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The Best Tip Top 13 Blu Rays Of 2011-Part 2 of 2   Leave a comment

Hey Everybody,

2011 was still a great year for the growth of Blu-ray , lots of old classics, odd obscure cult films and a long awaited sci-fi saga made their debut in HD. All of them looking better than ever in 1080p and showing the true latitude in the Blu-ray format solidifying it as simply the best true film experience available at home . Here is my top 13 Blu-rays of 2011, with all the great releases this year  it was a struggle to get it down to just 13,  Here’s part 2, enjoy kids…

7- TAXI DRIVER (1976) Director Martin Scorsese- I can’t remember the exact age I was when I first saw Taxi Driver, but I think it was in my early to mid teens. The first thing that struck me being a professional drummer at the time, was the opening credit sequence with the music of the great Bernard Hermann, such amazing tempo and mood to it. At the same time, the New York florescent like lights, the extreme grittiness of Michael Chapman’s cinematography and the rawness of De Niro/ Scorsese held my attention till the last frame. I always loved anti hero protagonists in stories that to be fully realized, the ending has to have weight and be really ironically messed up in the end. Taxi Driver hits every note that still resonates with lots of people till this day. It never gets old or dated and that is in part to the Scorsese/ De Niro dynamic that has work so well for many years after 1976. The real combined genius of the two can especially be seen in the scenes with a 14 year old Jodie Foster. All the character work done makes it so believable, like both these people actually live and breath in the real New York City of the late 70’s. The film looks the best at home it ever has in the Blu ray presentation. Without looking processed or enhanced in anyway by too much DNR the grain of the film transferred  amazingly,  bringing  out the true beauty of the camera work and art direction. The real gem of the set it the 1987 Laser Disc commentary with Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader that hasn’t been available on any release since the Criterion Laser disc in ’88, this is a must for any Scorsese fan. De Niro kicks ass as Travis Bickle like no anti hero quite has since. One of the great classics to see and enjoy over and over again in 1080p. Quite brilliant shit .

6- LE BELLE ET LA BÊTE (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) CRITERION COLLECTION (1946) Director Jean Cocteau- Again in 2011 Criterion scores super high points on there classic film Blu-ray releases. The 1946 live action french language adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast is my favorite telling of that story, the film is a more adult take. The physical lengths that actor Jean Marais’s went to in his portrayal  as the beast  was astonishing to say the least. 5 hours getting into make up everyday before shooting , having  animal hair glued to every part his visible body with disastrous after effects to his skin. The make up is so amazing  it is still stunning that it was done in ’46, along with Cocteau’s direction and expert trick photography FX, it’s a film that will have you thinking twice about what was being technically achieved in the silver age of movie making. True gold in the cinema world, cheers to Criterion for their work on bringing us this and other greats films to our homes on Blu-ray.

5- PATHS OF GLORY CRITERION COLLECTION (1957) Director Stanley Kubrick- Specking of other great films that Criterion is bringing to HD, the next two are some of my absolute favorite classic cinema by my favorite director.  Even in the early days of Stanley Kubrick directing career he had no problem in going to great lengths to get the details he felt he needed. Already widely known as a perfectionist,  he shot 68 takes of the doomed men’s “last meal” scene. Because the details of the scene required that the actors appear to be engaged in the act of eating, a new roast duck had to be prepared for almost every take. Also shooting in Germany,  the prison scene where the men discuss their fates ran overtime on a Saturday. Kubrick could not get what he wanted, and producer James B. Harris came to the set to tell the director after take 63 that overtime was not allowed in Germany. Kubrick resisted stopping in a rare show of temper. He finally got what he wanted by take 74. It must have been abundantly clear even at that point that he was a master of photography, the use of light, shadow, blocking and movement have never been done quite so cinematicly perfect before. The depth of his black and white films are an amazing achievement realizing how slow the film and lens were in the late 50’s compared to today,  that makes it so so much more difficult to get a balanced look and feel to a film. The transfer to Blu-ray is like a god send to me, I love Criterion for giving us a film that look unbelievably beautiful and rich compared to the DVD, which looks some what flat. There is no doubt in my head that this is how Paths Of Glory was intended to look by Kubrick himself. Long Live The Cult Of Kubrick.

4- THE KILLING CRITERION COLLECTION (1956) Director Stanley Kubrick-  Kubrick’s great race track robbery picture and considered his first true professional film as far as cast, crew and studio financing, even though he had shot and released two independently done features already.  My very favorite production story about The Killing is the relationship between Kubrick and the director of photography, this was the first film on which Stanley worked with a cinematographer. Award winning veteran DP Lucien Ballard was hired because Kubrick was officially working on a film union production for the first time which prevented him from using himself as the cinematographer, as he had done in the past.  On one particular shot in the scene where the guys plan the robbery, Kubrick asked Lucien to put a dolly track down in a specific place to move though the apartment set and use a certain length lens on the camera; Stanley went over to deal with something else while the shot was being set up,  he noticed that the track wasn’t being placed where he had specified, after future inspection he realized a different lens was being placed on a camera much closer to the set than he had asked for. Kubrick call over Ballard asked what he was doing with the set up he asked for, Ballard replied that having the dolly track closer with a wider lens would make it easier for the crew to pull off the tracking shot and that it really wouldn’t change the perspective he wanted that much; Kubrick already at 28 years old was a extremely accomplished 11 year professional photographer understanding lenses and composition better than most humans alive, he knew that Lucien was full of shit and was screwing with him, directly with out raising his voice Stanley said, put the dolly track where I told to with the lens on the camera I asked for or get off my set; And really the best thing about the whole story in that Kubrick was absolutely right, what Ballard wanted to do totally changes the perspective and look of the intended shot. Even at 28 Kubrick wasn’t afraid of some one 20 years his senor. One thing that will always be true in cinema is that the foundation/ guarantee of all Kubrick films is an almost magically shot image on every frame, very close to every single frame could be a beautiful still photo or painting perfectly lit for the subject they cover. As far as the Blu-ray, another brilliant presentation by Criterion. As a bonus feature, Killer’s Kiss Stanley’s 2nd film is included as well,  If anything you could say the lighting and use of the New York City of the back drop is very impressive considering he did all his own camera work on that film. One last little bit of trivia is that Rodney Dangerfield reportedly appears as an extra in the racetrack fight scene. Pretty dam cool. Long Live The Cult Of Kubrick.

3- CITIZEN KANE (1941) Director Orson Welles- For some reason this film really only gets better with age. The brilliance of every aspect of the production stands forefront in the Blu-ray and should be required viewing by every student, movie lover and professional film maker a like. In a real way the relationship that Welles and his Oscar winning DP Gregg Toland had was the exact opposite of Kubrick’s and DP Ballard on The Killing; On the first day of shooting, the first day he was ever on a movie set, Welles had no idea that it wasn’t customarily the directors job to physically set the lights where he wanted them, cinematographer Toland walk closely behind the Orson making a “shhhh” motion to all technicians he approached, letting the director do as he would; Later, the DP when asked why he would let an amateur like Welles set his shots up for him, he cited that the only way that some one like him, a veteran in Hollywood, will learn something new is to watch someone who’s never done it before. Also later in the film when Orson asked Toland to teach him about lens and the camera more, he told Welles he could teach him everything he knew in a weekend. In the end, it was this film that really destroyed Orson Welle’s directing career even though he would go on to direct a number of get pictures, but on none of them was he given total creative control like on Citizen Kane. Now if you really are one of those people who don’t understand why this is regarded by many film makers as the “greatest film ever made”, the Blu-ray is loaded with supplements including a great commentary from director Peter Bogdanovich who knew Welles for the last 18 years of his life; Also the brilliant award winning documentary the Battle Over Citizen Kane will give you an idea of the chaos the director caused with the picture, almost having his films negative bought and burned by top Hollywood players, one of the best “making of ” Docs ever done; on top of that the HBO dramatic movie RKO 281 in included as well. So much is right about this film and the HD disc is something to enjoy for a long while to come.

2- BARRY LYNDON (1975) Director Stanley Kubrick- Really this might have been my first  pick of the year had the disc had a documentary or commentary, something. With no extra at all it still takes a strong second place. Again here we have a case of a film that was made for viewing on Blu-ray, the visuals that Kubrick has achieved is likened to the Thomas Gainsborough and other 18th century paintings he emulated so perfectly in his period masterpiece. The tones and use of light is unparalleled, even till this day nothing else has been able to achieve the look and feel of the film. First thing that comes to mind when thinking about Barry Lyndon is the look of the scenes shot all by candle light. A 50mm Carl Zeiss lens specially build for a NASA satellite was borrowed and modified with the Kollmorgen adapter used in still cameras to shoot whole scenes with only candle light. At f/0.7, the aperture was the largest build ever for movie use, and I’m sure no one has tried to do the same thing again. Kubrick pushed the medium every time he shot a film, no one will make anything with quite so much attention to detail again. Mostly because he took quite a long time to complete a project, Lyndon took 200 days to shoot over over a 2 year period; and the studios let him work the way he worked because he was Kubrick. No one is going to get two or three hundred days to shot a movie anymore unless it’s considered a guaranteed hit, and there is almost nothing that is. It’s been turned into business driving art, or maybe I’m wrong and it’s always been money driven. In reality the attention to every part of his productions, Stanley Kubrick has left us with viewing experiences that can never be replicated by any other filmmaker again. At least we have the chance to view and take in his genius in the comfort of our homes at the highest quality ever available. Long Live The Cult Of Kubrick.

1- STAR WARS SAGA (1977-2005) Directors Lucas, Kirshner, Marquand-  Most who knows me are aware of my love for Star Wars. As a child of the 70’s and early 80’s, I was in that perfect age group to have the OG trilogy capture my imagination, it’s one of the big reasons that I decided to make my living in the entertainment industry. Over the years Uncle George has tinkered with the films so many times that the original seen in theaters May 1977 has long been lost. It really use to get me pretty worked up to think of some of the changed done for the Special Editions, Greedo shooting first is so lame and wrong, the dewbacks moving scene looks like crappy CG from a video game and the Jabba stuff in the hanger bay stops the flow and pacing that worked so well in the beginning. A New Hope gets off fine compared to some of the shit in Jedi, god what a shit pile ending with Hayden Christensen’s ghost beside Kenobi and Yoda with that shitty new song choice ending the saga now, where’s my yub nub track now? Well as expected there is new tweaking and changes to all the films, and to my surprises no matter how absolutely shitty the new screaming of Vader “NOOOOOO!” as he throws the Emperor to his death in Jedi is, I actually had been able to step back in the first time in my life and just watch these films as they now exists, I fully realized that these are George Lucas’s films. No one else, no matter how much they bitch and moan will never be the  inventor of this universe. Uncle George is, and he’ll continue to mess with his creation till the end of days and we will keep buying it up until the wookie factory stops turning out stories in our favorite galaxy far far away. As far as the Blu-ray presentation, this is by far the best these films have ever looked, great new commentaries, deleted scenes and new never before seen footage on the bonus disc is worth the price of the set alone to true OG trilogy geeks. Holy Grail stuff for anyone who’s followed the films since the start. This set is a great reason to get into Blu-ray if you haven’t done so already. I am really looking forward to seeing what surprises the format has coming up in 2012.

Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.


Kubrick Fans Rejoice! Barry Lyndon and Lolita Finally Announced For Blu-Ray Release. Oh, Wait There’s A Catch? Of Course There Is. Buggers.   Leave a comment

Hey Everybody,

Warner Home Video has finally announced its Stanley Kubrick 2011 video plans. Due on May 31 the 9-film Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection Blu-ray box set (SRP $148.95), a 9-film Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection DVD box set (SRP $74.92) and a new A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition (SRP $34.99). The new Blu-ray of A Clockwork Orange will be a 2-disc release including the new 25-minute Turning Like Clockwork documentary about the film’s “Ultra-violence” and its cultural impact and the Malcolm McDowell Looks Back featurette in which Malcolm McDowell reminiscences on closely working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick. It’ll also include the Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures and O Lucky Malcolm! documentaries  and will come packaged in a Blu-ray Book with rare photos, production notes and more.

The Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection Blu-ray box set will include the A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition, along with new Blu-rays of Lolita and Barry Lyndon. And here’s the catch,  these will initially ONLY be available in the Limited Edition Collection and the previous Blu-ray editions of Spartacus (via Universal), Dr. Strangelove (via Sony), 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. It will come in a 40-page, hardcover book-style package. The same 9 films will also be available on DVD, with a slipcase and a 40-page softcover version of the book . So the good news is that you get 2 new Kubrick films on Blu-ray, a new special edition of A Clockwork Orange (which includes Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures) and the book…

The bad news for people like me, who’s first buys in the Blu-Ray realm a few years ago were all the Kubrick films, is that the two Blu-Rays you’ve been waiting for are only available in the box set. What? Really?

I’m sure Barry Lyndon And Lolita will be available soon after in individual discs. Warner has to be aware of the tiring of collectors over the “double and triple dip” of DVD releases for years, but because we are such chumps and keep buying them, here they go again,  “double dipping” on the HD Kubrick films already. All I know is Barry Lyndon and Lolita will be looking so good on Blu-Ray I can hardly wait to take a look.

Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.


Kubrick on Blu   Leave a comment

Hey everybody

One of my biggest deciders for me to start on a format change ( then-from VHS to DVD and now-from DVD to Blu-Ray) is how many Stanley Kubrick films are available on the format. He was the first person I ever recognized as a director and the more of his movies I saw and re-watched, the more I was drawn into his technical expertise, storytelling and amazing grasp of the film medium. There are few directors films that you can re-watch more than a hundred times and still see new things or get new insights from. Kubrick was the master director of all directors, with only 13 films he covered many genres and subjects all layered with so much visual information they are still studied today.

The level of detail in the Blu-Rays that are available is astounding. The fact that I look at movies shot in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and the visual quality is so superior to todays efforts shows you what a real perfectionist is capable of . That, and also most film makers today are pussies in comparison. It’s hard to top a guy  who would shoot on average 250-300 days with the quarter of the regular sized crew, 35-65 takes on average for every shot and still come in with a lower budget that 70 percent of  studio pictures. He was of God status at Warner Brothers and the film community as a whole. Never to see another picture of his is a sad notion each time I think of it.. I will surely miss looking forward to the next Stanley Kubrick picture.

Of Kubrick’s 13 films so far, 7 are available on Blu-Ray with one coming from Criterion soon and more rumored by Warner Brothers to be coming on next year. The first 5 Blu-Ray I brought two years ago were The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut and of course 2001:A Space Odyssey. All which are vast improvement on the previous DVD incarnations or “that visual crispness shit is sick on the Blu”.

Full Metal Jacket: special edition (1987)- This movie has never looked better, and in my living room to boot. The blacks are deep and the depth of the picture pulls you into the film like never before. The whole movie comes alive in a way not seen on DVD. The HD mastering was done with real care here. The documentaries and special features are a great treat for any Kubrick enthusiast.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)- We here in North America finally have the original version of Kubrick’s final film without any bad CGed characters blocking the intended action. I feel this is a under rated film, it’s pure and classic Stanley. The lighting is other worldly in a dreamy “film land” version of New York, where the traditional marriage relationship in dissected as well as the underground life of the elite in America. The compositions and scenes become magnificently twisted as the story progresses to the climax of the sex cult of the super rich descends upon Cruise character.  A great film experience from a master. The picture is stunning on the Blu-Ray and again the documentary is great.

Clockwork Orange (1971)- This was known as Stanley’s “low budget film”. He had previously done 2001 for what was a big budget at the time, and wanted to prove that he could make a film for little money and in a short period compared to Space Odyssey. I love the the language from the Burgess novel that is used in the script. Most people need at least a few viewings to get the flow but once you wrap your head around the dialog you might not get everything as a literal translation, but you understand the story all the same.  The picture quality on the Blu-Ray has been criticized for looking muddy and almost out of focus. I think that all shit talking, it looks amazing compared to the DVD. You can see make up around one of the droogs eyes in yellow and green that you could never see before as well as a whole lot more detail.  The documentaries on the disc are worth the price alone. A must own on Blu.

The Shining (1980)- When talking about The Shining I find it hard to say anything bad. I’m sort of in love with this one.  The film amazes me, even after over a hundred viewings. This was the second disc to go into my PS3, I figured on Blu-Ray  it would just look a bit better. To my surprises it felt like I was seeing the film for the first time properly. Frankly, it made my balls tingle. The colors are rich and vibrant popping of the screen. I’ve seen this one on 35 mm film over twenty times and I think the Blu is a better experience over all. The next level of detail you get only strengthens Kubrick’s visuals, giving you a flawless representation of the film. The doc series continues here and it is the same caliber as the other Warner’s discs. Brilliant. A must own Blu-Ray.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)- 2001 is one of my all time favorite films. I love the fact that there is hundreds of answers to what it all ultimately means depending on your build in beliefs. For 1968 the age barely shows, with the transfer used for the Blu-Ray you finally get a faith representation of the intended look of the film. The two DVD print were terribly transferred, making the colors looks too dark or too light in some place. All in all a shit disc. I’ve seen 2001 projected a number of times and it looked better on a 25 year old 35mm print than on the DVD versions. This was the first Blu disc to go into my PS3 and I was blown away instantly. I sat down and watched the whole thing.  The image is crisp with grain and perfect image saturation. I watch this disc once a month now. It is unbelievable that the movie is 42 years old. The concept and story still hit me harder than anything today, a truly adult sci fi film made to make you think after. The real key is to lay back and let it wash over you with out thinking about too much during the viewing. The true genius of Kubrick is his ability to have a true experience with the viewing of his films. Upon viewing  you might not think the same way about the subject again. A great film which we can finally see as it was intended, and at home.  Thank you Warner Brothers, you finally got it right, nice work.

Dr. Strangelove or :How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)- The Doctor never looked so good.  3 amazing character roles played by Peter Sellers , almost 4. (He originally was going to be the bomber planes captain as well, but on the first day playing the role he fell out of the cockpit set that was suspended something like 25 feet above the ground and broke his leg. So he finished the rest of the movie doing three parts with a broken leg). As far as the transfer on the Blu-Ray, the black and white of Strangelove is made for HD with phenomenal depth of tone in the picture, a vast improvement on the previous DVD. I love all the performances layered with satire rarely able to be pulled off and rarely seen from an American director. Kubrick shows his power and intellect at a young age, dealing with much old more seasoned power house actors in Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and coming out of retirement Sterling Hayden as the bat nuts crazy General Ripper. The disc is loaded with special features and docs on the production, another great treatment of the material.

Spartacus (1960)-  This film was a real turning point for Kubrick. He was brought in as director after Kirk Douglas had a major falling out with the original director, Anthony Mann. According to Peter Ustinov one of the uncredited writers, the salt mines sequence was the only footage shot by Mann. Stanley was not given control of the script, which he felt was full of stupid moralizing. After Spartacus, Kubrick always kept full control over all aspects of his films. The Criterion SD-DVD (Standard Def DVD) release is the disc to beat so far. In 1991 it was restored  by Robert Harris, who has said that he considers the Criterion SD-DVD “color and density correct.” So let’s leave the previous Universal SD-DVD and certainly the troublesome HD-DVD aside and address how this new 1080p Blu-Ray looks beside the Criterion.  The film is undeniably cleaner in the Blu-ray presentation, with that digitally scrubbed look which argues to DNR. The color saturation has a slight, tilt toward the red-yellow side of the spectrum on the Universal 5oth Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray. I still hope Criterion is given back the rights to do a Blu-Ray at some point to get back the proper color tones.  I would wait on this one if I were thinking of buying it, to see if a better transfer pops up.

Paths of Glory (1957)- On October 26th Criterion is releasing Kubrick’s anti war epic starring Kirk Douglas. This is a marvelous film that moves very quickly for 1957. Douglas plays Colonel Dax, commander of a battle-worn regiment of the French army along the western front during World War I. Held in their trenches under the threat of German artillery, the regiment is ordered on a suicidal mission to capture an enemy stronghold. When the mission inevitably fails, French generals order the selection of three soldiers to be tried and executed on the charge of cowardice. Dax is appointed as defense attorney for the chosen scapegoats, and what follows is a travesty of justice that has remained relevant and powerful for decades. In the wake of some of the most authentic and devastating battle sequences ever filmed, Kubrick brilliantly explores the political machinations and selfish personal ambitions that result in battlefield slaughter and senseless executions. The film is unflinching in its condemnation of war and the self-indulgence of military leaders who orchestrate the deaths of thousands from the comfort of their luxurious headquarters. For many years, Paths of Glory was banned in France as a slanderous attack on French honor, but it’s clear that Kubrick’s intense drama is aimed at all nations and all men. Though it touches on themes of courage and loyalty in the context of warfare, the film is specifically about the historical realities of World War I, but its impact and artistic achievement remain timeless as Kubrick himself.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

The set includes:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • New audio commentary by critic Gary Giddins
  • Television interview from 1979 with star Kirk Douglas
  • New video interviews with Jan Harlan, James B. Harris and Christiane Kubrick
  • Excerpt from a French television program about real-life World War I executions
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by Kubrick scholar James Naremore

Waners has revealed that both Lolita (1962) and Kubricks period master piece Barry Lyndon (1975) are being preped for HD transfers now and are going to be released in 2011. Hopefully the same attention to detail goes into them as The Shining, FMJ, 2001. EWS and Clockwork transfers. I’m particularly interested to see Barry Lydon, with how it was filmed an HD transfer can only help see detail as it was meant to be seen. The candle light scenes will be perfection.

As far as the MIA titles…

Fear and Desire (1953) – The seldom seen film about a fictitious war, following  solders on a mission to kill a commanding officers. The movie was sold and played briefly in the theaters in the US. Kubrick took it out of circulation in  the late 50’s early 60’s. He wasn’t so happy with his first attempt at a dramatic story telling, so he buried the movie. DVD copies are next to impossible to film with any kind of good print. I figure it will never seen the light of day on Blu-Ray. I’m sure that is what Stanley wanted. you can find bootleg copies on ebay and online if you really want to check it out.

Killer’s Kiss (1955)- The first of two decisively film noir pictures of Kubrick’s. The down and out boxer verses the rich gangster for the girl, pure pulp story line. This is where Kubrick starts to show his flare with lighting and understanding of photography which only comes from a practiced hand, remember he was a staff photographer for look at the age of 17. Five years of talking picture professionally helps you develop a pretty good eye for lens choice and composition. Even though it didn’t make much money theatrically it got Kubrick noticed by the studios and major actors. My hope is that Criterion has already picked up this title for release in the future as MGM owns the right for  Killers Kiss, the Killing and Paths of Glory, will MGM’s financial woes as of late I’m sure the tile is up for grabs to Criterion. I hope they grab that shit fast.

The Killing (1956)- A great race track robbery story with a cast of all star character players. Well for the time, Sterling Hayden, Collen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen,Ted de Corsia, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr. and Joe Sawyer all had a hundred roles plus in their careers as character actors.  This is one of my favorite films of the 50’s. A great tone, brilliant photography, a strong voice over,  a great” bad ass” strong man in Hayden and a “fuck you” ending that really works, that I won’t ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen  the film. You can’t be a real film connoisseur without knowing this one inside and out. A classic must see noir. I hope I hope I hope Criterion is working on this one for Blu-Ray release. Something tells me they just might be keeping it up there sleeve, for now.

Warner Brothers continues to delivers the best treatments of their classic film library on HD. I can only hope it continues with the final few releases of Kubrick’s work, which I am looking forward to very much. If you couldn’t tell that already…

RIP Stanley Kubrick 1928-1999. Long live the spirit of a true master. LONG LIVE  THE NAME OF KUBRICK.

till next time.