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BLU-RAY REVIEW: Rent Final Broadway Performance

Blu-Ray Review: Rent - The Fina Performance
Blu-Ray Review: Rent - The Final Performance

For a show that I claim to hate, I have somehow managed see the show at least three times – not on broadway, though. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I hate almost all the characters because they are whiny, pretentious and self involved. But the high points outweigh the story. After all of these years, I still love all the big songs like Take Me or Leave Me, Seasons of Love, One Song, I’ll Cover You and La Boheme. The show had it’s final Broadway performance last September and the folks at Sony Home Video captured the moment on a beautiful Blu-Ray package. The picture and audio is sharp and clean, that I feel like I’m in the audience. The final performance brought back a lot of the stars from the original production (who were also featured in Movie version) including: Idina Menzel (Maureen), Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel), Adam Pascal (Roger), and Tracie Thoms (Joanne). It made watching the final performance sort of bitter sweet.  I wish all Broadway and Theater shows put their performance on DVD and especially Blu-Ray. Yes you can’t beat the experience of seeing a show live, but hey, live shows on Broadway are outrageously expensive – $200 – $400 and they sit there and wonder why revenue is down. This Blu-ray really brings the performance home and actually makes me want to catch Rent the next time in NY, oh wait… The whole point of this performance is, its the curtain call.  One of the cool little special features is an 8 minute Curtain Call with the original cast doing a surprise appearance singing Seasons of Love. The Camera pans around to all of the people in the audience crying and I’ll admit it, it got to me.

Again, let me reiterate, I hate all the characters in this production, not a single sympathetic one. Sure we’re supposed to feel for Angel, but when we’re introduced to her, she sings happily about some old rich woman paying her to kill her neighbor’s dog. Right away, I hated her. Not to mention the song is stupid and terrible – crass, commercialized pop drivel – the same thing the show espouses against. The only one who I thought was sympathetic was Benny because all of his former “friends,” completely turned on him when Benny decided to try and make something of himself. He was bending over backwards to help these people, let them stay Rent free for a year, tried to work out a compromise so he could build his condos and he got “spit” in the face for his efforts even tho their condos were as good as the coal harbour condos for sale I once saw in a website. The show tries desperately to make him the bad guy and the symbol of “greed,” and “commercialism,” but he wasn’t.

The Blu-Ray extras include –

The Wall (HD, 6 Minutes) – A short featurette about the back staged Wall of the Theaters. It’s just the camera panning over the names with an instrumental version of “I’ll Cover You” in the background, pretty nice and kind of moving, because again, you realize this is it, another NY Institution is gone.

  • Rent The Final Days on Broadway (HD, 36 Mins) – A 36 minute documentary on the last days of Rent.
  • Casting (HD, 7:50) – A discussion with the Casting Directors about the show.
  • Jonathan Larson PSA (HD, 5:53) – A short PSA about Rent creator’s Jonathan Larson’s Foundation.
  • Trailer
  • The Final Lottery – (HD, 9 Min) – About the final Lottery for people trying to secure tickets for the final performances. Apparently, they gave away tickets to the first two rows for $20.  And it’s something they did from the beginning, which was a cool gesture.  It’s one of those “secret” things that NY Insiders know – and I spent half a year living there and never knew.
  • BD-Live – Lame

There’s nothing wrong with these featurettes, they are excellent (except BD-Live, ugh) but they don’t do anything to truly showcase or distinguish the Blu-Ray format from regular DVDs.

Conclusion

As I write this review, I’m starting to convince myself that the characters really aren’t that bad, what sells the show for me are the high points. They still resonate today, all of these years later and it’s sad to know that Rent’s gone from Broadway. It just seems like one of those things that would always be there. This Blu-Ray does a perfect job of capturing those final moments. But I have to say, I’m really annoyed that Sony didn’t include Digital Copy on this disc or really take advantage of any of the interactive features. Yes the picture and audio are fantastic, but Sony are the creators of the Blu-ray format so they have a special obligation to make every one of their discs be a showcase – especially when they expect people to pay a premium price for it. The Blu-ray retails for $38.95 and the Regular DVD $24.95.  Both will hit the streets, February 3, 2009.

Grades –

  • Movie – B
  • Picture – A
  • Audio – A
  • Features – C

Final Overall Grade – Bc

BLU-RAY NEWS: Best Blu-rays of 2008

BLU-RAY NEWS: Best Blu-rays of 2008
BLU-RAY NEWS: Best Blu-rays of 2008

2008 started off great for Blu-ray backers when they won the non-war with HD-DVD.  We consumers expected this fight to last awhile but was surprised when it barely lasted a year. I was firmly on the HD-DVD side of the fence. They had clear standards, when you purchased an HD-DVD disk you knew what to expect in terms of features. I also thought that competition would be good for consumers. Plus the the Blu-ray group still didn’t have a handle on what should be standard and what shouldn’t be. Then they finally released the profile 1.1 spec which included picture in picture and Ethernet ports as standard features on all players. Later in the year they issued the 2.0 spec which brought along BD-Live.

At the time of the announcement I wrote one of my patented screeds saying how it would be bad for consumers, that prices of Blu-ray disks were way too high and that, without competition, there was no way they would come down. Of course my screed made the Internet rounds and I was ridiculed and lambasted on popular websites like the AV-Forums, but guess what – I was right. Exactly what I predicted would happen, did happen. The price of players didn’t go down, the cost of movies actually went up and you have Netflix charging an extra buck to cover their Blu-ray costs.  I mean really, $39 for Superbad?

Even though they released a lot of new feature enhancements, most of the major Hollywood studios are content to just release HD catalogue films with very little additional features that take advantage of the format. It amounts to nothing more than double dipping and for this privilege they are charging $10  – $15 more and they wonder why consumers aren’t jumping on the BD Bandwagon.

Continue reading BLU-RAY NEWS: Best Blu-rays of 2008

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Death Race takes Pole Position, Michelle’s Take!

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I skipped Death Race when it was in the theaters earlier this year, it’s not because I didn’t want to see it, I just ran out of time and these days if you don’t see a film on opening weekend it’s long gone by week two or three. Which is a shame, because after watching it, I’m surprised it didn’t do better. It’s a solid mid-tier action flick, that at times takes itself way to seriously for the material. Jason Statham is actually really good in this and man did he get ripped. At first I thought the muscles on his back were CG.  There’s not a lot of fighting as most of the action takes place in the Death Race a grueling 3 Day Race where prisoners are forced to race to the Death. The big dog in cellblock is Warden Hennessey played with fierceness by Joan Allen. When she struts into the Prison Yard, you see the fear and respect the Prisoners have in her. Director Paul W.S. Anderson really gives this film the grit that it deserves, but like I said, it’s almost too serious, I would have liked a little levity.

As with all Anderson HV Releases, this Blu-ray has some really cool features. It’s one of those showcase discs that includes everything the format offers. Picture and Picture commentaries? Check. Audio Commentaries? Check. BD-Live? Check. Boatload of HD Features? Check.  For specifics we have:

  • Start Your Engines: the Making of Death Race – 20 Minutes (HD)
  • Behind the Wheels: Dissecting the Stunts – 8 Minutes (HD)
  • Feature Commentary with Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt
  • Universal’s U-Control interactive remote thing that lets you control when and where your Picture and Picture shows up.
  • A Full Dossier of all the drivers and their cars that you can pull up at any point in the movie using the U-Control. Pretty slick and cool how it’s implemented.

There’s a really neat multi-angle feature that let’s you cut an entire 13 minute sequence together using over 8 different camera angles. As you watch the race scene you just mouse over the angles you want to use. There are aerial shots, in car close ups, shots of Joan Allen in the control room, the pit crew, it’s pretty comprehensive. Once the scene is done you click the save button and it’ll automatically play back your edit. Not only that but you can cut it multiple different times and it’ll store your edits. Through BD-Live (which wasn’t turned on during the review period) you’ll be able to upload your edits to the community.  Also with BD-Live will incorporate live chat and you can do your own live Race Commentary.  The picture is of course full widescreen 1080p with a 2:35:1 aspect ratio (I still don’t like letterboxing on my TV) and has HD Audio.  On top of all of this, the Blu-ray includes the Unrated and Theatrical release of the movie as well as a Digital Copy.

I’m really happy with this release and it is one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year. Death Race hits the streets Dec 23, on Blu-Ray ($39.99 retail) and an Unrated DVD Version (29.99).

Movie Grade B
Picture – A
Audio – A
Features A+

Final Overall Grade – A

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally posted 12.21.08

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Day The Earth Stood Still by Michelle Alexandria

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Hmm… What do you say about one of the greatest Sci-Fi films ever made? Other than that it’s one of the greatest Sci-Films Ever Made? Just in time for the release of the Keanu remake, The Day the Earth Stood Still (the Original) is now out in Blu-ray. This 50’s Black and White classic looks absolutely gorgeous. The only drawback is the picture isn’t in Widescreen format it’s a pretty harsh full frame 1:33:1 ratio (or standard 4.3). So the picture looks a bit cropped on the sides on my 46 incher, it’s like watching standard def broadcasts on any normal HDTV. The only way to get it to fill up the screen is to select the widescreen mode on my television – which I don’t like to do because it makes the picture look stretched and the 5.1 HD Digital audio is clear and clean.

Originally, I didn’t think this disk had that many features, but once I delved into it, there’s a lot to discover here. Fox’s habit of making some of the worst navigation in the history of DVD and now Blu-ray continues here. It wouldn’t be a Fox release if the menus weren’t confusing or had really small fonts.

The disk starts with an 8 minute preview of the new Keanu remake. I watched about 3 minutes of it before I got incredibly bored. I have no interest in seeing this, but I’ll probably make time over the long X-mas weekend.  The stupid thing is once you skip this intro you can’t navigate to it again (unless you stop the movie), because the preview isn’t one of the special features you can easily navigate to, incredibly dumb.  Some of the standout features include an interactive game that let’s you be Gort and lazer blast some troops. It’s a incredibly lame and cheesy flash game, but I actually spent about 15 minutes playing with it. Then there’s this unique make your own soundtrack thing that let’s create music with the Thermin and then apply it to the scene where Gort first comes out of the ship. Very neat, there’s a scale and you just scroll up and down it to select your notes. Once you are done you click the Apply to scene button and it’ll automatically play the scene with your new score.  There’s no BD-Live where you can share your creations, but I love the concept and the ease of use.

Other features include:

  • DVD Commentary track with the Director Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer (who did Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn)
  • The World of the Thermin – This is the instrument used to create the unique sounds of TDTESS.  There are two little featurettes, one where Peter Pringle explain what a Thermin is and a live performance. Both are about 2:15 and in HD
  • Making of Feature – 23:53 (HD)
  • Decoding Klaatu, Barada, Nikto – A documentary about the history of the cold war – 16:14 (HD)
  • A Brief History of Flying Saucers – 34:02 (HD)
  • The Astounding Harry Bates – 11:03 (HD)
  • Edmund North: The Man Who Made The Day The Earth Stood Still – 14:43 (HD)
  • Race to Oblivion, an anti-war short from Edmund North, narrated by Burt Landcaster – 26:41 (HD)
  • There’s even an 2 hr Audiobook!  Farewell to the Master – About 2 Hrs.
  • Fox Movietone News – 6:21

I’m not sure how to grade the picture quality, like I said at the beginning the picture is gorgeous, but I hate the fact that it’s 1:35 ratio so it’s not even widescreen.  But the sheer number of features and the fact it is a great movie are more important than my concerns about the aspect ratio.  The Day The Earth Stood Still is available now on DVD ($19.99) and Blu-ray (34.90).

Move Grade – A+
Picture Quality – B
Audio – A
Features – A

Final Overall Grade – A-

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 12.21.08

INTERVIEW: Paul W.S. Anderson talks Death Race, Blu-ray Love and confirms Resident Evil 4

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For some reason fanboys seem to have an irrational hatred of British director Paul W.S. Anderson who is best known for directing several successful video game films including Mortal Kombat and helming the Resident Evil franchise which will be shooting it’s 4th installment sometime next year. He also did Alien Vs. Predator which James Cameron once called the 3rd best Alien films.  Sure his films always has a much lower budget than most sci-fi film, but Anderson is a technical director who knows how to make a smaller budget film seem bigger than they are. Even though I’ve always hated the games, I’ve been a fan of Anderson’s R.E. films (and generally I don’t like Zombie movies either).  So it was a pleasure to have a quick conversation with him last week. I really wanted to ask him about Aint It Cool News’ irrational hatred and personal attacks against him, but ran out of time.  Here’s what I learned.

  • Anderson loves the Blu-ray format and thinks that if you put a movie on it, you should use it to its fullest extent.  When he purchases a Blu-ray and it’s barebones he feels cheated (amen brother) and that his movies are always successful and have a longer shelf life as DVDs and now Blu-rays because he always strives to use the medium to it’s fullest extinct. In our short conversation we talked extensively about this and he’s really proud of the Death Race Blu-ray release, as well as the work he put into the upcoming Event Horizon Blu-ray as well.  He said if you pay double for a Blu-ray you should get more.
  • On the Death Race Blu-ray there is this cool multi-angle (7 Camera) feature that let’s users re-cut one of the major action sequences in the film. As proof of Anderson and Universal’s commitment to the Blu-ray format, this featured cost $750,000 to produce.  Through BD-Live you can upload your new cut and there will be contests where he and the movie’s editor will judge the best cut.
  • There will be a Resident Evil 4 film and they are working on it now.  When asked about some critics irrational hatred of him, he said he doesn’t care what critics think. Especially when they don’t even get the film. One Critic questioned who the audience for the first Resident Evil film was, then when the sequel came out said that he killed the franchise.
  • It took him ten years to get Death Race made.  Famed B-Movie director/producer and the creator of the original Death Race film, Roger Corman distributed Anderson’s very first film in America, so he’s always been an inspiration for him and has impacted his career.  When you work on a project this long, it showed people that he was committed to getting it done.
  • Death Race is actually a prequel to Roger’s film.  He wanted to do a contemporary version because he loved the idea of using Cars as “these big war machines,” and the first movie didn’t have the budget to really do it properly.

He only gets nervous when he sees a film with an audience for the first time. He makes his movie for an audience and when they don’t like it he feels gutted.
Death Race hits the streets Dec 23, on Blu-Ray ($39.99 retail) and an Unrated DVD Version (29.99).

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Dark Knight Sparkles, Michelle’s Review

Blu-Ray Review: The Dark Knight Sparkles, Michelle Alexandria's Take
Blu-Ray Review: The Dark Knight Sparkles, Michelle Alexandria

I’m currently working on my 2008 Blu-ray Holiday Guide and my top 20 list for 2008 and it goes without saying The Dark Knight Blu-ray disc is one of the best Blu-rays of the year. It’s a true showcase title that combines an Amazing 1080P Picture, TrueHD Sound, and truly unique special features into something remarkable.  Director Christopher Nolan gives puts a lot of love into the 3 Disc special edition.  The menus make sense and all the Featurettes are filmed in beautiful HD.  The disk includes Digital Copy, which I’m really starting to get into. I would never want to want this movie on my iPod Touch – even though it looks gorgeous, but being able to watch it on my Macbook while on the go, is pretty awesome.

BD-Live

WB is doing something truly unique with BD-Live which is usually just some lame menu that includes trailers. The Dark Knight disc let’s you actually record a video commentary and share it with your friends. You can also schedule group viewing as well. Unfortunately, BD-Live wasn’t turned on last week when I was reviewing this, so I decided to wait until today to test it out and everything works really well, it takes a bit to set up but once you do it’s a pretty cool use of the technology.  In order to use BD-Live you have to first setup an account – an immediate turnoff, especially typing it on an onscreen keypad. Then after that, you still have to go to your email for a confirmation and feel out this long, intrusive form. Go back to the BD-Live and resign it. What a pain in the ass. After all of that the first thing I saw was a trailer for….The Dark Knight! How retarded is that?

Picture

The one thing that bugs me is the Aspect Ratio of the picture is harsh. I just purchased a 46 inch, Sony Bravia, I don’t want to see any freaking letterboxed black bars on my screen.  I’ve never been a fan of letterboxing and never will.  There’s a feature called Focal Points where you can watch how to sequences during the course of the film. It’s especially irritating because the navigation is broken when you are watching these clips. You can’t get back to the movie unless you stop it and restart the film. So it’s a really useless feature. You can, however watch all 18 features separately.  Most of these average about 2 – 7 minutes, some are shot in HD and others in Standard Def.

On Disc 2 you have the Features

Behind the Story

  • Batman Tech – A really cool 45 Minute feature about the technology used by Batman and close to reality all of this gear is. (HD)
  • Batman Unmasked The Psychology of The Dark Kight – Another 45 minute feature that looks into Batman’s motivations and pschye. We get to go inside the mind of a Superhero with real psychologists. As a former Psych major, I found this to be fascinating stuff. (HD)

Extras

  • Gotham Tonight – All 6 episodes of the Web Series (HD)
  • Photo Galleries
  • Nine Trailers and TV Spots (HD)

You can read my review of the movie here. As I said in the beginning, this is a ground breaking Blu-ray disk and must buy. One of the year’s best films gets the year’s best Blu-Ray.

Movie Grade – A+

Picture – A-

Audio – A

Features – A

Final Overall Grade – A+

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted
12.09.08

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

If you have read my reviews for any length of time you will know that one of my many film bias is an extreme dislike of talking animals in my movies. Generally, they creep me out and take me right out of the experience. The one exception to that rule was The Chronicles of Narnia. I didn’t think that was a perfect film, but I liked it well enough to go and read all of the books. I always thought Prince Caspian was a pretty weak book. It was too short, the lead character Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) was a whiney little #$## who didn’t do much in it, but the book’s biggest sin was it didn’t really delve into what it must of been like for the Pevensie kids – High King Peter Pevensie (William Moseley), Edmund Pevensie The Just (Skandar Keynes), Lucy Pevensie – The Valiant (Georgie Henley) and Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) adjusted to the idea that they were adult Kings and Queens trapped as powerless 13 – 16 year old children.

The book missed an opportunity to explore this dichotomy. When we first see the Pevensie kids we see how they are adjusting – not well. Peter is getting into fights over the most minor slights and it’s up to Edmund to protect his back. And that’s the beautiful thing about this movie – it’s how the Pevensie family has become so close to each other and wise. In the first film they were typical one dimensional kids and the kid actors were clearly out of the element.

Here, they are very self aware and self assured as both actors and characters. There are times when you watch this movie where you can really see the duality of their personalities. You get that yes while they may look like kids, they truly are the former great Kings and Queens that they once were. It’s in their eyes, the way they move, and how they act. These kids could never had pulled this complexity of emotion off in the first film, but here it’s as if they were born to play these parts. The change in Edmund and Susan are the most pronounced. Edmund is a bad ass, calculating warrior that will do anything to protect his family, especially his brother Peter. While Susan has grown to be quite the fighter herself, the camera loves her and director Andrew Adamson showcases her perfectly, especially during the sweeping battles. When Susan breaks out the bow and arrow it’s a thing of beauty and pleasure to watch. As far as the animals go, I had the biggest concern for the noble mouse Reepicheep, I didn’t care for his character in the book, but he’s great in the film.

In one of our many emails, I think Sheldon summed up why Caspian works so well the best – it’s because the filmmakers chose to “make Caspian, naïve, rather than whiney.” And that subtle change makes all the difference in the world. Caspian comes across as stronger in the movie, more pro-active, not someone who just let’s things happen to him. He’s also self-involved at the most inopportune times. I like the fact that the film really played up the rivalry between Peter and Caspian. In the book Caspian just let Peter do everything without complaining or standing up for himself. Here Caspian calls Peter on his sometime “arrogance.” The writers Andrew Adamson (screenplay), Christopher Markus (screenplay), and Stephen McFeely took the best of C.S. Lewis’ work and expanded it to make it better. It’s a shame that Peter and Susan won’t be in the next film, because they will be missed. Everything about Prince Caspian is just right in terms of cinematography, scope and vision; the tone is dark but hopeful, and epic but intimate. While watching the battle scenes, the only thought going through my mind was, I hope the final Harry Potter film is a 10th as good as this was. Bring on Eustace and Dawn Treader!

Blu-ray Features

The 3-Disk Blu-ray includes a pristine full 1080p, 2:40:1 version of the movie, which I happily tested on my new 46 inch Bravia (I’ll be mentioning my new TV for the next few Blu-ray reviews).  The colors really pop on screen.  Audio is 7.1 DTS HD, and there are over 22 subtitle tracks. 22!

You can access all of the disc’s special features through a thing that Disney is calling Circle Vision Interactive. It’s a full look at how they created the Castle Raid and it’s in full HD. Broken up into about 10 different featurettes. It really goes deep into all aspects of creating this scene – from constructing the castle to having the costume designer talk about the costumes.   The Blu-ray has support for BD-Live but it wasn’t active when I watched the movie.

On the 2nd Disc, you get a bunch of deleted scenes, bloopers and more featurettes.

•    Inside Narnia – 35 Minutes (HD)
•    Sets of Narnia – 23 Minutes (HD)
•    Big Movie Comes to Small Town – 23 Minutes (HD)
•    Previsualizing Narnia – 10 Minutes (HD)
•    Secrets of the Duel – 7 Minutes (HD)
•    Becoming Trumpkin – 5 Minutes (HD)
•    Warwick Davis The Man Behind Nikabrik – 12 Min (HD)

And Disc 3 you get the Disney File digital copy version of the film.

Conclusion

Disney really knows how to put together Blu-ray Discs Narnia is another great addition to their recent efforts. When I do my year’s best list this year, several Disney titles will be there. This is one of the top 5 Blu-ray releases of the year.; fantastic film, amazing extras, and Digital copy to seal the deal. Narnia on Blu-rar retails for $39.99 and will hit the streets on Blu-ray and DVD, Dec. 2, 08.

Features Grade – A

Movie Grade – A+

Final Overall – A+

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted, 12.02.08

Blu-Ray News_ The Day The Earth Stood Still is coming Dec 2

day

What the hell? Do these studios think we’re made of money? Dec. 2nd is shaping up to be a huge day for Blu-Ray releases. We have The Dark Knight, Prince Caspian, X-Files and now this, one of the all time great Sci-Fi flicks The Day The Earth Stood Still. Just in time to remind us how the upcoming Christmas Keanu remake will inevitably fail by comparison. Whooaaa…. The new Blu-ray version looks like an nice package. It’ll contain, as the press release says, “two amazing new Blu-ray games,” (can you smell the suckage?)  Gort Command!,” an arcade-style shooting gallery game and “Interactive Theremin: Create Your Own Score,” where viewers can re-score the film’s opening sequence.  Both the BD and DVD versions of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL Special Edition feature all-new and exclusive bonus materials including legendary composer and Academy Award®-winner*** Bernard Herrmann’s isolated score; film and sci-fi featurettes – including a “Making Of The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Decoding Klaatu Barada Nikto: Science Fiction As A Metaphor” – an audio presentation of the original short story; commentaries from Robert Wise and other film and music historians; and more.  I will say, DVD games suck, but the Create Your Own Score thing, intrigues me. The Blu-ray and DVD versions will also include:

•    New:  Exclusive First Look At The New Movie The Day The Earth Stood Still Starring
Keanu Reeves And Jennifer Connelly
•    New & Exclusive To BD:  Interactive Theremin:  Create Your Own Score
•    New & Exclusive To BD:  Gort Command!:  Interactive Game
•    Commentary by Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer
•    New:  Commentary by Film & Music Historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg and Nick                         Redman
•    New:  Isolated Score Track
•    New:  The Mysterious, Melodious Theremin
•    New: The Day The Earth Stood Still Main Title Live Performance By Peter Pringle
•    New:  The Making of The Day the Earth Stood Still
•    New:  Decoding “Klaatu Barada Nikto”: Science Fiction as Metaphor Featurette
•    New:  A Brief History of Flying Saucers Featurette
•    New: The Astounding Harry Bates Featurette
•    New: Edmund North: The Man Who Made the Earth Stand Still Featurette
•    New To Disc:  Race To Oblivion:  A Documentary Short Written And Produced By Edmund North
•    New To Disc: Farewell To The Master:  A Reading By Jamieson K. Price Of The Original
Harry Bates Short Story; Audio Only
•    New:  Interactive Pressbook
•    Fox Movietonews from 1951
•    Original Theatrical Trailer & Teaser Trailer
•    Advertising Gallery
•    Behind-The Scenes Gallery
•    Portrait Gallery
•    Production Gallery
•    Spaceship Construction Blueprints
•    Shooting Script

Blu-Ray News: New Blu-Ray Announcements

Caspian

The Chronicle’s of Narnia: Prince Caspian was one of my top five favorite films of this year, I saw it twice in the theater and watched it again when I flew to London. It holds up well to repeat viewing. And as a general rule I hate talking animal movies. The Blu-ray version in will include enhanced BD-Live functionality (have I said recently how much I think BD-Live is a waste of time?), a DisneyFile (A digital copy of the movie so you can copy the movie to your iPod), something called Circle Vision which will give you a 360-degree look behind the scenes of the castle raid sequence and get unique access to the secrets of how this latest adventure to Narnia was pulled off.  It’s all a part of CIRCLE-VISION INTERACTIVE: CREATING THE CASTLE RAID.  First, start off in the CIRCLE-VISION preview lobby, and choose to get a private tour of the castle raid from Director Andrew Adamson, Producer Mark Johnson, or a number of other key filmmakers and artists who brought the latest adventure to NARNIA to life.  Then, select one of the exclusive CIRCLE-VISION experiences to be virtually transported to the set in the Czech Republic.  The moment you enter these panoramic worlds, you will be able to turn in any direction, and fully-explore how this compelling sequence was painstakingly created.  Discover a myriad of progression reels, developmental animatics, 13 audio commentaries, pop-up facts, slide shows, and a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes footage with cast and crew that is revealing, interesting, compelling, funny and exclusively accessed through this new-reimagining of a classic idea. The Blu-ray will come in a 2 Disc or 3 Disc version and hit the streets December 2, 2008  $35- 40.  The complete Press Release is after the break. 

Continue reading Blu-Ray News: New Blu-Ray Announcements

BLU-RAY NEWS: Dark Knight Blu-Ray details

TheDarkKnightBlu-Ray

I talked about the Dark Knight Blu-ray release a few months ago, the folks at Warner’s sent over another Press Release regarding the Dec 9th launch. In a shameless move to make sure I get my free copy. Here’s the official press release. All kidding and kissing up aside, this release does look pretty amazing. The 2 Disk Blu-ray includes a Digital Copy of the film, BD-Live (which is usually a complete waste of time), and several featurettes. But there are no deleted scenes or any commentary tracks (if there are, they aren’t listed in the Press Release.)  The Blu-ray streets Dec 9 for 35.99. 

Continue reading BLU-RAY NEWS: Dark Knight Blu-Ray details

BLU-ray REVIEW: The Godfather Trilogy

Godfather Blu-ray

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been much of a fan of the Godfather Trilogy. I don’t know why, it is an amazing film on almost every level, but it never connected with me. Probably because by the time I finally saw it, I had heard all the signature lines over and over and over again, that it’s become a joke me. Also by the time I finally watched it, I had already seen Casino, Goodfellas, et all, so the movie felt like a cliche. And yes, I don’t want to get into the circular argument that Godfather came first and set the bar. Then there was the fact that Italian Gangsters are always glorified in films, while black criminals are, rightly, vilified. Always thought there was a double standard and didn’t like it. When Paramount finally put Godfather on DVD a few years ago, many people complained about the quality of the transfer. It always looked ok to me.  Now we have the long awaited Coppola Restoration on Blu-ray.

The beginning of The Godfather looks pristine. The colors are once again vibrant and beautiful. The Dolby TrueHD audio is crisp – even on my Sony Soundbar. It gives the movie a whole new feel to it. The problem is, this quality isn’t consistent, when it works it’s brilliant, but the night scenes are where the problem lies. The scenes that are grainy, washed out and fuzzy. Especially around the faces. It looks like everyone has a 3’oclock fuzzy shadow. One of the most famous scenes from the first Godfather Film – the restaurant shootout, there are a lot of dark, grainy shadows around the face. It makes it really hard to watch.  The other issue I found, especially when watching Godfather III is that the blacks are now so richly detailed and, um, black that it’s a really dark film and the dark burgundy rooms don’t help. I can barely see anything.

I switched between the Dolby to the Coppola commentary track.  It’s interesting hearing his comments about the film, but his delivery is really dry. He’s intensely proud of his family and his ability to force them on us. He points them out almost every time they appear in a scene. It’s also why Godfather III is such a horrible and barely watchable film. Sophia Coppola is awful. She has the anti- "It" factor.  Story wise, Godfather III is a beautiful coda – except for the Vatican stuff, to the Saga. But the casting, cinematography and acting was so over the top bad. Then there is the whole cousins in Love thing that is just sick. Coppola said this relationship makes him want to cry, it makes me want to barf. When I was younger, I liked Godfather III, but I think this HD Restoration enhances the negatives of this film.

All of the extra features are on a stand alone disk and include over 3 hours of stuff.  All of the features from the previous release plus several
additional ones.  The menu is designed really nice. All of the old DVD features are grouped under the 2001 menu. In here there are 9 Behind the Scenes featurettes, Galleries, Cast and Crew Bios and a boatload of deleted scenes. The new stuff is all in HD and look amazing. There’s a 30 minute documentary on how the Godfather almost didn’t get made called "The Masterpiece that almost wasn’t."

  • The Godfather World 
    11 Minute feature with celebrities discussing the impact of the films
  • Emulsional Rescue – Revealing the Godfather
    19 Minutes about the Cinematographer, Gordon Lewis and the process of Restoring the film
  • When the shooting stops – 14 minutes on the post production process
  • The Godfather on the Red Carpet – 4 minutes of pointlessness
  • Four short films on the Godfather – Not sure the point of these 4, 2 minute shorts, it’s more interview footage. People really can talk incessantly about this movie.
  • There’s a Family Tree but it’s weirdly laid out and hard to figure out the connections.  Instead of going from top to bottom, this one goes from bottom to the top. It’s very strange looking.

Overall, this Blu-ray release is a mixed bag. You are getting two classic/masterpiece films, and one so-so one  in perhaps the best format possible. But the blacks in this are almost too black. The extra features are plentiful and the new ones for the Blu-ray release are excellent and packed with lots of information all in HD.  I’m on the fence here. If you don’t already own The Godfather Trilogy, this is probably the definitive edition to get. If you already own the previous DVDs, I don’t think it’s worth the upgrade.

Genre – Drama

Movie Grade – B+ (this factors in pt. III)

Audio – A

Picture – C

Features – A

Final Overall Grade – B

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 10.27.08