Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. Are you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence? Viddy well, my brothers, for surely the Blu-rays this week are gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh.
All right, maybe most of the week’s new releases are the usual mixed bag, but a handful of titles stand out as notable.
- ‘American Graffiti: Special Edition‘ (Universal)
- ‘Back to School‘ (MGM/UA – May 29th)
- ‘Barry Lyndon‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘Big Jake‘ (Paramount)
- ‘Biutiful ‘ (Lionsgate)
- ‘Casino Royale (1966)‘ (MGM/UA – May 29th)
- ‘The Cat O’ Nine Tails‘ (Blue Underground)
- ‘City Slickers ‘ (MGM/UA – May 29th)
- ‘A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘David Byrne: Ride Rise Roar‘ (Eagle Rock)
- ‘Drive Angry‘ (Summit)
- ‘Drive Angry – 3D‘ (Summit)
- ‘The Firm‘ (Paramount – May 29th)
- ‘Get Shorty‘ (MGM/UA – May 29th)
- ‘Legend: Ultimate Edition‘ (Universal)
- ‘Lolita (1962)‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘A Man Called Horse‘ (Paramount)
- ‘Maverick‘ (Warner – May 29th)
- ‘Midnight Cowboy‘ (MGM/UA – May 29th)
- ‘Once Upon a Time in the West‘ (Paramount)
- ‘Passion Play‘ (Image)
- ‘Primal Scream: Screamadelica Live‘ (Eagle Rock)
- ‘Rio Lobo‘ (Paramount)
- ‘Rookie Blue: The Complete First Season‘ (E1)
- ‘Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Collection‘ (Warner Brothers)
- ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three ‘ (MGM/UA – May 29th)
- ‘True Blood: The Complete Third Season‘ (HBO)
- ‘Undertow‘ (Wolfe – June 1st)
- ‘Wild Wild West‘ (Warner – May 29th)
- ‘Yu Yu Hakusho: Season 1‘ (FUNimation)
Fans of director Stanley Kubrick (and what right-minded film lover isn’t a fan of Kubrick?) would seem to be in for an embarrassment of riches this week. However, Warner’s ‘Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Collection‘ box set is mostly a simple repackaging of discs previously available. These include ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘, ‘The Shining, ‘Full Metal Jacket‘, and ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘. Warner licenced ‘Dr. Strangelove‘ from Sony and ‘Spartacus‘ from Universal. Again, these are the same discs previously available, not remastered in any way. ‘Spartacus’ is still that notorious DNR travesty.
The three new Kubrick titles in the box set are also all available separately: ‘Lolita‘, ‘A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition‘ and ‘Barry Lyndon‘. Unfortunately, ‘Clockwork Orange’ has not been remastered either. The dated transfer on the Anniversary disc is recycled from the old Blu-ray released in 2007, even though a brand new restoration played at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The Anniversary Edition comes in a Digibook package and includes some new supplements such as the excellent ‘Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures’ documentary (in SD), but I fully expect Warner to reissue this one again with a new transfer based on the restoration sometime in the future.
There’s been a lot of controversy about the aspect ratio Warner used for the ‘Barry Lyndon’ transfer. The disc has been mildly cropped from Kubrick’s preferred 1.66:1 theatrical ratio (as ‘Lolita’ and ‘Clockwork Orange’ are both presented) to a screen-filling 1.78:1 at the instruction of Kubrick’s personal assistant (read: hanger-on) Leon Vitali, who has proven himself in the past to be an unreliable source of technical information. Arguments have raged over which aspect ratio is “correct.” Realistically, the difference is very small and the disc looks perfectly fine at 1.78:1. I personally don’t think this is worth fretting over, except that ‘Barry Lyndon’ happens to be so deadly boring that there’s not much else to think about while its interminable three hours roll by. My advice is to pick up ‘Lolita’ (a genuine masterpiece) and skip the others for now. You may feel differently.
Day-and-date titles for the week are led off by ‘Biutiful‘, the latest excursion in misery-porn from director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I hear that Javier Bardem is pretty good in this one (he even got an Oscar nomination out of it) and that the movie isn’t quite as insufferable as ‘Babel‘, but I can’t say that I have all that much interest. At the opposite end of the spectrum would be ‘Drive Angry‘, the 3D schlock extravaganza starring Nicolas Cage, which is supposed to be dumb but fun.
Other notable catalog titles for the week include Sergio Leone’s masterpiece ‘Once Upon a Time in the West‘ (which I hope looks better than the last edge-enhanced DVD), ‘The Firm‘ and ‘American Graffiti‘. Universal’s Blu-ray edition of the fantasy epic ‘Legend‘ will contain both versions of the movie: the incoherent and borderline unwatchable 1985 theatrical cut and Ridley Scott’s 2002 Director’s Cut, which is still a huge mess of a movie but one that’s vastly improved. This is a fascinating case study of how editing can make or break a film.
On the TV front, we get the third season of ‘True Blood‘, which is really uneven on the whole but has a handful of terrific episodes.
Over the weekend, Best Buy put out a whole bunch of unadvertised exclusive titles from Warner and MGM. There are some desirable movies in here like ‘Back to School‘, ‘Midnight Cowboy‘, and the original ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3‘. As a James Bond completist, I will have to pick up the lousy ‘Casino Royale‘ spoof from 1966, even though it’s a pretty terrible movie.
What catches your fancy?