Archive for the ‘Toshiro Mifune’ Tag

The 10 Most Super Terrific Best Blu-Rays of 2010. If You’re Thinking Of Diving Into The Format, Now Might Be The Time.   1 comment

Hey Everyone,

Getting caught up on the releases at the end of 2010 made it hard to write this column until now. Almost everything I watched in January was stunning and well worth getting into the format for (if you haven’t already).

As Blu-Ray selection grows, the choices of great movies to transfer get thinner each year. That being said, 2010 was a great year for classic film in stunning HD , the format showing great range in presentation possibilities. Some amazing titles being transferred to Blu-Ray that are a must own for all HD and film enthusiasts alike. Here are my best Blu-Rays of 2010:

  • #10- AVATAR (2009): 3 disc Extended Collector’s Edition- director James Cameron.  This is the set to get if you’ve been waiting for all the “making of” documentaries and different versions of the film in one package. The only thing really missing in this set to really make it the real “ultimate set” is The 3D Blu Ray version of the film, but since I don’t have a home 3D set up I’d never use it anyway. The real jem of this Blu-Ray  it the close to 3 hour version of the film(16 extra mins), the earth stuff at the start is great and dark story telling at it’s best, it sets up the Jake Sully character way better and all the extra stuff on Pandora is great as well giving a lot more back ground on the world and characters that flow into all the arcs of the story. The Blu-Ray video quality is nothing short of stunning,  I think the film plays best in 2D in the 3 hour version anyway and the docs on the discs are very informative on the process of pre production, filming, 3D and post of Cameron’s latest masterpiece.
  • #9- The Red Shoes (1948) The Criterion Collection- directors Michael Powell and Emeric PressBurger- The best use of the tri-color Technicolor process as stated by the creators of Technicolor. Really this is one of the most stunning film every made. The visuals and logistics of some of the scenes are mind blowing when really thought about. From a technical stand point the film is nothing short of miraculous, the dancing paper scene is breath taking and perfectly executed, better than any CG attempt and in 1948. A must see for every film geek who thinks they know it all about film. Criterion’s Blu-Rays are second to none, brilliant job on the transfer and extras. AAA+
  • #8- The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1947) director John Huston- One of the best told stories about greed and what it drives men to, a must see movie for all viewers. Humphrey Bogart in one of his top 3 performances on his career (the best one in my opinion), Tim Holt as his strait shooter honest partner, Walter Huston in his Oscar winning  role as the old prospector, a character most likely recognized most through his satirizing in Looney Toons and Warner Bros cartoons, and  directed by John Huston is always an indicator of a great viewing experience ahead. I’ve seen Madre more that 25 times on DVD and the Blu-Ray brings new clarity to a brilliant classic, a true pleasure for a Bogart/Huston geek like me.
  • #7- The Night Of The Hunter (1955) The Criterion Collection- director Charles Laughton  –  Robert Mitchum is scary as hell as preacher Harry Powell, for 1955 this is as dark as you get story and performance wise. All the actors give stunning performances including the two main child actors as well. This is what movies are all about, a classic film that took at least 20 years plus to really be appreciated for how ahead of it’s time it was. A high mark in American cinema, fucking aces! Criterion blows away any company today working in the home video market, I love them and hope they keep cranking out new and classic Blu-Ray of this quality for many years to come. Thanks very much for this treat.
  • #6- Paths Of Glory (1957) The Criterion Collection- director Stanley Kubrick- With the words Criterion and Kubrick in the same sentence I feel my balls tingle a bit ,and so should you (even if there just metaphorical, ladies). Stanley Kubrick is my favorite all time filmmaker and if you know me you are most likely sick to death of me talking about him,  but shit, IT’S KUBRICK DUDES! KUBRICK! The Criterion Blu-Ray of Paths Of Glory is pure eye candy for the black and white film enthusiast, Kubrick’s cinematography is beyond comparison, celluloid sorcery at its height. I’m hoping Criterion  follows this release later this year with The Killing And Killer’s Kiss. That would be perfection.
  • #5- Yojimbo/ Sanjuro (1961-62) The Criterion Collection- director Akira Kurosawa- Toshiro Mifune is one of the all time greatest actors and after watching his portrayal as a wondering Ronin in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo you will most likely think the same. His body language, speed and attitude show Mifune’s power of the screen. I love these two samurai tales, both have been ripped off  more time that one can imagine, the list of film makers influenced by Kurosawa  is endless and will remain so as long as film is an art form favored enough to continue. The Blu-Ray presentation is flawless, a lot to learn from these films , another knock out of the park for Criterion.
  • #4- Seven Samurai (1954) The Criterion Collection- director Akira Kurosawa- The classic of all classic action films, just brilliant. There isn’t even a filmmakers today who can get 8 plus actors in one shot and make it beautiful and seem like the most natural situation. Not to mention the camera work in general in all the action sequences, stunning, and all the acting is stellar along with the story and sets. If you haven’t ever seen this one now would be the time to give it a look see, another true epic  jem of the cinema world. In 1080p the pictures come alive as if you were the first one to see the first printing from the master negative on the best screen you can find, nothing short of celluloid fanboy crack. Strong work Criterion, I love me some Kurosawa in HD.
  • #3- M (1931) The Criterion Collection- director Fritz Lang- What really blows me away about Criterion is their capacity to improve in leaps and bounds with each re-release of titles, and the Blu-Ray of Fritz Lang’s M is no different. I owned each of the first two releases that Criterion did on DVD and both were stunning for there time. Now after the remastering of the DVD around 5 years ago,  I was skeptical that the Blu-Ray could really offer much more detail to the film without taking away too much grain or atmosphere from the original 1931 film negative. First off, I love this movie since the first viewing on a crappy VHS copy late in my teenage years, very dark story even by today’s standards, darker  even.  I’ve watched the film around 30 times since then and I was taken aback by how perfectly balanced the Blu-Ray transfer is, It’s as perfect as perfect can get for a movie from 1931. Simply beautiful black and white cinematography and a must see on Blu-Ray, this is what HD is all about and I can’t wait to see Criterion bring us more of their classic library to Blu-Ray. If you haven’t seen it now it the time, absolute cinema gold.
  • #2-Apocalypse Now (1979, 2001) 3 disc Full Disclosure Edition- director Francis Ford Coppola- “I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn’t even know it yet.” The greatest spectacle of a film even shot with out any use of CG, monitors, playback and any kind of studio restriction of any kind. It worked in the end for Coppola, but considering he had already made Godfather 1 and 2, won Oscars for both, no studio in Hollywood wanted to back a film based on the Vietnam war. So Coppola decided to put up his multi-million dollar home and property,  his company would use the money to fund the production himself  which ended up almost bankrupting him and driving him crazy in the process. In the end the product is there captured on celluloid for all time to see, it kicks some serious ass and looks great doing it in 1080p.  With this set on the first two discs you get the 1979 original cut, the 2001 Redux,  a number of  commentaries, extras, a little book,  all the bells and whistles; but that third discs is the real jewel for all film fans, the truest look at the production of a film even caught on camera,  the documentary “Heart Of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse” all shot by Coppola’s wife on location. A great film in it’s own right, the first time available with any release of Apocalypse Now and a welcome addition to the set. This is a must own for all Blu-Ray enthusiasts, serious visual candy here.
  • #1- Alien Anthology (1979,1987,1992, 1997)-directors Scott, Cameron, Fincher, Jeunet  – Hand down this set deserves the best Blu-Ray award of 2010 just based on the first two film transfers alone. Add in the extras, some not seen since the Laser disc release, the other 2 Alien movies and this set is a must own for any film lover getting into HD.

ALIEN(1979)- director Ridley Scott- This is in my top 5 favorite movies of all time, conservatively I’d say I’ve seen it well over 100 times and after seeing this Blu-Ray I re-watched it twice in the next day. This transfer is total perfection. I think Fox did something very special with the first two movies, with help from the director’s without question. It’s like seeing this film again for the first time, the art direction is sublime and is never quite equaled in the series. Scott’s attention to detail and art direction is stellar, and in 1080p I was taken to a transcendent level upon viewing the moody atmosphere of this science fiction monster masterpiece.

ALIENS(1986)- director James Cameron-  Cameron last year took the original negative from 1986 and re colored and fixed the grain level for the Blu-Ray release. At first that sounds bad to fix any grain levels in older films, there is grain in film, that’s one of the great qualities of film; but the original negative stock used for Aliens had problems with it and Kodak ended production of that particular stock after that run, so that’s why  it looks really overly grainy and noisy in the original release. After the re-coloring and tweaking to the special edition of the film the Blu-Ray turned out better than I thought the film could ever look . This shit is bad ass! The people who are very familiar with the film will be shocked at the level of detail to the picture. You will find your self constantly questioning whether you’ve seen this part before and what the hell is going on with all this new shit. That’s how good this transfer is, unbelievable. Nothing like Cameron,Biehn and Sci-Fi, great stuff.

As for the last two films Alien3 (1992) and Alien:Resurrection (1997) didn’t fair so well in the HD transfers. David Fincher was screwed from the second he took the reins of the runaway project at Fox and the Blu-Ray transfer of Alien3 is no different, it shows little care compared to the first two films obviously no impute from the director was taken or given there. As far as Resurrection is concerned the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has already voiced his troubles with the shoty treatment his film got in the HD transfer, the colors are dull,  the blacks are sort of washed out a bit and the over all picture is flat looking compared to other films he’s made. The set really is still worth the purchase because the reality is Alien And Aliens are the only two films you will re-watch anyway, and they are defiantly worth more than a few watchings in HD.

More great classics on the way to Blu-Ray in 2011, The Walking Dead: First Season, Excalibur (1981), Teen Wolf, Taxi Driver (original laser disc commentary is one of the new extras), Tron (1982), Le Cercle Rouge (1970) Criterion, De Palma’s Blow Out (1981) Criterion, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Criterion, Diabolique (1955) Criterion, (the big one this year) the Star Wars Saga and lots more coming .

Is it time to dive in yet? The water is pretty nice once you’re in.

Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.

J.

Posted February 16, 2011 by JMC in On The Couch

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Holiday Movie Watch List and Review Day 2 : December 20th 2010   Leave a comment

DAY TWO : DECEMBER 20th 2010

Hey Everybody,

This time of the year for me means constant consuming of movie content all day every day. Now those of you who know me might wonder how this differs from my daily life in any way. Regardless I use the holiday lull to catch up on what I may have missed or re watching my favorite classics, mostly on Blu-Ray this year which is a great joy for me. It’s like re living the first viewing of all my favorites and classics alike. I hope everyone is enjoying the Holiday season and able to get into some good movies on your break.

  1. APOCALYPSE NOW Full Disclosure Edition Blu-Ray (1979-1991-2002) –  To start today is a particularity seminal holiday movie for me. I remember watching this with my dad over the holidays many a year, and really this is a film that only get better with age. The Blu-Ray presentation is stunning, with both versions of the film (1979 original and 2002 redux) and for the first time with the movie set you get the must see documentary HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE filmed by Coppola’s wife during the 5 and a half years of production on the movie. A must own set for all film enthusiasts and a grand holiday film for all.
  2. SCROOGED (1988) director Richard Donner  – Bill Murray at his best (and really he’s never off, is he?), holiday movie bull sh!t at its best and Richard Donner not doing a purely action flick. All and all a great ride and reinvention of a classic story producing classic moment of its own. Always a fun film for all viewers, a great afternoon X-mas treat.
  3. FAWLTY TOWERS ( TV Series 1975-79) The Germans episode 6 – For a show that only had 12 episodes Fawlty Towers produces a immeasurable amount of laughter no matter how many times you watch any of the episodes. Even though you may know which bits are coming and know the outcome of the skit, you can’t help but bust out in joyous laughter every viewing. Instead of describing the episode “The Germans” I’ve posted it above . Enjoy the superb craziness of Cleese and company.
  4. UNCLE BUCK(1989) director John Hughes – The early evening feature stars the lovable and always funny John Candy. With Hughes directing him for the second time (the first being Plane, Trains and Automobiles in 1987) , Candy delivers laughs, drama and warmth to a character that could have been played totally wrong by another actor, he is Buck Russell. John Hughes only directed 8 feature films, writing 40 in total before his death in August of 2009. Every time I watch one of his directorial efforts I always come out feeling good even though I know every line to all of them reciting them aloud sometimes, like I’m sure most of you do as well, but you still want to watch them again and again. Too bad there’s know one like Candy or Hughes around today, both will be sourly missed leaving a legacy on celluloid that will last as long as movies have audiences around to view them. A kick ass movie.
  5. The Criterion Collection SANJURO Blu-Ray (1962) director Akira Kurosawa – And finally the late night feature a Kurosawa samurai classic, the companion piece to 1961’s Yojimbo which is the first time we see Toshiro Mifune play this swaggering ronin samurai with a good heart and fast blade. In this sequel Mifune again gets into great sword play with great lines and a grumpy “fu@k You” attitude to his skills and work. Toshiro Mifune to me is a true world class actor. His presents leaps off the scene, with a slight look or head tilt he conveys more than most actors today can do with lines. With Akira Kurosawa you are always in for a visual treat, a true visual story telling master at work every single film. The long lenses work used on Sanjuro  give it an amazing visual quality that along with the black and white brings out so much detail it is stunning. Criterion’s Blu-Ray presentation is astounding, I love the amount of effort that has gone into the high def releases there. A great way to end the day, Kurosawa, Mifune and one of my favorite endings of any sword play/ samurai flicks, “The Fountain of Blood” …Ouch! That shit might sting a bit in the morning…

TILL TOMORROW. STAY TUNED.

J.

Discs Like Yojimbo/ Sanjuro Blu Ray Set Is Why I Love The Criterion Collection Company.   Leave a comment

Hey everybody
Been watching a few of my favorite samurai movies Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962).  The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray sets picture quality is astounding, for two black and white films shot almost 50 years ago in Japan you expect their age to show in the HD transfer, but just the opposite.

Akira Kurosawa was an amazing film maker,  always the most amazing composition and attention to detail. The picture quality has never been better with these films, the images are super sharp and the depth of the blacks are amazing. The use of almost all long lenses in this film give a sharp focus with little dept of field, still the picture never looks out of focus, a true show case of what a master focus puller can do. Kurosawa always brought out the best in his crew from production design to camera work, all well show cased on these Blu-Rays.

The striking physical performance from star Toshiro Mifune as the ronin samurai Sanjuro is my real reason I love these films and keep coming back to them. Everything from the speed and skill he uses his sword, to the great attitude he embodies as an anti hero of comic book proportions, being able to strike down ten opponents in ten seconds with out taking a hit and making it believable in context of the film.

Yojimbo made Mifune a international star in the 60’s and 70’s going on to do 170 films in his career. He is great as this character making Yojimbo and Sanjuro timeless classics and must see for all film fans and what better time to see them than now when you can see them in the best presentation possible in your own living room with  The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray discs.

Till Next Time.

J.