DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: January 2017


> John Carpenter talks about Assault on Precinct 13
> Roger Ebert on why The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is one of the great movies


DVD & Blu-ray Lists

The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2015

> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2014
> 2015 in Film

DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: October 2014

DVD and Blu-ray OCTOBER 2014


  • Fruitvale Station (Altitude) Blu-ray / Normal
  • The Jim Jarmusch Collection (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Box Set
  • Gone With the Wind (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / with UltraViolet Copy (75th Anniversary Edition)
  • The Green Mile (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / with UltraViolet Copy (15th Anniversary Edition)
  • Joe (Curzon Film World) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Natural Born Killers (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Shivers (Arrow Video) Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play
  • Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / with UltraViolet Copy – Double Play
  • Steven Spielberg: Director’s Collection (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / with Book
  • Welcome to New York (Altitude) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Cold in July (Icon Home Entertainment) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director’s Cut (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / with UltraViolet Copy – Double Play
  • Daybreak (StudioCanal) Blu-ray / 75th Anniversary Edition
  • Westworld (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / with UltraViolet Copy – Double Play
  • Mystery Road (Axiom Films) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Castles in the Sky (Dazzler) Blu-ray / Normal

> DVD & Blu-ray Picks for September 2014
> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: July 2013

July 2013 DVD Blu-ray Picks


> DVD & Blu-ray Picks for June 2013
> The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2012

DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Blow Out

Blow Out

Brian De Palma’s best film gets a UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.

A cinematic fusion of Antonioni’s Blow-up (1966) and Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), it draws heavily on real events (notably the JFK assassination, Chappaquiddick and Watergate) and sees a sound technician (John Travolta) drawn into a sinister plot after accidentally recording what appears to be a gunshot.

Although not a financial success on its theatrical release, it stands up very well to repeated viewing, not only as a showcase of the director’s dazzling technique, but also as a gripping thriller.

Brilliantly shot by famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, it has many of the stylistic tricks favoured by De Palma: overhead shots, split-screen and split focus are just some of the visual flourishes on display.

But this isn’t just an exercise in style, as it manages to capture the bleak post-Watergate mood that lingered long after Nixon resigned, whilst also playing around with our perception of what we see and hear on screen.

Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown had just come off Kubrick’s The Shining and this was his first time working with De Palma and the smooth movements the camera allowed suited the director’s style perfectly (he also used it to memorable effect in Carlito’s Way and Snake Eyes).

The performances are also excellent: John Travolta demonstrates his more subdued side after the late 70s superstardom madness of Saturday Night Fever and Grease; Nancy Allen paints a sympathetic portrait of innocence in what could have been a clichéd role and John Lithgow is suitably creepy as the serial killer.

Blow Out is also about the filmmaking process itself: the central character has to recreate an event using sounds and images. But can we trust what we see and hear? Even if we can, what about the forces that initially shaped them?

This disc comes in a regular and steelbook limited edition with the following special features:

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma
  • Original Dolby 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Black and White in Colour: An Interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Rag Doll Memories: Nancy Allen on Blow Out
  • Return to Philadelphia: An interview with Producer George Litto
  • A gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, a conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma and more to be confirmed

> Buy Blow Out on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Blow Out at the IMDb

DVD & Blu-ray

The Best DVD and Blu-Ray Releases Of 2012

Best DVD Blu of 2012


Project Nim (Icon Home Entertainment) [Read our full review] [Buy it on DVD]
In a Better World (Axiom) [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]
Boardwalk Empire – Season 1 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Melancholia (Artificial Eye) [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Roger Dodger (StudioCanal) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (StudioCanal)  [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Drive (Icon Home Entertainment) [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
The Tin Drum (Arrow) [Buy the dual format Blu-ray and DVD edition]


Tyrannosaur (Studiocanal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray] [Read our original review]
Tabloid (Dogwoof) [Buy on DVD] [Read our original review]
All Quiet On the Western Front (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
To Kill a Mockingbird (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Repo Man (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
The Conformist (Arrow Video) [Buy the Dual Format DVD/Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Artificial Eye) [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK] [Read our full review]
The Mizoguchi Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD box set]


The Ides of March (Entertainment One) [Read our full review here] [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Contagion (Warner Home Video) [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Anonymous (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) [Read our full review here] [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Jane Eyre (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray + DVD & Digital Copy] [Read our full review here]
Rabbit Proof Fence (Optimum Home Enterainment) [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Naqoyqatsi (Miramax) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
Moneyball (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Available on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon] [Read our full review here]
Take Shelter (Universal Pictures)


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Home Ent.)
Dracula (Universal) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Hugo (EIV) [Read our full review] [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]
La Grande Illusion
 (StudioCanal) [Buy the DVD or Blu-ray]
Bad Lieutenant (Fabulous Films) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK]


The Story of Film (Network) [Buy at Amazon]
Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight (Mr. Bongo) [Buy at Amazon]
Into the Abyss (Revolver)
The Jazz Baroness (3DD)
Treme: Season 2 (Warner Bros.)
Shame (Momentum) [Buy at Amazon]
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox)
The Artist (EV) [Buy at Amazon]


Blue Velvet (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Lost Highway (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Odd Man Out (Network) [Buy at Amazon]


Chariots of Fire (Fox)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Total Recall (Optimum Home Entertainment)
A Fish Called Wanda (MGM Home Entertainment) [Buy at Amazon]


Le Harve (Artificial Eye) [Buy at Amazon]
The Descendants (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
Marley (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Rumble Fish (Eureka)


Jaws (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Les Enfants Du Paradis (Second Sight) [Buy at Amazon]
All Quiet On The Western Front (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
James Bond: Bond 50 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
To Catch a Thief (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
That Obscure Object of Desire (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Trial (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Turin Horse (Artificial Eye)


Lawrence of Arabia (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Walkabout (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Dracula (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Frankenstein (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Wolf Man (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry (Artificial Eye)
Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
Shut Up and Play the Hits (Pulse Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Curse of Frankenstein (Lionsgate UK) [Buy at Amazon]
Woody Allen: A Documentary (Soda Pictures) [Buy at Amazon]
ET – The Extra Terrestrial (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Glengarry Glen Ross (ITV DVD)
Nostalgia for the Light (New Wave Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Company of Wolves (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
The Shawshank Redemption (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
Homeland: Season 1 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]


Citizen Kane (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Groundhog Day (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Margin Call (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
The Man in the White Suit (Studiocanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Singin’ in the Rain (Warner Home Video) [Buy at Amazon]


Following (Criterion) [Buy Region 1 Blu-ray]
Searching For Sugar Man (Studiocanal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2011
> 2012 in Film

DVD & Blu-ray

Rewind 2012: DVD & Blu-ray Picks from April to November

One of the major changes in home entertainment over the last year was the rise of video-on-demand, with services such as iTunes, Lovefilm and Netflix eating away at the disc market.

But discs are still alive and studios still control the major releases on Blu-ray and DVD, with some releases coming with the cloud-based format called UltraViolet, which allows users to legally rip a digital copy.

We’ll have to wait and see how Christmas sales pan out, but we are currently living through a profound change in how we watch films in the home.

At the time of writing, the current situation resembles a confusing technical soup with various companies having to figure out some very difficult problems in how they produce and distribute their content.

But that is the subject of a longer post.

Here are my DVD and Blu-ray picks .


The Story of Film (Network) [Buy at Amazon]
Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight (Mr. Bongo) [Buy at Amazon]
Into the Abyss (Revolver)
The Jazz Baroness (3DD)
Treme: Season 2 (Warner Bros.)
Shame (Momentum) [Buy at Amazon]
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox)
The Artist (EV) [Buy at Amazon]


Blue Velvet (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Lost Highway (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Odd Man Out (Network) [Buy at Amazon]


Chariots of Fire (Fox)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Total Recall (Optimum Home Entertainment)
Some Like It Hot (MGM Home Entertainment)
A Fish Called Wanda (MGM Home Entertainment) [Buy at Amazon]


Le Harve (Artificial Eye) [Buy at Amazon]
Orlando (Artificial Eye)
This Must Be The Place (Trinity)
The Descendants (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
Marley (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Rumble Fish (Eureka)


Jaws (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Les Enfants Du Paradis (Second Sight) [Buy at Amazon]
All Quiet On The Western Front (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
James Bond: Bond 50 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
To Catch a Thief (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
That Obscure Object of Desire (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Trial (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Turin Horse (Artificial Eye)


Lawrence of Arabia (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Walkabout (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Dracula (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Frankenstein (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Wolf Man (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry (Artificial Eye)
Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
Prometheus (Fox)
Shut Up and Play the Hits (Pulse Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Curse of Frankenstein (Lionsgate UK) [Buy at Amazon]
Woody Allen: A Documentary (Soda Pictures) [Buy at Amazon]
ET – The Extra Terrestrial (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Glengarry Glen Ross (ITV DVD)
Nostalgia for the Light (New Wave Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Company of Wolves (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
The Shawshank Redemption (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
Homeland: Season 1 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]


Citizen Kane (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Groundhog Day (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Margin Call (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
The Man in the White Suit (Studiocanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Singin’ in the Rain (Warner Home Video) [Buy at Amazon]

The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2011
> 2012 in Film

DVD & Blu-ray

The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2011

Here are my picks of the DVD and Blu-rays released in the UK during 2011.

Particular highlights were The Social Network, Don’t Look Now, Somewhere,  The Man Who Fell to EarthThe Thin Red Line, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, Miller’s CrossingBen HurMy Voyage to ItalyUnited 93ManhunterAirplane!,  The ConversationThe Tree of LifeHenry: Portrait of a Serial KillerThe Three Colours Trilogy and Touch of Evil.

The most notable box sets were The Stanley Kubrick Collection (region free!), The Complete Larry Sanders, The Andrei Tarkovsky Collection and The Paolo Sorrentino Collection.

If you are reading this outside the UK just search your local Amazon site or equivalent online store and search for the title.














If you are based in the US or have a multi-region Blu-ray player then the following titles are my Criterion picks:

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
Browse all the cinema releases of 2011
The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2010

Interesting Technology

Martin Scorsese and Grover Crisp on Blu-ray

How far has Blu-ray come as a format since the Martin Scorsese keynote address at the Blu-Con 2.0 conference in 2009?

Two years ago Scorsese joined the event live via satellite from New York City and his 20-minute address was moderated by Grover Crisp, the man in charge of film restoration and digital mastering for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In the run up to Christmas sales of the home video format will be under renewed scrutiny, but it is worth looking at what was said via video of the event which someone has posted online in three parts:

Part 1: The history of home video, proper aspect ratios, why the Blu-ray format is superior, Bernard Herrman’s score for Taxi Driver (for which Crisp oversaw the recent Blu-ray restoration).

Part 2: They discuss the uncompressed sound of the format, how the rise of DVD drove the restoration of prints and the 4k restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

Part 3: More on the Dr. Strangelove restoration and the dilemmas involved in doing it, Scorsese’s favourite film on Blu-ray, whether he considers the Blu-ray release before shooting a film and the benefits to future generations of filmmakers.

All this is interesting, not just because Scorsese is such a passionate authority on film, but because there is still is some confusion over the Blu-ray format.

The main problems have been: the needless format war which delayed the adoption of the format; mainstream confusion over how it differs from DVD; the costs of upgrading to a player and the recession.

I remember being sceptical about both high-definition disc formats (HD-DVD and Blu-ray) when they were given their first major marketing push in the run up to Christmas of 2007.

Was its introduction too soon after DVD?

I was invited to a screening of The Bourne Ultimatum on HD-DVD (still available on Amazon for some reason), projected in a cinema and the three guys there (publicity people mainly, but also a someone from Microsoft, who were involved in the format) were very bullish about why it would succeed and Blu-ray wouldn’t.

Two months later in February 2008 the HD-DVD format was dead, as Toshiba (the main electrical company behind the format) couldn’t sustain the costs after studios and retailers sided with Blu-ray.

During 2008 the cost of Blu-ray discs and systems was still relatively high, even though television was shifting to the HD era and it became hard to actually buy old-style analogue television sets.

The Dark Knight in late 2008 was perhaps the first truly blockbuster disc in the format, even though – compared to DVD – overall sales were still sluggish and anecdotally even people in the media I spoke to were confused, sceptical or didn’t care.

The main misunderstanding I encountered was the worry that DVDs couldn’t play on a Blu-ray player (they can) and just scepticism about upgrading their equipment.

Even in 2010 The Guardian were publishing articles by writers who didn’t seem to know what they were talking about, which prompted me to write this response.

At the moment, the adoption of the format is still being hobbled by the resilience of the DVD format (a lot of great titles are still really cheap) and a lingering sense of confusion about Blu-ray outside the home video/cinephile realm.

There is a three-way split between DVD, Blu-ray and digital downloads (if you include Netflix, iTunes etc) but optical discs might be more resilient than people think.

Although there are analogies with where the music industry was ten years ago, the recent problems at Netflix suggest that the adoption of digital downloads and streaming might be slower than you think.

Which brings us back to Scorsese.

His point that Blu-ray offers the best quality and drives the restoration of classic films (a subject very close to his heart) are good ones and in a year of sequels and remakes at the cinema, releases like Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, Ben Hur and The Three Colours Trilogy have been most welcome.

Seeing classic films that have been restored with care and attention is a real joy that reminds you of the craft that originally made them so great.

> More on the Blu-ray format at Wikipedia
> Recent DVD & Blu-ray posts
> Taxi Driver on Blu-ray
> Recent Martin Scorsese posts


First Films

New film formats come along every era but your first time with one usually sticks with you.

For my generation a common question to a music fan was ‘what was the first record you bought?’

But what about film experiences?

Yesterday London listings magazine Time Out asked readers on Twitter what their first DVD was and it triggered some memories not just of actual films, but the manner in which I first saw them.

In my life time I’ve seen movies projected via celluloid and digital prints at various cinemas, rented and then bought VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and digital downloads.

There’s a whole generation growing up now in a time where the digital quickly replacing the physical and between 2013 and 2015 it is estimated that celluloid as a projection medium will effectively die.

Remembering the first time you saw a film in a certain format not only triggers an important memory but also reminds us of what those experiences and technologies meant.

Here’s my list. (If you want to use Twitter for this use the hashtag #firstfilms and my username is @filmdetail)


Given the amount of films I’ve seen in cinemas down the years, it might seem odd that I have difficulty remembering what the very first one was.

I know the cinema (The Rex in Berkhamstead), even the screen, and I’m pretty certain it was The Empire Strikes Back (which would’ve made it sometime in 1980) but being just 3 years old, I can only recall a few sequences and images.

After closing in 1988, the cinema was reborn years later and in 2006 Garth Jennings would film some scenes from Son of Rambow there.

Not long after I saw Superman II (which opened in the UK a few months before its US premiere) and the following year E.T. at the Hemel Hempstead Odeon.

I clearly remember being in the auditorium and a big deal at the times, but one that I couldn’t fully take in at the time.

My first ‘pristine’ cinema memory was Return of the Jedi (again at the Rex, Berkhamsted) and Octopussy (at the Watford Odeon) during the summer of 1983.

Never Say Never Again and Jaws 3D followed later that year.

I can also recall weird stuff that no-one ever talks about now like Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (“It’s High Noon at the end of the universe!”) which for years I was concerned was actually a figment of my imagination, until the IMDb and Wikipedia confirmed it really did exist.

Part of the fascination of the cinema then and now is pretty simple.

The big screen and sound is overwhelming and at its very best provides a lift like no other art form in human history.

At a young age, it is almost a form of magic that images so big can exist in a large room near to where you actually live, before immersing you in stories and locations anywhere in the world (or even outside it).

What’s interesting to note if you look at the biggest releases of this era, along with the PG-rated blockbusters I was allowed to see they were also a lot of adult films which I couldn’t get in to due to the restrictive ratings system in the UK.

Home video was about to change that.

FIRST VIDEO(S): Blade Runner and The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Before the advent of home video, the only way you could watch films outside of their theatrical release was a repeat run or on television.

Sony actually developed the idea of recording video signals on to magnetic tape in the 1970s, but the major studios were vehemently opposed to it.

They felt it would kill their existing theatrical business (although ultimately home video became a huge profit source they relied upon) and sided against Sony’s Betamax format in favour of JVC’s VHS.

Plastic tapes inside the home were here to stay for the 1980s and 1990s.

Amongst the films on TV that I taped with the intensity of a projectionist responsible for a gala premiere were: Raiders of the Lost Ark (on ITV in 1985) and Escape from New York (on ITV in 1986).

Although I was young at the time (8 to be precise), the advent of the VCR was fairly mind blowing.

It not only meant you could actually record films on late at night and watch them the following day, but with rental stores opening up it was possible to see all the films you missed out on at the cinema.

As someone who regularly scanned Teletext (like an early version of the web but with 3 digit codes instead of URLs) for the latest cinema and TV listings, this was another revolution.

Although there is a generation that complained that they couldn’t work a VCR, these were people who couldn’t read the manual and didn’t think that recording films after the watershed (9pm) was incredibly exciting.

But I was that person and the first film I recorded off the TV was Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and I have to confess part of me didn’t think it would work.

Not because I doubted the instructions, but because there was something incredible about waking up, checking the VCR and watching a film in your own home.

This was what it was like to be a young film fan in the mid-1980s.

But if you wanted to see newer films (at this point the release window was 12 months) you had to go down to the video rental store as retail came later in 1989.

Sometime in 1985 I remember being given a big list of films the local renal store had which must have been around 200 titles, which was not quite Netflix or Amazon levels, but still mind-blowing for an 8 year old.

I’d like to say I picked Blade Runner as my first video rental because I somehow knew it would become an enduring classic, but the fact was it starred Harrison Ford and seemed along the lines of Star Wars.

This was seven years before the restored director’s cut surfaced in 1992 and I was too young to fully take it in, even though at that time many MTV videos were ripping off its visual aesthetic.

But it was still exciting that films were available outside the whims of broadcasters.

Amongst the rental highlights of this era were Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1986 (which I saw before the first two), Beverly Hills Cop in 1987 (a full year before BBC1 removed *all* the swearing for its unintentionally hilarious network TV premiere) and Aliens in 1988 (mainly because it starred my friend’s dad).

When I later moved within walking distance of a video store, things got really serious.

New releases such as The Pick-Up Artist, Robocop, Maximum Overdrive, Predator and The Princess Bride were exciting to watch but there was also something about browsing the shelves.

The big black cases of Warner Bros movies, the CIC logo on Universal & Paramount titles and excitement of seeing if a new in-demand release had been returned was all heady stuff.

Notice how this CBS/Fox trailer for films on VHS employs a lot of the (now dated) video effects that were emerging in the 1980s:

One thing I can’t imagine going back to was the squarer aspect ratio for all those widescreen movies, even if a small minority of modern directors like Andrea Arnold and Gus Van Sant have gone back to it for effect.

Of course this notion seems comical in the current era of digital plenty, but maybe the idea that films were inherently special was partly forged in these trips where you couldn’t just rent anything as a lot of the hot titles were not available every time you went to the store.

When I switched schools in 1988 all the talk in the classroom was of the massive VHS titles of that era: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (girls and boys), Dirty Dancing (mainly girls), Lethal Weapon and Nightmare on Elm St III (which lazy people referred to as “Freddy III”).

Companies were easing back-catalogue titles into sell-through and the first retail video I owned (or had bought for me) was The Good, the Bad & the Ugly in early 1988 and it is still a special film to me for all sorts of reasons.

For a few years you couldn’t really buy a new release rental video (unless you wanted to shell out about £80) as film companies felt that retail would cannibalise the rental market for brand new titles.

When Warner Bros broke the mould by releasing Rain Man to buy and rent on the same day in November 1989, it marked the beginning of an era when videos really became ubiquitous until the start of the DVD boom.

There were even annoying anti-piracy ads back then:

FIRST DVD: Glengarry Glen Ross

Although it will probably go down as the most profitable home format in history, I wasn’t an early adopter when it came to DVD, as the cost of the players seemed too high at first.

The bestselling titles early on included Enemy of the State in the spring of 1999 and later that year The Matrix, which really gave the format a boost.

It wasn’t until December 2001 that I got my first DVD player and in retrospect I can’t believe I left it that long.

For some reason I bought Glengarry Glen Ross as my first DVD (maybe it was cheap?) which was cropped to the 4:3 aspect ratio and weirdly on the Carlton TV DVD label.

The US distributor New Line Cinema would shrewdly sell off the foreign rights to their films to UK distributors, but why Carlton (a British TV company) distributed it is still something of a mystery.

I know their former boss Michael Green was a big film fan but it seems somewhat random that they distributed various films such as The Shawshank Redemption.

Early DVDs I remember renting included Hannibal, whilst Fight Club and Memento other discs I bought and kept coming back to (especially the latter).

FIRST BLU-RAY: There Will Be Blood

People may forget that the industry upgrade to a single HD format was a mess, which wasted two very valuable years, wasted a lot of Toshiba’s money and confused a lot of consumers.

Part of the problem was convincing people to upgrade the DVD collections just a few years after they had done the same with VHS tapes.

Not only that but you needed a new TV and player to do so and if that wasn’t enough studios and manufacturers were split on to what format to go with.

Sony’s Blu-ray eventually won the battle when Toshiba finally caved in during early 2008.

It was a few months later that Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic about a deranged oil man became my first Blu-ray purchase in anticipation of actually buying a player.

I knew it would look great in HD and wanted to wait until Christmas until the prices of players came down further.

When I played it for the first time, I was slightly disappointed in the loading time of the player and disc, which was later solved by a software update.

It looked fantastic, but those initial problems would foreshadow why HD formats wouldn’t take off in the same way that DVD did.

But although I had my doubts about HD, it has rekindled my love of older films, especially the digital restorations which breathe new life into classics.

Titles such as North By Northwest, Apocalypse Now, Baraka, Pierrot Le Fou, Ben Hur and Taxi Driver are just some that look spectacular.

Ironically, the digital process – by which the negative elements are scanned, restored frame-by-frame and then mastered at high-resolution – revives the filmic look of the original and in some cases is superior to even revival prints I’ve seen in the past.

Here’s Martin Scorsese talking about the format and the history of home video:


This one is a bit of cheat because I had a Blu-ray disc of Crazy Heart and (legally) transferred the digital copy on to my computer, using the code provided on the triple play edition.

In truth, I’m not a big downloader even though the internet is the inevitable delivery system of the future.

Why doesn’t it cut it for me just yet?

The picture quality on Blu-ray is superior and you also have the problem of the large file sizes chewing up your hard drive.

That said, a digital copy of a film on a device like an iPad is handy if you want to analyse a film closely, as there’s something tactile about touching and looking at it on those kind of devices.

A smartphone is still too small a screen for long form video and I tend to agree with David Lynch’s opinion about watching a whole film on an iPhone.

I still think it is relatively early days for digital downloads as the market is dominated by only a few key players Apple, Amazon and Netflix.

This means the studios who control the content are wary of surrendering control to a dominant gatekeeper in the same way the major music labels ceded power to Apple.

At the moment the main digital initiative amongst the major studios is UltraViolet, which essentially allows users to buy digital versions of films.

Practically, this means that if you buy the UltraViolet version of a film, you can – in theory – download it to an internet connected device be it a TV, tablet or whatever device you choose.

At the moment Sony Pictures, Universal, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate are all signed up to this.

Disney and Apple, who’ve had a close relationship since 2006, have opted for their digital file service called KeyChest and one can assume it will be closely tied to iTunes or maybe even the rumoured Apple television set.

Someone who currently works for the home entertainment arm of a major studio told me recently that the major challenge they currently face is a psychological one.

This particular studio has digitized most of its film library for downloads to various devices (especially gaming consoles like X-box and the PS3) there is still a resistance.

Older consumers used to buying discs in shops are still sometimes wary of digital downloads because they can’t physically touch them and worried about passwords not working or some technical glitch stopping them from watching films they’ve bought.

Another aspect is the recession hitting younger consumers who have been been an important part of driving new formats.

Then there is the storage issue: a disc can sit on your shelf for years but what about that download you bought on an older computer?

Users of iTunes – easily the most successful digital distribution platform – will attest that transferring you MP3 libraries between different computers is something of a nightmare.

This has led to Apple introducing iCloud, which stores all your media purchases in one place, but it is still early days for that to become fully mainstream.

Despite the huge cost savings that digital distribution will provide, perhaps it will take until broadband speeds get even faster, TVs get less fiddly and the average consumer (not just early adopters) get comfortable with the idea of replacing their discs.

So, what are your first films?

> Find out more about VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and UltraViolet at Wikipedia
> From Celluloid to Digital

DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Conversation

Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful thriller forms an important part of his incredible run of films during the 1970s.

Surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is recruited to track and record a young couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) in San Francisco’s crowded Union Square.

A loner by nature, he gradually begins to suspect the motives behind the man who hired him to do the job (Robert Duvall) and becomes obsessed with a piece of audio that may (or may not) hold the key to his concerns.

Beginning with a stunning opening sequence that is a master class in cinematography, sound and editing, this is a slow-burn film about paranoia and technology, whose relevance has only increased over time.

Back in the mid-1970s it seemed eerily prescient as the Watergate scandal unfolded around the time of release and it has a new topicality now in an era where much of modern life is recorded and put online.

Coppola’s other films in the 1970s were amongst the greatest of the New Hollywood era: The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979) are not just masterpieces of the time but also landmark films in American cinema.

The Conversation opened in April of 1974 and although it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, in retrospect it has always been overshadowed by the success of The Godfather sequel, which opened around Christmas of that year.

At the 47th Academy Awards, both films competed against each other, with his gangster epic becoming the first sequel ever to win Best Picture.

An extraordinary feat, the only downside was that The Conversation has slightly suffered in retrospect, which is a shame as it reveals as much about power as the Godfather films did.

Gene Hackman gives one of his greatest performances as a haunted man who knows only too well that the technology he employs to snoop on people can be used against him.

Methodical yet dignified, he creates a compelling protagonist in a role which in other films would be the part of the token technical geek, but here becomes something else.

Coppola and Hackman combined to show that it is often the technical people who wield the real power and responsibility in society, and the unbearable tension this can create inside of them.

Other roles are expertly cast: look out for a young Harrison Ford as the sinister assistant to Robert Duvall; Jon Cazale as Hackman’s assistant and Teri Garr as the distant girlfriend.

But the real stars of the film are behind the camera and repeat viewings reveal the masterful technical work by Coppola, DP Bill Butler and editor/sound designer Walter Murch.

Coppola was heavily influenced by Antonioni’s Blow-up (1966) and wanted to do for sound recording what that film had done for photography.

Featuring one of the most intricate and accomplished sound designs of the 1970s, Murch really cemented his reputation with some stunning work on this film as supervising editor and sound designer.

Not only are the sounds we hear crucial to the plot, but the overall construction creates a sense of uncertainty which effectively lends us the ears of the central character.

Coppola made sound an integral part of the narrative and in some ways laid the ground for the innovations on Apocalypse Now, which was effectively the first film to have a 5.1 surround mix.

On the Bu-ray, the uncompressed audio is a joy to behold and gives it the carefully crafted sound mix the attention it deserves.

In fact this disc offers the film’s original mono track in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, but also a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which has been crafted with considerable care and attention (this is probably down to the fact that Coppola still co-owns distribution rights to the film).

David Shire’s restrained but haunting score also adds to the melancholy mood and sounds wonderful in the new mixed audio.

The visuals are another story. Originally Coppola hired Haskell Wexler after his pioneering work on Medium Cool (1968) but they soon fell out after completing the opening sequence.

San Francisco provided a memorable backdrop for Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) and Coppola seems to play on that film’s themes of obsession and cruelty.

He also draws on some of the subjects explored in The Godfather films, such as Catholicism, crime and power, despite the different period and context.

The transfer here may appear grainy at times but as Coppola explains in the commentary track, he wanted to use different film stocks and zoom lenses in order to give the film a verite vibe and the feel of a surveillance video, which explains the odd camera movements at certain moments.

Other than that, it looks great with the colours, clarity and contrast looking great and as good as it ever has in the home.

At the time there was a lot of press speculation that the bugging technology used in the film was similar to that used in the Watergate break-in, even though Coppola admitted that this was coincidental.

But this fact reveals the film’s lasting power as a parable for man’s manipulation of tools in order to achieve certain ends: then it Nixon sanctioning the illegal bugging of political opponents; in recent years, it was Bush signing the Patriot Act to snoop on citizens.

So despite the period setting, the core themes give it a lasting relevance and there’s much that happens that makes it ideal for home viewing, with many elements not immediately apparent on a first watch.

Keep your eyes and ears open for the use of colour, musical motifs, carefully written dialogue and the surprising sympathy we feel for the central character.

We come to connect with a professional eavesdropper who becomes vicariously involved people he’s never met.

Isn’t that a brilliant metaphor for watching a movie?


  • Feature Commentary with Writer-Director Francis Ford Coppola: An outstanding audio commentary, filled with useful detail, in which Coppola provides the context for the film and his specific influences and aims. He covers an impressive range of subjects including casting, filming and editing with his usual insight and intelligence.
  • Feature Commentary with Editor Walter Murch: Coppola’s creative partner in so many of his key movies deserves his own track as the film is so dependent on editing and sound. An essential listen for those curious about the craft of constructing the audio landscape of a film he
  • Close-Up on The Conversation (8:39): An archive promotional featurette showing Coppola and Hackman on set.
  • Cindy Williams Screen Test (5:02): This shows the actress reading for the part that actually went to Teri Garr.
  • Harrison Ford Screen Test (6:45): Ford’s audition for the part that Frederic Forrest ended up playing makes for an interesting ‘what if’ clip.
  • “No Cigar” (2:26): A short 1956 student film by Coppola, which the director feels was an early influence on the character of Harry Caul.
  • Harry Caul’s San Francisco – Then And Now (3:43): A slideshow look at several locations from the film as they were in 1973 and as they appear now.
  • David Shire Interviewed by Francis Ford Coppola (10:57): Shire talks about scoring the film and how important music was to setting the film’s melancholy mood.
  • Archival Gene Hackman Interview (4:04): An interview with Hackman on the set of the film.
  • Script Dictations from Francis Ford Coppola (49:23) Great audio feature where Coppola dictates the screenplay, playing along to typed versions of the pages and clips from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD; 2:50)

> Buy The Conversation on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Screenshots of the Blu-ray at DVD Beaver


DVD & Blu-ray News

Apocalypse Now UK Blu-ray Release

Apocalypse Now appears to be getting a UK Blu-ray release on June 13th.

New artwork and details have surfaced over at and it would appear that Optimum are basically releasing the same 3-disc set that came out in the US last October.

If that is the case then the extras will be:

  • Apocalypse Now – 1979 Cut
  • Apocalypse Now Redux
  • “A Conversation with Martin Sheen” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
  • “An Interview with John Milius” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Complete Francis Ford Coppola interview with Roger Ebert at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival
  • Monkey Sampan “lost scene”
  • Additional Scenes
  • “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” end credits with audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola
  • “The Hollow Men,” video of Marlon Brando reading T.S. Eliot’s poem
  • Featurettes:
  • The Birth of 5.1 Sound
  • Ghost Helicopter Flyover sound effects demonstration
  • A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now
  • The Music of Apocalypse Now
  • Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now
  • The Final Mix
  • Apocalypse Then and Now
  • The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
  • PBR Streetgang
  • The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
  • The Synthesizer Soundtrack” article by music synthesizer inventor Bob Moog
  • Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse
  • Optional audio commentary with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola
  • 48-page collectible printed booklet with special note from Francis Ford Coppola, never-before-seen archives from the set, behind the scenes photos and more
  • John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Ford Coppola Notes
  • Storyboard Gallery
  • Photo Gallery, including images from photographer Mary Ellen Mark
  • Marketing Archive

> Apocalypse Now at Wikipedia and IMDb
> Details of the US Blu-ray of Apocalypse Now

DVD & Blu-ray

The Best DVD and Blu-ray Releases of 2010

Here are my picks of the DVD and Blu-ray released in 2010, which include Dr. Strangelove, Pierrot Le Fou, The White Ribbon, Dr. Zhivago, The Last Emperor, A Prophet, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Psycho, The Third Man, Se7en, The Exorcist, Carlos and Inception.

Just click on the film title to read the original reviews and the links on the side to buy them.














N.B. As I’m based in the UK, all of these DVDs are UK titles (apart from the imports) but if you live in a different region of the world check out or your local Amazon site and they should have an equivalent version of the film.

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Browse all the cinema releases of 2010
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009

DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray: Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition

James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster finally gets the special edition treatment with the Avatar: Collector’s Extended Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) after a barebones release back in the Spring.

In case you didn’t catch what is now the most financially successful film in history at cinemas, the story involves an ex-Marine (Sam Worthington) who to an exotic alien planet where is caught between a battle between the natives and the human colonists.

The image quality of the original Blu-ray transfer was stunning. Even without the 3D aspect, which helped bump up ticket sales in cinemas, the quality of the visuals is exemplary with the live action and visual effects shots integrating wonderfully.

With this extended edition the major selling point is that this package contains three different cuts: the original theatrical release, the special edition re-release, and the exclusive extended cut not shown in theaters.

Added to this are around eight hours of bonus features that exhaustively detail the production of the film.

The three discs break down as follows:

Disc 1: Three Movie Versions

  • Original Theatrical Edition (includes family audio track with objectionable language removed)
  • Special Edition Re-Release (includes family audio track with objectionable language removed)
  • Collector’s Extended Cut with 16 additional minutes, including alternate opening on earth

Disc 2: Filmmaker’s Journey

  • Over 45 minutes of never-before-seen deleted scenes
  • Screen tests, on-set footage, and visual-effects reels
  • Capturing Avatar: Feature-length documentary covering the 16-year filmmakers’ journey, including interviews with James Cameron, Jon Landau, cast and crew
  • A Message from Pandora: James Cameron’s visit to the Amazon rainforest
  • The 2006 art reel: Original pitch of the Avatar vision
  • Brother termite test: Original motion capture test
  • The ILM prototype: Visual effects reel
  • Screen tests: Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana
  • Zoë’s life cast: Makeup session footage
  • On-set footage as live-action filming begins
  • VFX progressions
  • Crew film: The Volume

Disc 3: Pandora’s Box

  • Interactive scene deconstruction: Explore the stages of production of 17 different scenes through three viewing modes: capture level, template level, and final level with picture-in-picture reference
  • Production featurettes: Sculpting Avatar, Creating the Banshee, Creating the Thanator, The AMP Suit, Flying Vehicles, Na’vi Costumes, Speaking Na’vi, Pandora Flora, Stunts, Performance Capture, Virtual Camera, The 3D Fusion Camera, The Simul-Cam, Editing Avatar, Scoring Avatar, Sound Design, The Haka: The Spirit of New Zealand
  • Avatar original script
  • Avatar screenplay by James Cameron
  • Pandorapedia: Comprehensive guide to Pandora
  • Lyrics from five songs by James Cameron
  • The art of Avatar: Over 1,850 images in 16 themed galleries (The World of Pandora, The Creatures, Pandora Flora, Pandora Bioluminescence, The Na’vi, The Avatars, Maquettes, Na’vi Weapons, Na’vi Props, Na’vi Musical Instruments, RDA Designs, Flying Vehicles, AMP Suit, Human Weapons, Land Vehicles, One-Sheet Concepts)
  • BD-Live extras (requires BD-Live-enabled player and Internet connection–may be available a limited-time only): Crew Short: The Night Before Avatar; additional screen tests, including Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, and Laz Alonso; speaking Na’vi rehearsal footage; Weta Workshop: walk-and-talk presentation

Avatar Collector’s Extended Edition is out today from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

> Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: September 2010

The DVD and Blu-ray highlights to look out for this month include: the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop, the surreal Greek drama Dogtooth, The Studio Canal Collection (which includes Blu-ray versions of classic films such as Breathless, The Third Man and Mulholland Drive), Roman Polanski’s timely political thriller The Ghost, the landmark TV series The World at War on Blu-ray for the first time, Werner Herzog’s reworking of Bad Lieutenant and Michael Winterbottom’s controversial drama The Killer Inside Me.


After.Life (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Bent (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / with DVD]
Black Lightning (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Doctor Who – The New Series: 5 – Volume 4 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Entourage: Season 6 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Revolver Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Kick-Ass (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD / Limited Edition]
The African Queen: Restoration Edition (ITV DVD) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Brit Indie Collection (4DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Last Song (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Official 2010 World Cup South Africa Review (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
True Inspiration Collection (4DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD]


Breathless (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Date Night (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Delicatessen (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Dogtooth (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Glee: Complete Season 1 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (BFI) [Blu-ray and DVD combi]
Hung: Season 1 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Inferno (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Kandahar Break – Fortress of War (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Lost: The Complete Seasons 1-6 (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Lost: The Complete Sixth Season (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Buy it on lu-ray or DVD]
Mountain Gorillas (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Mulholland Drive (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD / Combi pack]
The Graduate (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Pianist (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Third Man (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Unthinkable (E1 Entertainment UK) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Vincere (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / DVD]


Death Note (4Digital Asia) [Blu-ray / with DVD]
Forbidden Planet (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
I Spit On Your Grave (101 Films) [Blu-ray / with DVD]
Lang Lang: Live in Vienna (Sony Classics) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Mars Attacks! (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Mother (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Robin Hood (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
The Back-up Plan (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Ghost (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Special Relationship (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
The Sword With No Name (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The World at War (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Tooth Fairy (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
[Rec] (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
[Rec] 2 (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]


A Nightmare On Elm Street (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
American – The Bill Hicks Story (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Lionsgate UK) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
City of Life and Death (High Fliers Video Distribution) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Death at a Funeral (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Fringe: Season 2 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Fringe: Seasons 1 and 2 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
House: Season 6 (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
Infernal Affairs (Palisades Tartan) [Blu-ray / DVD]
She’s Out of My League (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Space Chimps 2 – Zartog Strikes Back (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Stephen Hawking’s Universe (Demand DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD]
StreetDance (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Tetro (Soda Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Deep (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Killer Inside Me (Icon Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Wake Up Sid (UTV) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Warren Miller: Dynasty (Demand DVD) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2009
> Recent DVD & Blu-ray releases

DVD & Blu-ray Thoughts

In Defence of Blu-ray

Blu-ray won’t be as successful as DVD but it is still the best way to watch a properly restored film at home.

A recent post on The Guardian’s film blog by Shane Danielson titled ‘The devil is in Blu-ray’s detail‘ put forward the notion that the sharpness of Blu-ray is somehow a problem.

For those still unaware of it, Blu-ray is the high definition successor to the DVD, an optical disc format for which you need a specific player and an HD television.

As someone who was once a partial sceptic of HD formats, at least until the industry sorted out the ludicrous format war and high prices, I read Danielson’s post with a mixture of intrigue and then gradual disbelief.

I suspect it was meant to be a contrarian think-piece putting forward the notion that the upgrade to Blu-ray isn’t really worth it.

After all, who needs to fork out extra for a format in which you can see the make-up on actor’s face? Isn’t it all just a big money making scheme to make us replace our DVD collection?

Well, it is certainly true that commercial imperatives have driven the shift to Blu-ray, as broadcasters and consumers gradually move to digital and high definition.

If you want to buy a new TV, you will be hard pressed to find one that isn’t an HD set.

One of Danielson’s points is that too much detail revealed in a high definition version of a film can be a bad thing, but he makes some key mistakes in highlighting the Blu-ray versions of Psycho and The Godfather.

For a piece with the word ‘detail’ in the title, he gets Martin Balsam‘s name wrong (calling him ‘Robert’) and there is no mention whatsoever of how the whole film actually looks on the format.

Furthermore, it is a little silly to complain about the strings on Martian spaceships in the Blu-ray version of George Pal’s The War of the Worlds, especially when no such version of the film actually exists. (I can only assume he is referring to the DVD version, which kind of undercuts his wider point).

Having actually seen the Psycho Blu-ray, I can only repeat my admiration for the team who oversaw its transfer as it looks marvellous and, as someone who has only ever seen it on television, the sharpness and clarity of the image makes a welcome change.

As for the make-up on Balsam’s head in a particular scene, it isn’t really noticeable unless you want to freeze the image and analyse the split second it occurs.

I get the idea that some people take issue when certain elements of a film are ‘corrected’ for the Blu-ray release, such as when DNR is used to smooth out the image (e.g. the new Predator Blu-ray) but in this case I don’t think the argument stands up at all.

The restoration of The Godfather Blu-ray is another matter entirely.

Danielson says:

I remember being in the Virgin Megastore in Times Square back in 2008, and pausing to look at a screen showing Coppola’s The Godfather, which had been released on Blu-ray a fortnight earlier.

It was the trattoria sequence, when Michael kills McCluskey and Sollozzo, and it looked great . . . in fact, it looked TOO great.

The colours were rich and burnished (that background red, in particular), the shadows were deep – yet at the same time, there was a precision to the images, a sort of hyperreal clarity, that didn’t jibe with my memory of having watched the film, either in the cinema or at home.

It seemed weirdly artificial, somehow, and watching it, I felt that I could almost see the grain of the film stock, the flicker and shudder of individual frames, such was the degree of visual information on offer.

I felt, suddenly, like Ray Milland’s character in The Man With the X-Ray Eyes. This could, I realised, drive me mad, if I let it.

Aside from the fact that it is highly dubious to make a judgement on a transfer from one scene observed in shop two years ago, he couldn’t have picked a worse one to illustrate his point.

Not only is the restored Blu-ray version of The Godfather a thing of beauty to behold, it is probably probably one of the landmark releases in the format, overseen with great care and attention by restoration guru Robert Harris.

Anyone who actually watches the complete version of The Godfather on Blu-ray, rather than idly chatting to a Virgin Megastore employee, will actually realise this.

There is also a twenty minute feature titled ‘Emulsion Rescue’ which details the painstaking task of restoring this sequence, featuring interviews with director Francis Ford Coppola, cinematographer Gordon Willis and others involved in the process.

In particular, they discuss the famous restaurant sequence with Michael, McCluskey and Sollozzo and reveal that the original materials on which the film was shot were in a particularly poor shape.

Explaining the full technical details on how that scene was restored, they highlight how digital technology was used with the co-operation of the filmmakers, helping preserve their original artistic vision.

With this in mind, there have been cases where the Blu-ray release of a classic film has caused some controversy.

For the 2009 Blu-ray release of The French Connection, director William Friedkin altered the fundamental look of the film, which angered cinematographer Owen Roizman, who described the new transfer as “atrocious”.

This presents a peculiar conundrum. Digital technology allowed Friedkin to change the look of his own film for the Blu-ray version, but is he betraying his original vision from 1971 that first captivated audiences? Or is that his artistic right as director?

On the wider matter of the format as a whole, it is probably true to say that it will never be as popular or as profitable as DVD.

Last Christmas the current rate of sales was reportedly nowhere near the original projections Sony had for it a few years ago and the cost of consumers upgrading to new television equipment in a recession also stunted the uptake.

Perhaps the most useless aspect of Blu-ray Discs is BD-Live, which is meant to provide interactive experiences when you hook up your player to the Internet.

Aside from the technical hassle of actually connecting a Blu-ray player to your home internet connection (and I speak from bitter experience on this) the features aren’t all that appealing.

But bizarrely, BD-Live always seems to be one of the ‘selling points’ talked up by manufacturers and Blu-ray marketing campaigns when it is clearly rubbish, for now at least.

So with all the teething problems the format has had, why would I recommend it?

Unlike Danielson I don’t see any romance or inherent ‘magic’ in cathode ray tube televisions and I’m not suspicious of carefully restored digital transfers of great films.

A good Blu-ray simply looks far better than its DVD counterpart, with a much tighter and richer image. For the most part, it really is that simple.

The optimal experience for seeing any motion picture is still a fine print at a decent cinema, but aside from critics and cinephiles visiting repertory cinemas, how many times do viewers experience quality projection and sound at their local cinema?

Just in the last year I saw two films (Funny People and Sherlock Holmes – not exactly classics, admittedly) at a multiplex and the projection and image quality for both were appalling.

When you think of why DVD proved popular, it wasn’t just because of the relative cost but was also partly due to digital technology in the home rapidly catching up with that of the average cinema.

Another obstacle Blu-ray faced from early on was that the jump from VHS to DVD was much more noticeable to the casual consumer than the leap from DVD to the newer higher definition format.

Not every release looks pristine, but when they have had care and attention lavished on them the results can be stunning: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather trilogy, North By Northwest, Baraka, Blade Runner, The New World, The Dark Knight and Psycho are just some films that look incredible on Blu-ray.

As for the cost, they have come down in price a lot over the last 18 months to the point where many new releases are actually cheaper than DVDs were at a certain point in time.

Another misconception appears to be that you need to replace your whole library of DVDs.

This is incorrect as Blu-ray players do actually play DVDs, which means you can pick and choose which titles you want to see in glorious HD (e.g. The Godfather) and those you don’t (e.g. any film featuring Danny Dyer).

When discussing Blu-ray and future home video formats, someone often pipes up with a line about how we are all ‘downloading films now anyway’.

It is almost inevitable that some time in the future, the legal delivery of films to our homes will be via a next generation broadband pipe.

However, that is still some way off as most people still watch films on physical discs (DVD, Blu-ray) with a more targeted niche choosing digital downloads via iTunes, Netflix, Lovefilm, Amazon and presumably YouTube by the end of this year.

If you are a visual purist, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get 1080p films via iTunes anytime soon as the size of the film. It seems 720p is more likely when Apple unveil their revamped ‘iTV’ box.

Whilst there is a convenience factor to digital downloads that will probably mean that Blu-ray is the last optical disc format, it will take a few years before mainstream viewers fully embrace full digital delivery via their television sets or other devices.

Added to this is the fact that Blu-ray sales in Europe grew siginificantly during the first quarter of this year, although that is tempered by the fact that DVD sales are still around ten times greater.

Blu-ray has had its problems and will eventually go the way of DVD and VHS, but there is still a lot to be said for the format, especially when it comes to revisiting classics that have been properly restored.

> More details on The Godfather restoration at The Digital Bits
> Find out more about Blu-ray at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 12th July 2010



Green Zone (Universal): When director Paul Greengrass re-teamed with Matt Damon for this Iraq War drama there were high hopes that it would repeat the box office success of the Bourne films and the critical acclaim of Bloody Sunday and United 93.

Originally based on based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book ‘Imperial Life in the Emerald City’, it follows a ‘WMD hunter’ (played by Damon) as he begins to suspect something is wrong with the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

People Miller comes across in his search for the truth involve: the newly arrived US Administrator of Iraq (Greg Kinnear); a CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson); a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan); a local Iraqi (Khalid Abdalla); and a special forces Major (Jason Isaacs).

Although I have more than a few reservations with the historical approach to the material, there is no doubt that Greengrass is a master at creating suspense and a vivid sense of realism.

The production design is particularly impressive and Baghdad circa 2003 is recreated with some excellent use of sets and CGI, whilst Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography pulls us right into the frenetic world of political and military intrigue.

Presumably worried that audiences would reject the fiercely critical tone of the film towards the US government, Universal tried to market this as ‘Bourne in Iraq’.

This was a strategy doomed to failure as when mainstream American audiences finally did see it, as they continued their ongoing rejection of films about the Iraq debacle.

There is still a lot to commend Green Zone and despite being a costly production that reportedly lost a lot of money, it may be a film that earns slow burning respect over time.

The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:

  • Deleted scenes – Play with Video Commentary by Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
  • Deleted scenes – Play without Video Commentary
  • Matt Damon: Ready for Action
  • Inside the Green Zone
  • Feature commentary with Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
  • My Scenes
  • D-BOX
  • U-Control – Video Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
  • U-Control – Picture in Picture
  • BD Live / pocket BLU App / social BLU App

DVD Beaver report that the Blu-ray image is not as sharp as some might expect, but that this is intentional:

[The image] isn’t going to turn you on your ear with deft detail and magnificent sharpness. Not supposed to. What it does do is support Greengrass’ visual intentions in crafting the film. Earthy browns are prominent and the dusty desert achieves it’s lifeless, clandestine, dim aura. When colors shine the infrequency exports a brilliance by comparison. has a genuineness about it that gives me the feeling it is supporting the film appropriately.

> Buy Green Zone on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Read my original review of Green Zone


Bubba Ho-Tep (Anchor Bay): This bizarre cult gem from 2002 is well worth a look on Blu-ray, especially if you are fan of genuine cult cinema. Directed by Don Coscarelli, the story features Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell), a man claiming to be John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) and a rogue Egyptian mummy in a Texas nursing home.

Although the scenario is off-the-wall, it is a refreshing change from the po-faced horror remakes of recent times and Campbell actually gives a very funny performance as ‘The King’.

Coscarelli is probably best known for his work on the Phantasm films and he reunited with some of the crew that worked on those films. This has some of the sensibility of those films and is probably best enjoyed late at night and in the right frame of mind.

The image on the Blu-ray actually highlights the low budget nature of the film but that isn’t too much of the problem given the overall design (this isn’t exactly a David Lean-style epic).

The extras are the same as the DVD and include:

  • Exclusive introduction by Bruce Campbell
  • Audio commentary by director Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • Audio commentary by “The King”
  • Optional 5.1 and DTS audio
  • Joe R. Lansdale reads from his original short story “Bubba Ho-Tep”
  • Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • “The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep” featurette
  • “To Make a Mummy” – make-up and effects featurette
  • “Fit for a King” – Elvis costume featurette
  • “Rock Like an Egyptian” – featurette on the music of “Bubba Ho-Tep”
  • Music video
  • “The King and I” – an in-depth excavation with Don Coscarelli;
  • UK Premiere Q&A with Don Coscarelli
  • “Bruce Talks Bubba” – an interview with Bruce Campbell
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Photo gallery
  • TV spot
  • Cast and crew biographies
  • Character biographies

> Buy Bubba Ho-Tep on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Bubba Ho-Tep at the IMDb


Baseline (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Chasing Amy (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Clerks (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
Leap Year (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Lourdes (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Storm Warriors (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Valentine’s Day (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Youth in Revolt (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 31st May 2010



The Book of Eli (EV): Set in a post-apocalyptic America, this action-drama is about an enigmatic traveller named Eli (Denzel Washington) on a mysterious journey towards the west coast involving a valuable book. Along the way he comes across marauding bandits, a town ruled by the villainous Carnegie (Gary Oldman), and a young woman who he befriends (Mila Kunis).

Although The Hughes Brothers haven’t made a film since From Hell (2001), they manage to craft an entertaining and well-paced film with a satisfying twist. Although it owes a lot to other films in this genre (notably Mad Max 2) there are some nice ideas sprinkled in amongst the well-staged action sequences. Shot on the high-definition Red One camera, the visual look of the film is striking due to the heavy use of filters and the Blu-ray transfer is satisfyingly smooth. [Blu-ray / DVD]

The extras include the following featurettes:

  • A Lost Tale: Billy
  • Behind The Story
  • Deleted / Alternate Scenes
  • The Book of Eli Soundtrack
  • BD Exclusive: Picture-in-Picture Feature : Behind the Scenes and Interviews

The Damned United (Sony Pictures Home Ent.): This biopic of legendary English football manager Brian Clough was adapted from David Peace’s bestselling novel about his turbulent spell in charge of Leeds United during the 1970s. Starring Michael Sheen as Clough, Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor, Colm Meaney as Don Revie and Jim Broadbent as Sam Longson, it was adapted by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and directed Tom Hooper (Longford, John Adams).

Although the light-hearted tone tends to gloss over the riveting, dark tone of Peace’s book, the film is powered by several fine performances, with Sheen and Spall on top form. The production design impressively evokes the atmosphere of the 1970s, and the Blu-ray transfer is excellent with an impressively detailed image. [Blu-ray / DVD]

The extras for the Blu-ray include:

  • 1080P 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • English Audio Description Track
  • English, English HOH and Hindi subtitles
  • Commentary with Director Tom Hooper, Michael Sheen and Producer Andy Harries
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary
  • Cloughisms with Optional Director’s Commentary
  • Perfect Pitch: The Making Of The Damned United
  • Remembering Brian
  • The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies
  • Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on ‘Old Big ‘Ead’

* Listen to our interview with director Tom Hooper *


Alice in Wonderland (Disney) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Armored (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Astro Boy (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Bodyguards and Assassins (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Daybreakers (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
La Boheme: Royal Opera House (Opus Arte) [DVD]
One Night in Turin (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Romantic City: Venice [Blu-ray]
Salome: Royal Opera House [Blu-ray]
The Sky Crawlers (Manga Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Winter in Wartime (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 28th May including Sex and the City 2 and The Losers

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 24th May 2010



Up In The Air (Paramount): One of the most acclaimed films of last year was this comedy-drama about a man (George Clooney) who specialises in firing workers in a smooth and efficient manner because managers have outsourced this difficult process. Addicted to travel, air miles and an open relationship with a fellow traveller (Vera Farmiga), he is alarmed when his boss (Jason Bateman) makes him train a new recruit (Anna Kendrick) who advocates firing people via video-link.

Directed by Jason Reitman, it manages to combine breezy, observational comedy with more serious themes of work and finding love. The script even updates the themes of the book to the current era (one sequence is dated as happening in February 2010) by having recently fired workers essentially play versions of themselves.

Clooney is perfectly cast in the lead role and the supporting cast is generally excellent with Farmiga, Kendrick and Batemen contributing fine work. The technical aspects of the film are first rate across the board; with Dana Glaubetman’s editing worthy of special mention as it helps keep proceedings ticking along beautifully. Compared to Reitman’s previous films, it has the delicious wit of Thank You for Smoking and the unsentimental emotions of Juno, but actually surpasses both in terms of mixing up the light and heavy elements.

The HD transfer is of the high standard you might expect from a contemporary Hollywood studio and although this isn’t the kind of film that is a banquet for the eyes, the Blu-ray looks wonderfully clean and sharp. [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]

The special features include the following extras, which are all in high definition:

  • Commentary by writer/director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steelberg and first assistant director Jason Blumenfield
  • Shadowplay: Before The Story
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Jason Reitman:
    • To Know Me is To Fly With Me
    • Real People Firing and Irate Employee
    • Thumper and Extended Boat Scene
    • Omaha Montage
    • Spacesuit
    • Do You Live At The Hilton?
    • Nosey Neighbour
    • Natalie In Restroom
    • Natalie Vid-Chats
    • Angry Ryan Checks In
    • Goalquest Invite
    • Maynard Finch Commercial/Kara Calls Ryan
    • Barely Squeaking By / Natalie Calls
  • Trailers
  • “Help Yourself” music video by Sad Brad Smith
  • Storyboards
  • American Airlines Prank

Road to Perdition (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Sam Mendes made a big splash with American Beauty, his feature film debut which scooped several Oscars in 1999, and his eagerly anticipated follow up in 2002 was this Depression-era crime drama about a hitman (Tom Hanks) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Tyler Hoechlin) after the rest of his family are killed by the wayward son (Daniel Craig) of a mobster (Paul Newman).

Although this wasn’t as well received as his debut film, the technical aspects are excellent with the late Conrad Hall winning a richly deserved Oscar for his cinematography. DreamWorks made the bizarre decision to open it right in the middle of the summer season, meaning its Oscar chances were considerably reduced, but it still stands up well compared to the other films that won that year. [Buy it on Blu-ray]

The extras are as follows:

  • Sam Mendes Feature Introduction (HD)
  • A Cinematic Life: The Art & Influence of Conrad Hall (HD)
  • The Library: A Further Exploration of the World of Road To Perdition
  • Previously released bonus material is presented in standard definition, except as noted:
  • Commentary by director Sam Mendes
  • Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Sam Mendes)
  • The Making of Road To Perdition

Capitalism – A Love Story (Paramount Home Entertainment): from Michael Moore examines the effect of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans, especially in the light of the recent global economic meltdown. Although the buzz on this film was mixed when it premiered at Venice and Toronto back in the Autumn, it is a more thoughtful film than some critics have given it credit for. The title is misleading as it’s more of a critique against the winner-takes-all capitalism ushered in by the Reagan administration and how the policies under Clinton and Bush have contributed to the current financial crisis.

There are some sequences that drag a little, but for the most part it is a thought provoking examination of how we’ve got to where we are as a society. Strangely, it could actually win Moore audiences amongst the right-wing Teabaggers as well as his core liberal audience, as his criticisms of the TARP scheme chime in with theirs. [Buy it on DVD]

The extras on the DVD feature a lot of material that didn’t make the theatrical cut, including:

  • Sorry, House-Flippers and Banks: You’re Toast In Flint, MI
  • Congressman Cummings Dares to Speak the Unspeakable
  • NY Times Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges on the Killing Machine Known as Capitalism
  • The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place Reserved for Them!)
  • What if, Just if, We Had Listened to Jimmy Carter in 1979?
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma? It’s Capitalism
  • Commie Taxi Drivers: “You Talkin’ To Me?”, in Wisconsin
  • How to Run the Place Where You Work
  • The Socialist Bank of… North Dakota?
  • The Bank Kicks Them Out, Max Kicks Them Back In


St. Trinians 2 – The Legend Of Fritton’s Gold (EIV) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Did You Hear About The Morgans? (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Precious (Lionsgate) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Armageddon (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
City of the Living Dead (Arrow) [DVD / Blu-ray]
Anesthetize (KSCOPE) [DVD + Blu-ray]
Heartless (Lionsgate) [DVD / Blu-ray]
S.N.U.B (Isis) [DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 21st May including Prince of Persia and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Psycho on Blu-ray

Universal have announced a “meticulously restored” version of Psycho to be released on Blu-ray this August.

It will be the second major Hitchcock film to get a high-definition release – after Warner Bros’ splendid North By Northwest Blu-ray – this will be a 50th Anniversary Edition that comes in a regular and steelbook version.

The sound has been fully remastered with a new 5.1 mix, whilst the mono audio track will also be available for viewers who want to experience the film in its original form.

It will also feature the following extras:

  • Psycho Sound: A never-before-seen piece that looks at the re-mastering process required to create a 5.1 mix from the original mono elements using Audionamix technology.
  • The Shower Scene: A look at the impact of music on the infamous “shower scene.”
  • The Making of Psycho: A feature-length documentary on Hitchcock’s most shocking film.
  • In the Master’s Shadow – Hitchcock’s Legacy: Hollywood filmmakers discuss Hitchcock’s influence and why his movies continue to thrill audiences.
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interviews: Excerpts from a 1962 audio interview with Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Audio Commentary: Feature-length audio commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho”)
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho: Vintage newsreel on the unique policy Alfred Hitchcock insisted upon for the release of the film.
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass: Original storyboard design.
  • Production Notes: An essay on the making of the film.
  • The Psycho Archives: Gallery of on-set photo stills from the film’s production.
  • Posters And Psycho Ads: Gallery of original posters and ads from the theatrical campaign.
  • Lobby Cards: A gallery of promotional lobby cards from the film’s theatrical campaign.
  • Behind-The-Scenes Photographs: Rare photos showing the cast and crew at work.
  • Theatrical Trailer: Original promotional trailer from the film’s theatrical campaign.
  • Re-Release Trailers: Promotional trailer created for the re-release of the film.

> Psycho at the IMDb
> Pre-order the Psycho Blu-ray at Amazon UK

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 17th May 2010



Minority Report (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi thriller arrives on Blu-ray and has already garnered high praise for the quality of the transfer and extras. Adapted from Philip K Dick’s short story, it is set in Washington, 2054 where crime can be predicted by a specialised police unit using advanced technology and three psychics. When the head of the ‘Precrime’ unit (Tom Cruise) is shocked to see himself as a future murderer, he goes on the run and tries to figure out a murder he is going to commit.

Possibly Spielberg’s best film of the last decade, Minority Report featured a stellar supporting cast (Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow) and a convincingly dystopian view of the future. Like Blade Runner it combines a film noir narrative with a vision of a divided society where technology throws up recurring ethical dilemmas. The production design and distinctive look of the film, especially the visual effects, have made it a favourite in tech circles as the touch screen technology appears to have had an influence on devices (iPhone, iPad) and operating systems (Windows 7) since its release.

The Blu-ray has already got raves for the quality of the transfer. Gary Tooze of DVD beaver has described it as:

“impeccable – representing the film with pin-point authenticity. Achieving the intended appearance so succinctly I’d have to say this image quality is quite perfect – as perfect as I have seen in a while. It appears to look EXACTLY as the film was meant to. If you aren’t keen on the appearance blame the filmmakers not this pristine transfer”

There is actually a second Blu-ray disc featuring a lot of extras in HD as well as the features that were included in the standard 2002 DVD release.

The extras break down like this:

  • The Future According to Steven Spielberg (18-part – 34:03 in HD)
  • Inside the World of Precrime (10:11 in HD)
  • Philip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg and Minority Report (14:19 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Future Realized (6:22 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Props of the Future (9:42)
  • Highlights from Minority Report From the Set (2 pieces): The Hoverpack Sequence (6:06 in HD); The Car Factory Sequence (2:57 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Commercials of the Future (3:55 in HD)
  • Previz Sequences: The Hoverpack Sequence Previz (1:43 in HD); Maglev Chase Previz (2:10 in HD)
  • Previously Released Special Features (duplicated from the last DVD – all in SD)
  • From Story to Screen (19:03 in total): (2 pieces): The Story/The Debate (9:36); The Players (9:27)
  • Deconstructing Minority Report (42:06)
  • The Stunts of Minority Report (26:45)
  • ILM and Minority Report (6-part – 20-minutes in total)
  • Final Report (3:59)
  • Production Concepts / Storyboard Sequences
  • Three Trailers in HD

[Buy Minority Report on Blu-ray]

The Road (Icon Home Entertainment): The film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel is a haunting tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world featuring two outstanding lead performances. It depicts the journey of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) across an America which has descended into savagery after an unspecified environmental and social collapse. Part of the story’s raw power is the absence of any explanation as to why the world is collapsing, which shifts the focus on to the central relationship and the day to day struggle to survive.

Given that the story involves suicide, cannibalism and humans acting like savages you have to give credit to director John Hillcoat (who made the gritty Australian western The Proposition in 2005) and screenwriter Joe Penhall (author of the acclaimed play Blue/Orange) for properly translating the horrors and emotions of the novel into a film. It was this authentic rawness that probably meant that it was never going to be a huge box office hit, but there is much to admire here. The visuals look particularly striking: cinematographer Javier Aguirresa opts for a brownish palette to depict the harsh, ash-ridden environment; the art direction and production design also makes very clever use of rural US locations to create a chilling post-apocalyptic world.

Audiences unfamiliar with the novel may be taken aback by how bleak the story is and the film certainly doesn’t pull its punches: roaming gangs of cannibals, potential suicide and houses filled with half alive bodies are just some aspects that will disturb, although the most notorious scene from the book is omitted. Another thing to look out for is the interesting supporting cast, which is filled with excellent performances – most of which are extended cameos – from Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce. The soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis strikes an appropriately mournful tone with a notable piano motif reminiscent of Arvo Paart.

The special features on the Blu-ray include:

  • Special features include:
  • Director’s commentary
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • The Making of The Road
  • Two theatrical trailers
  • BD-Live
  • movieIQ+sync

[Buy The Road on Blu-ray / Buy it on DVD]


About Last Night (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Atonement (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Creepshow 2 (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [DVD]
Institute Benjamenta (BFI) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Night of the Living Dead (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [Blu-ray]
Ninja Assassin (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Porcupine Tree: Anesthetize (Kscope) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Pride and Prejudice (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray]
Privilege (BFI) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Rhythm Is It! (Wienerworld) [Blu-ray]
Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Sherlock Holmes (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Slugs (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [DVD]
Spread (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
St Elmo’s Fire (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
The Man Who Would Be King (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD]
The Party’s Over (BFI) [Blu-ray & DVD]
The Pleasure Girls (BFI) [Blu-ray + DVD]
True Blood: Season 2 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / DVD]
True Blood: Seasons 1 and 2 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Valhalla Rising (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 14th April including Robin Hood, American: The Bill Hicks Story and Lebanon

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 10th May 2010



Doctor Zhivago (Warner Home Video): David Lean‘s epic adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel explores the impact of the Russian Revolution on several characters: poet and physician Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif); his wife Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), his mistress and true love Lara (Julie Christie), the scheming politician Komarovsky (Rod Steiger); Zhivago’s half-brother Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) and the mysterious Strelnikoff (Tom Courteney).

A sweeping romance told in flashback, it was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 5, though much to Lean’s chagrin it lost Best Picture to The Sound of Music. Full of stunning imagery and sequences, including a frozen dacha, the cavalry charge in Moscow and a battle seen through a pair of spectacles, it is tailor made for the Blu-ray format. Warner Bros appear to have done an amazing job on the transfer and  extras include everything from the previous 2-disc DVD edition, plus a new 40-minute documentary, with the discs coming in a large 50-page digi-book including photos, essays and bios. [Blu-ray / DVD]

Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Home Video): Maurice Sendak’s much loved 1963 children’s book has been expanded to a feature length film about a young boy (Max Records) who ventures to a magical land where he is anointed king by a group of strange creatures. Charming and beautifully filmed, it marks a change of pace for director Spike Jonze, who deserves credit – along with co-screenwriter Dave Eggers – for preserving the spirit and tone of the book.

The casting is excellent. Records is not a typical child actor and has a pleasingly raw charm. The voices of the wild things are superb with James Gandolfini an inspired choice as Carol (the wild thing Max becomes closest to) as it brilliantly plays off his Sopranos persona, highlighting his joy, vulnerability and anger. Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose and Paul Dano also chip in with excellent vocal performances, making their characters as varied and complex as they should be. The Australian locations are also beautifully captured by cinematographer Lance Acord. The transfer is good (although a little dark in places) and the extras are solid, featuring an array of amusing videos from the set. [Blu-ray / DVD]

A Scanner Darkly (Warner Home Video): The best adaptation of a Philip K Dick novel since Blade Runner is this 2006 film set in a not-too-distant future where America has lost its “war” on drugs, and an undercover cop (Keanu Reeves) is one of many people hooked on Substance D, which causes its users to develop split personalities, which causes majors problem in trying to track down a notorious drug dealer and figuring out who he really is.

Directed by Richard Linklater, it was filmed in live-action, and then animated using the same process used in his previous film, “Waking Life”, which perfectly suits the paranoid themes of the book which include the perils of drug abuse the surveillance society. Beacuse this was transfered directly from a digital source, it looks pristine with with terrific detail and depth. The extras are the same as the DVD release, including two insightful featurettes “One Summer in Austin: Filming A Scanner Darkly” (26 mins) and and “The Weight of the Line: Animation Tales” (20 mins), both of which include a lot of video diary footage. The audio commentary from Linklater, Phillip K. Dick’s daughter Isa Dick-Hackett and producer Tommy Pallotta is also very insightful with regard to Dick’s life and work. [Blu-ray / Normal]



44 Inch Chest (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray /DVD]
Adoration (Drakes Avenue Pictures) [DVD]
Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1-5 (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
Caligula: Uncut Edition (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Charlie Chaplin: The Great Dictator (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Charlie Chaplin: The Kid (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Delgo (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [DVD]
Departures (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Dorothy (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Eric Rohmer: The Essential Eric Rohmer (Artificial Eye) [DVD]
George Carlin: Collection – Volume 2 (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK)
It’s Complicated (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Nowhere Boy (Icon Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Paul Blart – Mall Cop (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Day of the Jackal (UCA) [DVD]
Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 7th April including A Mightmare on Elm Street, Hot Tub Time Machine and Four Lions

blu-ray Competitions

Competition: Where the Wild Things Are on Blu-ray

We have 3 copies of Where the Wild Things Are to give away on Blu-ray, courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment.

This adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s much loved 1963 children’s book has been expanded to a feature length film and is about a young boy (Max Records) who ventures to a magical land where he is anointed king by a group of strange creatures.

Director Spike Jonze has crafted an ambitious and moving treatment of the book and the result is a magical film – one of my favourites of last year in fact.

The casting is excellent: Records is not a typical child actor, with a raw quality that fits just right whilst the voice cast is every bit as good.

The choice of James Gandolfini to voice Carol (the wild thing Max becomes closest to) was inspired – brilliantly playing off his Sopranos persona, it highlights his joy, vulnerability and anger.

Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose and Paul Dano also chip in with excellent vocal performances, making their characters as varied and complex as they should be.

The Australian locations, beautifully captured by cinematographer Lance Acord, also add a visual richness to the film which wouldn’t have been the same if done on green screen soundstages.


Some adults may complain that Jonze has made a children’s film that slants towards to older audiences, but this is exactly what makes the film special.

Instead of sugar coating the story and patronising the viewer, he has (along with co-screenwriter Dave Eggers) treated the source material and cinema audience with the respect they deserve.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Where the Wild Things Are on Blu-ray just answer the following question:

Which film starring Catherine Keener did Spike Jonze direct in 1999?

The closing date is Monday 31st May and winners will be notified by email.

Where the Wild Things Are is released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 10th May

> Where the Wild Things Are at the IMDb
> Find out more about the book at Wikipedia

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 3rd May 2010


Me and Orson Welles (cinemaNX): This enjoyable period drama set in 1937 is about a teenager (Zac Efron) who joins the Mercury Theatre production of “Julius Ceasar” directed by a young Orson Welles (Christian McKay). Directed by Richard Linklater and co-starring Claire Danes, it was shot in the Isle of Man back in the spring of 2008 and lingered on the shelf after failing to get a distributor at various festivals. However, production company CinemaNX released it theatrically themselves (a rarity for a national release in the UK) sharing print and ad costs with Vue Entertainment. For the DVD release they have struck an exclusive arrangement with supermarket behemoth Tesco. [DVD]

The Railway Children (Optimum Home Entertainment): Adapted from E. Nesbit’s novel, Lionel Jeffries 1970 film adaptation quickly established itself as perennial favourite amongst family audiences and after a re-release at cinemas last month arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. It is the tale of a family forced to move from London to a house in Yorkshire after the father is imprisoned on a mysterious charge. There the three children, Roberta (Jenny Agutter), Peter (Gary Warren) and Phyllis (Sally Thomsett), are entranced by the nearby railway and become friendly with the locals, such as the station porter (Bernard Cribbins) and the Old Gentleman (William Mervyn) who takes the 9:15 train. It was a critical success on its initial release – receiving three BAFTA nominations – and has since become a much loved film through regular broadcasts on television. [Blu-rayDVD]

Listen to our interview with Jenny Agutter about The Railway Children *

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 30th April including Iron Man 2 and The Disappearence of Alice Creed

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Mad Men Season 3

The latest season of Mad Men is another reminder of why it is one of the outstanding TV shows of the past decade.

Depicting the fictional New York advertising agency Sterling Cooper during the early 1960s, it explores lives of those that work there and the quality of the writing puts it on par with landmark shows such as The Wire and The Sopranos.

Created by Matthew Weiner, it centres around creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his wife Betty (January Jones) and and various characters at the agency such as Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) and Bert Cooper (Robert Morse).

It has deservedly won huge critical acclaim along with consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Drama since it first premiered on US cable channel AMC in 2007.

Season One introduced us to the world of Madison Avenue in 1960, a place filled with surface glamour and backward social attitudes where many of the characters struggle to deal with their professional and personal lives.

Season Two explored the enigma of protagonist Don Draper, his mysterious past and professional ambitions, as well as examining the changes during 1962 for various female characters in the office.

Season Three is set during 1963 and explores tensions at the agency with the new British owners, the ongoing personal conflicts (and infidelities) in the office and the gradual changes in US society as it entered a tumultuous decade.

One thing that distinguishes Mad Men from the mediocrity of contemporary televison is just the intelligence of the writing but the fact that it somehow manages to highlight contemporary uncertainties through the prism of history.

Much of the early appeal of the show was the excellent period detail, but the show’s astute probing into emotional issues (divorce, social attitudes) against the backdrop of famous events has proved to be a killer combination.

The first two seasons touched on events such as the 1960 US election and the death of Marilyn Monroe, but this series manages to gradually combine the serious social changes of the era with the complex emotional situations facing the characters, culminating in brilliantly orchestrated season climax.

Although the period details are excellent, the show mines a lot of dramatic irony out the way in which characters often seem initially oblivious to seismic events: characters flirt whilst the March on Washington can be heard on the radio; a man turns off the TV just before Walter Cronkite is about to make an important announcement.

This series picks up soon after the events of Season Two and Don is still having fidelity issues (taking a special interest in a local teacher) whilst Betty has her own dalliances, despite recently giving birth to a son.

Meanwhile, at the ad agency, tensions continue with the new British bosses and many of the staff have to face big changes in their working and personal lives.

Perhaps the biggest development this season is the way in which the changes in American society closely mirror those of the main characters. In the hands of less skilled writers this could have been clunky but Weiner and his team pull it off with taste, skill and intelligence.

With its detailed period look, costumes and production design it is perfectly suited to the high definition Blu-ray format. On a purely technical level, it is one of the best looking shows I have ever seen on an HD television.

The 13 episode box set has is supplemented by various featurettes and audio commentaries on key episodes, with insights from the show’s creator Matthew Wiener, cast members and directors.

Over the three discs the extras include the following:

  • Audio Commentaries: On the Blu-ray there are several commentaries from cast and crew (a lot more than is usual for a TV series) with two for each episode. Matthew Weiner is a ubiquitous presence on the tracks with some insight and context for the creative choices in each episode, but the commentaries from actors are also insightful and witty. The sheer amount of commentaries might seem a bit much, but for a show as layered as this, they are a welcome addition for aficionados.
  • Mad Men Illustrated (HD, 14:01): One thing you may have noticed about the popularity of Mad Men is the various avatars fans use online (especially Twitter) based on characters from the show. (The official website has a section where you called MadMenYourself). These drawings are the work of illustrator Dyna Moe who knew an actor on the show and was initially recruited to do Christmas cards for the cast and crew. When she put them up online they were an instant hit and her subsequent illustrations of characters and scenes from the show have become something of a phenomenon. This short featurette is an extended interview with her alongside her work.
  • Clearing the Air (HD, Part 1 25:28 & Part 2 19:58): This lengthy two-part documentary is a fascinating exploration about the history of how tobacco companies advertised cigarettes to the American people. (Fans of the show will remember the pilot episode featured a plot line about a tobacco company and this season also features a key plot strand involving Lucky Strike) It features several academics, historians and experts who discuss the often ingenious ways in which tobacco companies sold the myth of tobacco, from recruiting Hollywood stars, to downplaying research and how various different companies targeted different demographics. For instance, we find out that Marlboro initially targeted women despite later becoming famous for the image of the ‘Malboro Man’ and an eye-popping revelation about Philip Morris brands.
  • Flashback 1963 (HD): This is an interactive photo feature that charts the big historical and cultural moments of the year.
  • Medger Evers: Unsung Hero (HD, Part 1 39:13 & Part 2 31:15): Another two part documentary, which explores the life of civil rights campaigner Medgar Evers, the NAACP field secretary who was assassinated in his driveway in 1963. Told through lengthy interviews with Medgar’s brother, Charles; his widow, Myrlie; and daughter, Reena. A moving portrait of a one of the key figures in the battle to end segregation.
  • We Shall Overcome: The March on Washington (HD, 16:56): A simple but powerful feature in which the full audio of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” in August 1963 is accompanied by images from the March on Washington.

Mad Men Season 3 is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 26th April

> Buy Mad Men Season 3 on Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon UK
> Official AMC site
> Find out more about Mad Men at Wikipedia

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 19th April 2010



The Last Emperor (Optimum Home Entertainment): Bernardo Bertolucci‘s 1987 epic explores the extraordinary life of Puyi, who became the Emperor of China at the age of 3 and ended up as a lowly gardener after his country was engulfed by twentieth century events. Told in flashback, the epic scope of the narrative is matched by the lavish visuals which include remarkable use of real life locations in China. It was the first Western production allowed to shoot inside Beijing’s Forbidden City and the recreation of various historical periods remains a remarkable technical achievement. Vittorio Storaro‘s sumptuous cinematography matches his finest work and the film deservedly won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]

Inland Empire (Optimum Home Entertainment): Director David Lynch followed up the critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive with an even weirder mystery. Shot on digital video, it tells the story of an actress (Laura Dern) who becomes ever more disturbed after her strange experiences with a director (Jeremy Irons); her co-star (Justin Theroux; husband (Peter J. Lucas). Add to this a strange Polish couple and a trio of giant stage-bound rabbits (voiced by Naomi Watts, Scott Coffey and Laura Harring) and you have arguably Lynch’s most surreal film. Shot over two and a half years, without a formal script, the bizarre symbolism and obtuse narrative are strangely compelling. Not for everyone but for Lynch fans it is an essential purchase. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]


Earth: The Complete Series (2 Entertain) [DVD]
Hamlet (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Nine (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Poseidon (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Stag Night (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.) [DVD]
The Box [Icon Home Entertainment] [Blu-ray]
The Men Who Stare at Goats (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Bitch Slap (Momentum Pictures) [DVD]
Boogie Woogie (E1 Entertainment UK) [DVD]
The Stepfather (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD]
The Thick of It: Collection (2 Entertain) [DVD]
The Thick of It: Series 3 (2 Entertain) [DVD]


The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 16th April including The Ghost and Cemetery Junction

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 12th April 2010



The Bicycle Thieves (Arrow Films): A welcome re-release for Vittorio De Sica‘s classic 1947 neorealist film about desperation and struggle in post-war Italy, is the tale of a poor man (Lamberto Maggiorani) and his son (Enzo Staiola) searching the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to be able to work.

Based on the novel by Luigi Bartolini, it was adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini and used non-professional actors to create a telling picture of poverty in post-war Europe. A landmark film in many ways, it still contains scenes of great power and is ultimately a very moving depiction of the love between father and son.

The special features on this re-release by Arrow Films include:

  • Timeless Cinema: A documentary on Vittorio De Sica
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Original Poster Artwork & Lobby Stills

Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno (Park Circus): A hybrid documentary and part reconstruction of Henri-Georges Clouzot‘s unfinished project L’Enfer (‘Inferno’), an enigmatic film about a hotel manager who becomes possessed by the demons of jealousy. The story of how this project got made is a fascinating one: Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea managed to persuade Clouzot’s second wife, Inès de Gonzalez, to give permission to use footage from Clouzot’s original film, which they then supplemented with interviews of cast and crew members.

Among the contributors are production assistant Catherine Allégret, director Costa Gavras, and assistant cinematographer William Lubtchansky. Bromberg also recreates certain scenes with actors Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin. A notable arthouse feature on the festival circuit last year (screening at CannesToronto, New York and London) it also received the César Award for Best Documentary. [Buy on DVD]

Wonders of the Solar System (2 Entertain): One of the best TV series to air on the BBC this year sees Professor Brian Cox visit notable locations around Earth to illustrate how the laws of nature have carved natural wonders across the Solar System. The five episodes explore: the Sun; the Rings of Saturn; the atmosphere of Earth and Titan; the size of planets, volcanoes and the moon Io; and the search for life on other worlds, focusing on Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Cox is an engaging and informative host and along with the BBC shows Galapagos and Planet Earth, it is well worth checking out on Blu-ray as it is full of stunning imagery that looks fabulous in HD. The show’s better than expected ratings pleasantly surprised BBC bosses, who according to Cox’s Twitter account have commissioned another series, called ‘Universal’, which they begin shooting next month. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]



Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 – The Squeakquel (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD
Being Human: Complete Series 2 (2 Entertain) [DVD]
Dolan’s Cadillac (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Law Abiding Citizen (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Raging Phoenix (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Descent: Part 2 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Tombstone (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
Bad Behaviour (Lionsgate UK) [DVD]
Blood and Oil (2 Entertain) [DVD]
Clint Eastwood: Westerns (Warner Home Video) [DVD]
Crude (Dogwoof Digital) [DVD]
Ghost Machine (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [DVD]
Glee: Season 1 – Volume 1 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [DVD]
Henry Lee Lucas – Serial Killer (Lionsgate UK) [DVD]
Humpday (Momentum Pictures) [DVD
I’m Gonna Explode (Artificial Eye) [DVD]
OSS 117: Lost in Rio (ICA) [DVD]
Starsuckers (Network Releasing) [DVD]
The Big I Am (E1 Entertainment UK) [DVD]
Vietnam (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [DVD]
We Live in Public (Dogwoof Digital) [DVD]

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 9th April including Shelter and Whip It

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray Interviews

Interview: Joe Pilato on Day of the Dead


George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead has recently been released on Blu-ray in a special two-disc 25th Anniversary edition and I recently spoke to one of its stars Joe Pilato about the film and the enduring legacy of the horror series.

The third instalment in Romero’s ongoing zombie saga sees the living dead take over the world and only small pockets of human resistance survive. One group of survivors, a motley crew of scientists and soldiers, are holed up in a 14-mile long underground missile silo where tensions begin to erupt as the zombie hoards surround them.

The bleakest and goriest of Romero’s zombie films to date, Day Of The Dead has often been overshadowed by its more illustrious predecessors, but in recent years it has found greater appreciation, with Tom Savini‘s ground breaking make-up effects and the social commentary on Reagan’s America becoming more apparent.

This Blu-ray edition features a restored presentation of the film, a new hi-def soundtrack, four alternate sleeves, a double-sided poster, a 24-page collector’s booklet ‘For Every Dawn There Is A Day’, plus a very special collector’s comic – ‘Day Of The Dead: Desertion’ – featuring a brand new ‘Bub’ storyline.

Two all-new documentaries were also commissioned for this release: In ‘Joe Of The Dead’ (directed by Calum Waddell) Joe talks about his career in movies – from his early appearance in the little-seen Pittsburgh horror outing ‘Effects’ (which also featured Romero regulars Tom Savini and John Harrison) to his small parts in ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ and ‘Knightriders’ and his work as Captain Rhodes in Day Of The Dead.

In ‘Travelogue of the Dead’ (directed by Naomi Holwill), we join Pilato as he travels across Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow in October 2009 celebrating the 25th anniversary of Day Of The Dead and witness him meeting the fans, reciting his most famous lines from the movie – live and on stage – and drinking with the best of them.

Calum Waddell also penned the ‘For Every Dawn There Is A Day’ collector’s booklet, which is an essay on the making of the movie that collects brand new interviews with Romero, Savini, editor Pasquale Buba, assistant director/composer John Harrison and actors Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille and Gary Steele.

I recently spoke to Joe about the film’s Blu-ray release and you can listen to the interview here:


You can download this interview as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here

The two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition Day Of The Dead is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
> IMDb entry
> Pre-order the Blu-ray from Amazon UK

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 5th April 2010



Day of the Dead (Arrow Films): The third film in George A Romero‘s zombie trilogy has often been regarded as something of a letdown after the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the iconic Dawn of the Dead (1978). It does lack the vitality of its predecessors but over the years has become a more telling satire of the Reagan era than many realised at the time.

Set inside an underground US military complex as zombies have overrun the earth, it explores the tensions between various army and scientific personnel as well as depicting the possibility of ‘humanising’ a zombie. Tom Savini’s landmark make-up effects still hold up strongly and Romero’s direction is smarter than some gave it credit for at the time. The Blu-ray comes with a raft of new extras including new commentaries and featurettes. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]

Delicatessen (Optimum Home Entertainment): With Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s latest film Micmacs not getting the love or attention it deserved at UK box offices, Optimum have re-released the 1991 that put him on the map. Along with co-director Marc Caro, he crafted a delightfully surreal tale about a clown (Dominique Pinon) who moves into a run down apartment building with a delicatessen on the ground floor and falls in love with the butcher’s daughter, Julie Clapet (Marie-Laure Dougnac).

Shot entirely in and around the delicatessen, it is inventive and displays a remarkable visual flair reminiscent of silent comedy and proved very influential, especially on subsequent TV commercials. I’m not sure why there isn’t a Blu-ray version yet, but if you haven’t already got the DVD it is highly recommended. [Buy the DVD]

Funny Games U.S. (Kaleidoscope Home Ent.): Michael Haneke‘s U.S. remake of his own 1997 film was a gruelling affair, even by his own dark standards, but remains a powerful piece of work. Made in 2007, it followed the exact same story with a well-to-do couple (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) and their son who are slowly terrorised by two mysterious young thugs (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett) whilst at their holiday home.

Some critics were appalled by what they saw as the pointless sadism of the film, but the fact that it provoked such a hostile reaction – often from the very bourgeois perspective the film directly assaults – was perhaps telling. It is a genuinely horrific film, with little in the way of catharsis or intellectual ambiguity, but remains a bracing and intriguing example of a director revisiting his own material for a different audience. [Buy the Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]

George Carlin: Collection – Volume 1 (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK): A collection of four of the great US comedians best stand up performances taped for HBO which include: George Carlin – On Location – University of Southern California (1977), George Carlin Again (1978), George Carlin at Carnegie (1984) and George Carlin on Campus (1984).

Brilliant observations about life are mixed with some hilarious social commentary and these groundbreaking performances demonstrate why he is still one of America’s greatest comedians, just two years after his death. [Buy the DVD]

* N.B. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is out on Blu-ray this week and would normally be one of my picks. However, the box set consists of the theatrical cuts (with hardly any extras) and I’d recommend waiting until the extended Blu-ray editions come out. *


30 Rock: Season 3 (Universal/Playback) [Buy the DVD]
Married, Single, Other (2 Entertain) [Buy the  Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]
The International (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Universal Soldier: Regeneration (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the Blu-ray
Who Dares Wins (Arrow Films) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Battle Royale (Arrow Films) [Buy the DVD]
Big Bad Mama (In 2 Film) [Buy the DVD]
Burn Notice: Season 2 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy the DVD]
Chappelle’s Show: Season 2 (Best Medicine) [Buy the DVD]
Feast Trilogy (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Forever Green: Series 2 (Network) [Buy the DVD]
Geisha Assassin (MVM Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Ghost Hunt: Complete Series 1 (Manga Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Ginger Baker and Friends: Live at the Jazz Cafe (Voiceprint) [Buy the DVD]
Laurel and Hardy: Collection (Lace) [Buy the DVD]
Le Professionnel (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Smokin’ Aces/ Smokin’ Aces 2 – Assassin’s Ball (Universal Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
The Bridge (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 2nd April including Clash of the Titans, How to Train Your Dragon and Kick-Ass

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 29th March 2010



2012 (Sony Pictures): Roland Emmerich’s latest big-budget blockbuster sees an ancient Mayan prophecy come true as Earth’s techtonic plates unleash global destruction after a solar flare. An alarmed US government scientist (Chiwetel Ojiofor) discovers the disaster; a limousine driver (John Cusack) struggles to protect his family amidst the chaos; the US president (Danny Glover) tries to be stoic; the chief of staff (Oliver Platt) enacts a secret plan and various other characters all respond differently to the coming apocalypse.

Although the film isn’t in any danger of winning any awards for acting or screenwriting, the set pieces are impressively rendered and the sheer scale of CGI destruction is a sight to behold, even if there are too many ”just in the nick of time’ escapes.

The transfer to Blu-ray is excellent and although sometimes high definition can spotlight weak visual effects, here they stand up very well indeed with tsunamis, earthquakes and collapsing buildings and all manner of destruction coming across in pristine detail.

The extras are fairly extensive too, the most notable being the BD-Live™ enabled movieIQ, which allows you to access updated information on the film’s cast, crew, production and soundtrack while watching the film. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]

Blu-ray Special Features

  • movieIQ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie
  • Interactive Mayan Calendar – Enter a date to reveal your horoscope and personality profile! Delve even further into the secrets by watching Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar
  • Picture-In-Picture: Roland’s Vision-Includes Pre-Visualization, storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with filmmakers, cast and crew
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Designing The End Of The World
  • Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic
  • Science Behind The Destruction
  • The End Of The World: The Actor’s Perspective

DVD Special Features

  • Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic

Stargate (Optimum): The other Roland Emmerich release of the week is his 1994 sci-fi adventure about an academic (James Spader) and a military unit (headed by Kurt Russell) who venture through a teleportation gateway to another planet.

The third collaboration between director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin – they had worked Moon 44 (1990) and Universal Soldier (1992) – was on a bigger budget and they crafted something more entertaining and polished. Here you can see the roots of the mega sci-fi success they would have with Independence Day (1996) – although we’ll politely ignore Godzilla (1998).

Stargate was one of the first Lionsgate Blu-ray releases back in August 2006, but that had hardly any extras and the audio was only lossy DTS High Resolution. This version has both the theatrical and the extended cuts of the movie, and four hours of extras, including three new featurettes, a trivia track, and a gag reel. [Buy the Blu-ray]

The Informant (Warner Home Video): Steven Soderbergh’s latest film bears some resemblance to Erin Brockovich (2000), an entertaining exposé of real life corporate chicanery concerning a biochemist (Matt Damon) who in 1992, became an informant for the FBI after his company got involved in price fixing.

What makes it unusual is the breezy comic tone and the extraordinary behaviour of the central character (who seems to be an undiagnosed manic depressive). Much of the comedy comes from the continual frustration of the FBI with their star witness who often tells the truth, but unfortunately mixes it with lies. It got a rather muted reception on the festival circuit last year, but Damon shows great comic timing in the central role, whilst Marvin Hamlisch’s score and the distinctive visuals (shot by Soderbergh under his regular pseudonym Peter Andrews), all add to the mix. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]

Homicide – Life On the Street: The Complete Series (Fremantle Home Entertainment): Fans of The Wire can now enjoy the first TV series that was inspired by the reportage of David Simon, as this box set includes all 122 episodes spread over 33 discs. A dark and realistic crime series that ran from 1993-1999, it was adapted from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the non-fiction book based on his experiences with a Baltimore Police Department homicide unit.

The action centres on the homicide division of an inner-city Baltimore police station, with a large and fluid cast passing through the precinct’s door during the series’ seven seasons on the air. Simon was a consultant and producer on the series and although not as good as The Wire, it is still one of the landmark US TV shows of the 90s. [Buy the DVD]



Bunny and the Bull (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Cracks (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Planet 51 (EV) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
South Park: Series 13 (Paramount) [Buy the Blu-ray]
The House of the Devil (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Lionsgate UK) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Catweazle: The Complete Series
(Network) [Buy the DVD]
Extreme Prejudice (Optimum) [Buy the DVD]
Glorious 39 (Momentum Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
Godzilla (Sony Pictures) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Holly (Soda Pictures)
Impact (Sony Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
Jason and the Argonauts (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [Buy the DVD]
Johnny Handsome (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Seraphine (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the DVD]

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 26th March including The Blind Side and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 22nd March 2010



Dumbo (Walt Disney): One of the greatest animated films from Disney, this story of a shy little elephant with some large ears arrives on Blu-ray for the first time. Separated from the rest of the circus animals, he befriends a mouse who encourages him to exploit his ears for fame and fortune.

After being goaded by a group of crows, Dumbo discovers that his ears have given him the ability to fly. The animation and writing is magical and the Blu-ray comes with a decent selection of extras including behind the scenes featurettes, bonus short features, and a copy of the DVD. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Fish Tank (Artificial Eye): Writer-director Andrea Arnold’s second feature-length film, and another deeply impressive piece of work after her Oscar winning short Wasp(2005) and Red Road (2006). The tale of a teenage girl named Mia (Katie Jarvis) chronicles her struggle with her mother and younger sister on an poor Essex housing estate.

Frustrated with her life and lack of options, things begin to change when she strikes up a friendship with her mother’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). Unlike many British films which feature aristocrats in period costume or gangsters who swear a lot, this takes what seems like humdrum material and does something really special with it. For some reason the Blu-ray is only being released two months after the DVD (read our longer review here), but is well worth buying if you haven’t yet seen it. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Edition (Universal Playback): With Season 2 of Twin Peaks finally being released in the UK, Universal Playback have decided to release Season 1 and Season 2 on a definitive box set. Directed by David Lynch, this series picks up from the first season cliff-hanger that saw Agent Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) shot repeatedly as he closed in on the mystery surrounding the brutal murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).

Twin Peaks originally aired between 1990 and 1991 and quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed and popular TV series around the world. Taking root in popular culture, even today it regularly features in lists of classic TV shows. [Buy it on DVD]

The Double Life of Veronique (Artificial Eye): A 1991 French-Polish drama directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski stars Irène Jacob in a dual role as two women, one in Poland (Weronika) and one in France (Veronique), who have a mysterious connection.

A thoughtful and beautifully constructed film, it has an entrancing central performance from Jacob, some inventive cinematography from Sławomir Idziak and also anticipates the Three Colours Trilogy (1992-94) which cemented Kieślowski as one of the great European filmmakers of his generation. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

The Passion of the Christ (Icon Home Entertainment): Mel Gibson‘s unflinching and brutal retelling of the final hours of Jesus (Jim Caviezel) was one of the most successful and controversial films of 2004. From a purely technical level there is much to admire in the film: Caleb Deschanel‘s cinematography, the costumes, make-up and use of the Italian town of Matera, all combine to paint a highly convincing picture of the period.

Even for a non-believer, the spectacle of suffering and persecution is moving, even if Gibson lays it on a bit too relentlessly. The claims of anti-Semitism against the film, fuelled by the depiction of the Jewish priests as Christ killers (as they are in the Gospels), were off-base, although Gibson’s drunken rant rant in 2006 gave one pause about his own personal beliefs. [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

Under the Sun of Satan (Eureka/MOC): A re-release for this 1987 allegorical drama, adapted from the Georges Bernanos novel of the same name, sees a French priest (Gerard Depardieu) struggle to save the soul of young woman (Sandrine Bonnaire).

An impressive examination of good versus evil, it won the Palme d’Or at the 1987 Cannes Festival, which led to verbal protests from sections of the audience and defiant gesture from director Maurice Pialat. This new release has had a new anamorphic transfer in its original aspect ratio, with new and improved English subtitle translations. The extras are also plentiful with interviews, lengthy featurettes, on set footage and a 36-page booklet. [Buy it on DVD]



Blood On Satan’s Claw (Odeon Entertaiment) [Buy it on DVD]
Bodysong (BFI) [Buy it on DVD]
Bullet Boy (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Galaxy Quest (DreamWorks) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Harry Brown (Lionsgate UK) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Katyn (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Paranormal Activity (Icon) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Drakes Avenue Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on DVD]
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek 5 – The Final Frontier (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: First Contact (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: Generations (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: Insurrection (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Star Trek: Nemesis (Paramount) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Straightheads (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Talk to Me (Verve Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Neverending Story (Warner Home Video) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (E1 Entertainment) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]
Twin Peaks: Series 2 (Universal Playback) [Buy it on DVD]
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray | Buy it on DVD]

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 19th March including The Bounty Hunter, Old Dogs and I Love You Phillip Morris

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Elizabeth


Aside from reinvigorating the British historical drama, Elizabeth (1998) also helped launch Cate Blanchett as a major actress.

Exploring the early reign of Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett), it depicts the intrigue and betrayals that shaped her early years: the failure of Queen Mary I (Kathy Burke) to restore Catholicism to England; her duty to political allies Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) and Cecil (Richard Attenborough) and her love for childhood sweetheart Dudley (Joseph Fiennes).

It also depicts the plotting of Catholic conspirators who want to kill her, such as the Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston) and a Vatican spy (Daniel Craig).


Buy Elizabeth on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
Click here to buy Elizabeth on Blu-ray from Amazon UK

Although the film takes considerable liberties with the historical truth, it managed to create a feistier and more energetic Elizabeth to the screen, mainly thanks to Blanchett’s portrayal.

Indian director Shekhar Kapur managed to bring a different perspective to a well known historical figure, contrasting the opulence of court life with the dark treachery that often underpinned it.

The period details are generally excellent and the locations of Northumberland, Derbyshire, North Yorkshire – along with studio work at Shepperton Studios – manage to recreate the period convincingly. (Also look out for small supporting roles for Eric Cantona and a 12-year-old Lily Allen).

Shown at the major 1998 film festivals (Venice, Toronto), it reaped deserving acclaim with Oscar nominations for Best Actress (Blanchett), Best Art Direction (John Myhre), Best Cinematography (Remi Adefarasin), Best Costume Design (Alexandra Byrne), Best Original Score (David Hirschfelder) and Best Picture (Alison Owen, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan).

On Blu-ray, the transfer is sharp and detailed, with the high definition format showing off the production design and costumes to impressive effect.

Elizabeth is out now on Blu-ray from Universal

> Elizabeth at the IMDb
> Buy Elizabeth on Blu-ray from Amazon UK

Images Posters Thoughts

The Difference Between Cinema Posters and DVD Covers

When you compare the poster of a theatrical release with the DVD and Blu-ray cover you often see that they have different approaches.

Up in the Air is a recent release – an acclaimed comedy-drama from writer-director Jason Reitman starring George Clooney as an air-mile addicted corporate down-sizer –  that recently came out on DVD and Blu-ray in the US.

You may notice that the poster you saw in your local cinema (on the above left) is notably different from the cover of the disc you will buy or rent (on the above right).

The cinema poster – designed by BLT Associates – is fairly conceptual. It depicts the three main characters of the film (Clooney in the middle, flanked by Anna Kendrick on the left and Vera Farmiga on the right) but they are distant, in silhouette and made to look small by the airport glass and plane outside.

The Helvetica font and colour scheme (cool blues, mixed with whites and blacks) are very reminiscent of an airport and the overall effect is neat as it captures both the bittersweet mood and basic themes of the film.

Reitman recently said that he got the basic idea for the poster by taking a similar photo whilst filming on location at an airport but that some folks at Paramount marketing (the studio that funded the film) were keen on getting a little more of Clooney in the image.

After all, if you have paid a considerable amount for a star, you want to get your money’s worth even if he’s working at a reduced rate on a prestige, Oscar-candidate project like this.

But now the DVD and Blu-ray has come out in the US (that would be on the above right), you can see the difference.

Althought they have inverted the colour scheme of the theatrical poster, the main image features a much more prominent Clooney (laughing) alongside Vera Farmiga, with them both laughing at a bar.

The combined effect emphasises the comedy/feel-good aspect of the film alongside the romance and downplays the more serious themes of recession, job firings and isolation that crop up eslewhere in the story.

Personally, I think it looks horrible and doesn’t do justice to the quality of the film, but – even for a home entertainment release – it also looks pretty ropey, as if an intern was asked to do it on Photoshop on his lunch break.

So, what to make of all this?

Firstly, movie posters come out of a tradition where they are seen at cinemas, bus stops and various outdoor displays which mean they have to be larger in size. In comparison, DVD and Blu-rays are smaller so they have less space to grab your attention, often resulting in a face shot of the actors.

Secondly, one of the time honoured traditions in Hollywood is for everyone to blame the marketing if a film doesn’t do well at the box office. Although Up in the Air was by no means a flop – especially given its relatively lean budget – maybe Paramount felt they could dupe new audiences into thinking it is some kind of romantic comedy.

Thirdly, given that the (literal) shelf life of a film is longer in the shop than it is at cinemas, you would think that more time and effort would be spent on getting it right, rather than just reacting to what happened on the theatrical release.

Finally, it seems that the UK DVD & Blu-ray release of Up in the Air has exactly the same design as the theatrical poster, which could mean that: a) We have better taste over here b) Paramount UK couldn’t be bothered to change it or c) None of the above applies.


> A lengthy blog post from 2007 entitled Why Do Great Movies Get Awful DVD Cover Art?
> Anna Kendrick talks to me about Up in the Air

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 22nd February 2010



Wings of Desire (Axiom): One of the classic European films of the 1980s is Wim Wenders‘ classic tale of a guardian angel (Bruno Ganz) listening to the thoughts of mortals living in West Berlin only to find himself entranced by a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) who makes him yearn to be human. Co-written with Peter Handke and beautifully shot in monochrome and colour by Henri Alekan, it won Wenders the Best Director prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and remains his most celebrated film. This is the first time it has been available on Blu-ray in the UK and has a newly restored picture and sound mix supervised by the director. [Read the full review here]

M (Eureka/MOC): Fritz Lang’s classic early talkie is a crime drama set in 1930s Berlin which involves an elusive serial killer (Peter Lorre) who preys on children – based on the real life Düsseldorf killings – and the efforts of the police and the criminal underworld to catch him. Filmed in Germany, M established Fritz Lang’s reputation in America and was massively influential on other films with its innovative use of sound and visuals.



9 (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
City Girl (Eureka/MOC) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Jennifer’s Body (Fox) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Just Like the Son (Eureka) [Buy it on DVD]
Katalin Varga (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on DVD]
Law & Order: UK – Series 2 (Universal Playback) [Buy it on DVD]
Lucky Bastard (Eureka) [Buy it on DVD]
Michael Jackson’s This Is It (Sony) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Open Graves (Icon) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Rob Zombie Presents….The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (Anchor Bay) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Sons of Anarchy Season 1 (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
Taking Woodstock (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Beaches of Agnes (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on DVD]
The Day of the Triffids (2009) (Showbox) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Shinjuku Incident (Cine Asia) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
There’s Always Tomorrow (Eureka/MOC) [Buy it on DVD]



blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 8th February 2010



Adventureland (Walt Disney): Director Greg Mottola followed up Superbad (2007) with this marvellous coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1987 about a recent college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) who takes a nowhere job at a local amusement park, where he falls in love and learns a few life lessons.

Superbly made and acted it features some terrific performances from Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds (seriously) and Bill Hader. Although it didn’t make a huge amount of money at cinemas, it was one of the best films of last year and will almost certainly become a cult favourite in the future.

Plus, it has a memorable use of Falco’s ‘Amadeus‘ and the line “status obsessed witch” is one of the killer movie phrases in recent memory.

Extras include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Just My Life: The Making Of Adventureland
  • Feature Commentary — With Writer/Director Greg Mottola And Actor Jesse Eisenberg
  • A Satiric “How To” On Inflicting Unexpected Pain

* Buy Adventureland on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK *

Mystic River (Warner): A release on Blu-ray for Clint Eastwood‘s 2003 adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, which is set in Boston and deals with three childhood friends (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon) who are reunited after one of their daughters gets killed.

A powerful and well acted drama, it features fine supporting performances from Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden and Laurence Fishburne. Tastefully shot (by Tom Stern) and edited (by Joel Cox), it bears all the hallmarks of Eastwood’s classy dramas over the last decade and won Sean Penn and Tim Robbins Oscars for their performances.

Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver has posted some screen shots of the Blu-ray and is impressed with the transfer and the overall package, saying:

“…contrast and colors leap ahead. …this looks very good and occasionally even impressive with some desirable depth. Dependant on your system – the superiority is moderate to heavy over the previous SD-DVDs”

This includes all the extras from the R1 DVD release that were never included on the UK R2 DVD.

  • Commentary by Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon
  • Dennis Lehane Tours the Boston Neighborhood Setting of His Novel in Mystic River: Beneath the Surface
  • Featurette Mystic River: From Page to Screen
  • The Charlie Rose Show Interviews with Clint Eastwood, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon
  • Theatrical Trailers

* Buy Mystic River on Blu-ray from Amazon UK *


Paper Heart (Anchor Bay): A new film starring Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera as fictionalized versions of themselves in a “hybrid documentary” about love. Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, it also features Yi travelling across America asking various people about their experiences of love.

Extras include:

  • Paper Heart Uncut
  • “The Making of Paper Heart”
  • Live musical performances by Charlyne Yi
  • “Heaven” music video by Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera
  • Love interviews with the comedians
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer

* Buy Paper Heart on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK *


Blue Dragon Complete Series 1 (Manga) [Buy it on DVD]
Couples Retreat (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Death Note Relight: Visions of a God (Manga) [Buy it on DVD]
I Love You, Beth Cooper (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
In the Electric Mist (High Fliers) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Kamikaze Girls (Special Edition) (Third Window Films) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Lala Pipo (Third Window Films) [Buy it on DVD]
Long Weekend (2008) (Showbox) [Buy it on DVD]
The Time Traveler’s Wife (EIV) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Ugly Truth (Sony) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
The Unit Season 4 (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 5th February including Invictus and Astro Boy

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: Broken Embraces

Broken Embraces (Pathe) is the latest film from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar and a ‘romantic noir’ spanning 16 years.

Set in 2008, with flashbacks to 1992 and 1994, it focuses on a film director (Lluis Homar) who’s lost the love of his life (Penelope Cruz) as well as his eyesight to a jealous lover.

The tricky structure is a dramatic device used to comment on and explain the events of the present and although this seems to have put some viewers off – judging by the  mixed reaction it got at Cannes – is still handled impressively.

It also explores guilt and how it can weigh heavily on human relationships, suggesting that the director was possibly drawing on his own life and art, and this is served by some convincing performances.

Homar convey’s a director’s restless desire for his life and art, even when he can’t see, whilst Cruz is as emotionally convincing as she is physically striking.

Her performance is almost a post-modern wink to the relationship between a director and a leading lady.

As you might expect, Almodóvar fills the frame with some captivating images, using primary colours (especially red) as a counterpoint to the heavy emotional situations and characters.

If there is a flaw with the film, it is that it exists almost too neatly within it’s cinema-drenched world: not only is the protagonist a director, but it even references numerous auteurs such as Powell, Hitchcock, Malle, Fellini and even his own 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Whilst this makes it a treat for cinephiles and an undoubtedly personal work for Almodóvar, it lacks the heart and feeling of his more recent works like Talk to Her and Volver.

The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc include:

  • Short Film: The Anthropophagic Council Woman La Concejala Antropofaga (7 mins 32 secs)
  • 3 x Deleted Scenes (11 mins 50 secs)
  • Directing in Girls and Suitcases (5 mins 30 secs)
  • Original UK Theatrical Trailer (2 mins)
  • Photo Gallery

Broken Embraces is out now from Pathe

> Buy the DVD or Blu-ray Disc from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker succeeds brilliantly where many films about the Iraq War have failed by examining the tense details of life in a bomb disposal unit.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow from a script by journalist Mark Boal (based on his experiences as a reporter embedded with troops), it portrays a group of soldiers who have to disarm IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the heat of combat.

The story begins with a new sergeant (Jeremy Renner) taking over a highly trained disposal team and the tension that arises with his two subordinates, Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) as they fear his fearless attitude is endangering their lives.

Unlike the half-hearted hand-wringing that has characterised some of the films dealing with the war on terror, this plunges us deep into the anxiety and chaos of warfare.

But the clever twist of The Hurt Locker is that it steers clear of war movie clichés: the enemy is often hidden and faceless; sequences are agonisingly teased out; death is lurking everywhere; combat is a powerful drug that affects soldiers in different ways.

Bigelow wisely recruited cinematographer Barry Ackroyd to give the film a captivating, hand-held look which is reminiscent of his work on Paul Greengrass’ United 93.

As a director it is a welcome return to form and combines the energy and thrills of her best work with an attention to detail that pays of handsomely in several memorable sequences.

Since premièring at the Venice film festival back in 2008 it has deservedly reaped rave reviews and will be a leading contender at the upcoming Oscars.

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc come with the following extras:

  • Behind the Scenes (12mins)
  • Interviews with cast and crew (12mins)
  • BD Exclusive: Photo Gallery
  • BD Exclusive: Backstage (13mins)

> Buy The Hurt Locker on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon
> Listen to my interview with Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal about the film

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Tuesday 28th December 2009


District 9 (Sony): A sci-fi drama about aliens landing in South Africa  featuring no stars and an unknown  director became one of the surprise hits of the year with a clever mix of action, politics and dazzling SFX. [Click here for the full review]

The Hurt Locker (Lionsgate/Optimum): One of the most acclaimed films of the decade was this tense drama about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, directed by Kathryn Bigelow from a script by journalist Mark Boal. [Click here for the full review]



1941 (Universal) [Buy on DVD]
A Dangerous Man (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Darker Than Black Vols 5 & 6 (Manga) [Buy on DVD]
Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Darkside (Fox) [Buy on Import DVD]
Kitaro and the Millennium Curse (Manga) [Buy on DVD]
Kitaro Movie (Manga) [Buy on DVD]
Law & Order: Criminal Intent Season 4 (Universal Playback)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 10 (Universal Playback)
Life Season 2 (Universal Playback) [Buy on DVD]
Misfits Series 1 (4DVD) [Buy on DVD]
The Final Destination (EIV) [Buy on DVD / Buy on Blu-ray]
The Gold Diggers (BFI) [Buy on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for 2009

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray Lists

The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2009

Best of DVD and Blu-ray 2009

DVD and Blu-ray releases have effectively gone on holiday until the last week of the month so here is my list of the best UK releases of 2009.

*N.B. Some of these titles were already available on DVD but got a Blu-ray release this year *


DVD and Blu-ray Picks January 2009

Standard Operating Procedure (Sony) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Recount (HBO) [Buy on DVD]
Ashes of Time Redux (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Fall (Momentum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Wong Kar-wai Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]


DVD and Blu-ray February 2009

Gomorrah (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
I’ve Loved You So Long (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
7-49UP (Network) [Buy on DVD]
Amadeus – Director’s Cut (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Being There (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Hunger (Pathe) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
The Visitor
(Unanimous Pictures) [Buy on DVD]


DVD and Blu-ray March 2009

A History of Violence (EIV) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
L.A. Confidential – Special Edition (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Not Quite Hollywood (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Waltz with Bashir (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]


DVD Blu-ray April 2009

The Bela Tarr Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Red Riding Trilogy (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Dean Spanley (Icon) [Buy on DVD]


DVD and Blu-ray May 2009

Fargo (MGM) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Silence of the Lambs (MGM) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Mad Men Season 1 (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Frost/Nixon (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]


DVD and Blu-ray June 2009

Slumdog Millionaire (Pathe) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
A Christmas Tale (New Wave Films) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
Milk (Momentum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Blackadder Remastered – Ultimate Edition (2 Entertain) [Buy on DVD]
Bolt (Disney) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Class (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
Woodstock 3 Days of Peace & Music (Warner Bros) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Che (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Gran Torino (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]


DVD and Blu-ray July 2009

Mad Men Season 2 (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Religulous (Momentum) [Buy on DVD]
Brick (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Elephant (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Pianist (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Il Divo (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]


DVD and Blu-ray August 2009

Children of Men (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Winstanley (BFI) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Two Lovers (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
La Haine (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
In The Loop (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Encounters at the End of the World (Revolver) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Battle of Algiers – Special Edition (Argent Films) [Buy on DVD]


DVD and Blu-ray September 2009

This Is Spinal Tap – Up To 11 Edition (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Beyond the Clouds (Second Sight) [Buy on DVD]
In This World (ICA) [Buy on DVD]
An American Werewolf in London (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Belle De Jour (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Ran (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Sunrise (Eureka!) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Deer Hunter (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Elephant Man (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The New World – Extended Cut (EIV) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Prisoner: The Complete Series (Network) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]


DVD and Blu-ray October 2009

Synecdoche, New York (Revolver) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Dawn of the Dead (Arrow) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Frozen River (Axiom Films) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
The Complete Friz Lang Mabuse Boxset (Eureka!) [Buy on DVD]
The Essential Michael Haneke (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (2 Entertain) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]


DVD and Blu-ray November 2009

Gone with the Wind – 70th Anniversary Edition (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Heat (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Fanny and Alexander (Palisades Tartan) [Buy on DVD]
For All Mankind (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Moon (Sony) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
North by Northwest – 50th Anniversary Edition (Warner) [Buy on Blu-ray]
The Terence Davies Collection (BFI) [Buy on DVD]
Fight Club – 10th Anniversary Edition (Fox) [Buy on Blu-ray]
The Wizard of Oz – 70th Anniversary Edition (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Jacques Tati Collection (BFI) [Buy on DVD]


DVD and Blu-ray December 2009

Inglourious Basterds (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Mid-August Lunch (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
The Hangover (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
1941 (Universal) [Buy on DVD]
District 9 (Sony) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Hurt Locker (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]


N.B. As I’m based in the UK, all of these DVDs are UK titles but if you live in a different region of the world check out or your local Amazon site and they should have an equivalent version of the film.

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> The Bestselling DVDs of 2009 at Amazon UK
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Browse all the Cinema releases of 2009

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: The Hangover

The Hangover DVDOne if the surprise hits of the summer was The Hangover (Warner Bros.), a comedy from director Todd Phillips about a bachelor party gone wrong in Las Vegas.

When three groomsmen (Bradley CooperEd Helms and Zach Galifianakis) lose their about-to-be-wed buddy (Justin Bartha) after a riotous night of partying, they have to retrace their steps in order to find him.

Along the way, they encounter a tiger belonging to Mike Tyson, a stripper (Heather Graham), a naked man in the trunk of their car and numerous other troubles.

Although on the surface this looks like another goofy mainstream Hollywood comedy, it rises well above the norm due to a clever central concept (the bachelor party itself is cleverly hidden from the audience) and some killer lines and scenes.

Made for a relatively small production budget of $35 million, it proved insanely profitable after grossing over $459 million worldwide.

The DVD version includes the theatrical version of the film with the following features:

  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English and Italian DD5.1
  • English Audio Description
  • English HOH, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian and Italian HOH subtitles
  • “Map of Destruction” – Retrace each step the guys took during their fate-filled evening and see the real locations, learn about Las Vegas lore and see the filming that took place there
  • “Three Best Friends Song” – Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis “freestyle” their own song
  • Gag Reel

Click here to buy The Hangover on Blu-rayThe Blu-ray Disc includes the theatrical and extended cuts of the film with the following features (extras are all in HD):

  • 1080P 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • French and German DD5.1 (Theatrical Version only)
  • English Audio Description (Theatrical Version only)
  • Subtitles (Film): English HOH, French, German, German HOH, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish subtitles
  • Subtitles (Extras except PIP): English, French, German, Dutch
  • Picture in Picture Commentary (Theatrical Version only, no subtitles) featuring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Todd Phillips
  • “Map of Destruction” (16:27mins) – Retrace each step the guys took during their fate-filled evening and see the real locations, learn about Las Vegas lore and see the filming that took place there
  • “The Madness of Ken Jeong” (7:56mins)– Ken Jeong’s nonstop hilarious improve
  • “Action Mash-Up” (35secs)– Compilation of the physical comedy from the film
  • “Three Best Friends Song” (1:23mins) – Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis “freestyle” their own song
  • “The Dan Band!” (1:08mins) – The Dan Band performs “Fame”
  • Gag Reel (8:16mins)
  • More Pictures from the Missing Camera – More photos exposing the events from the night of mayhem
  • BD-Live

> Buy The Hangover on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> The Hangover at the IMDb