It’s late, I’m tired and I just need to hit that ‘Publish’ button over there on the right. So let’s not doddle here, chatting about The Fisher King, The Collector or One Eyed Jacks Blu-ray discs at the bottom of the page and just get to the big new Blu-ray releases of the week.
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Blu-ray disc of the week: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2
- “In the epic finale, the battle between the good and evil forces of the wizarding world escalates into an all-out war. The stakes have never been higher and no one is safe. But it is Harry who may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice as he draws closer to the climactic showdown with Lord Voldemort. It all ends here.“
This is a big week for Harry Potter fans the world over. Not only does it mark the release of the final chapter of the film series on home video but it starts the countdown for all Potter Blu-ray discs being put on moratorium. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 will be released on Blu-ray this Friday, November 11th and you’ll only have a scant few weeks to find yourself a copy before Warner shoves the entire film franchise into the vault on December 29th, awaiting the perfect moment (most likely, sometime next year) to unleash it again in spiffier, bonus-goodie-resplendent packaging. But fret not American fans, we good folk in Canada will be suffering no such moratorium and will have plenty of Potter product for you on our shelves, if you can stomach our bilingual packaging and the fact that we rock the original UK Philosopher’s Stone title for Harry’s premiere cinematic outing.
Those of us who simply can’t wait to watch the final chapter at home will be more than pleased to know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 delivers the goods on Blu-ray. I have a few issues with the film itself (I’ve never read the books and found some of the last-minute revelations to speed by too quickly to properly absorb) but the Blu-ray disc is beyond reproach, sporting tons of detail and spot-on contrast, despite a good deal of the film being shrouded in shadows. This is one that you’ll want to watch with the lights off, to really take advantage of the rich, dark image on the disc. As gorgeous as the image is, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is even more impressive. You better take all the fine china off the shelf before playing this Blu through your sub because it’s going to shake your home to its foundations with deep, booming lows. Phenomenal sound design is well replicated in this very active sound-space, along with a dynamic musical presentation and clean, clear dialogue. Brilliant!
The highlights of the excellent package of special features on the Blu-ray are those exclusive to the format – the Maximum Movie Mode and the hour-long JK Rowling/Daniel Radcliffe chat. Regular readers will recall my enthusiasm for the former when presented on previously released Warner discs and, as is always the case, it doesn’t disappoint here. As usual, all the focus point featurettes presented as part of the MMM are viewable outside the picture-in-picture track. The chat between Rowling and Radcliffe is the feature that all Potter fans have been waiting for and proves to be one of the best extras Warner has included on any disc in the series. If fans rush out to buy this disc for any reason aside from the film itself, it’s this bonus goodie.
- Blu-ray Exclusives:
- Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Matthew Long (Neville Longbottom) and other cast members (80 minutes) – As the epic showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort approaches, don’t miss a single detail as the forces of Good and Evil clash one final time throughout the grounds of Hogwarts.
- A Conversation with JK Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe – Join J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe for an exclusive conversation about bringing the character of Harry Potter to life, the last decade of films and how their lives have changed by the fame that they’ve both experienced.
- The Goblins of Gringotts – Hosted by Warwick Davis, you’ll see the entire process of becoming a goblin” in a Harry Potter film, from auditions and casting to makeup and prosthetic tests as well as filming the final scenes.
- The Women of Harry Potter – A look at the remarkable women in Harry Potter’s life and the critical role they play in the films.
- When Harry Left Hogwarts – BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Morgan Matthews has been given unprecedented access to the creative decision-making processes that have been kept as a closely guarded secret – until now. Hear the personal stories of the faces we know, and those we don’t, as we come to the end of one of the most successful eras in cinema history.
- WB Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
- Deleted Scenes
- Game demo of “LEGO® Harry PotterTM: Years 5-7 for PS3®
This is the very first boxed set to contain every single Harry Potter film on Blu-ray. I suspect it’s going to be a pretty hot seller this holiday season. Especially at this price point (only $79.99 on Amazon), which nets you all the films for less than ten bucks a pop. The only real downside to this is that you’re only getting the feature film discs in this set. All of those bonus discs from the individual Blu-ray releases and all of the goodies on them are absent here, so this is far from the ultimate potential package for this series. I’m sure there will be a mega-set in a year’s time but for now, if you don’t own any of the films on Blu or are looking for a nice gift around the $100 price-point, this is a great package.
- “Beneath the surface of small-town serenity lies a dark domain where innocents dare not tread and unpredictability is the norm. It is the haunting realm of “Blue Velvet.” Spawned from the mind of David Lynch (“Mulholland Drive”, “Twin Peaks”), “Blue Velvet” is a “shocking, deeply disturbing…startling mixture of the heartfelt and the horrific” (Newsweek). Clean-cut Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) realizes his Mayberry-like hometown is not so normal when he discovers a human ear in a field. His investigation catapults him into an alluring, erotic murder mystery involving a disturbed nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini) and a drug-addicted sadist (Dennis Hopper). Soon Jeffrey is led deeper into their depraved existence…to the point of no return.“
I’m an unapologetic David Lynch fan. If he films it, paints it or records it, I’ll be first in line to consume it. Like I said, I’m rapid for his work. And Blue Velvet, in my opinion, remains one of the highlights of his lengthy career in many mediums. I haven’t seen the Blu-ray disc release of the film yet but early reviews claim it looks and sounds amazing. And don’t forget that this release contains the first ever look at almost an hour pf previously “lost” footage from the film. I’m so excited to get my hands on this one!
- “Through the eyes of ten-year-old Alexander, we witness the delights and conflicts of the Ekdahl family, a sprawling bourgeois clan in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Sweden. Ingmar Bergman intended Fanny and Alexander as his swan song, and it is the legendary director’s warmest and most autobiographical film, a four-time Academy Award–winning triumph that combines his trademark melancholy and emotional intensity with immense joy and sensuality. The Criterion Collection is proud to present both the theatrical release and the original five-hour television version of this great work. Also included in the box set is Bergman’s own feature-length documentary The Making of “Fanny and Alexander,” a unique glimpse into his creative process.“
I’ve owned Criterion’s exceptional Fanny & Alexander package on DVD for many years now and have had no complaints with it. It looks amazing, it contains both the theatrical and television versions and a ton of special features. It’s wonderful. But I’ll tell you something, this is also one of my favourite Bergman works and one of his best looking productions ever. I don’t think I’ll be able to help but upgrade to this new Blu-ray set. I obviously haven’t had a look at it yet but knowing Criterion, they’ve most likely outdone themselves again, with a fresh scan of the negatives making Sven Nykvist‘s beautiful photography look more stunning than ever. Upgrading is always a touchy subject but I just can’t resist this one.
UPDATE: It’s in my hands now. Can’t wait to pop it in the PS3 and take a look! In other news, I have no self control…
- “Band of Brothers-
Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers’ journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elete rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.
The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a realistic portrait of WWII’s Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines – Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain firests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before.
He Has Seen War- is an exclusive documentary that examines the postwar lives of veterans of both Band of Brothers and The Pacific. From their initial steps at reintegrating into civilian life to the lasting impact the war had on each of their lives, He Has Seen War features Easy Company and 1st Marine Division veterans and their families relaying their own unique stories. Complemented by renowned historian and author Donald L. Miller as well as rarely seen archival and documentary footage, He Has Seen War captures the struggle and ultimate triumph of a generation who, after helping rescue the world from unprecedented calamity, reclaimed their lives and re-forged a country.“
You can always tell that the holiday shopping season is approaching when the handsome boxed sets start showing up in stores. This new 13-disc collection of all ten episodes of HBO series Band of Brothers and all ten episodes of its follow up series, The Pacific is a real beaut. From the matte finish of the carboard box (watch out for greasy finger-prints on this one), reflective silver print treatment and hidden, magnetic lid lock, you know you’re in for a treat before you even remove the thick, weighty book from it’s housing. Lifting a ribbon attached to the bottom interior of the box raises the hardcover tome from it’s housing, revealing book-packaging of the sort used for the Rome boxed set, but at twice the width. Most of the glossy pages hold two Blu-ray discs full of episodes, with the exception of the pages that bridge the two series, which houses but a single disc containing the sole new feature in the set – He Has Seen The War, an hour-long documentary featuring the surviving members of both Easy Company and the 1st Marine Division whose exploits are dramatized in the series’. It’s an excellent doc but not worth re-purchasing both Band of Brothers and The Pacific on Blu-ray for, if you already own both boxed sets. The rest of the discs and all their features are identical to those previously available.
Highly recommended for those who don’t already own the series and for those ultimate fans who are completists.
- “1787. HMS Bounty sets out on a journey through perilous seas to a tropical paradise… and into history as the one of the most ill-fated vessels in naval lore. Lewis Milestone (“All Quiet on the Western Front”) directs this color-drenched spectacular nominated for seven Academy Awards(R) including Best Picture. Filmed before in 1935 and again in 1984′s “The Bounty”, the gripping story centers on first officer Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando), a dandy transformed into a man of action, and Capt. William Bligh (Trevor Howard), uncompromising in his command or his cruelty. “Fear is [my] best weapon,” Bligh proclaims. But it’s also the most costly, driving men to desperation and mutiny. Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith and Richard Haydn also star in this epic adventure.“
This is the second version of Mutiny on the Bounty that Warner has released on Blu-ray in as many years. If only they could turn this into an annual tradition! The 1962 version of the film, new on Blu this week, is likely the least accurate telling of the real life overthrow of Captain Bligh’s fierce and cruel command of the Bounty by first officer Christian and crew but there’s no denying the power of the performances here and the beauty of the production and photography. It’s an epic three-hour long film that feels grand at every turn, in every shot.
Warner have packed the film and all of the extras from the 2-DVD release from 2006 onto a single dual-layered Blu-ray, and though the bitrate is generally kept around the 20 mbps mark things look pretty great. Colours are vivid and pop off the screen, blacks are deep and detail is pleasing, creating an overall fairly film-like image. Audio is presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and sounds, overall pretty great, despite the obvious limitations of the age of the source.
As I mentioned, the extras on the disc are ported over from the 2006 DVD set and tend to focus on the Bounty itself – a very real tall ship built from stem to stern for this production and still sailing today. Most are archival in nature and, while neat to watch, don’t provide as much insight into the production itself as a newly minted “making of” or commentary track might have offered. The prologue and epilogue that were cut from the theatrical release of the film are here in standard def but are definitely worth watching, as they bookend the film with detail on what happened to the crew after they were stranded on Pitcairn Island and finally discovered some years later. It’s a shame they’re not presented in HD or edited back into the film but nice to have them here nonetheless.
- Alternate Prologue and Epilogue Sequences Not Seen Theatrically
- After the Cameras Stopped Rolling: The Journey of the Bounty
- 1964 New York World’s Fair Promo
- Story of the HMS Bounty
- Tour of the Bounty
- Voyage of the Bounty to St. Petersburg
- Theatrical Trailer
- “Recounting how the West was won through the eyes of a white man raised as a Native American, Arthur Penn‘s 1970 adaptation of Thomas Berger’s satirical novel was a comic yet stinging allegory about the bloody results of American imperialism. As a misguided 20th-century historian listens, 121-year-old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) narrates the story of being the only white survivor of Custer’s Last Stand. White orphan Crabb was adopted by the Cheyenne, renamed “Little Big Man,” and raised in the ways of the “Human Beings” by paternal mentor Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George), accepting non-conformity and living peacefully with nature. Violently thrust into the white world, Jack meets a righteous preacher (Thayer David) and his wife (Faye Dunaway), tries to be a gunfighter under the tutelage of Wild Bill Hickock (Jeff Corey), and gets married. Returned to the Cheyenne by chance, Jack prefers life as a Human Being. The carnage wreaked by the white man in the Washita massacre and the lethal fallout from the egomania of General George A. Custer (Richard Mulligan) at Little Big Horn, however, show Crabb the horrific implications of Old Lodge Skins’ sage observation, “There is an endless supply of White Men, but there has always been a limited number of Human Beings”.“
Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man is far from a perfect film or an ideal western but there’s a lot to like in it. Thomas Berger’s novel has been adapted with a post-Vietnam flavour that proved a perfect fit for the era in which it was produced. Hoffman is at the height of his powers as the young fish-out-of-water Jack Crabb, a protagonist far from a hero, and the 121-year-old version of the same man spinning a yarn of his youth that might be fact or a folksy flight of fancy. That subjective style of narrative storytelling is what lends the film its magic. It’s not the tone you expect going in but the humour and humanity will win you over in the end.
Little Big Man looks pretty decent on Blu-ray. In fact, it’s one of the better looking catalogue films from Paramount taking full advantage of the gorgeous cinematography of Harry Stradling Jr. Colour doesn’t necessarily pop off the screen but detail is outstanding and black levels are strong. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is capable and a fair representation of the vintage source material. There’s not a lot of surround activity here but this front-biased mix is clear and pleasant to listen to. The only bonus goodie on the disc is the theatrical trailer.
- “Tear into the origins of the legendary tournament that pits the world’s greatest warriors against the forces of Outworld in the fight to save our planet. Discover never-before-revealed storylines that deepen the mythology of the Mortal Kombat multiverse and the backstories of your favorite characters, including Jax, Sonya, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden, Johnny Cage and more! This is kombat taken to a whole new level, more gritty and raw than anything you’ve ever seen before. Fight.“
There is absolutely no question that Mortal Kombat: Legacy is the best adaptation of the beloved video game franchise to date. But despite everything it manages to do right, the series low-budget origins and the very best intentions of creator and MK super-fanboy Kevin Tancharoen I just didn’t buy into it.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy is Tancharoen’s nine-webisode pitch to the money men at the studio to green light a new feature film adaptation of the franchise with him at the helm. And you know, I think he probably did just about everything he needed to to get the gig because that bad boy is confirmed to be headed to the big screen next year. And good on him. I think there’s a lot of value in his take on the material – a collection of character introductions and set-ups for something grander. In fact, some of the grounded, real world episodes really work for me. But those few that take place in …ahem …the realms of Edenia and Outworld, simply fall apart. Also, they really show the limitations of the series’ budget. And one of the actors is distractingly bad, which is saying something when you consider the type of performance you’d expect from this genre. Watching those episodes, I found the negatives suddenly overwhelming any good will the previous segments might have engendered in me. That said, if Tancharoen’s feature film gets a decent budget and leans toward the more realistic style of the Jax or Raiden segments you can count me in.
If you’re a big fan of the web series and have only seen the episodes streaming online, you’re going to be blown away by these new high-def transfers. For such a modest budget these Mortal Kombat: Legacy shorts look great on Blu! The presentation isn’t quite reference quality but this disc sports a much better looking image than I was expecting. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is surprisingly active and dynamic. Fans are in for a treat!
Fans are also going to be surprised by the collection of featurettes on the disc. I mean, there’s nothing really that meaty but the 40-minutes worth of featurettes included provide a fairly decent look at the production, from Tancharoen’s concept behind the whole thing all the way to fight choreography and gear. It’s a shame that the film-maker’s original film, ‘Rebirth‘ – the self-financed short that kicked off the whole project – wasn’t packaged on the disc. Seems like a missed opportunity to me.
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: