DVDBeaver Newsletter - October 6th, 2008

Pryvitáni! - 22 new reviews this week - and what a mixture! - from Hitchcock to Mungiu, Ray Harryhausen to Tim Burton, Van Sant to Cronenberg, Polanski to Spielberg, Shyamalan to Mel Brooks - Classic Disney animation to premium martial arts - only the tip of the iceberg. An even dozen comparisons... and a baker's set for Blu-ray reviews in this newsletter. The ensuing weeks right up through the holiday season's impressive release schedule should prove just as diverse and laden with digital gold. What a time to be a film fan!


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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!):

Into the Wild [Blu-ray] (Sean Penn, 2007) Paramount

This Is Spinal Tap [Blu-ray] (Rob Reiner, 1984) MGM

Dark Blue Almost Black (Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, 2006) Universal

You Can't Take It with You (Frank Capra, 1938) Sony Pictures

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (David Filioni, 2008) Warner Home Video

Star Wars: The Clone Wars [Blu-ray] (David Filioni, 2008) Warner Home Video

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town - Special Edition (Frank Capra, 1936) Sony

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Special Edition (Frank Capra, 1939) Sony

Ju Dou (Zhang Yimou, 1990) R2 UK Escapi Media

Red Sorghum (Zhang Yimou, 1987) R2 UK Drakes Avenue Pictures

The Offence (Sidney Lumet, 1972) R2 UK Optimum



ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey): It might be easier to identify the stuff I wasn't as keen on this week... very indifferent to War Inc. BR - the intentionally scattered fragments of fast-paced dialogue never had me bonding with the satire...  In the minority, I realize, but I am just not a fan of Beetlejuice BR. My loss. Dissimilar to Leonard, I categorically disliked the extended ending of American Gangster BR. While I thoroughly enjoyed Akin's The Edge of Heaven - the Strand DVD is fraught with weaknesses (buy the AE!). A similar situation with IFC's 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days - it's in a different aspect ratio from when the film won Cannes - a definite reason to get the AE from the UK.  Ohhh... watch out for  the Legacy Vertigo - it doesn't have the original mono track (but the new commentary, extras etc. are worthy). Leonard's thumbs down to The Strangers (Unrated) BR  - is more than enough for me to avoid.

Everything else I viewed I have mostly 'positives' to relate. Paranoid Park is a great film experience and acceptable bare-bones DVD in the correct AR. I LOVE (in capitals!) Saturday afternoons with Ray Harryhausen-effects classics like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad BR, It Came From Beneath the Sea BR and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers BR. Now I own them! - dripping with love and film grain. Disney surely made the most complete package of the year with Sleeping Beauty BR. Wow! Rear Window offers enough upgrades to indulge IMHO. I'd forgotten how much I love the homage aspects of Young Frankenstein BR - and what about that grain too! On the horror front - the substantially upgraded visuals for Carrie BR and The Amityville Horror BR really do advance the scare-factor - positively. I'm no expert on the martial arts genre but Fist of Legend remains my favorite (I heard it's coming to Blu-ray in Germany soon.) I realize many (most?) are not as keen on the organically rich cinema of M. Night - but stuff'em, Ebert and I enjoyed The Happening BR. Indiana Jones fans get some nostalgia with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull BR - aptly described as... the 3rd best of the series. Lastly, a marvelous film, I look forward to indulging in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises BR in hi-def resolution.       


New Reviews:

The Strangers (Unrated) BR - The Strangers has one thing going for it: Some really cool and scary door and wall banging noises. The movie begins with the following disclaimer: "What you are about to see is inspired by true events." For the rest: think your basic home invasion story a la In Cold Blood or Helter Skelter, but without one tenth their insight or much of anything else. Blu-ray Release date: October 21st, 2008


The Edge of Heaven - Turkish-German director Fatih Akin broadens his canvas and quietens his tone for his follow-up to the fiery and intimate ‘Head-On’ (2004). His concern is again with movement between Turkey and Germany – and its consequences for the individual – although this time his enquiry takes on a cross-generational edge, as well as a more thoughtful and maudlin one: we’re never very far from death. Strand DVD Release Date: October 14th, 2008

Paranoid Park - Paranoid Park is a swooping skateboarding free zone where young men learn to fly. It’s also the title of Gus Van Sant’s most recent film, a haunting, voluptuously beautiful portrait of a teenage boy who, after being suddenly caught in midflight, falls to earth. Like most of Mr. Van Sant’s films “Paranoid Park” is about bodies at rest and in motion, and about longing, beauty, youth and death, and as such as much about the artist as his subject. It is a modestly scaled triumph without a false or wasted moment. DVD Release Date: October 7th, 2008

Eastern Promises BR - Two years after their justly praised History of Violence, director David Cronenberg again teams up with actor Viggo Mortensen. The subject is another exploration of the question of when it is morally acceptable to use violence on a personal level, even in the interests of a greater good. As usual, Cronenberg just asks the questions. He doesn't answer them. Blu-ray Release date: October 14th, 2008

War Inc. BR - When Politic and culture satirize themselves, what is there left for satire to do? This is the problem faced by "War, Inc.," a broad lampooning of political corruption and war profiteering co-written by John Cusack (who also stars and produces) with novelist Mark Leyner and screenwriter Jeremy Pikser, who deal with it by putting their thinly veiled Dick Cheney stand-in on the toilet and the video phone at the same time. Blu-ray Release date: October 14, 2008

American Gangster BR - There are a number of things that keep American Gangster grounded when it should be flying. One of these is the casting of Russell Crowe who is no more believable as a Jewish, New Jersey detective than Levi Johnston. More than that, Crowe is just too dull and uncharismatic to energize the task force required. Except for Josh Brolin's snarling Det. Trupo, the white cops in this movie just don't cut it, especially in comparison to their black counterparts on the other side of the law. 82-yearold Ruby Dee, as Frank's mother, has more energy in her left eyebrow than the whole of the special investigative unit. So, despite Lucas' murderous ways, we are not all that happy when he is eventually taken down – which is another reason why the final act works so well for me. Blu-ray Release date: October 14, 2008

Beetlejuice BR - Scenarist Michael McDowell's fanciful story, which owed an obvious debt to Topper (1937), caught Burton's immediate attention. As the director reminisced in his 1994 memoir Burton On Burton, "after Hollywood hammering me with the concept of story structure, where the third act doesn't work, and it's got to end with a little comedy, or a little romance, the script for Beetlejuice was completely anti all that; it had no real story, it didn't make any sense, it was more like stream of consciousness. That script was probably the most amorphous ever." Blu-ray Release date: October 7th, 2008

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers BR - Androids in flying saucers give the Earth sixty days in which to surrender. Scientist Hugh Marlowe sets about devising a sonic gun which will show 'em who's boss. Despite a mundane script, this works quite effectively by adopting a dry, documentary tone and splurging the budget on Ray Harryhausen's spectacular special effects. Check out the wholesale destruction of Washington, DC's most famous landmarks. The Ray Harryhausen Collection on Blu-ray released October 7th, 2008

It Came From Beneath the Sea BR - Good to see supporting stalwart Tobey get a lead for once, even if it is in this minor entry in the '50s cycle of radiation-paranoia sci-fi pics (effects by Ray Harryhausen). Our man is a sailor whose submarine is almost sunk by an unidentified object in the Pacific. Before long San Francisco itself is threatened by the mystery marauder, an octopus mutated to giant dimensions by nuclear tests. (The budget allowed for a creature with only six tentacles. The Ray Harryhausen Collection on Blu-ray released October 7th, 2008

The Amityville Horror BR - For most of the film, one thing that Rosenberg does right is to leave most of the odd happenings surrounding the home open to wide interpretation. Not that I'm opposed to balls-to-the-wall effects and overt supernatural occurrences in film--hell, I absolutely loved the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill--but I think Rosenberg's style here is suited to the reality of the Amityville case. Is George Lutz just going a bit wacky, or is there something alien going on? Either way, at its best The Amityville Horror is pretty creepy, whether we have to watch out for spirits with glowing red eyes popping up when we least expect them or hope that George keeps his cool while he's holding that axe. Blu-ray Release date: October 7th, 2008

4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Mungiu’s film is set over one afternoon and evening in the late 1980s (although we have to guess the exact date). There’s no nostalgia on offer here – no wistful look over the shoulder at Romania’s past: this is a dark place – literally, when we hit the night-time streets – where ordinary people are forced to act and suffer as savages under the perverting influence of the law. Mungiu’s point is crystal clear: the past is best left behind but never forgotten. His story is intimate but everywhere in his film there are hints of a wider malaise, whether it’s the bread queue at the edge of his widescreen frame, the officious-verging-on-dictatorial attitude of a hotel receptionist or just the angry bark of a dog at night. The IFC/Weinstein DVD Release Date: October 14th, 2008.


Fist of Legend: The IMdb comments ring loudly: 'Best pure Kung Fu scenes EVER.', 'Simply put, Fist of Legend is one of the very best martial arts films ever made.', 'Purely amazing. This is definitely the greatest martial arts movie that I've ever seen.', 'Never in the history of the universe has anyone ROCKED as much as Jet Li in Fist of Legend. Easily the BEST kung-fu movie of the 90's.' So be it. The Dragon Dynasty edition came out September 2nd, 2008.

Carrie BR - Brian De Palma's "Carrie" is an absolutely spellbinding horror movie, with a shock at the end that's the best thing along those lines since the shark leaped aboard in "Jaws." It's also (and this is what makes it so good) an observant human portrait. This girl Carrie isn't another stereotyped product of the horror production line; she's a shy, pretty, and complicated high school senior who's a lot like kids we once knew. Blu-ray Release date: October 7th, 2008

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad BR - For The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, key members of the cast and crew, including Kerwin Matthews (still considered the most dashing of all the screen 'Sinbads') were flown to Spain where some of the most difficult sequences were filmed. Among these are the encounter with the giant Cyclops who likes to roast men on a spit over a fire and the skeleton swordfight. The latter scene required Matthews to train with Olympic fencing master, Enzo Musomeci-Greco, choreographing the sword parries and thrusts which he memorized and repeated on film with the appropriate reactions to his non-existent foe. Months later, the animated skeleton warrior would be inserted into this sequence by Harryhausen, matching Matthews blow for blow with it's sword. Blu-ray Release date: October 7th, 2008

Young Frankenstein BR - In his two best comedies, before this, The Producers and Blazing Saddles, Brooks revealed a rare comic anarchy. His movies weren't just funny, they were aggressive and subversive, making us laugh even when we really should have been offended. (Explaining this process, Brooks once loftily declared, "My movies rise below vulgarity.") Young Frankenstein is as funny as we expect a Mel Brooks comedy to be, but it's more than that: It shows artistic growth and a more sure-handed control of the material by a director who once seemed willing to do literally anything for a laugh. It's more confident and less breathless. That's partly because the very genre he's satirizing gives him a strong narrative he can play against. Blu-ray Release date: October 7th, 2008

A Day at the Beach - The late Mark Burns plays Bernie, a self-destructive, alcoholic intellectual constantly welching spare cash off his put-off friends. The film follows him as he takes his niece Winnie (an adorable little moppet affected with polio) for a trip to the beach on a dreary, drizzly English day. Largely a meandering character study in the European artfilm tradition with a little British New Wave thrown in, you know you're in for it with a script by Roman Polanski (from a novel by Heere Heeresma; Polanski bowed out of directing when his wife Sharon Tate was murdered) and its going to get depressing as it progresses (you almost dread putting it on). DVD Release Date: September 9th, 2008

The Sender - Directed by former art director Roger Christian (ALIEN) who went on to direct the interesting NOSTRADAMUS and the dire BATTLEFIELD: EARTH, this is a horror film which sets itself up to be a low-key affair so the bursts of spectacular special effects are always surprising. Both shocks and chills are usually well-judged. Performances are dead on and stripped of any embellishments. Set in the US but shot in England, the film's autumnal look is undated (thanks to the slick photography of Roger Pratt which is neither grainy nor soft-focused) and is beautifully scored by Trevor Jones. DVD Release Date: September 23rd, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull BR - "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Say it aloud. The very title causes the pulse to quicken, if you, like me, are a lover of pulp fiction. What I want is goofy action--lots of it. I want man-eating ants, swordfights between two people balanced on the backs of speeding jeeps, subterranean caverns of gold, vicious femme fatales, plunges down three waterfalls in a row, and the explanation for flying saucers. And throw in lots of monkeys. Blu-ray Release Date: October 14th, 2008

Sleeping Beauty BR - Walt Disney was always fascinated with sound and music, and felt they were every bit as important as image, story and animation technique. A visit to his theme parks demonstrates the point: every ride, every entertainment, every adventure has its own sound field, its own music. In his animated series of short films, he called Silly Symphonies, Disney experimented with stories told only with image and music – no dialog. He did cheat a bit in that the music had lyrics that helped tell the story - something akin to all those 1930s Busby Berkeley Gold Digger musicals from the 1930s, only more insipid. The basic idea was brought to it logical extension in his 1940 masterpiece, Fantasia, which is a series of more or less unrelated experiments in free form animation, some without any representation to speak of, and now entirely without the help of a lyric. Blu-ray Release Date: October 7, 2008

The Happening BR - What I admire about "The Happening" is that its pace and substance allowed me to examine such thoughts, and to ask how I might respond to a wake-up call from nature. Shyamalan allows his characters space and time as they look within themselves. Those they meet on the way are such as they might indeed plausibly meet. Even the TV and radio news is done correctly, as convenient clichés about terrorism give way to bewilderment and apprehension. Blu-ray Release Date: October 7, 2008

Vertigo - "Hitchcock's most memorable and haunting film of obsession wrapped in a surrealist plot of desperation and genuine edge-of-seat thrills. This is a film benefits greatly from the most pristine viewing available to help reveal its true grandeur. It is too easy to be swallowed whole by Hitchcock's eerie feel and majestic vision, pounding with Bernard Herrmann's unforgettable score. A tale that mocks our own perceptions of superficiality and inconclusive aspects of love... and why we cannot recreate it." Legacy 2-disc DVD Release Date: October 7, 2008

Rear Window - Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest movie, Rear Window, is as fresh as it was when it came out, in part, paradoxically, because of how profoundly it belongs to its own period. It’s set in Greenwich Village during a sweltering summer of open windows, and it reeks of 1954. Legacy 2-disc DVD Release Date: October 7, 2008

Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:


Week of October 6th, 2008

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad - Anniversary Edition (Nathan Juran, 1958) Sony

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad [Blu-ray] (Nathan Juran, 1958) Sony

Alice Faye Collection Vol. 2 (The Great American Broadcast, Four Jills In A Jeep, Rose Of Washington Square, Hollywood Cavalcade and Hello, Frisco, Hello) - 20th Century Fox

Body Heat [Blu-ray] (Lawrence Kasdan, 1981) Warner

Carrie [Blu-ray] (Brian De Palma, 1976) Fox/MGM

Le Deuxieme Souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966) Criterion

Le Doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962) Criterion

The Happening (M. Night Shyamalan, 2008) 20th Century Fox
The Happening [
Blu-ray] (M. Night Shyamalan, 2008) 20th Century Fox

House Of Flying Daggers [Blu-ray] (Zhang Yimou, 2004) RB UK Pathe Distribution

Mission Impossible: Fifth TV Season - Paramount

The Munsters: The Complete Series - Universal

Music Box (Costa-Gavras, 1989) R2 UK Optimum

The Omen  [Blu-ray] (Richard Donner, 1976) 20th Century Fox

The Omen Collection [Blu-ray] - The Omen (1976), Omen 2: Damien (1978), Omen 3: The Final Conflict (1981) and The Omen (2006) - 20th Century Fox

Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007) Weinstein

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Albert Lewin, 1945) Warner

Psycho - Special Ed. 2-disc - new transfers/extras (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) Universal Studios

Ray Harryhausen Box Set [Blu-ray] (20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth vs. Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 7th Voyage of Sinbad) - Sony Pictures
Rear Window - Special Ed. 2-disc - new transfers/extras (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954 ) Universal Studios

Richard Fleischer Boxset (Armored Car Robbery, Child Divorce and Narrow Margin) Editions Montparnasse R2 FR

The Simpsons - The Complete Eleventh Season - Fox

Sleeping Beauty (Two-Disc Platinum Edition) (Les Clark, 1959) Walt Disney Video

Sleeping Beauty [Blu-ray] (Les Clark, 1959) Walt Disney Video

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 4: 1943-1945 - Sony Pictures

Touch of Evil - 50th Anniversary 2-disc (1958, Orson Welles) Universal Studios

Vertigo - Special Ed. 2-disc - new transfers/extras (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) Universal Studios

The Visitor [Blu-ray] (Tom McCarthy , 2007) Anchor Bay

Young Frankenstein [Blu-ray] (Mel Brooks, 1974) 20th Century Fox


Week of October 13th, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007) IFC

A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974) Criterion

The Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection (Rebecca, The Lodger, The Paradine Case, Spellbound, Notorious, Young and Innocent, Sabotage, and Lifeboat) - restored and remastered - MGM

American Gangster [Blu-ray] (Ridley Scott, 2007) Universal Studios

Arch Of Triumph (Lewis Milestone, 1948) LionsGate

Babes in Toyland (Gus Meins + Charley Rogers, 1934) Fox/MGM

Black God White Devil (Glauber Rocha, 1964) R2 UK Mr. Bongo Films

Capricorn One - Special Edition (Peter Hyams, 1978) Lions Gate

Casino [Blu-ray] (Martin Scorsese, 1995) Universal

The Deputy (1959-1961)*TV Series with Henry Fonda* - Edi Video

Eastern Promises [Blu-ray] (David Cronenberg, 2007) Universal Studios

Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, 2007) Strand Releasing

Gangster Gift Set [Blu-ray] (American Gangster, Casino, Eastern Promises) Universal

Holiday Inn 3-Disc Collector's Set (Mark Sandrich, 1942) Universal

Icons of Horror: Hammer Films (2 X Double Feature) - (The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll, The Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb, The Gorgon and Scream of Fear) - Sony

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Steven Spielberg, 2008) Paramount

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull [Blu-ray] (Steven Spielberg, 2008) Paramount

Interview with the Vampire [Blu-ray] (Neil Jordan, 1994) Warner

The Jewel of the Nile [Blu-ray] (Lewis Teague, 1985) 20th Century Fox 

Ju Dou (Zhang Yimou, 1990) R2 UK Escapi Media

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976) Criterion

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

Ludwig (Luchino Visconti, 1972) Koch Lorber

The Ultimate Matrix Collection [Blu-ray] (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski) Warner Brothers

Memories Of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968) R2 UK Mr. Bongo Films

Mongol (Sergei Bodrov, 2007) New Line
Mongol [
Blu-ray] (Sergei Bodrov, 2007) New Line

The New World - The Extended Cut (Terrence Malick, 2005) New Line

One Touch of Venus (William A. Seiter, 1948) LionsGate

Poltergeist [Blu-ray] (Tobe Hooper, 1982) Warner

Poor Cow (Ken Loach, 1967) R2 UK Optimum

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor (Kon Ichikawa, 1963) Animeigo

Romancing the Stone [Blu-ray] (Robert Zemeckis, 1984) 20th Century Fox

Six in Paris (Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer - 1965) New Yorker Video

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

Still Life (Jia Zhang Ke, 2006) New Yorker

A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961) R2 UK Optimum

Ultraman Complete Collection Box Set - Navarre Corporation

War, Inc. (Joshua Seftel, 2007) First Look Pictures
War, Inc. [
Blu-ray] (Joshua Seftel, 2007) First Look Pictures

Witness to the Mob (Thaddeus O'Sullivan, 1998) Koch Lorber


"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." - Henry David Thoreau
Stay strong!