DVDBeaver Newsletter - February 5th, 2007
Hi folks! - This is one jammed-packed newsletter. 12 new reviews this weeks - half of which are comparisons. Films by Zhang Yimou, Kazan, Minnelli, Milestone, Wyler, Kurtiz... An HD DVD comparison, 2 Criterions plus our recommendations and MANY new additions to the Release Calendar.
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BIGGER SALE: Max Ophuls' DVDs of Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), The Reckless Moment (1949), Le Plaisir (1952) and Madame De... are now 70% OFF! HERE
TOMORROW - Lions Gate will be releasing The Alfred Hitchcock Box Set with The Ring (1927), The Manxman (1929), Murder! (1930),The Skin Game (1931) and Rich and Strange (1931). Our information informs us that these should be the same wonderful transfers as the French editions released in 2005, but without the forced French subtitles. See our reviews here: The Ring, The Manxman, Murder!, The Skin Game. Order the Lions Gate HERE
Easiest way to catch up is simply read the new Newsletter Archive HERE.
STRATEGIES: The best way to take full advantage of Amazon is to use PRE-ORDERs - lock in at the discount price by ORDERING - if perchance you decide against the purchase you have until the release date to cancel - at no charge.
AND if you will purchase more than 35 DVDs (or anything) in a 365 day period (and live in the Continental US) it makes excellent financial sense to subscribe to Amazon Prime! You will get Free 2-day shipping on your purchases!
Feature DVD of the Month (February) - Casablanca HD - Image difference could be as little as a 10-15% improvement over the Special Edition but it amounts to a huge disparity if you consider how strong the SE looks - and how little room for improvement there appeared to be. The High Definition visually appears smoother, sharper and what I can only describe as having 'more depth'. Certainly much more film-like. Contrast is at perfection levels I have never seen. The previous restoration gave us an almost flawlessly clean image, but this HD transfer has bumped it up a mesmerizing notch. REVIEWED HERE PURCHASE HERE
LATEST Additions to the Release Calendar (PRE-ORDER!):
Curse of the Golden Flower (Yimou Zhang, 2006) R3 - Edko Films Ltd.
Curse of the Golden Flower (Yimou Zhang, 2006) Sony Pictures
*To Catch a Thief - Special Collector's Edition (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955) Paramount Home Video
*Yang Ban Xi (Yan Ting Yuen, 2005) Home Vision
Secret Agent (aka Danger Man - 1965) - The Complete Collection Megaset - A&E Home Video
*Les Miserables (1935 & 1952 Two-Disc Set) (Lewis Milestone, 1952) - 20th Century Fox
My Father, the Genius (Lucia Small, 2002) New Yorker
*Classic Western Round-Up, Vol. 1 (The Texas Rangers / Canyon Passage (Tourneur) / Kansas Raiders / The Lawless Breed) - Universal Studios
*Classic Western Round-Up, Vol. 2 (The Texans / California / The Cimarron Kid - Budd Boetticher / The Man from the Alamo - Budd Boetticher)- Universal Studios
Pirates of the Golden Age Movie Collection (Against All Flags / Buccaneer's Girl / Yankee Buccaneer / Double Crossbones) - Universal Studios
Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (Quay Brothers) - Zeitgeist Films
*Jean Renoir Collection - (Nana, La Marseillaise, The Testament of Dr. Cordelier, The Elusive Corporal, The Woman on the Beach, The Little Match Girl, Charleston Parade) - Lions Gate
*Brute Force (Criterion Collection) (Jules Dassin, 1947) Criterion, La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995) Criterion, Overlord (Criterion Collection) (Stuart Cooper, 1975) Criterion)
*Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella, 2006) R2 UK - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
The Natural - Director's Cut (Barry Levinson, 1984) Sony Pictures
*The Alfred Hitchcock Box Set (The Ring / The Manxman / Murder! / The Skin Game / Rich and Strange) (1930) - Lions Gate
*James Cagney - The Signature Collection (The Bride Came C.O.D. / Captains of the Clouds / The Fighting 69th / Torrid Zone / The West Point Story) Warner Home Video
*Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) R2 UK - Optimum Home Entertainment
My Dream Is Yours (Michael Curtiz, Friz Freleng, 1949) Warner Home Video
Muriel: Film By Alain Resnais (Sub Col Dol) (1963) - Koch Lorber Films
La Belle Captive: Film By Alain Robbe-Grillet (1983) - Koch Lorber Films
The Silent Partner (Daryl Duke, 1978) Lions Gate
Madame Bovary (Vincente Minnelli, 1949) (Std Sub) Warner Home Video
Petit Lieutenant (Xavier Beauvois) Koch Lorber Films
El Aura (Fabián Bielinsky, 2005) IFC
The Perfect Crime (Álex de la Iglesia, 2004) Tartan Video
Gentleman Jim (Raoul Walsh, 1942) Warner Home Video
The Charge of the Light Brigade (Michael Curtiz, 1936) Warner Home Video
RECOMMENDATIONS: Two items this week blew my socks off - Casablanca HD is a monumental step forward in digital transfer. To quote Robert Crawford of HTF - ""Casablanca" remains one of the most impressive video presentations of the 130 discs I own among these new formats. (BluRay and HD)". Robert knows his stuff and l can't say enough about it.
Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist - is a fascinating journey into one of the true icons of 20th century. Strongly recommended!
The new All Quiet on the Western Front looks light years ahead of the original version. A truly remarkable film whose digital rendering and restoration is worthy of the film experience.
Criterion's Green For Danger looks drastically ahead of the old PAL release. Worth picking up for sure.
A great film that has a less than stellar transfer is The Clock.
No matter which route you go William Wyler's The Heiress is a distinct film deserving your attention.
The Arrangement - Kazan's overwrought
account of one mans midlife crisis stars Kirk Douglas as the advertising
executive who drives his car under a truck, frustrated at the shallowness of the
life he is living. He survives and sees the opportunity to readdress his
situation, to confront his loveless marriage, to do something with the money he
earns from conning people and to reclaim the moments he has missed while
building his conventionally successful life. DVD Release Date: January 30th,
Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist - All-American athlete, scholar, renowned baritone, stage actor, and social activist, Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was a towering figure and a trailblazer many times over. He was perhaps most groundbreaking, however, in the medium of film. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson managed to become a top-billed movie star during the time of Jim Crow America, headlining everything from fellow pioneer Oscar Micheaux's silent drama Body and Soul to British studio showcases to socially engaged documentaries, always striving to project positive images of black characters. Increasingly politically minded, Robeson eventually left movies behind, using his international celebrity to speak for those denied their civil liberties around the world and ultimately becoming a victim of ideological persecution himself. But his film legacy lives on and continues to speak eloquently of the long and difficult journey of a courageous and outspoken African American. DVD Release Date: February 13th, 2007
A Summer Place - Think A Summer Place, and you'll probably be humming Max Steiner's wonderfully romantic instrumental theme song, a hand-holding hit in 1959. The movie itself is similarly irresistible, a colorful soap opera about the passions of a pair of dewy-eyed teens and their straying parents. At an island resort in Maine, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue (the reigning teen idols of the day) fall hard for each other. What they don't know is that her father (Richard Egan) and his mother (Dorothy McGuire), lovers 20 years earlier, have rekindled their affair. Both, inconveniently, have spouses, which is what makes this a soap opera. Lovers of camp will find much to savor in the incredible '50s attitudes, and in the innocence of supervirgin Dee ("Johnny, have you been bad with girls?"). DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
All Quiet on the Western Front - The film is emotionally draining, and so realistic that it will be forever etched in the mind of any viewer. Milestone's direction is frequently inspired, most notably during the battle scenes. In one such scene, the camera serves as a kind of machine gun, shooting down the oncoming troops as it glides along the trenches. Universal spared no expense during production, converting more than 20 acres of a large California ranch into battlefields occupied by more than 2,000 ex-servicemen extras. After its initial release, some foreign countries refused to run the film. Poland banned it for being pro-German, while the Nazis labeled it anti-German. DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
Goldfinger - This film scintillates with wit, and crackles with energy and pace. Sean Connery excels in the role of Bond as the deadly charmer, whose smoothness covers something rather sinister. Gert Frobe is wonderful as the looney mittel-European Goldfinger; completely assured that what he is doing is going to work. This film has in it a refreshing air of escapism and fun, and a sense of charm and chic sadly lacking from modem action movies. DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles - When Yimou returns to the little touching emotionalism of his earlier years, he can still make remarkable films. Yimou's masterful direction made sure that this warm hearted story does not become a full blown melodrama at the end. Japanese icon Ken Takakura is actually wonderfully used here . Rarely have I seen him able to use facial expressions and silent body gestures to create a repressed, deeply tortured soul so effectively. The non-professional actors all turn in uniformly good performance. This is the best movie Yimou has made since his last truly remarkable film, "To Live" (1994). DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
Arabian Nights - I remember seeing this film when it appeared in 1942, during WWII, a time of tension and uncertainty. It was great escape. The villains were villainous, the heroes heroic. The drama was dramatic and the storyline warm and fuzzy. Seeing it on video has allowed me to revisit that past time when as a child the world was uncertain and it was possible to escape into a costume-splendoured fantasy where the hero gets the girl, saves the kingdom and justice is served. DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
The Clock - Vincente Minnelli's first nonmusical (1945) is a charming and stylish if somewhat sentimental love story about a soldier (Robert Walker) on a two-day leave in New York who meets and marries an office worker (Judy Garland). Filmed on a studio soundstage with enough expertise to make it seem like a location shoot, the film is appealing largely for its performances and the innocence it projects. (Similar qualities can be found, at a half-century remove, in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise.) In addition to Walker and Garland, Keenan Wynn and Moyna Macgill are well used. DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
Miracle in the Rain - Jane Wyman is appealing in the role of the grateful, love-smitten secretary, who finds happiness in a sudden romance that gives her surcease in an otherwise drab existence. Van Johnson, as the Tennessee reporter-G. I., is a gentle and understanding though sometimes breezy lover. Eileen Heckart adds a few touching bits as Miss Wyman's spinster office pal. Josephine Hutchinson does well as Miss Wyman's mother, who is constantly bereaved over her separation from William Gargan, who has little to do as the father. DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
Green For Danger - In the midst of Nazi air raids, a postman dies on the operating table at a rural English hospital. But was the death accidental? A delightful and wholly unexpected murder mystery, British writer/director Sidney Gilliat's Green for Danger features Trevor Howard and Sally Gray as suspected doctors and Alastair Sim in a marvelous turn as Scotland Yard's insouciant Inspector Cockrill. A screenwriter who had worked with Hitchcock on such films as The Lady Vanishes and Jamaica Inn, Gilliat slyly upends whodunit conventions with wit and style. DVD Release Date: February 13th, 2007
The Heiress - A soberly dramatic and polished version of Henry James's novel Washington Square, this shows some of its theatrical origins in situation and dialogue, having arrived via the Broadway adaptation by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. However, there are pleasures in the designs, score by Copland (winning an Academy Award) and performances. Oscar-winning de Havilland's portrayal of a plain-jane spinster who comes to the painful realization that her suitor's intentions are more mercenary than romantic is spine-chilling. As the dashing fortune-hunter, Clift brings a subtle ambiguity to one of his least interesting roles, and Richardson is also excellent. DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2007
Casablanca - Not seeing Casablanca for a while can tend to make one forget what a monumental film it is.... how perfectly the plot, characters, Steiner's score and Edson's cinematography mesh to create, what is still regarded by many, as the greatest film of all time. The dialogue has become virtually institutionalized. It is ranked number 2 in The American Film Institute’s Top 100 American Films, and presently stands sixth with voters in the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250. It is on hundreds of Top 10 lists. I'll try not to simply gush... I feel the films lauded success stems from the incomparable screen charisma embodied by the leads Bogart and Bergman. The supporting cast is one of the strongest in cinema history. Bogie was at his zenith in his greatest role and no female could equally exude Ingrid Bergman radiance in Casablanca. I'll admit that I occasionally would get blasé about this film's consistent accolades, but frankly one need only watch it to realize it is fully deserved. DVD Release Date: November 14th, 2006
Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:
Week of February 5th, 2007
A Summer Place (Delmer Daves, 1959) Warner Home Video
Arabian Nights (John Rawlins, 1942) Universal Studios
Blume in Love (Paul Mazursky, 1973) Warner Home Video
The Clock (Vincente Minnelli, 1945) Warner Home Video
Crossing Delancey (Joan Micklin Silver, 1988) Warner Home Video
The Heiress (Universal Cinema Classics) (William Wyler, 1949) Universal Studios
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Alexander Hall, 1941) Sony Pictures
The Alfred Hitchcock Box Set (The Ring / The Manxman / Murder! / The Skin Game / Rich and Strange) (1930) - Lions Gate
Miracle in the Rain (Rudolph Maté, 1956) Warner Home Video
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Yimou Zhang, 2005) Sony Pictures
Week of February 12th, 2007
49th Parallel (Michael Powell , Emeric Pressburger - 1941) Criterion Collection
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) Criterion Collection
The Big Steal (Don Siegel, 1949) R2 UK - Universal Pictures Video
The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall, 1946) R2 UK
Butcher Boy (Neil Jordan, 1998) Warner Home Video
Curse of the Golden Flower (Yimou Zhang, 2006) R3 - Edko Films Ltd.
The Departed (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition) (Martin Scorsese, 2006) Warner Home Video
Gandhi (25th Anniversary Collector's Edition) (Richard Attenborough, 1982) Sony Pictures
Ginger and Fred (Federico Fellini, 1986) Warner Home Video
The Glass Key (Stuart Heisler, 1942) R2 UK Universal Pictures Video
Green for Danger (Sidney Gilliat, 1946) Criterion Collection
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006) Sony Pictures
Infamous (Douglas McGrath, 2006) Warner Home Video
The Killers (Robert Siodmak , 1946) R2 UK -Universal Pictures Video
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962) Warner Home Video
Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006) Sony Pictures
Mr. Moto Collection - Vol. 2 (Mr. Moto's Gamble / Mr. Moto in Danger Island / Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation / Mr. Moto's Last Warning / The Return of Mr. Moto) - 20th Century Fox
Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947) R2 UK - Universal Pictures Video
This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942) R2 UK - Universal Pictures Video
Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist (The Emperor Jones / Body and Soul / Borderline / Sanders of the River / Jericho / The Proud Valley / Native Land / Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist) - Criterion Collection
Performance (Nicolas Roeg, 1970) Warner Home Video
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006) R2 UK - 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960) Criterion Collection
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SEE OUR ESSENTIAL CRITERION STORE - Best of the Best!
SEE OUR ESSENTIAL FILM-NOIR STORE!
P.S. DVD of the Year - 2006 still remains a popular place to peruse.