wife provide a surprisingly entertaining and informative commentary track on the disc as well.
Only in Canada: BODYGUARDS & ASSASSINS
- “1905, City of Victoria (British Colony of Hong Kong). Before Dr. Sun Yat-Sen can become the Father of Modern China by instigating the revolution of 1911 that overturns the Qing Dynasty, his life is almost cut short when he arrives at Hong Kong for a secret meeting to establish a united anti-Qing revolutionary front. In the distance of thirteen blocks, the one man Dr. Sun Yat-Sen who holds a nation’s fate must survive relentless attempts on his life with only five bodyguards, a group of ordinary men and women who actually possess extraordinary fighting skills. Against hundreds of assassins, these men must put their courage to the test in order to protect the hope of millions even if it means fighting to the death… “
Fans of martial-arts superstar Donnie Yen will want to sit up and take notice as Bodyguards & Assassins is one of his strongest films to date and looks and sounds incredible on this new Canadian Blu-ray disc from eOne (a perfect copy of their UK release of the title from May 2010). The transfer is stunning, exhibiting tons of detail, vivid colours and deep blacks, accompanied by a visceral yet clean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Supplements are on the light side, featuring only a collection of “behind the scenes” featurettes focusing on character (23 min.), costume and make-up (4 min.), set-design (3 min.) and action (5 min.).
Anime of the Week: HEROIC AGE: THE COMPLETE SERIES S.A.V.E.
- “Long ago, the advanced Tribe of Gold vanished from the vast universe. In the void left by their departure, the tyrannical Tribe of Silver ascended to rule, forcing mankind – the Iron Tribe – to the brink of extinction.
Now humanity wanders the cosmos in search of a savior. Prophesy has foretold of one who will labor for their freedoms, and on a planet of ruin, a champion is found. A feral boy named Age holds the destiny of their species in his hands and the untold power of the Tribe of Hero within.“
This is the same fine Heroic Age release from last year at this time, now repackaged at a lower price point – cause enough for celebration for those of us who missed out on it the last time around.
ALSO AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY THIS WEEK
Clicking an image will take you to Amazon.com where you can learn more about and purchase the Blu-ray disc: