DVDBeaver Newsletter - November 24th, 2008

Buon giorno! - 15 new reviews this week - Criterion, Fellini, a lauded modern Czech masterpiece, O'Toole conflicts with Burton, Clooney fights ghouls, Donald Duck makes us laugh, Hollywood's seminal color epic look at ancient Rome in high-definition, a pristine looking man-bat... and due to a scarcity of DVD releases in-hand this week - there is lots of Blu-ray. Plus some calendar updates, sales, announcements and much more...

IMPROVEMENT: We have successfully restricted the leeching 'hotlinking' of our website images. What does it mean? - more bandwidth - slightly faster response time.

TECH ADDITION: We have a viable bitrate graph for Blu-ray now (see our coverage of Fellini's Casanova and  From Dusk Till Dawn)

NOVEMBER 24th CONTEST - identify this CLIP to win a brand new 2-disc Blu-ray of WALL•E Best of luck all!

Amazon and Sony are offering incredible values on high definition products such as Blu-ray players and movies, as well as PlayStation 3 consoles, games, and accessories. HERE


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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!):

The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962) Criterion

Hobson's Choice (David Lean, 1954) Criterion

Simon of the Desert (Luis Buñuel, 1965) Criterion

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

Bottle Shock (Randall Miller, 2008) 20th Century Fox

Ashes Of Time Redux [Blu-ray] (Wong Kar-wai, 2008) R'B' Artificial Eye

Chungking Express [Blu-ray] (Wong Kar-wai, 1995) R 'B' Artificial Eye

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

Walk the Line (Extended Cut) [Blu-ray] (James Mangold, 2005) 101 Distribution

Black Narcissus [Blu-ray] (Michael Powell;Emeric Pressburger, 1946) 101 Distribution

The Duchess [Blu-ray] (Susanne Bier, Saul Dibb, 2008) Paramount

Righteous Kill [Blu-ray] (Jon Avnet, 2008) Anchor Bay

Groundhog Day [Blu-ray] (Harold Ramis, 1993) Sony Pictures

Chocolate [Blu-ray] (Prachya Pinkaew, 2008) Magnolia



ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey): Let's get this out of the way first  - The Dark Knight BR is, in all probability, the Blu-ray image of the year. Quo Vadis BR looks justifiably magnificent - another strong classic in 1080P... however, Bottle Rocket may be my personal favorite release of the week. There is a lot in to admire in Fellini's Casanova BR with its dynamite transfer. Leonard was very high on Wanted BR - as I was on Jarhead BR. Sounder is a masterpiece in my opinion, but I'm disappointed in the DVD. I thought The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian BR was as good as the first entry of that series. Becket BR is a magnificent film and the Blu-ray package is worthy. The Kingdom BR  is a strong Hollywood effort. Per-Olaf gives us a thumbs-up for I Served the King of England. It probably needs no endorsement from us but Chronological Donald Vol. 4 continues the vintage Disney tradition. If you are a fan of the resurrected 'B' film then From Dusk Till Dawn BR is for you. We suggest passing in New Line's The Mask BR.

New Reviews:

The Dark Knight BR - Each of the three directors of the big Batman movies made since 1989 has had a second shot (cf: Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher), but no one until Christopher Nolan has significantly improved upon his initial effort. Burton's Joker made it clear that the main difference between him and the caped crusader was that one of them was insane. It was evident even then that Batman operates under rules he makes for himself and those rules trump the rules of society when it comes to catching bad guys. Burton scratched the surface, but Nolan drives us right into the darkest recesses of the batcave that resides deep in Waynes's psyche. One thing is clear: the aptly monikered Dark Knight does not follow the precepts set down by the Corleone's: with Wayne, everything is personal; business applies only to his toys, as Nicholson so gleefully referred to them. Blu-ray Release date: December 9th, 2008


Fellini's Casanova BR - The world of Casanova, peopled with Fellini's favored cast of degenerates, freaks and idiot crowds is a stylized transposition of this decadent contemporary landscape. The blasé, nouveau riche European sensibility which Fellini exposed a decade or so earlier with La Dolce Vita (1960) is distilled once more in the morally void Casanova and the grotesquery of his artificial surroundings. Blu-ray Release Date: October 8th, 2008


From Dusk Till Dawn BR - The reason From Dusk Till Dawn entertains is because it never takes itself seriously. The film is steeped in wit, parody, and offbeat humor. There aren't any characters here -- only caricatures. The movie has been designed as a burst of high energy, and that's exactly what it turns out to be. From Dusk Till Dawn will appeal to only a small portion of the cinema-visiting population, but for those who enjoy this kind of tongue-and-cheek horror story, the film has a lot to offer... Blu-ray Release date: October 21st, 2008

Quo Vadis BR - The production of Quo Vadis? came at the height of an executive power struggle at MGM (Dore Schary replaced former mogul Louis B. Mayer) and at a crucial time in the history of U.S. motion picture production because of the new competition from television. Director Mervyn LeRoy believed that motion pictures should offer larger and better spectacles in order to compete with the new medium. Whether this opinion was the result of prescience or hindsight, Quo Vadis? was indeed the greatest spectacle ever made up to that time. Blu-ray Release Date: November 19th, 2008

The Mask BR - "The Mask" is a perfect vehicle for the talents of Jim Carrey, who underwhelmed me with "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective" but here seems to have found a story and character that work together with manic energy. One of the key design decisions on the movie must have involved the Mask character's makeup. It transforms Carrey's features into a much larger, comic-bookish parody, but at the same time the features are still able to move in a lifelike way. The notes with the film explain that makeup expert Greg Cannom realized Carrey's exaggerated facial expressions are part of his essence, and didn't want them lost behind makeup. Blu-ray Release date: December 9th, 2008

Wanted BR - Lowly, anxious, tormented accounts manager, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is suddenly thrust into a world of super-assassins when he is told by the cool, sleek Angelina Jolie that his father, whom Wesley thought he had lost when he was an infant, was killed only that morning. He is also informed that this same father was the best of the best in the assassin business and that what made this possible were certain inheritable traits – traits, that up till now manifested in Wesley only as heightened anxiety - and that he, too, had acquired. They only needed bringing to the fore and honed into a killer like his father with the help of Ms. Angelina (aka Fox) and her covert cadre of gifted assassins, led by the sage and wily Sloane (Morgan Freeman.) You can imagine the duality of attraction and aversion such a possibility might set up for our Wesley. One of the joys that Wanted has in store is watching how McAvoy, who is a walking time bomb here, moves between these opposing demands until he becomes what he must – a finely tuned killing machine, sans costume or special makeup. Blu-ray Release date: December 2nd, 2008

Sounder - Painfully honest, unpretentious, and blessedly simple, Martin Ritt's 1972 portrait of a black family trying to survive the Depression, the infinite cruelties of Louisiana sharecropping, and the pain of separation is moving without being mawkish, charming without being coy. Not the emotional blockbuster the PR department of 20th Century-Fox would have had it, the film is nevertheless rewarding and quietly powerful--with fine performances from Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks. DVD Release Date: November 25th, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian BR - With bigger battles and scarier monsters than its predecessor, the new movie flaunts grander visual effects, and, with one notable exception, a dash more individuality than the initial installment. Thanks are due to supporting appearances by a diminutive Narnian named Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage, whose eyes have to do all the work underneath those flowing whiskers and latex wrinkles) and a fearless feather-sporting mouse named Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard with flair, and without overacting). Blu-ray Release date: December 2nd, 2008

Jarhead BR - Roger Deakins cinematography of the Kuwaiti desert, with understated contrasts that overpower the entire film's composition, reflects a immensely surreal and inhuman environment - almost a totally different planet. Like many great films this is the story of one man - his world, values, laws and perceptions turned upside down. But Anthony Swofford isn't simply one man - he is all men who find themselves thrust onto the frontlines of a War - with Gyllenhaal juggling the multiple personal eccentricities that undoubtedly evolve in such circumstances. Jarhead's unspoken pauses and visuals create a chiaroscuro experience in their depth and impact. Blu-ray Release date: November 25th, 2008

Superman Doomsday BR - When Lexcorp accidentally unearths the intergalactic serial killer Doomsday, Superman battles the creature head-on in the fight of his life...literally. The world collectively mourns its fallen hero; humanity realizes it will never feel truly safe again. Superman's enemies rejoice - all but Lex Luthor, who grieves the loss in his own demented manner, setting off a chilling chain of events that even he couldn't have foreseen. Inspired by the best-selling graphic novel of all-time, DC Comics' The Death of Superman, this feature-length animated adventure boasts exciting action sequences that rival anything you've ever seen starring the Man Of Steel. Blu-ray Release date: November 25th, 2008

The Kingdom BR - Berg gives us a rousing, jarring opening that pulls us into the story. Then he dials things down for a while. The political and investigative aspects of the movie are fascinating to observe, but they aren't the sort of things to get the heart racing. Nevertheless, there's a sense of urgency. We see tensions between the Saudi police and the army, the Americans have only five days and are being kept on a tight leash, and there are indications that the terrorists may be planning a follow-up attack, possibly targeting the new arrivals. As the FBI unearths clues about how the first bombing was orchestrated and interviews witnesses, men are shown assembling more explosives. The last 30 minutes of The Kingdom is balls-to-the-wall action. Blu-ray Release date: November 25th, 2008

Bottle Rocket - Expanded from a 13 minute short subject film, "Bottle Rocket" is not factually based, but it does reflect many experiences that occurred to director/writer Wes Anderson and actor/writer Owen C. Wilson when they were roommates at The University of Texas. The story, shot in Dallas, Fort Worth and Hillsboro, involves three young, socially gullible friends, who, with loyal bonds and unequivocal acceptance, display an innocent, influential nature towards each other. Unstructured, they are each attempting to ascertain their appropriate place in society and are comically drawn to the romanticism and clandestine world of crime through their irrepressible leader's fantasy visions. DVD Release Date: November 25th, 2008

Becket BR - In a year when the big winners were "My Fair Lady" and "Mary Poppins," the only award "Becket" took was for Edward Anhalt's adaptation of Jean Anouilh's Tony-winning play. There were nominations for both Burton and O'Toole (Rex Harrison sneaked in between them to win), as well as for costar John Gielgud, best picture, director, cinematography, art direction and score. While peripheral elements of "Becket" do show their age, the core of the film's appeal remains incandescent, and that is the on-screen collaboration between Burton and O'Toole, two of the English-speaking world's greatest actors working in the vibrant prime of their careers. Blu-ray Release date: November 25th, 2008

Chronological Donald Vol. 4 - Donald first came into being in 1934 as little more than a barnyard animal, but by the 1950s, when the current DVD set gets going, Donald, like many Americans, has moved to the suburbs. It's a kinder, gentler world, though one not without its hazards. Chronological Donald IV includes some 16 short subjects entirely new to DVD, several of which are new to home video altogether, plus ten 6-minute Donald Duck cartoons that were first shown on the Saturday morning TV show, Mickey Mouse Works from 1999-2000. Except for these and the two educational short films, Donald in Mathmagic Land and Donald and the Wheel, the average cartoon is about 7 minutes. DVD Release date: November 11th, 2008

I Served the King of England - There is a serious point underlying the laughs, as the older Jan comes to realise that in his desire for fortune he may have lost sight of his humanity. It is the scenes with the older man that are the trickiest, since they sit rather uneasily with his imaginings from the past. While the acting from Kaiser is excellent, these interludes lack the cohesive exuberance of the scenes of him in his youth. This film has an epic, almost mythical sweep, highlighting the resilience of the Czech nation as seen through the eyes of one man. A crowd-pleaser that deserves to reach a wide audience. DVD Release Date: September 5th, 2008

Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:

Week of November 24th, 2008

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

Becket [Blu-ray] (Peter Glenville, 1964) Mpi Home Video

Black Narcissus [Blu-ray] (Michael Powell;Emeric Pressburger, 1946) 101 Distribution
Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996) Criterion

Hancock (Unrated) [Blu-ray] (Peter Berg, 2008) Sony Pictures

Jarhead [Blu-ray] (Sam Mendes, 2005) Universal

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

The Kingdom [Blu-ray] (Peter Berg, 2007) Universal

Lady with the Dog (Iosif Kheifits, 1960) Facets

Live at Monterey [Blu-ray] Experience Hendrix

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

The Mark of Cain (Marc Munden, 2007) Revolver Entertainment

Pink Panther Ultimate Collection (18pc) MGM

Silence of The Sea (Vahid Mousaian, 2004) Pathfinder

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Martin Ritt, 1965) Criterion

Straw Dogs [Blu-ray] (Sam Peckinpah,1971) RB UK Fremantle Home Entertainment

Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2008) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Walk the Line (Extended Cut) [Blu-ray] (James Mangold, 2005) 101 Distribution


Week of December 1st, 2008

Assault on Precinct 13 [Blu-ray] (John Carpenter, 2005) Image Entertainment

Austin Powers Collection: Shagadelic Edition Loaded With Extra Mojo [Blu-ray] - New Line Home Video

Casablanca [Blu-ray] 2-disc - Ultimate Collector's Edition (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Warner

Children of Men [Blu-ray] (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) 101 Distribution

Complete InuYasha Series (Naoya Aoki, Yasunao Aoki, 2000) - Amazon Exclusive VIZ Video

The Dardenne Brothers Collection R2 UK Artificial Eye

The Day the Earth Stood Still - Special Edition (Robert Wise, 1951) Fox Home Entertainment

The Day the Earth Stood Still [Blu-ray] - Special Edition (Robert Wise, 1951) Fox Home Entertainment

Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer (5-disc) - His Picture In The Papers (1916), Mystery Of The Leaping Fish (1916), Flirting With Fate (1916), And The Matrimaniac (1916); A Modern Musketeer (1917) and more - Flicker Alley

La Femme Nikita [Blu-ray] (Luc Besson, 1990) Sony Pictures

Life Gamble [Blu-ray] (Cheh Chang, 1979) Navarre

Opium and the Kung Fu [Blu-ray] (Chia Tang, 1984) Navarre

Perry Mason - The Third Season - Vol. 2 - Paramount

The Shawshank Redemption [Blu-ray] (Frank Darabont, 1994) Warner

Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006) Sony Pictures

Stranger Than Fiction [Blu-ray] (Marc Forster, 2006) Sony Pictures

Wanted [Blu-ray] (Timur Bekmambetov, 2008) Universal

White Dog (Samuel Fuller, 1982) Criterion

The X-Files - Fight the Future [Blu-ray] (Rob Bowman, 1998) 20th Century Fox

The X-Files Movie 2-Pack (I Want to Believe / Fight the Future) [Blu-ray] 20th Century Fox

Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1970) R2 FR Warner Home Video

"He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money." Benjamin Franklin
The Holiday season is in the air - prepare thyself!