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Top New Blu-ray releases for the Week of August 30

Top New Blu-ray releases for the Week of August 30

You know what? This is actually another pretty massive Blu-ray release week. In addition to my top picks, you’ve also got the latest seasons of great shows like Sons of Anarchy, House and The Twilight Zone, 3D releases of some recent Fox hits, individual releases of the Shrek films (previously only available in the Shrek boxed set from Paramount), Gus Van Sant‘s Good Will Hunting, nutrition vs. disease doc Forks over Knives and Thai actioner BKO: Bangkok Knockout (out in two weeks, here in Canada.)

As always, clicking the Blu-ray package art will zip you over to Amazon where every purchase you make through our links helps the site stay on its feet. We appreciate every single click and thank you again for continuing to read The Blu-ray Blog.


Blu-ray disc of the week: THE COMPLETE JEAN VIGO

The Complete Jean Vigo - The Criterion Collection


    Even among cinema’s legends, Jean Vigo stands apart. The son of a notorious anarchist, Vigo had a brief but brilliant career making poetic, lightly surrealist films before his life was cut tragically short by tuberculosis at age twenty-nine. Like the daring early works of his contemporaries Jean Cocteau and Luis Buñuel, Vigo’s films refused to play by the rules. This set includes all of Vigo’s titles: À propos de Nice, an absurdist, rhythmic slice of life from the bustling coastal city; Taris, an inventive short portrait of a swimming champion; Zéro de conduite, a radical, delightful tale of boarding-school rebellion that has influenced countless filmmakers; and L’Atalante, widely regarded as one of cinema’s finest achievements, about newlyweds beginning their life together on a canal barge. These are the witty, visually adventurous works of a pivotal film artist.

The Complete Jean Vigo is like Christmas come early for cinephiles but will most likely slip under the radar of casual North American film fans. But I’m here to tell you, this is the disc to pick up this week, if you get anything. This collection of four films comprises the entire body of work of the late, great filmmaker and, along with a killer supplemental selection, can almost be considered a master class in his ouvre and its influence. The most remarkable thing you’ll discover when watching through the films, dated between 1930 and 1934, when Vigo lost his life at the age of 29 as a result of literally working himself to death on his final film, is how they don’t feel like anything else from that time. While not completely modern, these films feel as if they were made alongside those of the French New Wave, related more in form and style to Breathless and The 400 Blows than the theatrical, stagey films of the era. It’s almost as if Vigo, who had a clear understanding of the language of the medium, was unveiling its magic and potential for future generations. Providing a glimpse of what was truly capable with film in its ability to both capture the truth in a moment as well as fashion the most imaginative dreamscapes in image and motion. These are four of the most important films you’ll ever see. This is one of the most important Blu-ray releases of the year.

All four of the films – À propos de Nice (1930, 23min, silent), Taris (1931, 9min, mono), Zéro de conduite (1933, 44min, mono) and L’Atalante (1934, 87min, mono) – look better than you’ve ever seen them before, the two oldest films from 35 mm fine-grain master positives, Zéro de conduite assembled from 35 mm fine-grain master positive and a 35 mm fine-grain duplicate negative and L’Atalante from the 2001 Gaumont 35 mm restoration negative (though I’d argue that Criterion has put a little more spit and polish on their transfer than is present on the Gaumont neg.) If you’ve seen these films before, get ready to be blown away by how vital they appear on this disc. If you’ve never seen them before, just get ready to be blown away. Audio, of course, can’t compete with anything modern but is given greater depth here in these uncompressed mono tracks.

The special features of this disc set can almost be considered exhaustive. I can’t get over the wealth of supplemental material crammed onto a single disc – the blessing and the curse of the Blu-ray. A blessing as you’d be hard pressed to find better analysis and appreciation of Vigo’s work outside of these masterful commentary tracks, the hour-and-a-half Cinéastes de notre temps episode and the Les voyages de “L’Atalante” restoration, among other fine splendid extras. A curse because there’s just way too much crammed onto this disc. I would have much preferred that Criterion spread the content over two Blu-ray discs and let the features breathe, as they did with the DVD edition, also released today. That said, I didn’t see any untoward digital noise or any other way the content might suffer from over-compression, despite the sheer bounty on the disc.

Highest possible recommendation!

Special Features:

  • New high-definition digital restorations of all of Jean Vigo’s films: À propos de Nice, Taris, Zéro de conduite, and L’Atalante (with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentaries featuring Michael Temple, author of Jean Vigo
  • Alternate shots from À propos de Nice, featuring footage Vigo cut from the film
  • Animated tribute to Vigo by filmmaker Michel Gondry
  • Ninety-minute 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps on Vigo, directed by Jacques Rozier
  • Conversation from 1968 between filmmakers François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer on L’Atalante
  • Les voyages de “L’Atalante,” Bernard Eisenschitz’s 2001 documentary tracking the history of the film
  • Video interview from 2007 with director Otar Iosseliani on Vigo
  • New and improved English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film writers Michael Almereyda, Robert Polito, B. Kite, and Luc Sante

AMAZON: $27.99

Also from Criterion this week:

ORPHEUS

Orpheus (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1950)

    Jean Cocteau’s update of the Orpheus myth depicts a famous poet (Jean Marais), scorned by the Left Bank youth, and his love for both his wife, Eurydice (Marie Déa), and a mysterious princess (Maria Casarès). Seeking inspiration, the poet follows the princess from the world of the living to the land of the dead, through Cocteau’s famous mirrored portal. Orpheus’s peerless visual poetry and dreamlike storytelling represent the legendary Cocteau at the height of his powers.

Cocteau was no doubt inspired by the dream-like imagery of Vigo’s films. He’s at the height of his powers here, in Orpheus, a Blu-ray upgrade essential for collectors and film fans alike.

READ MORE: The Criterion Collection: Orpheus Blu-ray Disc Review

AMAZON: $27.99

IF….

If . . . (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1969)

    Lindsay Anderson’s If…. is a daringly anarchic vision of British society, set in a boarding school in late-sixties England. Before Kubrick made his mischief iconic in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made a hell of an impression as the insouciant Mick Travis, who, along with his school chums, trumps authority at every turn, finally emerging as a violent savior in the vicious games of one-upmanship played by both students and masters. Mixing color and black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy and reality, If…. remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.

A boarding school drama like Vigo’s Zéro de conduite, Anderson allows himself to slip into the surreal – another potential nod to the late French master.

READ MORE: The Criterion Collection: If…. Blu-ray Disc Review

AMAZON: $25.99


IN A BETTER WORLD

In a Better World (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2010)

    A provocative film that explores the difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness, In a Better World follows two Danish families and the unusual and dangerous friendship that develops between them. Bullied at school, Elias is defended by Christian, a boy greatly troubled over his mother’s death. So when the two become involved in an act of revenge with potentially tragic consequences, it’s their parents who are left to help them come to terms with the complexity of human emotions, pain and empathy.

Ah! I was hoping and praying that a screener for A Better World (Hævnen) would turn up before today but alas, it wasn’t to be. That doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm to spend a good couple of hours with this Danish Academy Award winning film. I’m expecting the disc to be picture perfect, as is the case with most Sony Blu-ray transfers these days. Special features include commentary with director Susanne Bier and editor Pernille Bech Christensen, deleted scenes and an interview with Bier.

AMAZON: $30.99


THE COEN BROTHERS COLLECTION

Coen Brothers Collection (Blood Simple/Fargo/Miller's Crossing/Raising Arizona) [Blu-ray]Miller's Crossing [Blu-ray] (1990)Raising Arizona [Blu-ray]Blood Simple [Blu-ray] (1984)


Oh my god oh my god. This is a box full of awesome! But if you love movies at all you don’t need me to tell you this. It’s four of the best ever Coen Brothers films, three of which are new to Blu-ray, all collected in a spiffy looking box! Now, to be fair, all four films are also available on their own as of today, so the boxed set doesn’t offer you much beyond the box itself and a savings of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20. As to the quality of the discs, I haven’t seen them yet myself (par for the course with Fox releases, which generally tend to show up a week or two after street date) but early reviews from DVD Beaver offer exactly the reviews I was expecting – honest transfers that present the movies exactly as they appear on film, without any tampering for good or ill (meaning Blood Simple still looks pretty low budget and Miller’s Crossing still a bit muddy.) I’m excited to get my hands on this box and will report more thoroughly on the titles once I’ve screened them.

AMAZON: $46.99


STRIKE

Strike: Remastered Edition [Blu-ray] (1925)

    The first full-length feature project of pantheon Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, Strike is a government-commissioned celebration of the unrealized 1905 Bolshevik revolution. The story is set in motion by a series of outrages and humiliations perpetrated on the workers of a metalworks plant. The Czarist regime is unsympathetic to the workers, characteristically helping the plant owners to subjugate the hapless victims. Finally, the workers revolt, staging an all-out strike. Here is where Eisenstein’s theory of “the montage of shocks” was given its first major workout. While the notion of juxtaposing short, separate images to heighten tension and excitement was not new, Eisenstein was the first to fully understand the value of using sudden-shock images (a bloody face, a fired weapon, a descending club) to make his dramatic and sociological points. Playing to mixed reviews and small audiences in Russia, Strike proved a success worldwide, assuring Eisenstein complete creative freedom on his next project, the immortal Potemkin. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.

I’ve never seen Strike but Kino had me at “first full-length feature project of pantheon Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.” If this transfer stands toe-to-toe with Kino’s best silents (Metropolis, The General) this Blu-ray disc should be something to behold. Extras include Eisenstein first short film Glumov’s Diary, a 37-minute doc called “Eisenstein and the Revolutionary Spirit” and a trailer for his Battleship Potemkin.

AMAZON: $20.99


THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON

The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] (2010)

    They’re back – and they’re not alone. The seductive characters of “The Vampire Diaries” return for a stunning 4-Disc 22-Episode Season Two. This time Elena, Stefan, Damon and the other residents of Mystic Falls are joined by sinister new blood. Released from the tomb, Katherine unleashes her personal brand of evil in a diabolical plot. The Originals – the world’s oldest and most dangerous vampires – hunt for Elena, who discovers she has a terrifying connection to their world. And now bloodsuckers aren’t the only monsters in town. On moonlit nights, werewolves roam in search of victims… including vampires, who succumb to a single werewolf bite. “The Vampire Diaries“: unending suspense, undying romance.

You’ll recall from last year around this time that I was a little taken aback by how much I enjoyed the first season of Vampire Diaries. I swear to God, I didn’t mean to watch it at all, never mind get caught up in the soap-operatic drama of the thing. But there you go. Warner sent the boxed set. I popped it in one night. And that was that. Now, with it’s second season wrapped up, I can honestly say I’ve grown tired of the once-vital series. I’m not sure if I care to sit through season three.

Perhaps it’s less the show itself and more about my attention span with series in their sophomore years. Vampire Diaries feels as if it suffers from the same problems I perceive in a lot of series’ year two – random musical-chairs relationship shifting, out-of-character action to drive desperate plot contrivances and general, all around silliness. Add to Diaries‘ missteps some critically dreadful miscasting (Daniel Gillies, not a particularly awful actor, should not be playing a millenia-old vampire, for example) and you can see how the show managed to chip away at my good will toward it over the course of this second batch of episodes. To it’s credit, it’s still well shot and still has some compelling performers leading the cast (even when Ian Somerhalder slips into parody he’s always entertaining.) And despite my grousing, I’ll most likely tune in to at least a few episodes of season three. But if the producers don’t figure out a way to make this thing sing again, I’m out.

Warner has yet to send over the Blu-ray screeners for The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season. I’ll update this post when I get a gander at the discs. I can tell you this – this is one of the first Blu-ray season sets to receive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio tracks from Warner. Kudos to them for finally seeing the light. Extras include one commentary (on the episode “Masquerade“), deleted scenes, Pages of the Wolf (3 behind the scenes werewolf featurettes totaling around 20-minutes or so), “The Perfect Love Triangle: Vampires, Werewolves, Witches“, “Her Own Worst Enemy: Elena, Katherine and Nina! “, “Second Bite” gag reel and BD-Live.

AMAZON: $42.99


GANTZ

Gantz [Blu-ray]

    Kei Kurono and his childhood friend Masaru Kato attempt to save a man who has fallen onto the train tracks but are run down by an oncoming train. However, rather than finding themselves dead, they are transported to a strange apartment in which they find a mysterious black orb known as “Gantz”. Along with others there, they are provided weaponry and sent on missions to battle alien beings. Is this world, which tests your will to survive, a game or reality.

Gantz is a farily successful live-action Japanese adaptation of Hiroya Oku‘s manga series of the same name. And it is weeeeeird! I mean, it’s not really strange in the way it presents it’s characters – a collection of fairly normal students, fathers, grandmothers, etc. It’s the circumstances they find themselves in that presents the weirdness. The black orb called Gantz beams these folks to a barren, locked apartment and offers them magic alien-’sploding guns and cool black, plastic Evangelion-cum-Matrix super-suits to wear before shooting them out into the street to hunt otherworldy ne’re-do-wells. Why? Well, it’s never quite explained outside of the fact that these are aliens. I bet they’ve come to take over the earth. But that wouldn’t explain why these strange creatures all seem to be trying their best to hide and to be left alone. More questions abound; Are these recruited “warriors” just playing a game (they’re awarded points for every kill, just like a video game)? Are they alive or dead? And just what the hell is Gantz, exactly? I’m assuming most, if not all of these questions get answered in the sequel, which I await with bated breath. Gantz might not make a lot of sense but it’s a fun bit of Japanese post-modern superhero nonsense that’s got more style than your average X-Men film.

Gantz also looks like a million bucks on Blu-ray. Warner has afforded the film a killer, super high-bit-rate transfer that will knock your socks off. Any issue you’ve got with the way this bad boy looks harkens back to the source. This is a slick presentation. Audio is available in both the original Japanese as well as an English dub. Although most info states these to be lossy DD 5.1 tracks, my equipment is showing that both are DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks. Awesome! I watched the Japanese as the English dub was doing my head in. The 3-disc set also contains two DVDs – one with an SD copy of the feature and a second with trailers and a 28-minute interview with director Shinsuke Sato.

AMAZON: $20.99


TOP GUN: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Top Gun (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) (1986)

    Top Gun” takes a look at the danger and excitement that awaits every pilot at the Navy’s prestigious fighter weapons school. Tom Cruise is superb as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a daring young flyer who’s out to become the best of the best. And Kelly McGillis sizzles as the civilian instructor who teaches Maverick a few things you can’t learn in a classroom.

I can’t believe it but I actually found myself laughing at Top Gun watching it again for the first time in over a decade. Tony Scott’s ode to oiled-up pilots and their mechanical crotch-rockets is still a great, fun ’80s film but the blatant man-gazing photography (inspired by the work of Bruce Weber) is tougher to take seriously now than it was 25 years ago. Speaking of which… This film is actually 25 years old no?!. Urgh. Stick a fork in me, I’m old.

Look, it’s Top Gun. You’ve seen it. You either love it for what it is or you don’t. The F-14 action is pretty much unrivaled and Cruise is at his absolute best. What more do you need to know?

This new 25th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Top Gun is actually just the same excellent disc from 2008 gussied up and given some new packaging. Nothing wrong with that! The transfer is a bit glossy and could probably use an update but holds up well enough. Audio is strong in various lossless formats (DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 among others) and special features plentiful enough you’ll have to spend an entire Sunday watching the disc to get through them all. I recommend the two-and-a-half hour long “Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun“, if you check out anything. It’s a thorough and engaging documentary that covers just about every aspect of the film and its production. The disc also features a commentary track, multi-angle storyboards with commentary, a look inside the real Top Gun, music videos, trailers, behind-the-scenes featurette, Survival Training featurette, Tom Cruise interviews, and a digital copy of the film.

AMAZON: $9.99


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:

Rio (Four-Disc Blu-ray 3D/ Blu-ray/ DVD/ Digital Copy) (2011)The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader [Blu-ray 3D] (2010)Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs [Blu-ray 3D] (2009)Sons of Anarchy: Season Three [Blu-ray] (2010)



Spice and Wolf: Season One [Blu-ray]Spice and Wolf: Season Two (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Good Will Hunting [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (1997)House, M.D.: Season Seven [Blu-ray] (2010)



The Nightmare Before Christmas (Three-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy) (1993)Nikita: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] (2010)The Twilight Zone: Season 5 [Blu-ray] (1964)Forks Over Knives [Blu-ray] (2011)



Prom (Blu-ray / DVD Combo) (2011)BKO: Bangkok Knockout [Blu-ray] (2011)Final Destination 2 [Blu-ray] (2003)Final Destination 3 [Blu-ray] (2006)



The Mummy Trilogy [Blu-ray]Shrek (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo) (2001)Shrek 2 (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo)Shrek the Third (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo)



The Perfect Host [Blu-ray] (2011)Bereavement [Blu-ray] (2010)Wrecked [Blu-ray] (2011)Deadgirl [Blu-ray]



Skateland [Blu-ray] (2010)5th Quarter [Blu-ray] (2010)Latter Days [Blu-ray] (2011)Children of the Corn-Genesis [Blu-ray] (2011)



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The Criterion Collection: Orpheus Blu-ray Disc Review

The Criterion Collection: Orpheus Blu-ray Disc Review

Orpheus (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1950)

ORPHEUS (1950, Blu-ray released August 30, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)

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Fans of Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus and collectors of Criterion Collection discs no doubt already own the classic, surreal film as part of the label’s excellent Orphic Trilogy DVD set from several years back. Their new, updated Blu-ray release, however, provides more than a few reasons to upgrade, not least of which is the formidable collection of special features.

    Jean Cocteau’s update of the Orpheus myth depicts a famous poet (Jean Marais), scorned by the Left Bank youth, and his love for both his wife, Eurydice (Marie Déa), and a mysterious princess (Maria Casarès). Seeking inspiration, the poet follows the princess from the world of the living to the land of the dead, through Cocteau’s famous mirrored portal. Orpheus’s peerless visual poetry and dreamlike storytelling represent the legendary Cocteau at the height of his powers.

I can’t help but feel the legacy of Oprheus every time I watch it. I see so much that Jodorowsky, Coppola (in particular, in his Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and others plucked from the film that if I’m not careful, watching it can become more like playing a game of Where’s Waldo and less like enjoying great filmmaking. But Cocteau’s masterpiece of the “cinematograph”, as he prefered to call it, is easy to enjoy and fall in love with of its own accord. The dreamlike imagery, often accomplished with in-camera effects, is innovative and effective even today. Cocteau’s script, so subversive and political while adapting the well known myth, is still thrilling in its brave genre shifts – from drama to spy-thriller to horror in a handful of beats. And Orpheus himself, the striking Jean Marais, for all his weaknesses as a thespian, maintains the perfect tone of the somnambulist throughout. With gorgeous photography by Nicolas Hayer and a landmark jazz soundtrack by Georges Auric, Oprheus approaches the gates of perfection and remains a must-watch for each and every film fan to this day.

The transfer of the film on this new Blu-ray edition of Oprheus from Criterion is culled from a well-restored internegative and and is jaw-dropping. When you compare the footage of the film from the supplemental documentaries to the feature on the disc, you’ll be blown away. Those looking to compare this new edition to Criterion’s previously issued DVD from 2000 won’t be left quite as breathless but will no doubt find themselves quite pleased with the increase in detail, contrast and overall more film-like look of the transfer.

From the booklet:

    This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain internegative struck from the original nitrate negative. The restoration of Orpheus was carried out in collaboration with the Archives français du film in Bois-d’Arcy, France, under the supervision of assistant director Claude Pinoteau. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.

The new lossless audio track is also a marked step up from the previous compressed track of the DVD. It still sounds its age and won’t impress those cinephiles who only appreciate modern multichannel audio but it’s clean and clear with enough dynamic range to reproduce the score in a very enjoyable way.

From the booklet:

    The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

All right. This is the great stuff here. The special features on this Oprheus disc make the Blu-ray a no-brainer as a first purchase or an upgrade. This thing is packed! From the brand new, brilliant-but-sleepy commentary by scholar James S. Williams to the interviews and features appropriated from the now out-of-print Blood of a Poet and Testament of Orpheus DVDs, the sheer wealth of material presented here provides a richness of insight into Cocteau as both a man and artist that you’ll feel closer to his process and closer to the film as a result. In fact, after watching the feature-length Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown and 40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau docs, I found myself so familiar with the director that his rambling philosophizing on the nature of man, art, society, fame and the poet became somewhat tiring. It seems the Cocteau could tend to get so wrapped up his own notions that even the questions of an interviewer would go unheeded, as evidenced in the 16-minute In Search of Jazz segment.

All in all this is an unrivaled package of features related to the film and the director. My only true wish is that the film’s companion pieces in the Orphic Trilogy, Blood of a Poet and Testament of Orpheus, had been included. I fear, however, that Criterion no longer holds the rights to them and that it might be some time before they make their way to Blu. With that in mind, this Oprheus Blu-ray is pretty perfect.

Highest possible recommendation!

Special Features:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by French film scholar James Williams
  • Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown, a 1984 feature-length documentary
  • Video piece from 2008 featuring assistant director Claude Pinoteau on the special effects in the film
  • 40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau, an interview with the director from 1957
  • In Search of Jazz, a 1956 interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the film
  • La villa Santo-Sospir, a 16 mm color Cocteau film from 1951
  • Gallery of images by French film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau
  • Raw newsreel footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, selected Cocteau writings on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams

Read More
[VIDEO] Three Reasons: Orpheus  – The Criterion Collection

[VIDEO] Three Reasons: Orpheus – The Criterion Collection

If you’re not yet excited enough about this month’s slate of Blu-ray titles from Criterion, check out the video above. The latest ‘Three Reasons’ trailer from the studio will give you a taste of why you need to get your hands on the August 30th high-def debut of Jean Cocteau‘s dreamy Orpheus. It’s a shame the other two films in the trilogy aren’t showing up along side of it, as they did on the now out-of-print DVD set. I’m left to wonder if Criterion have lost the rights to The Blood of a Poet and Testament of Orpheus. I hope not but I fear it to be the case.

Orpheus (1950) - The Criterion Collection


ORPHEUS
(August 30, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
Video: 1.33:1 1080p
Audio: uncom­pressed monaural soundtrack

Special Features:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by French film scholar James Williams
  • Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown, a 1984 feature-length documentary
  • Video piece from 2008 featuring assistant director Claude Pinoteau on the special effects in the film
  • 40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau, an interview with the director from 1957
  • In Search of Jazz, a 1956 interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the film
  • La villa Santo-Sospir, a 16 mm color Cocteau film from 1951
  • Gallery of images by French film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau
  • Raw newsreel footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, selected Cocteau writings on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams

Read More
Top New Blu-ray releases for the Week of July 19

Top New Blu-ray releases for the Week of July 19

Well, here you go. This past week’s new Blu-ray release post, almost a full week late and a little short on quality reviews. The tardiness is due to a trip out of town, followed by my family coming for a visit and then many a day and night spent at the Fantasia Festival here in Montreal. The lack of serious disc reviews is due to the fact that I didn’t receive screeners for most of the Blu-ray releases of this past week. I know, cry me a river, right? But there it is.

As always, clicking the Blu-ray package art will zip you over to Amazon where every purchase you make through our links helps the site stay on its feet. We appreciate every single click and thank you again for continuing to read The Blu-ray Blog.


1. THE MUSIC ROOM

The Music Room (1958) - The Criterion Collection


    With The Music Room (Jalsaghar), Satyajit Ray brilliantly evokes the crumbling opulence of the world of a fallen aristocrat (the beloved actor Chhabi Biswas) desperately clinging to a fading way of life. His greatest joy is the music room in which he has hosted lavish concerts over the years—now a shadow of its former vivid self. An incandescent depiction of the clash between tradition and modernity, and a showcase for some of India’s most popular musicians of the day, The Music Room is a defining work by the great Bengali filmmaker.

Before getting my hands on the new Criterion Blu-ray disc of The Music Room, I had never seen the film. But it’s quickly weaseled its way onto a short list of my favourite movies of all time. I picked up director Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy on DVD years ago (found them all in the used bin of my local Blockbuster – yeah, I know how lucky I was then), quickly falling in love with his style – impeccably well rounded characters shot with a quiet, ruminating camera. But The Music Room is so much more. As wonderful as the three Apu films are, The Music Room just seems more intimate and at the same time, more universal than his previous films (to be fair, he’d only completed two films in the Trilogy when he made The Music Room but the third, The World of Apu, maintains the feel of the previous entries in the series.) The camera work is sensitive but, and I have to say that I’m sure this was not the intent but I find it exhilarating nonetheless, in moments of harsh lighting, it reminds me of old Universal films from the ’30s. To be specific, there are shots that remind me strongly of The Bride of Frankenstein – one of the best films ever made, if you ask me.

I understand, however, that a lot of the visual elements that bring those older films to mind is due to the fact that The Music Room was shot black and white and hasn’t been kept in the best shape through the years. With that in mind, the restoration presented here by Criterion is an absolute marvel. Thank God for film preservationists. The work done here is nothing short of a miracle and if you have any doubt, just check out the DVD and Blu-ray screenshot comparison on DVDBeaver. In addition to the restoration performed on the film being miraculous, the transfer to Blu is absolutely stunning – textured and rich, with deep blacks, prominent grain and tons of detail. One of the most impressive discs I’ve seen this year. Audio sounds dated but clean, clear and effective.

The special features on the disc are plentiful and truly a treat to watch. The 1984 Shyam Benegal doc about the director runs over two hours and paints a clear and full picture of Ray’s life and career. It’s almost worth the price of the disc on its own. I also found the Andrew Robinson and Mira Nair interviews to be informative and quite moving. It’s quite clear that they both feel deeply about the man and his work.

Highest possible recommendation!!

Special Features:

  • New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Satyajit Ray (1984), a feature documentary by Shyam Benegal that chronicles Ray’s career and includes interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his films
  • New interview with filmmaker Mira Nair
  • New interview in which Ray biographer Andrew Robinson discusses the making of The Music Room and the film’s cultural significance
  • Excerpt from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and filmmaker Claude Sautet
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp as well as reprints of a 1963 essay by Ray and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music

AMAZON: $28.99


2. AMELIE

Amélie [Blu-ray]

    The City of Lights sparkles in this “delightful and original” (Boston Globe) quirky comedy that garnered 5 Academy Award® nominations. At a tiny Parisian café, the adorable yet painfully shy Amelie accidentally discovers a gift for helping others. Soon Amelie is spending her days as a Cupid, guardian angel and all-around do-gooder. But when she bumps into a handsome stranger, will she find the courage to become the star of her very own love story? Audrey Tatou (The Da Vinci Code) shines in this “lighthearted fantasy” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) that stole the hearts of audiences and critics worldwide.

Oh God, I effing love this film. Amelie is probably my second favourite film of all time. And writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s clear best work to date. And though I haven’t seen this new Miramax/Lionsgate Blu-ray edition of the film (I have the Alliance disc from Canada) I feel comfortable recommending it. It features all the goodies from the previous DVD editions of the film (and the Canadian Blu) and, from what I can ascertain from early reviews and forum posts, the best transfer the film has seen yet.

AMAZON: $13.99


3. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Beauty and the Beast: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray] (1946)

    Jean Cocteau’s sublime adaptation of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy-tale masterpiece—in which the pure love of a beautiful girl melts the heart of a feral but gentle beast—is a landmark of motion picture fantasy, with unforgettably romantic performances by Jean Marais and Josette Day. The spectacular visions of enchantment, desire, and death in Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) have become timeless icons of cinematic wonder.

Here’s another one of my great cinematic loves, newly available on Blu. I discovered Cocteau’s incredibly gorgeous, imaginative Beauty and the Beast via my old Criterion Collection Laserdisc edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, wherein director Francis Ford Coppola sites, via his exceptional commentary track and featurettes, as well as in text supplements, this work as one of the most influential on the tone and imagery of his 1992 film. So, of course, I had to seek it out. And, of course, I immediately fell in love with it. What a beautiful, masterful imagining of the classic tale.

Those who already own the Criterion DVD won’t see too much of an uptick in detail but contrast is more dynamic and the whole thing is just overall more film-like. All the supplements have been ported over and are quite substantial. If you don’t own the DVD this is a blind buy.

AMAZON: $29.99


4. BOYZ ‘N THE HOOD

Boyz 'N the Hood [Blu-ray] (1991)

    Boyz N The Hood” is the critically acclaimed story of three friends growing up in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood, and of street life where friendship, pain, danger and love combine to form reality. “The Hood” is a place where drive-by shootings and unemployment are rampant. but it is also a place where harmony coexists with adversity, especially for three young men growing up there: Doughboy (Ice Cube), an unambitious drug dealer; his brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a college-bound teenage father; and Ricky’s best friend Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who aspires to a brighter future beyond “The Hood.” In a world where a trip to the store can end in death, the friends have diverse reactions to their bleak surroundings. Tre’s resolve is strengthened by a strong father (Larry Fishburne) who keeps him on the right track. But the lessons Tre learns are put to the ultimate test when tragedy strikes close to home, and violence seems like the only recourse.

Boyz N The Hood is a ’90s classic and the film that made director John Singleton’s career. It was also one of the final films to star good ol’ Cowboy Curtis, “Larry” Fishburne, soon to be replaced by his doppleganger, Morpheus, better know as “Laurence” Fishburne. The film also made stars of the likes of Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Cuba Gooding Jr. among others, as well as proving that rapper Ice Cube has some acting chops. Yeah, Boyz N The Hood is kind of a big deal. And now you can get it on Blu. Sony didn’t send me a screener so I can’t tell you how it looks in high-def but knowing them, I’m sure it’s worth the upgrade from DVD.

AMAZON: $13.99


5. POTICHE

Potiche [Blu-ray]

    Set in 1977 in a provincial French Town, Potiche is a witty and charming comedy starring Catherine Deneuve as Suzanne Pojol, a housebound ‘trophy housewife’ (or potiche) who steps in to manage the umbrella factory run by her tyranical husband after the workers go on strike. To everyone’s surprise, Suzanne proves herself to be a competent and assertive woman of action. Gerard Depardieu plays a union leader and Suzanne’s ex-beau who still holds a flame for her. With Potiche, acclaimed writer-director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) has created a satrical and hilarious take on the sexes and classes.

Deneuve and Depardieu directed by Ozon. That should be enough for you to run out and grab up a copy of this bad boy right there. Having only seen as much as the trailers for the film, I think it looks like a pretty entertaining retro-romp. The Music Box Films Blu-ray release has received fairly average marks over at Blu-ray.com but, it should be noted, represents the processed vintage look of the film accurately. Extras are lite, including a lengthy “making-of” doc, costume tests and a couple of trailers.

AMAZON: $34.99


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:

Limitless (Unrated Extended Cut) [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (2011)Doctor Who: Series Six, Part One [Blu-ray] (2010)Take Me Home Tonight [Blu-ray] (2011)Gungrave: The Complete Series (Classic) [Blu-ray]



The Reef [Blu-ray] (2010)Tekken (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) (2010)Chocolat [Blu-ray]Nowhere to Run [Blu-ray] (1993)



Bridget Jones's Diary [Blu-ray]The Boy in the Striped Pajamas [Blu-ray]Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series [Blu-ray]House of the Rising Sun [Blu-ray] (2011)



Belly of the Beast [Blu-ray] (2003)Peep World [Blu-ray] (2010)Desert Flower [Blu-ray] (2011)



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Criterion August Blu-ray titles: Cul-de-Sac, The Killing, Secret Sunshine, Orpheus, more

Criterion August Blu-ray titles: Cul-de-Sac, The Killing, Secret Sunshine, Orpheus, more

Just when I think that a crop of Criterion Blu-ray announcements can’t possibly get any stronger, they hit me with this awesome group of titles. A record seven new releases will hit store shelves this coming August, including classics new to the Collection like Polanski‘s Cul-de-Sac along with re-issues like Cocteau‘s Orpheus (newly remastered with new special features!) and Pontecorvo‘s The Battle of Algiers. I’m most excited about getting my hands on Lee Chang-dong‘s Secret Sunshine and Kubrick‘s The Killing, which actually includes the director’s previous film, Killer’s Kiss! Bonus film!


The Battle of Algiers  (1966) - The Criterion Collection


THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS
(August 9, 2011 – MSRP $49.95)
Video: 1.85:1 1080p
Audio: uncom­pressed monaural soundtrack

Special Features:

  • High-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Marcello Gatti with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Gillo Pontecorvo: The Dictatorship of Truth, a documentary narrated by literary critic Edward Said
  • Marxist Poetry: The Making of “The Battle of Algiers,” a documentary featuring interviews with Pontecorvo, Gatti, composer Ennio Morricone, and others
  • Interviews with Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone on the film’s influence, style, and importance
  • Remembering History, a documentary reconstructing the Algerian experience of the battle for independence
  • “États d’armes,” a documentary excerpt featuring senior French military officers recalling the use of torture and execution to combat the Algerian rebellion
  • “The Battle of Algiers”: A Case Study, a video piece featuring U.S. counterterrorism experts
  • Gillo Pontecorvo’s Return to Algiers, a documentary in which the filmmaker revisits the country after three decades of independence
  • Production gallery
  • Theatrical and rerelease trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Peter Matthews, excerpts from Algeria’s National Liberation Front leader Saadi Yacef’s original account of his arrest, excerpts from the film’s screenplay, a reprinted interview with cowriter Franco Solinas, and biographical sketches of key figures in the French-Algerian War

Cul-de-Sac (1966) - The Criterion Collection


CUL-DE-SAC
(August 16, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
Video: 1.66:1 1080p
Audio: uncom­pressed monaural soundtrack

Special Features:

  • New digital restoration, approved by director Roman Polanski (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Two Gangsters and an Island, a 2003 short documentary about the making of Cul-de-sac, featuring interviews with Polanski, producer Gene Gutowski, and cinematographer Gil Taylor
  • Interview with Polanski from 1967
  • Theatrical trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Thompson

The Killing (1956) - The Criterion Collection


THE KILLING
(August 16, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
Video: 1.66:1 1080p
Audio: uncom­pressed monaural soundtrack

Special Features:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • New video interview with producer James B. Harris
  • Excerpts of interviews with actor Sterling Hayden from the French television series Cinéma cinémas
  • New video interview with film scholar Robert Polito about writer Jim Thompson and his work on The Killing
  • Restored transfer of Stanley Kubrick’s 1955 noir feature Killer’s Kiss
  • New video appreciation of Killer’s Kiss with film critic Geoffrey O’Brien
  • Theatrical trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Haden Guest and a reprinted interview with Marie Windsor on The Killing

Secret Sunshine (2007) - The Criterion Collection


SECRET SUNSHINE
(August 23, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
Video: 2.35:1 1080p
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio

Special Features:

  • New digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Lee Chang-dong and cinematographer Cho Yong-kyu with DTS-HD Master Audio
  • New interview with Lee
  • On the Set of “Secret Sunshine,” a video piece featuring interviews with actors Jeon Do-yeon and Song Kang-ho, as well as behind-the-scenes footage
  • U.S. theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim

Orpheus (1950) - The Criterion Collection


ORPHEUS
(August 30, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
Video: 1.33:1 1080p
Audio: uncom­pressed monaural soundtrack

Special Features:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by French film scholar James Williams
  • Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown, a 1984 feature-length documentary
  • Video piece from 2008 featuring assistant director Claude Pinoteau on the special effects in the film
  • 40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau, an interview with the director from 1957
  • In Search of Jazz, a 1956 interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the film
  • La villa Santo-Sospir, a 16 mm color Cocteau film from 1951
  • Gallery of images by French film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau
  • Raw newsreel footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, selected Cocteau writings on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams

If.... (1968) - The Criterion Collection


IF….
(August 30, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
Video: 1.66:1 1080p
Audio: uncom­pressed monaural soundtrack

Special Features:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček and assistant editor Ian Rakoff with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
  • Episode of the Scottish TV series Cast and Crew from 2003, featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondříček, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin
  • Video interview with actor Graham Crowden
  • Thursday’s Children (1954), an Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children, by director Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by actor Richard Burton
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein as well as reprinted pieces by Sherwin and Anderson

The Complete Jean Vigo - The Criterion Collection


THE COMPLETE JEAN VIGO
(August 30, 2011 – MSRP $39.95)
4 Film Box:
À propos de Nice
Zéro de conduite
L’Atalante
Taris

Special Features:

  • New high-definition digital restorations of all of Jean Vigo’s films: À propos de Nice, Taris, Zéro de conduite, and L’Atalante (with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentaries featuring Michael Temple, author of Jean Vigo
  • Alternate shots from À propos de Nice, featuring footage Vigo cut from the film
  • Animated tribute to Vigo by filmmaker Michel Gondry
  • Ninety-minute 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps on Vigo, directed by Jacques Rozier
  • Conversation from 1968 between filmmakers François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer on L’Atalante
  • Les voyages de “L’Atalante,” Bernard Eisenschitz’s 2001 documentary tracking the history of the film
  • Video interview from 2007 with director Otar Iosseliani on Vigo
  • New and improved English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film writers Michael Almereyda, Robert Polito, B. Kite, and Luc Sante

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