DVDBeaver Newsletter - January 12th, 2009

Boili! - 14 new reviews this week - 8 of which are comparisons! More Criterion, plenty of Blu-ray - Douglas Sirk, Cassavetes (Nick), John Woo, Fincher, Blake Edwards...  a couple of dozen new Calendar Releases! Yes, things are slowly gaining momentum. I'll be exploring some classic films on hi-def vs. SD very soon...

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Easiest way to catch up is simply read the new Newsletter Archive HERE.

LATEST Additions to the Release Calendar (PRE-ORDER and save!):

TCM Spotlight: Doris Day Collection - April in Paris (1952), It's a Great Feeling (1949), Starlift (1951), Tea for Two (1950), The Tunnel of Love (1958) – Warner

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three: William Wellman at Warner Bros - (Other Men’s Women, The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, Midnight Mary, Heroes for Sale and Wild Boys of the Road) – Warner

Akira Kurosawa Box [Blu-ray] [Limited Release] (Rashomon, Ran, Madadayo, and The Quiet Duel - Shizukanaru Ketto) - R'0' Blu-ray - no English subtitles – Jesnet

Gumshoe (Stephen Frears, 1971) Sony

The Lodger (David Ondaatje, 2009) Sony

I've Loved You So Long [Blu-ray] (Philippe Claudel, 2008) Sony

Seven Servants (Daryush Shokof, 1996) Pathfinder

The Baron: The Complete Series (1966) - Koch Vision

"Bleak House" [Blu-ray] TV - 2005 - BBC Video

Ichi the Killer [Blu-ray] (Takashi Miike, 2001) Tokyo Shock

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 5: 1946-1948 – Sony

Role Models [Blu-ray] (Rated) (Unrated) (David Wain, 2008) Universal Studios

Shigurui: Death Frenzy [Blu-ray] (Hiroshi Hamazaki, 2007) Funimation

I Am Dina (Ole Bornedal, 2002) Vanguard Cinema

Hercules Collection (4-disc - 8 films) Image Entertainment

Alexandra (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2009) New Yorker

Donkey Punch [Rated] (Oliver Blackburn, 2008) Magnolia

Donkey Punch [UN-Rated] (Oliver Blackburn, 2008) Magnolia

Tell Me in the Sunlight (Steve Cochran, 1967) Televista

Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007) New Yorker

The Case of the Frightened Lady (George King, 1940) Wham! USA

The FTA (Francine Parker, 1972) Docudrama



ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey): There is plenty I enjoyed this week. As you might imagine I have a pretty healthy infusion of fanatical/obsessive behavior myself -so I could easily relate to Robert Graysmith in Zodiac. I'm continuing to enjoy the US 2-disc Blu-ray version. In the past month this film, that I already rated quite highly, has continued to escalate in my estimation. The experience of Nava's El Norte was beautifully realized by the Criterion Blu-ray edition - it's a film I wholly recommend. Speaking of Criterion - Sirk's Magnificent Obsession represents cinema that needs no endorsement from moi - and the Criterion extras are nothing short of 'essential'. Pardner' - another classic Robert B. Parker novel makes for a rock solid western in Ed Harris' Appaloosa BR. If the genre has any appeal for you - this is a must-see. Part of the thrill of 1080P resolution in your home theater is to indulge in visual epics like John Woo's Red Cliff BR and Peter Jackson's King Kong BR. A mass of descriptive adjectives can generally be replaced by a simple: "WOW". I doubt I'll ever tire of the cute Election BR - plenty of repeat value humor. I never realized the extent of individuals who demanded an English DUB for - Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - well the US BR services with extras subtitled to-boot.

TAKE 2 CHANCES: A guilty pleasure... that should produce no guilt; The Notebook BR. Eric has convinced me to give The Most Important Thing Love a spin.

NAWWWW: The minor bump in extras is really a puny reason to double-dip on Edwards iconic Breakfast at Tiffanys

PASS: This probably isn't the right venue for Vin Diesel fans - but, at the risk of stating the obvious, Leonard says ignore Babylon A.D. BR. Ummm... yea.

New Reviews:

The Most Important Thing Love - Sure it comes across as an arthouse melodrama but Zulawski's L'IMPORTANT C'EST D'AIMER is one of the most moving and agonizingly emotional statements of a theme that runs through much of Zulawski's work (up to his most recent LA FIDELITE) that, as the title states, the most important thing is to love. For Zulawski, love is more important than bourgeousis concerns of honor and fidelity which is illustrated in the love triangle of actress (Romy Schneider in what she considered her finest performance for which she won a César award) torn between her moral obligation to husband (Jacques Dutronc) and her growing love for a photographer (Fabio Testi). Sparsely but beautifully scored by Georges Delerue with the same sensitivity evident in his score for Godard's CONTEMPT, Zulawski depicts a world of actors, pornographers, drugs, and violence in which love can be the only saving grace (note the change in Schneider's character between the mirrored opening and closing scenes).

Babylon A.D. BR - The story, at first glance, is familiar and simple enough. We're a couple decades into the future and things are no better for humankind. Mercenaries and terrorists abound, especially in Kazakhstan where our adventure begins. Diesel plays an out of work American ex-pat who sleeps holding his gun. I guess he doesn't have nightmares, else he would be likely to blow his head off. A crime lord named Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu with an ill fitting prosthetic nose – you'd think he could afford better) hires Toorop to pick up and deliver a young woman from some remote monastery in Siberia or thereabouts to New York City. "No questions asked." Sure. Blu-ray Release date: January 6th, 2009

Swing Vote BR - With the 2008 American presidential election just behind us, Swing Vote sets up the unlikely – one might even say, implausible – scenario by which the election, now in an electoral college dead heat, comes down to the vote of one man whose ballot was caught in an electrical malfunction. Since New Mexico's rules, we are told, allows for the recasting of the vote "in a timely manner", the two presidential candidates – the incumbent Republican played by Kelsey Grammer, and the Democrat, played by Dennis Hopper – arrive in Texaco, New Mexico (where the smartest person appears to be Costner's daughter) to court – make that: pander to – er, make that: bribe – that one vote. Blu-ray Release date: January 13th, 2009

The Notebook BR - Ryan Gosling has already been identified as one of the best actors of his generation, although usually in more hard-edged material. Rachel McAdams, who just a few months ago was the bitchy high school queen in "Mean Girls," here shows such beauty and clarity that we realize once again how actors are blessed by good material. As for Gena Rowlands and James Garner: They are completely at ease in their roles, never striving for effect, never wanting us to be sure we get the message. Garner is an actor so confident and sure that he makes the difficult look easy, and loses credit for his skill. Consider how simply and sincerely he tells their children: "Look, guys, that's my sweetheart in there." Rowlands, best-known for high-strung, even manic characters, especially in films by her late husband, here finds a quiet vulnerability that is luminous. Blu-ray (Limited Edition Gift Set) Release Date: January 20th, 2009

Red Cliff BR - In 208 A.D., in the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minister Cao Cao (Zhang Feng Yi) convinced the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale, led by the Prime Minister, himself. Left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance. Numerous battles of strength and wit ensued, both on land and on water, eventually culminating in the battle of Red Cliff. During the battle, two thousand ships were burned, and the course of Chinese history was changed forever... Blu-ray Release date: September 10th, 2008

El Norte - From the very first moments of "El Norte," we know that we are in the hands of a great movie. It tells a simple story in such a romantic and poetic way that we are touched, deeply and honestly, and we know we will remember the film for a long time. The movie tells the story of two young Guatemalans, a brother and sister named Rosa and Enrique, and of their long trek up through Mexico to el Norte -- the United States. Their journey begins in a small village and ends in Los Angeles, and their dream is the American Dream. DVD Release date: January 20th, 2009

Magnificent Obsession - Reckless playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson, in his breakthrough role) crashes his speedboat, requiring emergency attention from the town’s only resuscitator—at the very moment that beloved local Dr. Phillips has a heart attack and dies waiting for the life-saving device. Thus begins one of Douglas Sirk’s most flamboyant master classes in melodrama, a delirious Technicolor mix of the sudsy and the spiritual in which Bob and the doctor’s widow, Helen (Jane Wyman), find themselves inextricably linked amid a series of increasingly wild twists, turns, trials, and tribulations. For this release, Criterion also presents John M. Stahl’s 1935 film version of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor. DVD Release Date: January 20th, 2009

Appaloosa BR - Ed Harris rides tall in the saddle as director, co-writer, co-producer and star of this terrific Western, a potently acted powerhouse that sticks in the mind and the heart. The source material is a 2005 book by Robert B. Parker, best known for his Spenser crime novels. Harris is best known for being a reliably superb actor (four Oscar nominations) and for scoring an acclaimed 2000 debut as a director with Pollock, in which he played the abstract painter Jackson Pollock. There is nothing abstract about Harris' approach to Appaloosa. Every frame of the movie indicates his bone-deep respect for classic film Westerns, notably 1946's My Darling Clementine, in which director John Ford took a low-key, almost lyrical approach to the gunfight at the OK Corral. Blu-ray Release Date: January 13th, 2009

King Kong BR - There are some nice touches added. Perhaps the characterizations are a little ham-fisted at times but people are generally going to see this film to watch a very big ape - not how adept Jack Black is at playing a huckster. The special effects are as good as I could want (I'm quite sure I'll have nightmares). The tussle with the dinosaurs is probably the high point and the action is caked on in extensive layers. I'd have loved to brandish this film for its lack of originality but it extends far beyond simply adept - it's a roller coaster ride that quickly consumes the three hours in an ever building pace. Peter Jackson's 'King Kong' is no work of art and time will be its greatest judge but the film is an amazing experience nonetheless. I can't imagine anyone watching this to be expecting anything more than it offers. Blu-ray Release Date: January 20th, 2009

Election BR - A high school election goes awry when Jim McAllister, a popular teacher and student government advisor, determines to sabotage the campaign of Tracy Flick, the over-achieving student who ruined the life of his best friend, a fellow teacher, by getting him fired after they had an affair. McAllister encourages Paul Metzler, a sweet but dumb jock sidelined by a broken leg, to run for class president against Tracy. After Jim unwittingly steals his kid sister Tammy's girlfriend away from her, she also enters enters the race on the "I don't care" platform. Blu-ray Release date: January 20th, 2009

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (US VERSION) BR - Following upon his first Ghost in the Shell animé feature film, as if two entire TV series did not exist between them, Mamoru Oshii picks up after Major Kusanagi retires herself (sort of like Dr. Who, I always thought). Batou, her bionic partner in the special police unit known as Section 9 that investigates cybercrime, together with Togusa, one of the younger, mostly human, cops (with a family, no less), is now looking into the murders of owners of robot-dolls by the dolls themselves who, in turn, self-destruct. US Blu-ray Release Date: January 13th, 2009

Zodiac BR - Based on the actual case files of one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in the nations history Zodiac is a thriller from David Fincher director of Se7en and Panic Room. As a serial killer terrifies the San Francisco Bay Area and taunts police with his ciphers and letters investigators in four jurisdictions search for the murderer. The case will become an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues. North American 2-disc Blu-ray: January 27th, 2009

El Norte BR - Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. It’s a story that happens every day, but until Gregory Nava’s groundbreaking El Norte (The North), the personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism. A work of social realism imbued with dreamlike imagery, El Norte is a lovingly rendered, heartbreaking story of hope and survival, which critic Roger Ebert called “a Grapes of Wrath for our time.” Blu-ray Release date: January 20th, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffanys - Audrey Hepburn created one of her signature roles in Holly Golightly, the hard-living escort girl who wants nothing more than to find love. That comes in the shape of her new neighbor, would-be writer Paul Varjak (Peppard, a long way from 'The A-Team'). Romance, however, is a complicated endeavor, given that Varjak is himself being kept by his wealthy patroness (Patricia Neal). 2-disc Centennial Collection Release Date: January 13th, 2009

Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:

Week of January 12th, 2009

Alexandra (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Appaloosa (Ed Harris, 2008) Warner Home Video
Appaloosa [
Blu-ray] (Ed Harris, 2008) Warner Home Video

Breakfast At Tiffany's - Paramount Centennial Collection (Blake Edwards, 1961) Paramount

Funny Face - Paramount Centennial Collection (Stanley Donen, 1957) Paramount

Eclipse Series 14: Rossellini’s History Films Renaissance and Enlightenment (The Age of the Medici, 1973 - Blaise Pascal, 1972 - Cartesius, 1974)- Criterion

Ghost in the Shell, Vol. 2: Innocence [Blu-ray] (Mamoru Oshii, 2004) Bandai

The Honey Pot (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1967) - R2 UK Optimum

Humboldt County (Darren Grodsky, 2008) Magnolia

The Quare Fellow (Arthur Dreifuss, 1962) VM Inc.

The Romance Of Astrea And Celadon (Eric Rohmer, 2007) R2 Artificial Eye

Somers Town (Shane Meadows, 2008) - R2 UK Optimum
Somers Town [
Blu-ray] (Shane Meadows, 2008) - R2 UK Optimum

Sunday Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger, 1971) - R2 UK Optimum

Supercop (Stanley Tong, 1992) Dragon Dynasty

The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (Roberto Rossellini, 1966) - Criterion

Taxi Blues (Pavel Lungin, 1990) Koch Lorber


Week of January 19th, 2009

AmericanEast (Hesham Issawi, 2007) MGM

Antwone Fisher [Blu-ray] (Denzel Washington, 2002) 20th Century Fox

The Children of Huang Shi (Roger Spottiswoode, 2008) Sony

City of Ember (Gil Kenan, 2008) 20th Century Fox

Domino [Blu-ray] (Tony Scott, 2005) New Line

El Norte (Gregory Nava, 1983) - Criterion
El Norte [
Blu-ray] (Gregory Nava, 1983) - Criterion

Election [Blu-ray] (Alexander Payne, 1999) Paramount

Elite Squad (José Padilha, 2007) - R2 UK Optimum
Elite Squad [
Blu-ray] (José Padilha, 2007) - R2 UK Optimum

The Express (Gary Fleder, 2008) Universal Studios
The Express [
Blu-ray] (Gary Fleder, 2008) Universal Studios

Henry Poole Is Here [Blu-ray] (Mark Pellington, 2008) Starz / Anchor Bay

Igor (Anthony Leondis, 2008) MGM
Igor [
Blu-ray] (Anthony Leondis, 2008) MGM

King Kong [Blu-ray] (Peter Jackson, 2005) Universal

Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954) - Criterion

Max Payne [Blu-ray] (John Moore, 2008) Fox Home Entertainment

The Notebook [Blu-ray] (Nick Cassavetes, 2004) NewLine Home Video

Unfaithful [Blu-ray] (Adrian Lyne, 2002) 20th Century Fox

"All people want is someone to listen... it offers you immense power to relinquish their desires."
Have a fruitful week!