Still playing catch-up with all these late-arriving Blu-ray screeners, this past week was a hell of a strong one. Aside from the discs in my Top slots, if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll find a handful of additional titles worth noting, including Abbott and Costello in Buck Privates, Robert Rodriquez‘s Roadracers and the individual disc releases of Sean Bean‘s Sharpe television series, previously only available in a very expensive boxed set.
This is Kubrick day. There’s no doubt about it. As much as I love a lot of these other releases hitting shops today, it’s all about the Kubrick. Check out the unboxing video above, made by the fine folks over at DVDTown to see for yourself what all the fuss is about. That’s a damn beautiful set!
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“9 Groundbreaking Movies. 10 Discs. One Visionary Moviemaker. SPARTACUS (1960) The genre-defining epic tale of a bold gladiator (Kirk Douglas) who leads a triumphant Roman slave revolt. LOLITA (1962) Academic Humbert Humbert (James Mason) is obsessed with a blithe teen (Sue Lyon) in a dark comedy from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) “Accidental” nuclear apocalypse, anyone? Peter Sellers heads the cast of one of the most blazingly hilarious movies of all time. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) “The most awesome, beautiful and mentally stimulating science-fiction film of all time” (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic). A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: 40th Anniversary Edition (2-Discs) (1971) Future world neo-punk Malcolm McDowell becomes the guinea pig for a government cure of his tendency toward “the old ultraviolence.” BARRY LYNDON (1975) The visually spellbinding tale of an 18th-century Irish rogue’s (Ryan O’Neal) climb to wealth and privilege. THE SHINING (1980) In a macabre masterpiece adapted from Stephen King’s novel, Jack Nicholson falls prey to forces haunting a snowbound mountain resort. FULL METAL JACKET (1987) Marine recruits endure basic training under a leather-lunged D.I., then plunge into the hell of Vietnam. EYES WIDE SHUT (1999) A wife’s admission of unfulfilled longing plunges a Manhattan doctor into a bizarre erotic odyssey. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star. “
Oy. Where do I start? This is one monster boxed set. One of the most significant Blu-ray collections that will be released all year. And for the most part, it’s a killer. A must-own. If you don’t have a bunch of the included discs in your collection already.
This 9-film, 10-disc collection of the works of director Stanley Kubrick includes his entire oeuvre, short of the pre-1960 works (Fear and Desire, still unavailable on home video, Killer’s Kiss and The Killing coming to Criterion Blu-ray on August and Paths of Glory which you can grab on an awesome Criterion Blu right now.) The films themselves are beyond reproach, say what you will about Eyes Wide Shut. Every title in the collection is a classic. Sadly, not every classic is treated equally in the boxed set.
As you’re no doubt aware by this point, most of the discs in the set have been appropriated from previously released editions, with Spartacus and Dr. Strangelove making appearances here in this Warner Home Video set thanks to their home studios, Universal and Sony, respectively. Sony’s disc is balls-out awesome, with a great transfer and tons of extras. Universal’s disc sucks, with a crappy looking picture and an anemic selection of bonus stuff (I’m still crossing my fingers that Criterion will win back the license to release the definitive Blu-ray edition of Spartacus, a high-def upgrade of their amazing DVD from 2001.) The rest of the films, the 7 titles under Warner’s control, never suffer as much on Blu as the waxy-looking Spartacus does, with most transfers appearing quite spectacular (I’m looking at you, you handsome, reference-quality 2001: A Space Odyssey Blu-ray!) Eyes Wide Shut is afflicted with a relatively noisy, inconsistent presentation and A Clockwork Orange, despite being available in a new 40th Anniversary Edition is still far from perfect (it’s the same VC-1 transfer from the previously available 2007 Blu-ray) but most everything here is roses. The old transfers for The Shining and Full Metal Jacket are all-around quite nice and the brand spanking new editions of Barry Lyndon and Lolita are gorgeous. Actually, I’d go so far as to say that they’re nearly perfect. While devoid of bonus features, these are the Blu-ray editions of the films that you’ve been hoping for.
If you already own a bunch of these discs separately, you’ll probably want to avoid picking up the Collection set, as it only offers you a couple of films new to Blu that you can now purchase in individual releases (Amazon exclusives, at the moment.) The tenth disc in the set features the docs Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (142 minutes but still in SD) and O Lucky Malcolm! (an 86 minute, HD feature about Malcolm McDowell) and is also available in the new A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary set.
The book-like packaging of the entire Collection is handsome, however, and much nicer to have on your shelf than separately packaged discs. Have I mentioned how much I love this type of packaging? It’s the same sort of gorgeous hardcover, thick digi-book that Warner used for their fantastic Deadwood Blu-ray set. It’s so nice, it’s almost worth ditching your old discs for the upgrade.
Either way, if you’re a Kubrick fan or a film fan in general, you’ll want to pick up these films on Blu, whether all together in the set, or simply the stunning new editions of Lolita and Barry Lyndon on their own. You can’t go wrong.
“How does an Irish lad without prospects become part of 18th-century English nobility? For Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal) the answer is: any way he can! His climb to wealth and privilege is the enthralling focus of this sumptuous Stanley Kubrick version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel. For this ravishing, slyly satiric winner of 4 Academy Awards, Kubrick found inspiration in the works of the era’s painters. Costumes and sets were crafted in the era’s designs and pioneering lenses were developed to shoot interiors and exteriors in natural light. The result is a cutting-edge movie bringing a historical period to vivid screen life like no other film before or since. “
Like I said above, this is the Blu-ray edition of Barry Lyndon you’ve been waiting for. It’s stellar all around. The transfer is soft, as you’d expect from this candle-lit picture, but all-around stunning and accurate to the source. The mono audio source has been expanded to an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, though remains quite front-heavy in execution. Sadly, the only special feature is the theatrical trailer.
“Newly arrived in Ramsdale, New Hampshire, European émigré Humbert Humbert is smitten. He plans to marry Charlotte Haze. That way he’ll always be close to his dear one – Charlotte’s precocious daughter! Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick explores the theme of sexual obsession (a subject he would revisit 37 years later in Eyes Wide Shut) with this darkly comic and deeply moving version of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. James Mason plays devious, deluded Humbert: wedded to needy Charlotte (Shelley Winters); rivaled by the ubiquitous Clare Quilty (chameleonlike Peter Sellers); and enraptured to his gelatinous core by the blithe teen (Sue Lyon) with that “lovely, lyrical, lilting name” – Lolita. “
Again, if you’ve been praying to the home-video Gods for a faithful, impressive release of Lolita on Blu, your wish has been granted. The image is everything you’ve been hoping for – a film-like presentation completely accurate to the source material. The DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t expand beyond the original audio this time and sounds great, for what it is. There are no extras of which to speak on this disc, beyond the standard-def trailer.
“Stomping, whomping, stealing, singing, tap-dancing, violating. Hooligan Alex (Malcolm McDowell) has a good time – at the tragic expense of others. His journey from amoral punk to brainwashed proper citizen and back again forms the dynamic arc of Stanley Kubrick’s future-shock vision of Anthony Burgess’ novel. Controversial when first released, A Clockwork Orange won New York Film Critics Best Picture and Director Awards and earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Its power still entices, shocks and holds us in its grasp. “
The individual release of the 40th Anniversary A Clockwork Orange Blu-ray is an upgrade from the 2007 edition in that it includes a couple of new HD bonus features, a second disc with excellent docs on Kubrick and lead actor Malcolm McDowell and a handsome digibook package. The only other difference from the old disc is that a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track takes the place of the earlier uncompressed LPCM mix. To my ear, however, they sound identical.
Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
Malcolm McDowell Looks Back: Malcolm McDowell reflects on his experience working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick on one of the seminal films of the 1970s (new)
Turning like Clockwork: the film’s ultra-violence and its cultural impact (new)
Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange
Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures: Kubrick’s career comes into sharp focus in this compelling documentary narrated by Tom Cruise. Fascinating footage glimpses Kubrick in his early years, at work on film sets and at home, augmented by candid commentary from collaborators, colleagues and family (new to Blu-ray)
O Lucky Malcolm!: Documentary about the life and career of actor Malcolm McDowell produced and directed by Jan Harlan
“Sergio Leone‘s monumental picture, here in its original form, ranks among his most admirable achievements. In the dying days of the Old West, a struggle to control water in a dusty desert town embroils three hard-bitten gunmen in a epic clash of greed, honor and revenge. Henry Fonda stars in his most sinister role as Frank, a hired killer who ruthlessly slays an entire family. Jason Robards plays Cheyenne, an infamous bandit framed for slaughter. And Charles Bronson is The Man, a mysterious loner determined to exact vengeance for a grudge he refuses to divulge. An influence on countless directors, Leone’s masterpiece is considered among the greatest Western’s ever made.“
On any other week, Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West would’ve been a shoe-in for the number one slot. This is a classic film, most would agree that it’s the director’s best, presented now in a gorgeous new Blu-ray edition from Paramount. Detail is astounding here, in a picture that offers greater depth than you’d expect from a film of its age. Colours are vivid and sun-ravaged and blacks imposing and deep. Slight print damage survives the digital restoration and some unobtrusive wobble is present but nothing that will distract from this otherwise excellent presentation. This is what a studio can do with a classic film when they really put their minds to it.
Paramount have included the original mono soundtrack for purists but you’ll want to check out the more dynamic, yet still tasteful, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Subtle ambient effects inform the sonic environment without compromising the original sound design of the film. Excellent work.
Special features have been carried over from the previously available DVD edition of the film and are, for the most part, well worth a look. The most impressive feature of the disc, however, is the fact that the studio has included two different cuts of the film for your viewing pleasure – the original theatrical 165-minute version as well as the 166-minute restoration.
Feature Film: Restored Version
Feature Film: Theatrical Version
Commentary with contributions by directors John Carpenter, John Milius and Alex Cox, film historians Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall, cast and crew
“The Maenadian reign of terror may be over, but Sookie Stackhouse and the townspeople of Bon Temps face a new calamity that makes the bacchanalian evils of Maryanne Forrester seem tame by comparison. In Season 3, Sookie desperately tries to locate her fiancé, ending up in a netherworld of human and undead interlopers, among them the powerful Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington. “
Oh my God, True Blood is addictive. I only just received the Complete Third Season boxed set the other day and have been blasting through its 12-episodes ever since. While I haven’t finished it yet, as of this writing, I have to say that I think it’s the most compelling season yet. But not always for the best reasons. Watching True Blood feels a lot like how I would imagine reading a dirty, yet well crafted romance novel would make one feel. I know I’ve been sucked into pulpy, low-class fare full of naked skin, spilled blood and creatures of the night but damn, I just can’t stop watching. And I don’t feel guilty about it, either. Much like the previous two seasons, the writing is strong and unpredictable, production design is pulpy, sweaty and dark and performances are solid across the board.
HBO and Warner deliver another fang-tastic Blu-ray transfer (sorry) with True Blood: The Complete Third Season. If you’ve seen the first two seasons on Blu, you know what I’m talking about. Blacks are deep and striking, colours are vivid and detail abounds. I did note some compression issues in the blacks but unless you’re watching an improperly calibrated LCD from off-centre, you’ll never notice. The sound track is beyond reproach, with every neck bite and howl to the moon perfectly reproduced in ambient, dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
This third season features the best collection of extras for the series to date, with every episode awarded its own picture-in-picture ‘Enhanced Viewing Experience‘ and short ‘Post Mortem‘ follow-up. There are 6 commentary tracks, an 11-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” breakdown, an interactive guide to the characters, previews, recaps and a music video.
“Academy Award® nominee Javier Bardem is Uxbal, a man on the wrong side of the law who struggles to provide for his children on the dangerous streets of Barcelona. As fate encircles him, Uxbal learns to accept the realities of life, whether bright, bad — or biutiful — in this unforgettable Academy Award®-nominated film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel). “
Finding this pre-summer weather a tad too cheery for your liking? Why not take it down a notch with the dour, depressing, yet quite outstanding Oscar nominated Biutiful? At over 2 1/2-hours long, this blow to your emotional core can be pretty tough to take but if you’re the type of film-goer who enjoys a challenge, and genuinely moving work from gifted filmmakers and performers, then this one might just win you over. The Blu-ray looks impressive, with beautiful photography captured in two different aspect ratios – 2.40:1 and 1.85:1, both exhibited on the Blu-ray. Deep blacks and lush colours are the highlights here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is also impressive. There are over 20-minutes of the director’s video and audio “notes”, a 4-minute long look at the various talents of the crew and 8-minutes worth of interviews.
“From director George Lucas (“Star Wars”) and producer Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), “American Graffiti” is a classic coming-of-age story set against the 1960s backdrop of hot rods, drive-ins and rock n’ roll. Starring Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips and Suzanne Somers in their breakout roles, this nostalgic look back follows a group of teenagers as they cruise the streets on their last summer night before college. Nominated for five Academy Awards(R), including Best Picture and Best Director, “American Graffiti” features the howling sounds of Wolfman Jack and an unforgettable soundtrack with songs by Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and Bill Haley & His Comets.“
Ok, don’t kill me, but I still haven’t seen George Lucas’ American Graffiti. I know, I know. What business do I have including it in the Top 10 list then? Well, I thought it’s a significant enough release of an important film that it should live somewhere around the middle. Now, I was dying to get my hands on this bad boy until I read early reviews of the disc which claim it suffers from an awful lot of edge enhancement. Why Universal can’t do right by their catalogue releases is a mystery to me. Special features are carried over from the DVD. A George Lucas U-Control Video Commentary and The Music of American Graffiti are new picture-in-picture features, created especially for the Blu-ray.
“A classic action-filled John Wayne western is set into motion with a spectacular robbery of a Union pay train by Confederate guerrillas. The train’s colonel (Wayne) jails the enemy leaders but the three men later become friends when the war ends. Together they seek the Union traitors responsible for a string of Confederate train robberies, a mission that culminates in a rousing shoot-em up finale. “Rio Lobo” was the fifth collaboration over a 22-year period between John Wayne and the legendary director Howard Hawks.“
I’m certain that Paramount is unleashing a host of westerns on Blu-ray in anticipation of their big True Grit remake release coming up next week. Rio Lobo doesn’t receive the same kind of love that Once Upon a Time in the West gets from the studio, nor does it particularly deserve to. By that I mean it’s just not as much of a classic. It’s another John Wayne/Howard Hawks film that milks the tried and true cowboy formula perfected in movies like Rio Bravo and El Dorado. But does so with considerably less vigor. That’s not to say that Rio Lobo isn’t a good film. It’s just not as extraordinary and fun as previous Wayne/Hawks dusters.
The Blu-ray disc looks fine but far from exemplary. There’s no untoward use of digital tools here, unlike previous catalogue westerns from the studio, so the results are far more film-like. However, this isn’t the most detailed Blu-ray disc you’ll ever see, looking overall like it was minted from an older high-def transfer. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, it’s just not going to knock your socks off. Soundtracks are offered in both DTS-HD Master Audio stereo and 24-bit 5.1 surround and sound more impressive than they deserve to. There are no bonus features of any kind on the disc.
““Legend”, from director Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”, “Gladiator”), is a visually stunning fantasy-adventure in which pure good and evil battle to the death amidst spectacular surroundings. Set in a timeless mythical forest inhabited by fairies, goblins, unicorns and mortals, this fantastic story stars Tom Cruise as a mystical forest dweller, chosen by fate, to undertake a heroic quest. He must save the beautiful Princess Lily (Mia Sara) and defeat the demonic Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) or the world will be plunged into a never-ending ice age.“
Another Blu-ray disc I haven’t had the opportunity to screen this week but one I’m just itching to get my hands on. Despite its weaknesses, I’ve always been a big fan of Legend. I think it has a lot to do with a combination of the production design, Tim Curry’s badass portrayal of the villain, the Lord of Darkness and the impressionable age at which I first saw the film. Being from Canada, I grew up with the shorter cut of the film, with the Tangerine Dream synth score and only saw the longer “International Cut” with Jerry Goldsmith‘s music a few years ago on DVD. What a difference! Nevertheless, without the shorter cut and the rethink of the music, I never would have discovered Bryan Ferry (whose track ‘Is Your Love Strong Enough’ plays over the end credits in the US cut) and his band Roxy Music. For that, I’ll always be thankful.
“Richard Harris stars in this carefully documented epic that attempted to realistically portray the life of the American Sioux in the early 19th century. When an English lord is captured by a Sioux Indian tribe, he is given to the chief’s aging mother as a servant. Gradually, he embraces the tribe’s way of life and falls in love with the Chief’s sister. But before he can be accepted with honor as an equal member of the tribe, he must endure the Sun Vow – a savage ritual far beyond the realm of anything dreamed of in the civilized world. To recreate authentic Indian costumes for the film’s accuracy, the production designer met with real American Indians only to discover their notion of Indian clothing was based on the costumes designed by Hollywood studios.“
A Man Called Horse is surprisingly stunning on Blu-ray. I mean, the film – based on a story of the same name by Dorothy M. Johnson – is lovingly well-shot to begin with, sporting gorgeous colours and breathtaking vistas. The shock here is that without too much intrusion on Paramount’s part, the transfer to video has avoided being watered down in any way. It looks great! This is most likely not a brand new transfer but it certainly manages to remain eye-catching. The print is so clean here, you’d almost think this was the product of a costly restoration. Much like Rio Lobo, two audio tracks have been provided but you’ll want to try out the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 over the uncompressed stereo. It’s a bit more aggressive and fun to listen to. There are no bonus features on this disc.
‘In this action-filled western, John Wayne stars as Big Jake McCandles, a husband who hasn’t seen his wife (Maureen O’Hara) in over 18 years. But he returns home after his grandson is kidnapped by a vicious outlaw gang. While the law gives chase in rickety automobiles, Jake saddles up with an Indian scout (Bruce Cabot) and a box of money – even though paying a ransom isn’t how Jake plans to exact good old frontier justice. Spiced with humor and first-class gunfights, this is a vivid depiction of the last days of the wild frontier. “Big Jake” was a family affair for John Wayne. His oldest son produced it and two other sons, Patrick and John Ethan, appear in it. The film also marks the second time Richard Boone and John Wayne worked together and the fifth time Wayne worked with Maureen O’Hara.”
Big Jake is a lesser version of The Searchers, produced fifteen years later by a far less celebrated director. Once again, the Duke finds himself on the trail of a kidnapped child but this time, the hunt takes only days instead of years, and the villains are thugs instead of a band of Comanche. On its own, the film is a fun ride and looks pretty decent on Blu but can’t hold a candle to its predecessor.
This appears to be another catalogue title from Paramount that hasn’t received any restoration but also hasn’t suffered the ugly hand of digital tampering. Luckily, the source appears in good health here, resulting in an image that’s colourful and rich, with a nice, overall film-like appearance. Again, Big Jake features a couple of solid audio tracks in the form of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track and one in lossless stereo. There are no extras on the disc.
“When a simple robbery at a research institute leads to a series of brutal murders, a blind puzzle maker (Academy Award(r) winner Karl Malden of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) and a tenacious reporter (James Franciscus of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) begin their own investigation of the crimes. With nine different clues to follow, they uncover a shocking web of twisted genetics and dark sexual secrets that will finally lead them to a shattering climax of violence and suspense.
Originally released in 1971, THE CAT O’NINE TAILS secured the international reputation of director Dario Argento as ‘The Italian Hitchcock.’ This is the definitive version of Argento’s masterful second film, presented completely uncut and uncensored in a brand-new High Definition transfer from its original camera negative!”
It’s another classic Argento on Blu from Blue Underground!! This time around, though, I’m a bit torn about the resulting quality of the new HD transfer. Taken on its own, it appears bright and film-like, with seemingly accurate colours and solid blacks. But the colour timing is vastly different from previous releases and, when viewed back to back, seems a bit blown out. There appears to be a loss of detail from cranked up whites, with colours maybe a bit hotter than they should be across the board. I’m no expert on this film and would love to hear from someone who has had more experience with it theatrically. But from what I can see, this transfer, while solid, appears to misrepresent Argento’s original intent where the photography is concerned.
The audio is DTS-HD Master 2.0 and is clean and clear throughout. BU also includes the original mono track in lossless audio. Special features include ‘Tales of the Cat‘ – 14-minutes worth of interviews with Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti and composer Ennio Morricone, radio interviews, TV and radio spots and a couple of trailers.
Weird week. There’s really only one major release, as far as I’m concerned with a few nice catalogue discs thrown in the mix to keep things interesting.
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“Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a slacker by day, party animal by night…until he finds a serious career that’s seriously cool: crime-fighting action hero. As the Green Hornet, he teams up with gadget wiz and martial arts master Kato (Jay Chou) to take down L.A.’s underworld. Also starring Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz. “
I think it’s safe to say that Michel Gondry‘s The Green Hornet surprised a lot of people. Instead of being the embarrassing dud most expected it to be, the director, most well known for his music videos and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, managed to turn out an entertaining, fun action/comedy. Working from a script by star Seth Rogen (and partner in crime Evan Goldberg), Gondry keeps things light and lively, allowing the relationship between the leads, Rogen and Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou to drive the film. Christoph Waltz is around to chew some scenery as villain Chudnofsky but unlike most cinematic superhero adaptations, this film belongs to the heroes.
As is par for the course for Sony, the Blu-ray disc looks and sounds spectacular, sporting some of the deepest, richest blacks you’ll see in HD. Detail and colour are solid but not quite as impressive. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound track provides plenty of atmosphere while remaining clean and clear throughout. Lows are impressive and music is presented a majestic dynamic range. Extras are plentiful, sporting a ton of featurettes and a great, lively commentary track with Gondry, Rogan, Goldberg and producer Neal Moritz.
“After fifteen films that received mostly local acclaim, the 1955 comedy Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) at last ushered in an international audience for Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries). In turn-of-the-century Sweden, four men and four women of different classes attempt to navigate the laws of attraction. During a weekend in the country, the women collude to force the men’s hands in matters of the heart, exposing their pretensions and insecurities along the way. Chock-full of flirtatious propositions and sharp witticisms delivered by such Swedish screen legends as Gunnar Björnstrand (The Seventh Seal, Winter Light) and Harriet Andersson (Through a Glass Darkly, Cries and Whispers), Smiles of a Summer Night is one of cinema’s great erotic comedies. “
Well, now, if I’m going to be completely honest here, Smiles of a Summer Night should be my actual choice for the number one slot this week. To me, this is the most exciting release. I love this movie. But I let the disc slip to the number two slot in my new release list for a couple of reasons – it’s a Bergman film (read: not for everyone) and while it’s a great disc all around, it isn’t a substantial upgrade form the previously released DVD edition of the film.
Smiles of a Summer Night isn’t standard Ingmar Bergman fare. There are a handful of his signature melancholy moments peppered throughout the film but this is a comedy. While not laugh-out-loud funny, the film feels like an unadulterated celebration of life and love and summertime in Sweden. It’s a shame Bergman didn’t produce more work of it’s ilk.
Criterion‘s Blu-ray presentation of the film is beautiful, as you’d expect. But it’s not a significant enough improvement from their excellent DVD to warrant re-purchase. Contrast seems tighter, detail slightly improved and film grain more evident in HD, so fans with larger viewing areas will note the improvement most. The lossless mono audio track also exhibits improvement over the compressed DVD edition but you’ll really need to have your listening hat on to notice. Supplements are carried over in whole and are excellent to a one, with the conversation between Bergman and Cowie and Donner being the highlight. I would have loved it if the disc included a commentary track or a documentary feature but hey, I’m not going to complain here. This is a great disc and a no-brainer of a purchase for fans who don’t already own a copy.
Digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Video introduction to the film by director Ingmar Bergman
Video conversation between Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jörn Donner, executive producer of Fanny and Alexander
Original theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by theater and film critic John Simon and a 1961 review by film critic Pauline Kael
“Twelve-year-old Anaïs is fat. Her sister, fifteen-year-old Elena, is a beauty. While the girls are on vacation with their parents, Anaïs tags along while Elena explores the dreary seaside town. Elena meets Fernando, an Italian law student; he seduces her with promises of love, and the ever watchful Anaïs bears witness to the corruption of her sister’s innocence. Fat Girl (À ma soeur!) is not only a portrayal of female adolescent sexuality and the complicated bond between siblings but also a shocking assertion by the always controversial Catherine Breillat (Romance, The Last Mistress) that violent oppression exists at the core of male-female relations. “
Fat Girl is a tough film for me to talk about. It’s such an honest, compelling look at the struggles of young romance and family dynamics that I can’t help but love it. But the ending! My god, that ending!! It just drives me bonkers!! I feel in so many ways that the film is nearly perfect up to that point and then it just goes off the damn rails. I mean, I understand what Breillat was after, using a dramatization of a news event that was sweeping the nation at the time (I’m speaking about it in general terms to not spoil the ending for you) to comment on male/female and familial relations. It’s a worthy concept. My issue with it is that it changes the tone of the film so drastically as to make it feel exploitative. I don’t hate the ending. I just dislike how it colours the rest of the film.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition of the film looks phenomenal! This upgrade from their previously issued DVD exhibits far more detail, richer colours and a more dimensional, textured image that makes it absolutely worth trading up to. The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track offers greater fidelity and depth than the compressed track on the DVD. Bonus features are carried over in whole including a couple of significant interviews with director Breillat and some great behind the scenes footage.
High-definition digital restoration with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
Behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Fat Girl
Two interviews with director Catherine Breillat, one conducted the night after the film’s world premiere at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, the other a look back at the film’s production and alternate ending
French and U.S. theatrical trailers
Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, a 2001 interview with Breillat, and a piece by Breillat on the title
“This gritty World War II action drama starring Gregory Peck, Oscar winner Dean Jagger, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill and Millard Mitchell is seen as one of the most realistic portrayals of the heroics and perils of war. Convinced an air force commander (Gary Merrill) is at the breaking point, Brigadier General Savage (Peck) takes over his struggling bomber group. Kind and understanding, he adopts a crushing discipline to revitalize the demoralized troop. At first resentful and rebellious, the flyers gradually change as Savage guides them to amazing feats. But the stress of command soon takes it’s toll and the weary general reaches his own breaking point.”
This excellent WWII Gregory Peck vehicle isn’t the brightest gem on Blu-ray but is most likely the best we can expect the film to look outside of receiving the full-restoration treatment. Detail is satisfactory but contrast is a bit on the light side. The original mono soundtrack is expanded in a DTS-HD Master 5.1 track that adds a touch of atmosphere but little else. Extras are carried over from the last, feature packed DVD release of the film and include an excellent commentary track from Rudy Behlmer, Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman, a handful of featurettes and more.
“The only way football star Stefan Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) will avoid a life in the blast furnaces of his bleak Pennsylvania hometown is by winning a college scholarship. Even his coach (Craig T. Nelson) dreams of parlaying a winning team into a college job far away from this graveyard of the American Dream. But it’s not long before the two virtually ruin each other’s chances for escape and their door to the future starts to close. Lea Thompson and Christopher Penn co-star.”
I always enjoyed this early Tom Cruise film and it’s presented here in a very honest transfer without any signs of untoward digital manipulation. All the Right Moves is far from home theatre demo material but after a shaky start, settles into a film-like presentation with bold colours and a nice sheen of grain. The DTS-HD 5.1 sound track is pretty sweet, with a robust representation of the musical tracks in the film and clean, clear dialogue up the middle. Not much in the way of extras here, with only a couple of trailers to speak of.
Uh oh. We just received word from Paramount that their upcoming May 10th release of Top Gun has been shot out of the sky, yanked from the schedule with no new release date in sight! We’ve got an email in to the studio to see if we can suss out the reason for the delay, whether it be a result of a change being made to the disc, rights issues or simply a production error in the run. We’ll keep you updated with any new info as we learn it!
Wow. I had gotten used to Paramount releasing only one, maybe two or three Blu-ray discs a month but May is shaping up to be a wallet-killer from the studio! In addition to the four Western Blu-ray titles we told you about earlier, Paramount will also be unleashing high-def versions of four top films from their catalogue next month: the 25th Anniversary release of Tony Scott‘s Top Gun, The Firm, Le Mans and the always-entertaining Beverly Hills Cop. Perhaps this is a sign of better things to come – the end of the single-Blu-ray-release-a-month era. Perhaps 2011 is the year the studio will make a firm commitment to bring a greater bounty of its titles from years past to Blu. One can only hope.