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

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Of all the films to come out of the New Wave of Australian cinema in the 1970s, Picnic at Hanging Rock remains one of the most enduring.

A haunting adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel, the story is set at a Victorian girls school in Australia which is plunged into shock after some of the pupils go missing on a day trip to a local rock formation known as Hanging Rock.

Part of the appeal is blending of a realistic setting (despite being fiction) with a lyrical presentation, which features some exquisite cinematography by Russell Boyd.

Throughout his career Peter Weir has been a director of rare taste and intelligence and part of the reason this film still fascinates is down to its careful construction.

On paper the story could be a police procedural or even a horror film, but by emphasizing the mystery at the heart of it, Weir crafts a much more compelling tale of repressed emotions set against the sensual force of nature.

It explores similar territory to Nic Roeg’s Walkabout (1971). Both feature a picnic gone wrong in the outback and depict anxious young people on the cusp of adulthood.

But whereas Walkabout stayed mostly in the outback and contrasted two cultures (the native and settler), Picnic mostly focuses on the school as it copes with the emotional fallout from the fateful trip.

It is also reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon: a community of repressed people manifests itself in sinister and mysterious ways, although Weir’s approach is less political and more open ended.

Both films understand that it is the unexplained aspects of a story that can resonate with audiences as they repeatedly fill in the mysterious blanks left unfilled by the narrative.

Of the ensemble cast, Rachel Roberts has the most prominent role as Mrs Appleyard, the stern headmistress, but many of the pupils are equally memorable, especially Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert), Irma (Karen Robson), Marion (Jane Vallis), Rosamund (Ingrid Mason) and Sara (Margaret Nelson).

The image of Lambert has become indelibly associated with the film, appearing on many of the international posters and also on this Blu-ray release.

Experiencing it in high definition for the first time, the visual look is especially striking, with the colours and locations given a new vibrancy by the new transfer.

Added to this is the improved audio, which adds an extra kick to the unmistakable pan pipe pieces by Gheorghe Zamfir that run throughout the film, along with various classical pieces by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

Whether or not you have seen the film before, this is almost certainly the best it has looked since the original cinema release, although it should be noted that this is the ‘Director’s Cut’ Weir sanctioned in the late 1990s for the then DVD release.

Unusually Weir and producer Patricia Lovell opted to take footage out of the theatrical version rather than add it back in. The excised sequences ran to about 14 minutes of footage, most of which happen in the final third of the film.

That said there are plenty of extras included on this disc, most of which have appeared on previous DVD versions but still providing valuable context for first time viewers.

Most prominent is a comprehensive two-hour documentary detailing the production called ‘A Dream Within A Dream’, which features interviews with cast and crew including Peter Weir, Patricia Lovell, Hal & Jim Mcelroy, Cliff Green, Russell Boyd, Bruce Smeaton, Jose Perez, Helen Morse, John Jarratt, Christine Schuler and Anne Louise Lambert.

There is also an on set documentary from 1975 ‘A Recollection: Hanging Rock 1900’ which includes interviews with author Joan Lindsay, Weir and other members of the cast including Rachel Roberts.

One of the aspects of the story that keeps cropping up in the supplementary interviews is whether or not the story was based on real events. It wasn’t but Lindsay and Weir were shrewd in dodging the question for so long as it helped create word of mouth for audiences desperate to know if it was all really true.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Blu-ray of Picnic at Hanging Rock is that it reminds us the hypnotic power of the original film, which remains a classic of Australian cinema.

> Buy Picnic at Hanging Rock on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Picnic at Hanging Rock at the IMDb

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 26th July 2010



Picnic at Hanging Rock (Second Sight): This haunting tale about a group of schoolgirls who go missing whilst on a picnic in 1900 remains of the iconic films in Australian cinema. Its release in 1975 signalled the arrival of Peter Weir as a major director and the hypnotic, lyrical qualities have not diminished since then.

Adapted from the novel by Joan Lindsay, it isn’t actually a true story (even though at times it has the feel of one) but remains a powerful exploration of innocence, time and mystery.

The locations, from the girl’s school to the picnic in the countryside, are beautifully captured by cinematographer Russell Boyd and as the film progresses it becomes a memorable tale of loss and regret.

An important part of the atmosphere is the indelible music which features Gheorghe Zamfir on pan pipe and Marcel Cellier on the organ.

Special features are pretty substantial and include the following:

  • Feature-length documentary: A Dream within a Dream (120 mins)
  • A Recollection: Hanging Rock 1900 – Joan Lindsay interview
  • Hanging Rock and Martindale Hall: Then and Now
  • Short film: The Day of St Valentine (the first screen adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel)
  • Audio interviews
  • Stills and poster gallery
  • Scenes deleted for the director’s cut

> Buy Picnic at Hanging Rock on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about the film at Wikipedia and the IMDb

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (Palm Pictures): This ground-breaking 1984 concert film featuring Talking Heads directed by Jonathan Demme remains one of the essential rock movies. Filmed over three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, it captured the group as they were touring their album Speaking in Tongues.

What made the film stand out from others in the genre was Demme’s innovative approach to shooting a concert.

With Talking Heads he found a band who were not only interested in stage craft but were also willing to allow him an unusual amount of creative freedom in capturing them live.

The lack of audience shots, unusual lighting choices for each song and the visible presence of the stage crew are just some of the elements which mark this out from the bog standard concert movie.

Front man David Byrne is a charismatic presence throughout and his stage persona was arguably a big influence on lead singers like Michael Stipe and Bono in later years, whilst the energy of the rest of band is just as infectious.

This was Demme’s first documentary and his use of handheld cameras, along with longer-than-usual shots, gives the film a distinctive flavour which chimes in a band who were never a slave to fashions and trends of the early 1980s.

The Blu-ray is being released by Palm Pictures and includes the following bonus features:

  • Previously unreleased 1999 press conference with all four Talking Heads
  • The short film “David Byrne Interview…David Byrne”
  • Versions of “Cities” and “Big Business/I Zimbra” not featured in the original film.

Film fans might note references to Dr. Strangelove and Breathless, theatre buffs may spot the influence of Japanese Noh theatre and R.E.M. fans may notice the influence of this on Tourfilm (1989).

> Buy Stop Making Sense on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Talking Heads at Wikipedia



2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Cats and Dogs (Warner Home Video) [DVD]
Clash of the Titans (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray with DVD]
Fantastic Planet (Eureka) [Blu-ray]
Hierro (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Paranoiac (Eureka) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Remember Me (E1 Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / with DVD]
Shank (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Sons of the Wind – Bangkok Ninjas (Manga Entertainment) [DVD]
The Bounty Hunter (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Vengeance Is Mine (Eureka) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 23rd July 2010 including Toy Story 3