DVDBeaver Newsletter - December 8th, 2008

Maido ookini! - 19 new reviews this week - Of all previous newsletters - THIS one (this past week's coverage) is our most important, and best, in my opinion. The promise of the Criterion Blu-rays is fulfilled along with a time-honored classic in 1080P and a huge potential DVD of the Year candidate package has landed! Wow. Speaking of DVD of the Year 2008 - Beaver gremlins (Adam and I) are busy preparing the voting form. This is sure to be another highly interesting year. I have chills just thinking about it.

GIVE: 'Tightening the belt' times indeed - but if you have money to spare this holiday season, please support the following, very worthy, institutions: American Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent, Oxfam (US), Oxfam (UK), War Child, and Mercy Corps. You will feel great (I promise!)

DECEMBER 8th CONTEST - identify this CLIP to win a brand new Blu-ray of The Day the Earth Stood Still - 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


BIG THANKS!: DVDBeaver would not exist without the support of many patrons - those who generously donate, and especially those who use our Amazon, CD Japan and YesAsia links. That's it. When you go to Amazon - PLEASE use one of our links to get there (they are on every page - top and bottom - and we have 5000 webpages). It costs you absolutely nothing and we get a small commission on items you purchase. This helps pay our bills - in fact it's the only thing that pays our bills.

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!


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

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

The Banishment (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2007) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Ashes Of Time Redux (Wong Kar-wai, 2008) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Quo Vadis [Blu-ray] (Mervyn LeRoy, 1951) Warner

Poil de carotte (Julien Duvivier, 1932) Arte

W. (Oliver Stone, 2008) Lions Gate Home Entertainment

W. [Blu-ray] (Oliver Stone, 2008) Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Wonder Woman 2009 (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Lauren Montgomery, 2009) Warner Home Video

Wonder Woman 2009 [Blu-ray] (Lauren Montgomery, 2009) Warner Home Video

Wonderful Town (Aditya Assarat, 2007) Kino

Takeshis (Takeshi Kitano, 2005) Navarre

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (Peter Avanzino, 2009) 20th Century Fox

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder [Blu-ray] (Peter Avanzino, 2009) 20th Century Fox

The Rundown [Blu-ray] (Peter Berg, 2003) Universal Studios

Ruslan [Blu-ray] (Jeff King, 2008) Platinum

Frozen River (Courtney Hunt, 2008) Sony Pictures

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

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

Body of Lies [Blu-ray] (Ridley Scott, 2008) Warner Home Video



ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey): It will be shorter to state the release that we categorically don't endorse this week - so here: The Longshots BR.

Better says something about the rest though. Despite my cranky complaints of the packaging for Murnau, Borzage and Fox - it remains essential. That studio's response to last years Ford at Fox behemoth. While scrimping on the bitrate Warner's Casablanca BR is still far too iconic not to own in the best possible format available. And speaking of classics on Blu-ray - both The Third Man BR and The Day the Earth Stood Still BR can be considered a viable part of any film-lover's library... and they've never looked better for your home theater. This week I reviewed three films that are, most probably, reside in my vacillating personal TOP 100 of all time - and they are also in high definition! - Bottle Rocket BR is fueled with innocence and fun - totally repeatable . The region free Le Grande Bleu BR looks magnificent - Besson's best film in my opinion. Finally, Sean Penn's masterpiece Into the Wild BR looks and sounds just incredible (the music haunts me) - one of the very best Blu-ray transfers of the year 2008. Let's not forget - Chungking Express BR is up there too - potent energy and life experience bound together loosely in one wholly memorable film. Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth BR has a majestic quality that really shines through in 1080P - more so than ever before. Planet Terror BR is becoming somewhat of an obsession for me - yes cinema should be lots of fun too. I've owned Get Smart - the Complete Series 'Gift Set' for a long while but it's unique brand of humor has become much more accessible and cheaper now to order - amusing, nostalgic and addictive. Man on Wire is a wonderful documentary - possibly the best I have seen this year even if the DVD is imperfect. Funny, the thriller, Anamorph might appear a lot better next to a different list of weekly releases - but in this newsletter it will be forgotten. While on the thriller front - Traitor BR will appeal to many for an enjoyable film night at home. My 'underdog' recommendation of the week is Coach Carter BR. The content is what you expect - but the film is far better than it may appear on the surface. Give this a shot - you may be very pleasantly surprised.  


New Reviews:

Man on Wire - James Marsh's brilliant documentary on a Frenchman's 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers has the pace of a thriller and the human interest of a psychological drama. They say that seeing is believing, but "Man on Wire" will make you doubt what your eyes are telling you -- it really will -- as you shake your head in amazement and awe. A rare double winner of both Sundance's jury prize and its audience award for world documentary, this exhilarating film treats French aerialist Philippe Petit's Aug. 7, 1974, walk between the twin towers of New York's 110-story World Trade Center as if it were a daring bank robbery. This is a police procedural, if you will, about what's been called the artistic crime of the century. DVD Release Date: December 9th, 2008

Mama Mia BR - If you had occasion to be driving to Las Vegas anytime over the past five years, you couldn't help notice the many billboards advertising Mama Mia! The Musical. Lazy me. For the longest time, I thought this was a musical version of My Big Fat Italian Wedding. Was I out of touch!. While I'm at it, I might as well admit to some difficulty in listening and understanding to the lyrics of songs. Until I saw the movie, I hadn't realized that the title song was merely an expression of exasperation and not a statement about relationship. (OK, I imagine I'm going to lose some readers with that one, but they say confession is good for the soul.) Blu-ray Release date: December 16, 2008

Coach Carter BR - Inspired by the true story of controversial Richmond, California basketball coach Ken Carter, who received both high praise and staunch criticism when he made national news for benching his entire team undefeated team for poor academic performance. Tension mounted as the Richmond High Oilers faced the upcoming basketball championship. The town was wild with excitement over their undefeated team and the bleachers were filled with cheering fans for every game. No one could imagine that on January 4, 1999 the community would erupt in dissention and so many lives would change forever when coach Carter padlocked the gym, refusing the players access for failing to keep up their grades... Blu-ray Release date: December 16, 2008

Traitor BR - Don Cheadle is such a good actor. If he were more of a showboat, he would be a bigger star. But he remains the go-to man for a film like this. Except in his work like the "Ocean's" pictures or his heroic work in "Hotel Rwanda," we cannot often be certain what we are to think of his characters. He effortlessly seems too intelligent, too complex, to be easily categorized. Perhaps my doubt about the motives of Samir's father's killers was due only to confusion on my part. Even so, who would witness the death of his father by a bomb, and then be driven to become a builder of bombs? And why? It is an uncertainty potent enough to drive the entire movie... Blu-ray Release date: December 19, 2008

Into the Wild BR - Into the Wild is based on the best-selling, true story, book by Jon Krakauer. Its highest achieving ideal in the film is how faithfully it expresses the meaning of the protagonist's adventure - reaffirming a spirit of dropping out, lack of caution, and escaping from the dissatisfaction of society's goals and selfish aims. Hippie-esq indeed. Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) is played with quiet zeal by Emile Hirsch - who was recently touted as being 'one of the futures of American acting'. This is a visually appealing road-picture with frequent flashbacks and unique montages explaining McCandless' motivations. It is delivered on screen with detailed precision by Penn. Blu-ray Release date: December 16, 2008

Murnau, Borzage and Fox - Fox had invested heavily in making movie directors the stars of his films, gambling that audiences would gravitate to strong stories told well. On that evening two of his films, '7th Heaven' and 'Sunrise' captured the coveted golden statue known as 'Oscar' for 'Drama Direction' (Frank Borzage for 7th Heaven) and a special Oscar, 'Unique and Artistic Picture' (F.W. Murnau for Sunrise). - Fox's star actress Janet Gaynor also won a statuette for her performances in both 'Sunrise' and '7th Heaven.' It was the ultimate validation of Fox's vision for movies as an art form in their own right. - (Note: Paramount's 'Wings' won the Oscar for 'Outstanding Production' - but today is credited as the first 'Best Film' - but 'Sunrise' could challenge that assumption). DVD Release Date: December 9th, 2008

Get Smart - the Complete Series 'Gift Set' - Consistently incompetent, often lucky and always endearing is the character of secret agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) in the classic and hilarious sitcom/spy spoof "Get Smart" that debuted in 1965 and ran, eventually bouncing around to all three major networks in its short 5 year history. The show's often brilliant humor, certainly unique for 60's television, escalated its devout following to have many judge it as one of the best shows ever put on the tube. It runs popularly in syndication to this day. DVD Release Date: November 4th, 2008

Le Grande Bleu BR - Besson here gives us a very different experience than we are used to from him; a languid, meditative exploration not of the sea itself, but of its effect on two men whose draw to it comes dangerously close to obsession. The aquiline Jean-Marc Barr gives a performance that has stayed with him his whole life as free-diver Jaques Mayol and Besson's favourite actor, Jean Reno (Leon himself) is a superb foil as Enzo - Mayol's friend and rival... Blu-ray Release date: November 26th, 2008

Death Proof BR - For all it's digitally enhanced scratches and missing frames – which, thanks be, let up as the movie gets on – Death Proof – and Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror, which makes up the first half of what was billed as "Grindhouse" when it first appeared in theatres last year, are much better movies than your typical Grindhouse fare. On the other hand, like those movies of yesteryear, these two films are best enjoyed with friends screaming at the screen, lots of popcorn and imaginary previously owned gum on the floor. Blu-ray Release date: December 16th, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor BR - Moviegoers who knowingly buy a ticket for "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" are going to get exactly what they expect: There is a mummy, a tomb, a dragon and an emperor. And the movie about them is all that it could be. If you think "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" sounds like a waste of time, don't waste yours. I, as it happens, have time to waste and cannot do better than to quote from my review of "The Mummy" (1999): "There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it... Blu-ray Release date: December 16th, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still BR - Robert Wise (The original Haunting, West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Star Trek: The Motion Picture are among his credits) knew how to make a film. Devoid of the multitude of CGI and special effects that seem necessary for today's fans, The Day the Earth Stood Still is quite a landmark in sci-fi films, especially for the 1950's. It bases its interest in suspense and the personality of the 'invading alien' as Michael Rennie's timeless character of Klaatu. Poignant dialogue is reflected in a positive absolute of our civilization and growth as a species as well as purporting our realization of not being alone in vastness of space. A marvelous and intelligent film that deserves its large fan base and place in cinema history.... Blu-ray Release date: December 2nd, 2008

The Man Who Fell to Earth BR - The Man Who Fell to Earth is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de force, a formally adventurous examination of alienation in contemporary life. Rock legend David Bowie completely embodies the title role, while Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Rip Torn turn in pitch-perfect supporting performances. The film’s hallucinatory vision was obscured in the American theatrical release, which deleted nearly twenty minutes of crucial scenes and details. Blu-ray Release date: December 16th, 2008

Planet Terror BR - That Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Tarantino are motivated by a sincere love of the movies they send up can hardly be doubted, but the affection is expressed in different ways. Mr. Rodriguez revels in badness for its own sake. Planet Terror is intoxicated by its own absurdity; it tries to raise incompetence to the level of craft, if not art. The random close-ups, the lurching cuts, the off-kilter framing -- all of this is obviously intentional. So is the hodgepodge story, which is like a stew made of the contents of every can in the cupboard. Blu-ray Release Date: December 16th, 2008

Bottle Rocket BR - 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 vision. Blu-ray Release Date: December 16th, 2008

The Third Man BR - The movie's verve comes from the abstract use of a jangling zither and from squirting Orson Welles into the plot piecemeal with a tricky, facetious eyedropper. The charm, documentary skill, and playful cunning that fashioned this character make his Morse-code appearances almost as exciting visually as each new make-believe by Rembrandt in his self-portraits.... Reed's nervous, hesitant film is actually held together by the wires of its exhilarating zither, which sounds like a trio and hits one's consciousness like a cloudburst of sewing needles. Raining aggressive notes around the characters, it chastises them for being so inactive and fragmentary and gives the film the unity and movement the story lacks. Blu-ray Release Date: December 16th, 2008

Casablanca BR - Once a movie becomes as adulated as Casablanca, it is difficult to know how to begin to approach it, except by saying that at least 70 per cent of its cult reputation is deserved. This was Bogart's greatest type role, as the battered, laconic owner of a nightclub who meets a girl (Bergman) he left behind in Paris and still loves. The whole thing has an intense wartime nostalgia that tempts one to describe it as the sophisticated American version of Britain's naïve Brief Encounter, but it has dated far less than Lean's film and is altogether a much more accomplished piece of cinema. There are some great supporting performances, and much of the dialogue has become history. Blu-ray Release Date: December 2nd, 2008

Chungking Express BR - The whiplash, double-pronged Chungking Express is one of the defining works of nineties cinema and the film that made Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai an instant icon. Two heartsick Hong Kong cops (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung), both jilted by ex-lovers, cross paths at the Midnight Express take-out restaurant stand, where the ethereal pixie waitress Faye (Faye Wong) works. Anything goes in Wong’s gloriously shot and utterly unexpected charmer, which cemented the sex appeal of its gorgeous stars and forever turned canned pineapple and the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” into tokens of romantic longing. Blu-ray Release Date: December 16th, 2008

Anamorph - Stan (Willem Dafoe) is a tortured detective that appears throughout to be a barely breathing corpse. It's not his health that is questionable. It is his drawn, drained and beaten down look. Years earlier, he was involved in a similar case that was front page news. Stan eventually got his man, or maybe in reality he didn't? Since a possibly innocent man died from a bullet to his forehead at the hands of the police, it is not entirely certain. When bodies start piling up again in a similar manner, many, including Stan, begin to wonder if it is the work of a copycat or possibly the original serial killer. DVD Release Date: December 9th, 2008

The Longshots BR - The publicity sheet that came with my review copy declares: “The new coach has a secret weapon in the hilarious and heartwarming comedy The Longshots.” Say, what!: “Secret,” “hilarious,” and “comedy” are hardly the terms that occur to me as I mull over the movie I just watched on Blu-ray. Good thing, I thought, I hadn’t read the promo before I watched the movie. Blu-ray Release date: December 2nd, 2008

Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:

Week of December 8th, 2008

Ahlaam (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2005) Pathfinder

The Dark Knight (single-disc) (Christopher Nolan, 2008) Warner
The Dark Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Christopher Nolan, 2008) Warner
The Dark Knight [
Blu-ray] (Christopher Nolan, 2008) Warner

Diebuster [Blu-ray] (Kazuya Tsurumaki, 2004) Bandai

Europa (Lars von Trier, 1991 ) Criterion

Jet Li's Fearless [Blu-ray] (Ronny Yu, 2006) Universal Studios

From Dusk Till Dawn [Blu-ray] (Robert Rodriguez, 1996) 101 Distribution

Get Smart - The Complete Series Gift Set - HBO

Great Directors: Volume 1 (Dersu Uzala / The Mirror / Les Bonnes Femmes / Il Grido / Circle of Deceit) Kino

Horton Hears a Who! (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) (Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
2008) Fox Home Video
Horton Hears a Who! [
Blu-ray] (Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino 2008) Fox Home Video

Irma Vep (Essential Edition) (Olivier Assayas, 1996) Zeitgeist

It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934) Sony

The Mask [Blu-ray] (Chuck Russell, 1994) Warner Home Video

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town - (Frank Capra, 1936) Sony
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - (Frank Capra, 1939) Sony

Murnau, Borzage, & Fox Boxset (12-disc) - Sunrise (1927), City Girl (1930), Borzage films: Lazybones (1925), Seventh Heaven (1928), Street Angel (1928), Lucky Star (1929), They Had to See Paris (1929), Liliom (1930), Song O' My Heart (1930), Bad Girl (1931), After Tomorrow (1932) and Young America (1932) - Fox Home Entertainment

Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008) Magnolia

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

Three Short Films By Werner Herzog - New Yorker

Time and Winds (Reha Erdem, 2006) R2 UK Artificial Eye

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


Week of December 15th, 2008

8 Mile [Blu-ray] (Curtis Hanson, 2002) Universal

The Banishment (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2007) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Bottle Rocket [Blu-ray] (Wes Anderson, 1996) Criterion

Chungking Express [Blu-ray] (Wong Kar-wai, 1994) Criterion

Coach Carter [Blu-ray] (Thomas Carter, 2005) Paramount

Death Proof [Blu-ray] (Quentin Tarantino, 2007) Weinstein Company

Hot Rod [Blu-ray] (Akiva Schaffer, 2007) Paramount

Infernal Affairs I II III (3pc) [Blu-ray] - Mega Star

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

The Man Who Fell to Earth [Blu-ray] (Nicolas Roeg, 1976) Criterion

Planet Terror [Blu-ray] (Robert Rodriguez, 2007) Weinstein

PTU [Blu-ray] (Johnny To, 2003) Mei Ah

S.P.L. [Blu-ray] (Wilson Yip, 2005) Deltamac

The Third Man [Blu-ray] (Carol Reed, 1949) Criterion

Traitor [Blu-ray] (Jeffrey Nachmanoff, 2008) Starz / Anchor Bay

The Wedding Director (Marco Bellocchio, 2006) New Yorker

"It's too bad I'm not as wonderful a person as people say I am, because the world could use a few people like that."
Alan Alda, actor, 1994
Huddle like penguins (physically and emotionally!)