"Rashomon"

November 2012

RashomonKurosawa's Masterpiece on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 138
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
****

There's little disagreement that Rashomon is one of Akira Kurosawa's greatest films, and there's sure to be a consensus that the great Japanese director's masterpiece has never looked better than it does on this Criterion Blu-ray Disc. I found it near astonishing at times, as copies I had seen before were riddled with noise and looked fairly washed out as far as contrast goes. This Criterion release blows them all away, even their own earlier DVD version.

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"Rosemary's Baby"

November 2012

Rosemary's BabyRoman Polanski’s Classic Thriller Still Terrifies

The Criterion Collection 630
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

Rosemary’s Baby is still an atmospheric and scary thriller, but when it premiered in 1968 it was even more: a controversial shocker that generated water-cooler and cocktail-hour talk. Until that time, witches' covens, with a few notable exceptions like Burn, Witch, Burn and The Seventh Victim, had been portrayed as fanciful, exaggerated, and unbelievable. But Rosemary’s Baby brought witchcraft home by showing a coven as your New York City brownstone neighbors next door.

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"Moonrise Kingdom"

October 2012

Moonrise KingdomWes Anderson Creates a Storybook World on Blu-ray

Universal 62123585
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
*1/2

Starting with Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson has created a string of movies very unlike typical Hollywood films. They deal with real issues but in a storybook way. All of his films offer subtle humor through warm, often wacky characters we can root for. In a way, the movies are like contemporary fairytales. Throughout his various projects (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Fantastic Mr. Fox among them), Anderson has emerged as a director with a refreshing vision.

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"Les visiteurs du soir"

October 2012

Les visiteurs du soirLove Conquers All on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 626
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
**1/2

Extras
**1/2

I'd never seen Les visiteurs du soir (1942) before this Criterion Blu-ray. I doubt that many others have -- or if they did, they saw it only on badly transferred videocassettes where it could scarcely make a good impression. Director Marcel Carné's Les enfants du paradis (1945) has received much attention, with some calling it the greatest film ever made. Les visiteurs du soir, meanwhile, has been pushed to the background.

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"Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures"

September 2012

Indiana JonesIndy Cracks His Bullwhip on Blu-ray

Paramount 11111024234
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Extras
****

Many of the great adventure trilogies and quadrilogies have been released on Blu-ray, but we've been waiting for Indiana Jones to show up with his signature fedora and bullwhip. Now Paramount has released all four films, and all is right with the world. As far as action-adventure movies go, anyhow.

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"Titanic"

September 2012

TitanicA Titanic Home-Theater Experience on Blu-ray

Paramount 14680
Format: Blu-ray, DVD

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Extras
****1/2

Director James Cameron's Titanic is available on home video in two four-disc packages. The 3D set is Blu-ray all the way, presenting the 3D movie on two discs, the 2D movie on one disc, and the copious extras on a fourth disc. The 2D set, which is the one I received for review, presents the 2D movie on one Blu-ray Disc, the extras on another Blu-ray, and the 2D movie on two DVDs.

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The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition (The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under)

August 2012

The RescuersDisney Double Feature Succeeds on Blu-ray

Disney Blu-ray 109274
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
****

I don't know whether it has to do with spies within the video industry, phases of the moon, or just plain old coincidence, but there seem to be certain days that serve as bull's-eye release dates for every studio that produces Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. August 28 is an example, and it presents a dilemma for me, since I must pick one title a week to cover. So I'll briefly tell you that Universal's Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein is still a lot of fun and one of the best black-and-white transfers ever, and Battleship proved an unexpected fantasy-adventure of great worth. I should also mention that The Pirates! Band of Misfits, though it boasts an astonishingly crisp HD transfer, is the first Aardman film that hasn't floated my boat. Arrgh!

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"The Hunger Games"

August 2012

The Hunger GamesSuspenseful Fantasy Adventure Receives Excellent Blu-ray Treatment

Lionsgate
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
****1/2

Extras
****

The nation of Panem rose from what used to be North America, which war has all but destroyed. The new government, in a massive crowd-control effort, seeks to distract citizens with an annual Hunger Games ceremony in which a male and female teenager from each of the nation's 12 districts compete to the death. The last remaining contestant will be the victor. The others will be mourned.

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"Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax"

August 2012

The LoraxSeuss Story Expanded for a Colorful Blu-ray Experience

Universal 61120933
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
*****

Sound Quality
****1/2

Extras
***1/2

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it’s not going to get better. It’s not.
-- Dr. Seuss

The Lorax is one of Dr. Seuss's more somber stories, a cautionary tale that pits corporate greed against nature. It's green to the core, so much so that it has caused quite a bit of controversy since it was published in 1972. The story places the Once-ler against the Lorax (voiced in the movie by Danny DeVito). The latter is a small orange creature with a huge yellow moustache. He's the spirit of the forests who speaks for the trees, whereas the Once-ler is a guy who sees a profit in selling Truffula Tree foliage. The Once-ler ignores the Lorax's warning, only to remember it when the trees are all gone and there is only one seedling left.

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"High Fidelity"

July 2012

High FidelityA Tale of Vinyl and Requited Love Looking Sharp on Blu-ray

Touchstone 109815
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
***

John Cusack has made many an awful movie tolerable by displaying a winning personality and contributing an impeccable performance. Hot Tub Time Machine comes to mind. But in 2000 he fronted this charming comedy and first-rate film as a most appealing leading man. Cusack plays Rob Gordon, the owner of a dingy, dirty, yet dynamic record shop. Rob is a likable guy, but he has trouble with women and relationships. Laura, girlfriend number six (Danish blonde Iben Hjejle), is in the process of breaking up with him to go live with Ian "Ray" Raymond (Tim Robbins with a pony tail!).

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