DVDBeaver Newsletter - September 8th, 2008

Pauari-ecuápe! - 16 new reviews this week - Criterion Ophuls, plenty of Blu-ray (not Ophuls on Blu-ray unfortunately), Masters of Cinema, Jia Zhangke and other Asian films duly represented. TOS too! Wonderful days ahead my friends.

I've been asked in email quite a bit: "Why are you reviewing all these <expletive deleted> films on Blu-ray?"

Answer: "Firstly, Beaver's taste is not really changing. I'm a huge fan of comparative analysis. I want to have a lot of exposure to this new format - understand it, review it (making some mistakes) and learn - so that when the more desirable cinema comes to 1080P I can give the most informed opinion possible - along with those gigantic screen grabs." I'm really looking forward to stuff like Body Heat, certain Bonds (From Russia with Love, Dr. No, and Thunderball), Antonioni's Red Desert, Chungking Express, The Last Emperor, The Third Man, Casablanca, Taxi Driver  and, hopefully, many many more... 


SEPTEMBER 8th CONTEST - identify this CLIP to win a BRAND NEW - SEALED Masters of Cinema - Buster Keaton: The Complete Short Films (1917-1923)  Best of luck all!


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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!):


L'Argent (Marcel L'Herbier, 1928) R2 UK Masters of Cinema

Forgotten Noir & Crime Vol 4: Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard; Radar Secret Service; Motor Patrol, Mr. District Attorney (1941); Western Pacific Agent; Highway 13, Treasure of Monte Cristo: Roaring City: Sky Liner – VCI

The Luck Of Ginger Coffey (Irvin Kershner, 1964) R2 UK Metrodome

Blood And Bones (Yoichi Sai, 2004) Kino

Lady Chatterley (Extended European Edition) (Pascale Ferran, 2006) Kino

Samurai 7 [Blu-ray] (Toshifumi Takizawa, 2004) Funimation

Roberto Rossellini (Directors Series) - Era Notte a Roma (Escape by Night) and Dov’e la liberta (Where is Freedom?) Lions Gate

Taxi Driver [Blu-ray] (Martin Scorsese, 1976) Sony Pictures

Dr. Strangelove [Blu-ray] (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) Sony Pictures

Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (15-disc) - Universal Studios

Roman Holiday 2-disc SE (William Wyler, 1953) Paramount

Derek Jarman Collection (Sebastiane / The Tempest / War Requiem / Derek) Kino

Just Sex and Nothing Else (Krisztina Goda, 2006) Bunyik

Mahabharata (B.R. Chopra, Ravi Chopra, 1988) Image Entertainment

Ahlaam (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2005) Pathfinder

Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008) Sony Pictures

Standard Operating Procedure [Blu-ray] (Errol Morris, 2008) Sony Pictures

Sabrina 2-disc SE (Billy Wilder, 1954) Paramount



ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey): Of the three Max Ophul Criterions - The Earrings of Madame De... seems the best/most improved but of course the supplements of the other two, La Ronde and Le Plaisir, make them hard to totally dismiss. This same philosophy can be used for BFI's Still Life - an important film that deserves a vast audience - great DVD extras - but an imperfect transfer. Leonard is over-the-moon about these three Asian Blu-ray films/transfers - Exiled BR, The Warlords BR, and Assembly BR. Sold! UK correspondent Henry Kedger is likewise enthusiastic about the Masters of Cinema Pialat film Police. My own UK orders appear to be on the slowest boat imaginable. Depending on your opinion of the alternations (we have noted some) the Star Trek (Original Series) Season Two looks much better than ever (and I mean 'ever'). I've always been a fan of Newman's Cool Hand Luke BR and it looks the absolute best I have ever seen it - 'No one can eat 50 eggs'. Not #1 on my list but Jerry Maguire has some redeeming qualities - well, a few - really. Darabont's schlock homage, The Mist BR, has a great black and white version available. Night Watch BR sure is a unique horror (is it a horror? art-house mock? sci-fi mish-mash? - it has vampires) - regardless, the Blu-ray looks quite impressive. Finally, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy BR seems a great deal - especially as I don't own any of them and kinda like Mr. Depp. 


New Reviews:

Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy BR - For those who haven't picked up these movies on Blu-ray as they came out over the past year or so, this new packaging is just the ticket. The Trilogy is priced at slightly more than two movies purchased separately. So the remaining question is: Is this set in any way an upgrade in terms of image, audio or extra features? Blu-ray Release Date: September 16th, 2008


The Earrings of Madame De... - French master Max Ophuls's most cherished work, The Earrings of Madame de . . . is an emotionally profound, cinematographically adventurous tale of false opulence and tragic romance. When the aristocratic woman known only as Madame de (the extraordinary Danielle Darrieux) sells her earrings, unbeknownst to her husband (Charles Boyer), in order to pay personal debts, she sets off a chain reaction, the financial and carnal consequences of which can only end in despair. Ophuls adapts Louise de Vilmorin's incisive fin de siècle novel with virtuosic camera work so elegant and precise it’s been called the equal to that of Orson Welles. The Criterion DVD Release Date: September 16th, 2008

Exiled BR - Taking his cue from John Woo, Johnnie To designs a familiar scene with two men, arms outstretched, guns aimed – one at Wo, one at his would-be assassin. And here is where the older director's successor comes into his own: While the two men hold their aim, Wo quietly loads his 6-round revolver, and as he does so, each of the other men empty their clips so that all three men will have the same number of rounds to start. It's a stunning ritual. The shootout begins in the proverbial hail of bullets as we see through an open door the mother holding her baby in a side room as curtains wisp in the breeze. Miraculously, no one is killed. Blu-ray Release date: July 9, 2008

The Warlords BR - Like Peter Chan's Perhaps Love before it, The Warlords is filled with passion and wisdom, but the narrative does not always support them – at least I felt not. This said, the power of the story and the performances by all the principals, especially Jet Li in a non martial arts role that will have you scratching your skin, are totally worth of the price of admission. Blu-ray Release date: July 18, 2008

Assembly BR - The battle scenes are directed and photographed from the perspective of a photojournalist, with stills reminiscent of WWII photographs. But when things start to happen, one hardly knows where to turn next or from where to expect the next piece of ordinance that could and would decimate you or the person next to you. I found the persistent jerky hand-held photography, combined with dropped frames, to be a bit much – more a fashionable device than an artistic necessity, though it certainly gets across the presence of a fearful and commanding chaos. Blu-ray Release date: June 16, 2008

La Ronde - Simone Signoret, Anton Walbrook, and Simone Simon lead a roundelay of French stars in Max Ophuls's delightful, acerbic adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's controversial turn-of-the-century play Reigen. Soldiers, chambermaids, poets, prostitutes, aristocrats—all are on equal footing in this multicharacter merry-go-round of love and infidelity, directed with a sweeping gaiety as knowingly frivolous as it is enchanting, and shot with Ophuls's trademark mellifluous cinematography. DVD Release Date: September 16th, 2008

Night Watch BR - And yet, despite the fact that the entire thing plays like “Highlander” without the lucid plot, I strangely found myself responding to every bit of insanity that “Nightwatch” has to offer. In a time when even the most elaborate fantasy epics are cursed with a certain timidity–they tend to devote their time and energy to slavishly imitating either the books they are based on or the other movies they are ripping off–here is a film that contains both a heedless imagination and a cheerful willingness to hurtle itself over the cliffs of common sense in order to surprise and entertain. Blu-ray Release date: September 9th, 2008

The Mist BR - The Mist is what a horror film should be - dark, tense, and punctuated by just enough gore to keep the viewer's flinch reflex intact. In fact, that movie's ending is so uncompromising that one must assume director Frank Darabont had final cut so the studio couldn't interfere. (It's worth noting that the ending is not the same as that of Stephen King's novella, but I won't mention how it has changed.) Darabont has fashioned a tense motion pictures that's ultimately more about paranoia, religious fanaticism, and the price of hopelessness than it is about monsters. But the creatures are present and accounted for, lurking in the white-out that is the mist. Someone has finally succeeded where John Carpenter failed with The Fog. Blu-ray Release Date: September 16th, 2008

Police - Maurice Pialat's Police delivers on the raw promise of its title, insofar as much of its action qualifies as an insistently 'procedural' descent into the Paris drugs underworld. But the hyper-real route that the film takes to arrive there, before veering into a zone of dangerous emotional play, contributes to a disorienting, adventurous, and ultimately tremendously exciting experience unlike any 'police-thriller' ever before conceived. The iconic Gérard Depardieu (who also collaborated with Pialat on Loulou, Sous le soleil de Satan, and Le Garçu) plays Mangin, a cop whose brutal method of investigation finds its obsessive outlet in an attempt to crack a Tunisian narcotics ring. DVD Release Date: September 22nd, 2008

Jerry Maguire BR - Cameron Crowe spent four years writing and researching this film, surprising even himself that he was writing a story about a sports agent. In the film's production notes online HERE, Crowe explains, "I wasn't a jock growing up, but I thought the world of sports agents was something that hadn't been written about at the time, and where can you get more of a highly concentrated pursuit of pure money? I wondered, what if love and honor attempted to flourish in that world? And so I embarked on a wild little journey of research, going around and talking to a lot of sports agents and athletes. Basically, I just clanged around the NFL for a few years and picked up conversations, went to people's homes and saw what their world was like. It was fun, and a lot of it shows up in the movie." Blu-ray Release date: September 9th, 2008

Le Plaisir - Roving with his dazzlingly mobile camera around the decadent ballrooms, bucolic countryside retreats, urban bordellos, and painter's studios of late nineteenth-century French life, Max Ophuls brings his astonishing visual dexterity and storytelling bravura to this triptych of tales by Guy de Maupassant about the limits of spiritual and physical pleasure. Featuring a stunning cast of French stars (including Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, and Simone Simon), Le plaisir pinpoints the cruel ironies and happy compromises of life with a charming and sophisticated breeziness. The Criterion DVD Release Date: September 16th, 2008

Still Life - Mainland Chinese director Jia Zhangke's Still Life (aka Sanxia Haoren), a last minute entry into the 2006 Venice Film Festival, eventually won the Golden Lion award thanks to its top-notch cinematography and wonderful storytelling. Still Life interweaves the story of a miner (Han Sanming) who travels thousands of miles to a town near the Yangtze River to look for his ex-wife and a nurse fetching her husband who has been working at the river without sending a single word home. While the film does not let these two characters cross paths, together they reflect changes in people's lives brought by the Three Gorges Dam, which flooded villages near the Yangtze River and led to the emergence of some new settlements. Already acclaimed for his earlier works, most of which also star Han Sanming and Zhao Tao, Jia is probaby the best known Sixth Generation director. With Still Life, he continues his probing grassroots studies of Chinese life. Jia's previous acclaimed titles Platform (2000) and The World (2004) also competed at the Venice Film Festival. BFI DVD Release Date: August 18th, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom BR - The Forbidden Kingdom opens not in some distant land but in the bedroom of Jason (Michael Angarano), a friendless high school boy who loves kung fu movies. His favorite place to go is a pawn shop in Chinatown, where he looks for used genre DVDs that he doesn't already own. One day, a local gang bullies him into forcing the owner of the pawn shop to open late for Jason. In the ensuing struggle, the owner is shot and Jason finds himself in possession of a talisman that transports him to a mystical version of ancient China where characters of myth and legend walk the Earth. It may not be Oz, but Jason sure isn't in Kansas, either. Blu-ray Release date: September 9th, 2008

Magic Kitchen BR - MegaStar's first foray into Blu-ray was with the exceedingly popular, now classic Infernal Affairs, the movie that inspired Scorsese's The Departed. This was a year ago, since then MegaStar followed up with Infernal Affairs II & III and Initial D. Popular favorites, all. This summer, in addition to three critically praised films: Peter Chan's The Warlords, Feng Xiao Gang's Assembly, and Johnnie To's Exiled, MegaStar feels it can begin to explore more mundane waters – or in this case, sauces. Presenting: Magic Kitchen, a romantic comedy starring pop icons Andy Lau (who turns up in more movies than there's time to watch), Sammi Cheng and Jerry Yan. The result is something like Sex in the City (there are three mix & match couples here) meets any movie with an ancient family curse (remember Holes?) meets Iron Chef. All are short changed, I thought. Blu-ray Release date: June 16, 2008

Cool Hand Luke BR - During his reign as a top box office star in the sixties, Paul Newman made his mark in films featuring rebellious, anti-establishment characters. Cool Hand Luke (1967) is a perfect example and one of his most audience-pleasing movies. Unlike the characters he played in The Hustler or Hud, Luke is actually based on a real-life character, Donald Graham Garrison, who was a convicted safecracker. In the course of his career, Garrison stole between $4 and $5 million dollars. Garrison's exploits inspired a novel by Donn Pearce, another ex-convict, who combined details from his own incarceration with Garrison's story to create a compelling anti-hero. Blu-ray Release Date: September 9th, 2008

Star Trek (Original Series) Season Two - When Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966, it was not an immediate hit; ratings were low and advertising revenue was lackluster. Even prior to the end of the first season of Star Trek, there were already calls in the network for the cancellation of the series due to its low Nielsen ratings. Bay area Creature Feature host John Stanley in his memoir I Was a TV Horror Host relates how Desilu head Lucille Ball at that time "single-handedly kept Star Trek from being dumped from the NBC-TV lineup." During the show's second season, the threat of cancellation loomed. The show's devoted fanbase conducted an unprecedented letter-writing campaign, petitioning NBC to keep the show on the air. DVD Release Date: August 5th, 2008.

Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:

Week of September 8th, 2008

California Dreamin' (Cristian Nemescu, 2007) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Caught (Max Ophüls, 1949) R2 UK Second Sight

Cool Hand Luke [Blu-ray] (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967) - Warner Home Video

Day Watch [Blu-ray] (Timur Bekmambetov, 2006) - 20th Century Fox

The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2006) Sony

The Fall [Blu-ray] (Tarsem Singh, 2006) Sony

The Forbidden Kingdom (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Rob Minkoff, 2008) Lions Gate
The Forbidden Kingdom [
Blu-ray] (Rob Minkoff, 2008) Lions Gate

Fox Horror Classics Collection 2 (Dragonwyck, Chandu the Magician, Dr.Renault's Secret) - 20th Century Fox

How the West Was Won : Special Edition (John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall, 1962) Warner Home Video

How the West Was Won: Special Edition [Blu-ray] (John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall, 1962) Warner Home Video

Jerry Maguire [Blu-ray] (Cameron Crowe, 1996) - Sony Pictures

Kill Bill - Volume 1 [Blu-ray] (Quentin Tarantino, 2003) Disney
Kill Bill - Volume 2 [
Blu-ray] (Quentin Tarantino, 2004) Disney

Kill Bill - Volumes 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (Quentin Tarantino, 2003-2004) Disney

Night Watch [Blu-ray] (Timur Bekmambetov, 2004) - 20th Century Fox

Omen Collection (4pc) [Blu-ray] - 20th Century Fox

La Ronde (Max Ophüls, 1950) R2 UK Second Sight

Rudy [Blu-ray] (David Anspaugh, 1993) Sony

TAE GUK GI-Brotherhood of War [Blu-ray] (Je-gyu Kang, 2004) BMG/Arista


Week of September 15th. 2008

88 Minutes (Jon Avnet, 2007) Sony

88 Minutes [Blu-ray] (Jon Avnet, 2007) Sony

1408 [Blu-ray] (Mikael Håfström, 2007) Weinstein

J'accuse! (Abel Gance, 1919) Flicker Alley

An American in Paris (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Vincente Minnelli, 1951) Warner Home Video

British Cinema: Classic B Film Collection Volume 1 (Tread Softly Stranger / The Siege of Sidney Street / The Frightened Man / Crimes at the Dark House / The Hooded Terror / Girl in the News) - VCI Entertainment

Busby Berkeley Collection 2 - Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936), Gold Diggers in Paris (1938) , Hollywood Hotel (1937) and Varsity S

 (1937) - Warner

Charlie Chan Collection 5 (Charlie Chan At The Wax Museum, Murder Over New York, Dead Men Tell, Charlie Chan In Rio, Charlie Chan In Panama, Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise, Castle In The Desert, Charlie Chan: The Fox Years) - 20th Century Fox

The Earrings of Madame de . . . (Max Ophuls, 1953) Criterion Collection

Gigi (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Vincente Minnelli, 1958) Warner Home Video

Hulk [Blu-ray] (Ang Lee, 2003) Universal

The Man On The Eiffel Tower (Burgess Meredith, 1949) Kino

The Mist [Blu-ray] (Frank Darabont, 2007) Weinstein

Le Plaisir (Max Ophuls, 1952) Criterion Collection

Risky Business [Blu-ray] (Paul Brickman, 1983) Warner

Roger Corman Collection (Five Guns West, Gunslinger, Haunted Palace, Premature Burial, The Masque Of The Red Death and Wild Angels) R2 UK - Optimum

La Ronde (Max Ophuls, 1950) Criterion Collection

Shrek the Third [Blu-ray] (Chris Miller, 2007) Paramount

Speed Racer (Widescreen Edition) (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 2008) Warner Home Video
Speed Racer [
Blu-ray] (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 2008) Warner Home Video

Stranger on Horseback (Jacques Tourneur, 1955) VCI

"Thunderbirds" [Blu-ray] (1965) RB ITV DVD

Woman Times Seven (Vittorio De Sica, 1967) Lions Gate


"The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD - 180 AD)


P.S. - HELP!!: Laying the blame on no one but myself - and my poor business acumen for not squirreling away funds to outlast the Summer DVD-purchasing lulls - DVDBeaver are in trouble. I've thought of little else the past many day and have come up with, what I believe is, a decent solution. If you have not subscribed to Amazon Prime - you may have a FREE one month trial (Unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of Amazon.com Items, shopping with no minimum order size, ability to share benefits with up to 4 household members, 1 Month Free Trial etc.)... and JUST using our link to simply subscribe to that FREE 'trial' - we will receive $12. I believe in Amazon Prime - if you will purchase more than 35 DVDs (or 35 anything) in a 365 day period it makes excellent financial sense... but if all who are eligible (those residing in the Continental US) JUST TAKE THE FREE TRIAL! - we may have some sustenance to battle our every-increasing bandwidth charges, hosting fees and the vast array of DVD selections we purchase for review.

There are always alternatives and I'd hate to succumb to the obvious one looming overhead these past few years. We could become a 'private' membership site - password protected - charging an annual fee for accessibility. To be honest this is this a last resort and I'd probably consider packing it in ahead of going this route. I'm feeling pretty old and tired these days. Your consideration for this 5-minute FREE subscription would be very much appreciated folks. Thank you.