It’s another wallet-emptier this week with Warner pulling out all the stops and unleashing a crap-load of must-own Blu-ray titles, including a very highly anticipated superhero boxed set.
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1. SUPERMAN: THE MOTION PICTURE ANTHOLOGY
This is damn near the Superman boxed set I’ve been waiting for! Ever since Superman Returns was released on home video I’ve been waiting for something special. As much as I wanted to pick that film up to view in the comfort of my own home, I held off, knowing I would one day have it in an HD format. But it was damn tempting to purchase that 14-disc Ultimate Collectors Edition DVD tin. That was everything I was looking for – all the films, supplements AND the Fleischer brothers’ cartoons – right there in one convenient package. Tough as it was, though, I held off, waiting for the eventual release of the same content in HD. Well, that day has finally come. And the Blu-ray boxed set is so close to being everything I was hoping for.
All the content is there. All five films – two versions each of Superman and Superman II. All the deleted scenes. The commentary tracks. The documentaries. Everything – and I mean everything – has been carried over from the DVDs. There’s even some new stuff to be found here – some new documentary features and the original, never-before-seen opening of Superman Returns. And, for the most part, everything looks great in HD, with even the previously available original film receiving a brand spanking new transfer that provides it a slight visual uptick from the old disc.
My only real gripe with this whole, beautiful boxed set is that Warner didn’t take this opportunity to upgrade the classic Fleischer cartoons to HD. A criminal oversight, if you ask me. Look, I get it. It’s all about disc space and price point, right? In order to fit all 17 shorts onto one of these discs in anything other than super-compressed standard def the primary feature would take a bitrate hit. Which is actually unacceptable. And to include them on an additional ninth disc would alter the packaging and add cost to the already pricey set. Most likely pushing it beyond a price point the studio deems acceptable. What they might not realize, however, is that those cartoons are far more coveted by fans and collectors than any and all of the docs, featurettes and special features in the set. I would easily have sacrificed the content of the eighth disc in the box – the disc of bonus material – to have the cartoons presented in 1080p (a cruel tease of which can be seen in the HD docs provided on said disc).
Nevertheless, despite my singular issue with the Blu-ray set (and the questionable quality of the third and fourth Christopher Reeve films included within – not the Blu-ray discs, mind you, which are quite handsome, but the nigh-unwatchable films themselves), this is a killer offering from Warner. And most definitely highly recommended. Now we only need sit and wait a time longer for the studio to release those Fleischer cartoons on their own individual special edition Blu-ray. You’ll excuse me, though, if I don’t hold my breath.
FULL 8-DISC SET DETAILS: 8-Disc The Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-ray box set for June
2. TRUE GRIT
“True Grit is a powerful story of vengeance and valor set in an unforgiving and unpredictable frontier where justice is simple and mercy is rare. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), is determined to avenge her father’s blood by capturing Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who shot and killed him for two pieces of gold. Just fourteen, she enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn (Academy Award® Winner Jeff Bridges), a one-eyed, trigger-happy U.S. Marshall with an affinity for drinking and hardened Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Academy Award® Winner Matt Damon) to track the fleeing Chaney. Despite their differences, their ruthless determination leads them on a perilous adventure that can only have one outcome: retribution. “
I don’t think I have to tell you, at this point, that the Coen brothers‘ remake/adaptation of True Grit is one of the finest films of the last year. I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz. Or have seen the award shows. But if you weren’t fortunate enough to catch the film during its theatrical run, allow me to recommend this Blu-ray disc as a blind-buy. Yeah, it’s that great.
Following the original John Wayne film and the Charles Portis book nearly note-for-note, the Coen’s do a remarkable job making the film their own. Character arcs remain the same but it’s the nuance, the pacing and style that have undergone a modern, quirky overhaul. For the better, I might add. I love the old film but this one just feels so fresh and vibrant. And it doesn’t hurt that the performances are spectacular across the board. Bridges ably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Wayne’s Oscar winning performance, mumbling and fumbling through the manhunt alongside the remarkable, young Steinfeld. Damon eclipses Glen Campbell‘s clean-cut Texas Ranger here, but to be fair, the script gives him a lot more to play with.
Roger Deacons‘ stunning photography (and my God, it is stunning here) is perfectly reproduced on the Blu-ray. This is a demo-quality disc. It’s gorgeous. Colour, detail and contrast and spot on and there’s a nice sheen of film grain to keep it all feeling real. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 is also beyond reproach, representing the full dynamic range of the soundtrack and Carter Burwell‘s very fine score while providing ample environmental ambiance. Again, this is your new demo disc. Awesome!
If I’m to take issue with the disc at all, I’d take aim at the somewhat paltry helping of special features it offers up. I mean, the featurettes on the disc are just fine and dandy, don’t get me wrong. They cover most aspects of production but are hobbled by the same element missing from all Coen brothers’ home video releases – the Coen brothers themselves. It’s tough to really get the full picture of how the production was put together without the cooperation of the driving creatives forces behind it and without them, the extras suffer. As I said, the featurettes are good unto themselves, but just not quite comprehensive enough.
- Mattie’s True Grit
- From Bustles to Buckskin—Dressing for the 1880s
- Colts, Winchesters & Remingtons: The Guns of a Post-Civil War Western (BD-exclusive)
- Re-Creating Fort Smith
- The Cast
- Charles Portis—The Greatest Writer You’ve Never Heard Of… (BD-exclusive)
- The Cinematography of True Grit (BD-exclusive)
- Theatrical Trailer (BD-exclusive)
3. ANOTHER YEAR
“From seven-time Oscar(R) nominee Mike Leigh comes this critically acclaimed slice of life starring Academy Award(R) winner Jim Broadbent (Best Supporting Actor, “Iris”, 2001), Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen. A happy couple for over thirty years, Tom (Broadbent) and Gerri (Sheen) act as a steady anchor to their unmarried circle of family and friends. But as the seasons change and another year passes, Tom and Gerri’s support is put to the test in this masterful look at life, love and the meaning of friendship.“
Argh. This is a tough one for me. Even though I’ve yet to see Another Year I’m awarding it the number three spot this week on the basis of it creative personnel behind the film and the studio releasing the disc. Mike Leigh makes great movies. Often, he makes perfect movies. Did you see Topsy Turvy? Perfect. And Naked. Perfect. How about Secrets and Lies or Vera Drake? You get it. In terms of the Blu-ray disc itself, I expect nothing short of the perfection that Sony is generally known for in their transfers. In short, I have little doubt that this will be a great film that looks and sounds fantastic on Blu. Speaking of blind-buys, this is one for me.
4. THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES
“As The Outlaw Josey Wales, five-time Academy Award winner* Clint Eastwood is ideally cast as a hard-hitting, fast-drawing loner, recalling his “Man with No Name” from his European Westerns. But unlike that other mythic outlaw, Josey Wales has a name – and a heart. After avenging his family’s brutal murder, Wales is on the lam, pursued by a pack of killers. He travels alone, but a ragtag group of outcasts (including Sondra Locke and Chief Dan George) is drawn to him – and Wales can’t leave his motley surrogate family unprotected. Eastwood’s skills behind and in front of the camera connected with audiences for its humor and tenderness as well as its hair-trigger action. “
Some folks consider Unforgiven Eastwood’s crowning achievement as a director. Others love The Outlaw Josey Wales. And I think I can count myself among them. Where his later effort meanders and is often guilty of wanton artfulness, Wales gets right to business and stays sharp and honest, as befits the former “Man with No Name”. As fine a job as he delivers in the director’s chair here, Eastwood’s performance is what really sells the picture. He’s never better than when he’s got a gun in his hand a serious grudge to take care of. If you dig stories about cowboys out for revenge, you can’t do much better than this film.
Warner has done a bang up job with this Blu-ray. It looks spectacular, drenched in rich, vivid colour that really does Bruce Surtees‘ photography proud. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds somewhat dated but quite strong, all things considered. A healthy helping of extras are provided, including a new commentary track from Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel, a half-hour ‘making-of’ doc, a brand new half-hour look at Eastwood’s history with the Western genre, the vintage 8-minute ‘Eastwood in Action‘ featurette and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray is packaged in a great little 32-page, hardcover digibook.
5. THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
“Based on a Rudyard Kipling story and packed with spectacle, humor, excitement and bold twists of fate, John Huston’s film of The Man Who Would Be King earns its crown as “an epic like no other. One of the screen’s great adventure yarns” (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic). Sean Connery and Michael Caine – chins out, shoulders squared and with a sly wink – star as British sergeants Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan. The Empire was built by men like these two. Now they’re out to build their own empire, venturing into remote Kafiristan to become rich as kings. “
I love this film. I mean, Connery and Caine starring in an adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling book, directed by John Huston with a score by Maurice Jarre – need I say more? I have the only other version of the film available on disc and it’s a pretty disgusting affair. An old flipper DVD from 1997 that looks soft and messy. I’m so happy to finally be able to ditch it in favour of this HD upgrade. Sadly, Warner has once again given the film the short end of the stick, relegating the lush, lengthy film to a single-layer Blu-ray disc that feels like it’s about to buckle under the epic’s weight. Don’t get me wrong, King has never looked better on home video. And there are moments of true awesome-osity in the image. But just as often, the presentation turns soft, complexions appear waxy and things look a little less like actual film than you’d hope. Nevertheless, this is pleasant transfer from a source that’s most likely far from perfect. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is presented in the original mono and is clear enough though overall quite thin, with evidence of hiss lurking underneath.
Extras are slim and amount to a single 12-minute vintage featurette and the theatrical trailer. Just as Warner’s Josey Wales release, the Blu-ray is packaged in a nice 32-page, hardcover digibook.
6. THE STUNT MAN
“It defied all odds to become the most unexpected and acclaimed cult hit of the ’80s, and it remains one of the most slyly subversive and thrillingly original action/comedy/drama motion pictures of all time. The legendary Peter O’Toole – in his iconic Oscar(R) nominated performance – stars as director Eli Cross, a deliciously megalomaniacal madman commanding a film-set circus where a paranoid young veteran (Steve Railsback) finds himself maybe replacing a dead stunt man, possibly falling for the beautiful leading lady (Barbara Hershey), and discovering that love, death and the mayhem of moviemaking can definitely be the wildest illusions of all. “The Stunt Man” now features a stunning HD transfer supervised by Oscar(R) nominated producer/director Richard Rush, plus new interviews and commentaries with Rush, Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsback and Alex Rocco, all in the ultimate edition of the classic that the Los Angeles Times calls “as innovative today as ‘Citizen Kane’ was in its time”.“
This cult classic is one of the most exciting releases of the week. I haven’t seen the new Blu-ray yet but I’m certain that Severin have provided it a killer, crystal-clear transfer, as they’re known for delivering. Bonus features are plentiful here, including all extras from the old Anchor Bay DVD and tons of newly created goodies. Check it out!
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Richard Rush and stars Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell, & Chuck Bail
- The Maverick Career Of Richard Rush – Exclusive new featurette
- Peter O’Toole Recounts The Stunt Man – Exclusive new featurette
- Devil’s Squadron – Exclusive new featurette with Steve Railsback and Alex Rocco
- Barbara Hershey On Nina Franklin – Exclusive new featurette
- The Sinister Saga Of The Making Of The Stunt Man – Feature length documentary by Richard Rush
- The Stunt Man At The New Beverly – Blu-ray exclusive
- Theatrical trailers
- Deleted scenes
READ MORE: Severin bringing The Stunt Man to Blu-ray in June
7. ROBIN OF SHERWOOD: SET 1
“The centuries-old legend of Robin Hood was never more vividly brought to life than in this acclaimed British series. Combining real history with elements of magic and mysticism, and set against a backdrop of gritty medieval realism, Robin Of Sherwood has captivated fans of all ages. Heading up the superb ensemble cast are Michael Praed (“Dynasty”) as Robin of Loxley, Ray Winstone (“Sexy Beast”) as seething-mad Scarlet, and Nickolas Grace (“Brideshead Revisited”) as the greedy, conniving Sheriff of Nottingham. Shot entirely on location in English castles and countryside, the authentic atmosphere is enhances by an award-winning soundtrack of haunting melodies by the Irish band Clannad. Includes all 13 episodes in Series 1 & 2.“
Blargh! This is my guilty pleasure of the week. I loooooooooved this show as a kid. Used to watch it every weekend on PBS (yeah, we see your US PBS stations up here in Canada…AND WE LOVE THEM!) I still maintain that this presentation of the Robin Hood legend is the definitive one. Nothing can touch it. Despite the excess of weirdo pagan mysticism and the eventual switch-up of the leading actor in the series. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
This first Blu-ray set, encompassing Series One and Two of the show, features all the episodes with original star Michael Praed in the title role. And he rocks! The entire cast is young and fresh and bring more energy and authenticity to the roles than ever before or since (why does Hollywood insist on casting Americans in these roles when Brits are clearly the better choice?!)
The 4-disc set (3 Blu-ray discs and 1 DVD of extras) ports over all the goodies from the previously available boxed set and includes a few new extras and a pretty awesome 40-page book. The only issues here are in the high-def presentations themselves. As noted on the packaging itself, the transfers are culled from the best possible sources but are subject to their limitations. And indeed, they’re inconsistent. At their best, they’re a mild (but kind of exciting) improvement from the DVDs, with more detail, deeper blacks and far more vivid colours. At worst, you’ll feel like you’re watching your DVDs again. But I’m happy to report that most episodes look better than not. Sadly, audio is only Dolby Digital. Sigh.
This is still a great set of a classic TV show. If you already own the DVDs, buy with caution. If you don’t, rush out and grab this Blu-ray set. It’s the best Robin Hood you’ll ever see!
CLICK HERE FOR FULL DISC DETAILS AND TRAILER
8. GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS
“SIX LEGENDARY GREEN LANTERNS. SIX INTERLOCKING STORIES.
ONE GROUNDBREAKING FILM. DISCOVER THE ORIGIN OF THE CORPS.
With stories by acclaimed writers including Geoff Johns, Alan Burnett and Dave Gibbons, this DC Universe Animated Original Movie explores the rich mythology of the Green Lantern universe through six interlocking chapters. While awaiting a battle with Krona, an ancient enemy of the Guardians of the Universe, Earth’s Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Kilowog, Sinestro and other members of the Green Lantern Corps recount their greatest adventures to new recruit Arisia – everything from tales of the first Lantern to the ominous events that led to the Corps’ Blackest Night! The power-packed voice cast includes Nathan Fillion, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Isaacs, Henry Rollins and Arnold Vosloo.“
Just in time to promote the upcoming June 17 release of the big-budget, live-action feature film, Warner releases this animated anthology of Green Lantern tales. And, much like all direct to video DC Comics animated films, it’s a fun little ride. If you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll have a great time watching this. If you have a child who loves superheroes, they’ll get a real kick out of it. Most adults with only a casual interest in the upcoming film, however, will probably find the stories overly involved in a universe they care little about but will enjoy the fairly well animated action sequences.
The Blu-ray disc suffers from the usual core of issues in the DC animated discs – colour banding and slight artifacting. Outside of those niggling distractions, the Blu-ray looks great, with eye popping colours and deep blacks. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is front heavy but full of life and dynamically sound. Bonus features are plentiful but seem more focused on the recent Green Lantern comics and writer (and now Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics) Geoff Johns. I find it strange that the animators and writers of the film itself aren’t as involved in the extras but there you go. At the end of the day, DC cares more about selling you comics than telling you about how the film was put together.
The highlight of the entire disc, for me, is the preview of the next direct to video film – Batman: Year One. Holy crap, this thing looks amazing. Skip the Johns love-fest featurettes and watch the Batman preview over and over again!!
9. MGM CATALOGUE TITLES
This seems to be a regular occurrence every month now – MGM digs deep into their vault and unleashes a torrent of catalogue titles, all on the same day, all sporting honest, no-nonsense transfers that are reasonably film-like and fairly pleasant to watch. I haven’t laid eyes on any of the above but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be picking up Vera Cruz and New York, New York as soon as I can!
10. WARNER 2-MOVIE COLLECTIONS
There’s some pretty decent stuff here, in Warner’s latest batch of double-movie Blu-ray packs. I’ve only inspected the Scooby Doo 1 & 2 set and the Wyatt Earp and Jesse James pack but can confirm that they contain two-discs each – the exact Blu-ray discs previously released by Warner. So really, these are all known commodities – mostly decent to exceptional discs – now available at a 2-for-1 bargain price. How can you go wrong?
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: