Blu-ray Highlights for 5/31/11 – What’s It Going to Be Then, Eh?

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.

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?


  1. Yeah, I had a feeling that might happen, WordPress threw out my comment because I had too many links to Amazon.

    From the list you posted, Lolita should be arriving today. It was a blind buy – I had seen the 1990s version of it, and really interested to see what Kubrick did in the 60s with the same subject material. My only guess is that it is WAY watered down.

    There are quite a few Blu-Ray Audio discs coming out today that I am looking at picking up, as well as a couple of theatrical and operas coming out. They all may be European releases – they are in real limited supply on Amazon if you can find them at all. May see if its cheaper to import them.

    So, also coming out today are:
    Vivaldi: The Four Seasons by Naxos (been really impressed with their Chopin releases, but other groups have released The Four Seasons, two in 7.1, so may try one of them. The others are cheaper as well)

    Mahler: Das Knaben Wunderhorn / Adagio From Symphony 10

    Handel: Theodora

    Alfano: Cyrano de Bergerac

    Verdi: La Traviata

    and Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 7 / Coriolan Overture

    • Josh Zyber

      The screenplay for Kubrick’s version of Lolita was written by the author, Vladimir Nabokov. The two of them made siginificant changes from the book to spin the story into a black comedy. I don’t know that I would use the phrase “watered down.” It’s not very explicit in terms of sexual content, but Humbert’s pedophilia is pretty clear.

      The 1997 film was made by Adrian Lyne. His version plays down the comedy and revels in the smuttier aspects of the book, which is what you’d expect from the director of Flashdance and 9 1/2 Weeks.

      They’re very different films.

      • Sounds interesting. I’ll watch it tonight while my roommate is out of town – as she has worked for CPS and foster homes in the past, this material really hits home for her and I would probably have to endure a 20 minute lecture for contributing moneterally to this stuff. Sigh. But she doesn’t like 80% of the movies I watch anyways. She FINALLY figured out that just because I turn the TV on in the living room, that doesn’t mean that she has to join me.

        Here is what is strange – I have seen three Kubrick movies (AI doesn’t count in my opinion), and only liked one of them. So a blind buy of a Kubrick movie for me is a huge leap-of-faith.

      • besch64

        Unfortunately, Vladimir Nabokov’s script was not used. I have not seen the movie, but I say “unfortunately” because Nabokov is the greatest artistic mind of the last few centuries at the very least and his version surely would have been something to behold.

        Anyway, I will probably pick up the Kubrick box. Very disappointed in the fact that most of the discs are just re-releases, but I only currently own 2001 on BD so I might as well get it.

  2. Dan

    As a fellow Bond completist, I’ve already picked up Casino Royale. I’m disappointed that A Clockwork Orange isn’t remastered–and I’m still holding out hope that Criterion does a blu-ray release of Spartacus.
    Otherwise, probably will be picking up Once Upon a Time and American Graffiti–and True Blood should come in the mail today.

  3. Tony

    I read the article and comments at the link Josh provided regarding Barry Lyndon’s aspect ratio, and I don’t see how Kubrick could have intended it for 1.77:1. Perhaps 1.77 is the aspect ratio of the monitors on the moon shuttle in 2001?

    • This reminds me, at the link, the aspect ratio of Lolita is wrong, I think. Other sites are reporting it at 1.66:1. There are slight black-bars on the SIDES, according to screenshots. If it was 1.85:1, the black bars would be at the top and bottom. But 1.66:1 sounds like an odd aspect ratio to me.

      • Josh Zyber

        Lolita and Clockwork Orange are both 1.66:1 with small pillarbox bars on the sides. That’s an old European theatrical standard, and was Kubrick’s stated preference.

        If you’re referring to our placeholder page for Lolita, I’ll try to fix that today. Preliminary disc specs are usually copied from studio PR material, which isn’t always finalized or accurate.

        [Just fixed it. The specs also listed the soundtrack as 5.1, but Lolita is in the original mono.]

        • vihdeeohfieuhl


          Check out Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas for an example of 1.66:1. It seems like I remember you saying you own that film, so it’s the first example off the top of my head that I’m fairly certain you have in your collection.

          Another recent 1.66:1 release that really surprised me was Blue Valentine. The format is hardly ever used anymore in American cinema. When I popped in Blue Valentine, I almost thought there was something wrong with the video processor in my OPPO or my television. 😉

          • That’s…. Interesting. Just checked my DVD Profiler collection online – yep, its 1.66. I just watched that fairly recently, too (I just went 7.1 in the past month, and it was my demo disc).

            Stuck in Lolita a bit at lunch. Really didn’t even notice the pillar bars on the side – they are there, but I have seen some stuff on Travel Channel that is pillarboxed more (I could probably argue that half the stuff on travel channel isn’t HD, but my provider compresses the heck out of Travel Channel, so probably wouldn’t be able to tell much difference between true HD and upconverted anyways).

            That may be why I didn’t notice it on Nightmare. Its probably there, but probably hardly noticable.

          • I know my TV has a little overscan. I know when I adjust the overscan for my pc, my resolution is 1875×1050, so its not a dramatic overscan.

            I did see the Pillarbars on Lolita, at first, but 2-3 minutes into the film, my mind pretty much blanked them out anyways. That is probably what happened to me on Nightmare, and with the opening scenes being so dark, I guess I just didn’t even notice.

          • vihdeeohfieuhl

            I believe I remember hearing you say that you have a Panasonic plasma. I could be wrong, but if that’s the case, it should have a setting to view 100% of the pixels with no overscan. Go into the picture menu, and then go into the aspect settings, there should be an “HD Size” setting in that submenu that allows you to view 100%. The pillarbox bars on a 1.66:1 disc are definitely noticeable enough that you won’t be able to just ignore them. They are thicker than the small letterbox bars you see when watching an un-matted 1.85:1 disc.

          • vihdeeohfieuhl

            Hmmm, well, have you tried everything you can possibly imagine to get the television to display 100% of the pixels and eliminate any and all overscan. I haven’t had a Toshiba television since the early days of HD, but it seems like I was able to get it to display 100% without any overscan.

          • I haven’t messed with it too much – the amount of pixels I am missing is negligable. And the PC is set where it displays the entire screen on the TV, so if it really bothered me, I could always play the Blu-Ray on the PC (got a BD Writer in there).

            Truthfully, even before I adjusted the display on the PC, I could still see a bit of the X on the window when I had a program maximized. And keep in mind, that is at 1920×1080, so its a small X anyways. Already, on many TV shows, the top of the screen shows green lines or whatever – even on HD broadcast (although I think my satelite box compensates for overscan, which may be what I am seeing). Point is, the amount of pixels I am missing is really small, and would rather my pixels be 1:1 on my screen than getting some image that is being scaled by the TV or BD / HD-DVD players.

  4. vihdeeohfieuhl

    If A Clockwork Orange was from a new master, I would most definitely be picking that up. As it is, I will have to pass.

    True Blood is arriving today, and based on HDD’s review of the video quality, I will buy Biutiful.

    I’m curious to know if Josh is a Kubrick fan, and where he would rank Lolita verus Kubrick’s other films.


    How do you feel about Eyes Wide Shut, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange?

    It sounds like you might rank Lolita as the best of Kubrick’s films. Is this the case?

    I’m a pretty big Kubrick fan. I even admire Eyes Wide Shut for many of it’s idiosyncrasies. I wouldn’t say that I’m one of his biggest fans, or even a “HUGE” fan. Do you think it might be up my alley?

    • Josh Zyber

      I’m a fan of all of Kubrick’s films except Barry Lyndon. That’s his big dud, in my opinion. I really tried to like that one, but it absolutely bored me senseless.

      I don’t particularly like ranking things in lists. If I had to, I’d put 2001 at the top of Kubrick’s filmography. Then Dr. Strangelove and Lolita, and then most everything else at an even keel after that, followed by Lyndon at the bottom.

      I’ve always liked Eyes Wide Shut and feel that it’s been greatly misunderstood. When it was released, it was promoted as some sort of crazy erotic thriller. It’s really a film about marriage, and I think it takes some experience being in a genuine long-term monogamous relationship to appreciate.

      • vihdeeohfieuhl

        I love what you say here about Eyes Wide Shut. Your comments echo what I have tried to convince people of for years. If you are in, or have been in a long-term monogamous relationship, you will understand just how genuinely affecting and accurate it is. I have no idea how or why it was perceived as an erotic thriller. It’s simply not at all.

        The film is a look in through a window into marriage, and the difficulties and complications of it. Jealousy, lust, outrage, betrayal, secrecy, possessive feelings, and all of the other emotions that people in a relationship will feel. It examines how each person in a relationship might handle and react to some of these thorny feelings. It was completely misunderstood and promoted incorrectly.

        I guess I will be buying Lolita, based on our strong agreement regarding Eyes Wide Shut, and the fact that you seem to have a similar opinion of Kubrick’s work.

        • ROTFLMAO! I haven’t seen Eyes Wide Shut, but I love how you and Josh both describe it with awe and appreciation for marriage, then you state that you are picking up Lolita! I know what you mean, it just read weird!

          • vihdeeohfieuhl

            Haha! 🙂 Well, what can I say? Marriages are… well, I guess we don’t have the time and space for that.

            It just goes to show that both people in a relationship can like, appreciate, and enjoy many different things, as long as their partner can understand (tolerate) it.

      • Jane Morgan

        Your Kubrick list mirrors my own exactly. Barry Lyndon almost made me a wrist cutter.

      • Initially I was the reverse on this. Barry Lyndon captivated me from start to finish, where Eyes Wide Shut nearly had me fall asleep in the theater.

        I’ve warmed more toward Eyes Wide Shut since then, and I don’t consider Barry Lyndon Kubrick’s best (thanks, Ryan O’Neil). What I love about Barry Lyndon is its deliberate pace, which perfectly mirrors Redmond Barry’s inescapable social trajectory. The movie takes its time because its character’s fall from grace is inevitable and gradual.

        Despite my love of the film, I can easily see why other people think it’s a crashing bore.

  5. Tim H

    I picked up Maverick. I will also be getting Once Upon A Time In The West and American Graffiti.

  6. I’ll hopefully be picking up Legend, been anxiously awaiting that one, IMO its Tim Curry’s best performance and easily one of the top fantasy films ever made

  7. EM

    I like the original film version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three enough for it to be in my DVD collection, but I’ve never thought of it as a must for Blu-ray. I guess I’ll read some reviews. But for the moment I’ll pass.

    Nothing else for this week grabs me. That’s OK—I still have some catching up to do from previous weeks.

  8. Yep, picked up Legend and its awesome looking, there is a little blurb before the movie starts that talks about the Bluray and Director’s Cuts, it was originally lost and someone obviously found it, Scott didnt think it would appear again, but its the only version available thats as close to his original vision of the movie, so he approved the Bluray transfer and he said its as good as it will ever look due to the source and it really does look great, certain places are soft with not a lot of detail and others are just beautiful with the colors and lighting, I havent tried the theatrical cut (as it sucks compared to the DC) to see if its better or not, but so far I’m very impressed with the Transfer, its the best I’ve seen Legend look