Commentary Tracked: Around the Web on the DVD Beat


The very best Bondage

Over at Home Theater Forum, motion picture archivist Robert A. Harris devotes an entry in his regular column, "A Few Words About...," to the new Blu-ray edition of Dr. No, the oldest film in the James Bond franchise and therefore the one that could present the most problems with modern high-def displays. He says Bond fans have no need to worry. Not only is the image "beautiful," it "looks far better than it has any right to look. The overall viewing experience is superb. ... The single overriding fact is that the Blu-ray is as perfect as it can be. ... Suffice to say that the first episode, Dr. No, went well beyond my expectations. A very high quality disc representing the birth of a behemoth series."

Says one of Mr. Harris' commenters, who as a group can be hard to please: "I just finished 'Dr. No' and all I can say is WOW!!!"

Harris continues the conversation with From Russia With Love and Thunderball.


Meanwhile, DVD Beaver turns its meticulous microscope on the two new Bond Blu-ray three-packs here and here, and provides compare/contrast analyses against previous DVD editions of From Russia With Love (that ultra-close-up screen capture of Daniela Bianchi's mouth would by itself make me a Blu-ray convert) and Thunderball. The Beav also agrees that Dr. No's new presentation "is quite beautiful -- far in advance of anything put to SD-DVD. ... I am blown away by this image clarity, tightness and pristine contrast."


The Digital Bits weighs in as well.


So radio M and tell her the mission was a success.




"Security was akin to entering the Pentagon" at Quantum preview

Of course it's no coincidence that the new James Bond DVD and Blu-ray editions -- six vintage titles plus 2006's Casino Royale -- are released this week, what with the approaching debut of the newest Bond film, the second starring Daniel Craig, Quantum of Solace. Although Quantum's official release dates are October 31 in the British Isles and November 14 in the U.S., Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer reports that he has "just returned from London where I attended the first screening in the world of the eagerly-awaited James Bond film Quantum Of Solace..."

"As I stood outside London's famed Odeon Theatre in Leicester Square, the excitement was at a fever pitch among those fortunate enough to have been invited to the screening. Security was akin to entering the Pentagon. All mobile phones were confiscated and stored until after the screening. Admission was only through possessing a brick-like, illustrated entry ticket that had obviously been designed specifically to thwart digital duplication. My major fear was being able to stay awake through the entire film, having not slept in over 24 hours and having taken a red eye flight to London, only to accompany Cinema Retro co-publisher Dave Worrall on a press junket for Fox to promote the Bond's on Blu-ray. ... Before long, the head of Sony Pictures came on stage to welcome everyone and inform us we were among the most envied cinema-goers in the world at that moment because we would be the first to see the much-anticipated Bond film. The lights dimmed, the curtains parted and the film began to unspool before an audience so rapt with attention, you could have heard a pin drop."

With all necessary spoiler warnings hereby placed in boldface (seriously, don't click if you don't want to know), Lee's full account and reaction to the movie is here.




Back in July, Film.com writer Glenn Erickson sent us an article on the recently discovered footage from Fritz Lang's early science-fiction masterpiece Metropolis. Today Glenn forwarded to us an email from Jesse Rhodes, a member of the editorial staff of the prestigious Smithsonian magazine and a "long-time reader" of Glenn's work. Turns out that both Glenn and his Film.com article received a "forthright shout-out" at Smithsonianmag.com. Congrats, Glenn!




Over at The Onion A.V. Club, the reader bar fight conversation has gotten a tad heated underneath Noel Murray's "The Extended Cut" DVD review of writer-director Terrence Malick's The New World, which has elicited more stadium brawls than any Pocahontas vehicle since Disney on Ice. A favorite:

RE: historical accuracy

"Does anyone know if the stream-of-consciousness voiceovers accurately hold up to the thoughts running through the heads of historical figures four hundred years ago, or was it all just made up?"

Also new at the A.V. Club is Scott Tobias on the Criterion edition of Costa-Gavras' Missing, Noel Murray on Words for the Dying ("In 1989, John Cale and Brian Eno met in Moscow to record an album combining the orchestrations of a Soviet pop-classical symphony with the poetry of Dylan Thomas"), and DVDs in Brief.

At Hollywood Bitchslap, Peter Sobczynski in his DVD review calls The New World "one of the great films of the decade -- an endlessly compelling and visually ravishing cinematic tone poem that takes one of the most familiar historical stories of our country's history and transforms it into a work of fascinating and mystical beauty." About the new Extended Cut edition, however, he warns that "those of you with the previous DVD should hang on to it since, despite suggestions to the contrary, the intriguing ten-part making-of documentary that was included there has not been ported over to here."

Here's Warner Home Video's trailer for The New World: The Extended Cut DVD:




Because it's there

There's a Flickr group devoted to pictures of Robocop on a unicorn. Just in case, you know, you've been looking for something like that.




And it has Grace Kelly to boot

Bob Westal at ForwardToYesterday.com nails "last year's featherweight Shia LaBeouf suspense hit" Disturbia for being "essentially a remake" of Alfred Hitchcock's better-in-every-way classic Rear Window, now out in an excellent new DVD edition.

"Director D.J. Caruso's teen trifle was a Big Mac -- and Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' is an adult-style full course steak dinner from the best restaurant you've ever been to. ... Simultaneously a devilish entertainment and a big-hearted work of art, my personal all-time favorite film from one of the three or four best directors of all time is as funny as it is suspenseful to the point of being terrifying -- while also managing to be sexy, romantic, and poignant. Both cinematically innovative and perfectly stylish, and with a witty and well-rounded script by John Michael Hayes, this masterpiece of mass entertainment is an abject lesson to makers of modern mainstream thrillers who act as if audiences are capable of precisely two emotions per film."




"Open Channel D."

As we announced a couple of days ago, Time-Life's The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Collection gets a new release this week. This 41-disc DVD mega-set delivers the entire 1960s Cold War series that set out to bring the James Bond craze to American TV. Warner Home Video -- a company that has obviously embraced the YouTube generation -- has posted online a set of trailers for the DVD set.




Oh, the horror!

An early contender for "Interesting DVD Title of the Week" is Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror, reviewed at DVD Talk, although Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is right up there too.


About Zombie Strippers, the Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson Halloween camp-fest due out on DVD and Blu-ray next week, Chris Haberman at FangoriaOnline doesn't get far in his review before throwing up his hands:

"...The bonus features on Sony Pictures' DVD are... I can't do this. I can't stand it! How did you expect this review to begin? 'It's not as raunchy as you'd think it would be.' 'Much slicker than you could've imagined!' It's both, dammit. Both. And the combination is enough to drive even the laziest zombie enthusiasts outside, smoke if they got 'em and jabber like curators about what worked and what didn't."

Also at Fangoria, those horror hardcores dish up the goods on new releases such as The Strangers and even a drama review of The Fly: The Opera, an operatic adaptation (yes, you read that right) of David Cronenberg's 1986 sci-fi/horror classic.

Getting back to the DVD of Zombie Strippers, Bryant Frazer at Film Freak Central doesn't care for it much: "It's so dreadful, in fact, that I may be underrating it in at least one respect: Zombie Strippers! actually gives the early-1980s sci-fi porn flick Café Flesh a run for its money as the most joyless, nigh despairing movie about sexual arousal in film history."

Yet he does allow that the disc (in this case the Blu-ray edition) contains points of interest in the extras:

"The 'Titillation and Sass' pop-up trivia track provides not just ample information gleaned from Jameson's PR kit but also a crash course in French existentialism for people who don't know who Camus and Sartre were -- in addition to, hilariously, a relatively sober analysis of the film's schoolboy dramaturgy. (In 'Zombie Strippers,' one pop-up bubble helpfully declaims, 'Gaia's need to ultimately conform due to her self-loathing, inadvertently sets free the caged zombies, thus releasing the ensuing chaos.')"

Back in April, Cinematical's Christopher Campbell liked the movie somewhat better, although he caveats that "there's nothing wrong with drinking ahead of time."





Finally, the "Editor's Choice" section of The Atlantic magazine's November issue features Benjamin Schwarz's fine review of Have You Seen...?, the audacious and eccentric and very often brilliant David Thomson's new Bible-sized collection of reviews, "a by turns astringent and gushy appraisal of 1,000 movies made from 1895 to 2007." I have my copy, and predictably -- if you've encountered Thomson before, especially his essential A Biographical Dictionary of Film -- I find it to be by turns punch-the-air bracing and "WTF?" aggravating, and always un-put-downable. No DVD shelf should be without either book. Here's the Amazon.com link.