I'm a long-time, unreconstructed James Bond fan. Says so right there on my Guy Card. I don't know if that makes me the Joe Sixpack that's in the news so much lately, but I am definitely a Joe Jetta With Rocket Launchers and Ejector Seat. Any Bond film is an automatic must-see for me, even the lesser ones -- I'm looking at you, Man With the Golden Gun and the single blurry mush that the Pierce Brosnan entries have become in my memory -- with few things in life giving me a more satisfying movie-going experience than a good James Bond installment.
So, just in time for Quantum of Solace, this week I feel as though I've just been invited to play around in Q's laboratory.
It's one thing to get multi-disc DVD and Blu-ray editions of the most recent James Bond hit, 2006's Casino Royale, highlighting the holy cow! surprise of Daniel Craig in the most impressive franchise reboot since the New Testament. Along with Sony's new Blu-ray "Collector's Edition," it arrives again on Tuesday in a variety of DVD packages: a "Three-Disc Collector's Edition," a "2-Disc Widescreen Edition," and a (comparatively pointless, really) "2-Disc Full Screen Edition." The Collector's Editions come with more than seven hours of extras new for this release, including new documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage. Exclusive to the Blu-ray disc, add a Bonus View picture-in-picture commentary with director Martin Campbell and producer Michael G. Wilson, as well as "Know Your Double-O," a BD-live enabled multi-level, multi-player trivia game that -- theoretically, at least -- lets your play with Bond fans and experts around the world.
It's another thing to get a "40th Anniversary Edition" of Casino Royale, the psychedelic 1967 comedy from the height of a trendy wave of Bond spoofs that took the Austin Powers approach when Mike Myers was still a tyke. This messy, "wacky," anything-goes spoof threw in Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Peter Sellers, a runaway budget, way too many directors, and several kitchen sinks for one of Hollywood's storied "surreal" production explosions. The "do the frug" soundtrack includes Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, and Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love." A weird, lysergically entertaining time capsule of the Summer of Love and Tie-Dye, this original film "adaptation" of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale is definitely shaken, not stirred.
But the coolest and most welcome new addition to our shelves is our Pick of the Week. It's MGM's first batch of six vintage Bond movies in new DVD and Blu-ray editions. These upgrade releases allow even the oldest of the bunch, 1962's Dr. No, which kicked off what became moviedom's most successful series, to look and sound like new again.
Along with Dr. No are these other five titles, including three of my personal faves from the Sean Connery years, available individually or bundled together in boxed sets: From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only, and Die Another Day. (Here's hoping for Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice forthcoming in the next set.)
All six are superbly presented on DVD and Blu-ray, with excellent restorations, where needed, of these classic series titles. Each comes with a terrific collection of bonus features and extras. In particular, the Blu-ray editions deliver all the advantages of Blu-ray technology to give us Bond fans a pristine new home viewing experience.
We'll be giving you more coverage of these Bond discs later this week, so stick around. Besides, Rosa Klebb is blocking the door and that dagger in her shoe is just dripping with SPECTRE venom.
By the way, do you want to win this Bond six-pack Blu-ray set? If so, click here and tell us who you think has been the very best Bond, James Bond.
Speaking of major franchise redos, Universal's The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, hits disc this week in several DVD and Blu-ray options, including a three-disc Special Edition. Film.com's mean green fighting machine, Laremy, will be giving us his thoughts on the Blu-ray edition this week. (I ask only one thing of you -- in the comments box at the bottom of his review, if you disagree with his opinion, don't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry. He throws things.)
In 1985, Kiss of the Spider Woman was the first independent movie ever to receive the top four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Hector Babenco. However, this much admired and talked-about film has been unavailable on DVD at traditional outlets. Thanks to City Lights Home Entertainment, that changes this week when the Collector's Edition arrives on our shelves on DVD and Blu-ray. Along with the film, the two-disc DVD and Blu-ray editions hold the never-before-seen feature-length documentary Tangled Web: Making Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Set in a non-specific Latin American country, the film takes a penetrating look at the role of sex and politics under an oppressive right-wing regime. The timeless story follows the complex relationship between two very different men, each with an opposite view of life; the drama builds to an emotionally powerful crescendo as the two men come together in a stunningly transcendental conclusion. William Hurt's Oscar-winning performance is a captivating tribute to the power of film and fantasy as means to escape inhumane conditions. Also here are Raul Julia and Sonia Braga.
Along with the Tangled Web, this edition also includes a trivia track in English and Spanish, optional dubbing in Spanish, and featurettes that explore the story from novel to film and even to Broadway.
The Criterion Collection
gifts us with two welcome releases:
Missing is political filmmaker extraordinaire Costa-Gavras's compelling, controversial dramatization of the search for American filmmaker and journalist Charles Horman, who mysteriously disappeared during the 1973 coup in Chile. Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek give magnetic, emotionally commanding performances as Charles's father and wife, who are led by U.S. embassy and consulate officials through a series of bureaucratic dead-ends before eventually uncovering the terrifying facts about Charles's fate and disillusioning truths about their government. Written and directed with clarity and conscience, the Academy Award–winning Missing is a testament to Costa-Gavras's daring.
Eclipse Series 13:
Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women -- Over the course of a career spanning three decades and more than eighty films, master cineaste Kenji Mizoguchi would return again and again to one abiding theme: the plight of women in Japanese society. In these four lacerating works of social consciousness -- two prewar (Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion), two postwar (Women of the Night, Street of Shame) -- Mizoguchi introduces an array of compelling female protagonists, crushed or resilient, who are forced by their conditions and culture into compromising positions. With Mizoguchi's visual daring and eloquence, these films are as cinematically thrilling as they are politically rousing.
Off the beaten track is Arts Engine's Ten Year Anniversary Box Set, a new DVD set showcasing highly acclaimed, yet previously hard-to-find, feature-length documentaries and short films of the past decade.
Highlights of the box set include: Deadline, an Emmy-nominated look at capital punishment in the United States; Outside Looking In, which explores the complexities of trans-racial adoption; Election Day, a timely and powerful look at the state of democracy in the U.S. today; and Laurie Collyer's directorial debut Nuyorican Dream, which chronicles a Puerto Rican family struggling to overcome poverty in Brooklyn. (Collyer recently wrote and directed Sherrybaby starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.)
While the films have been hits at festivals around the world -- from Sundance to Berlin to South by Southwest -- and broadcast by outlets such as NBC, HBO, and P.O.V., several of the titles in this box set were not available on DVD until now.
The two Media that Matters DVDs included in the box set are: Media That Matters: Good Food, a collection of festival shorts focused on food and sustainability, and the eighth annual Media That Matters Film Festival, featuring 12 shorts from the 2008 festival.
Visit Arts Engine to find out more.
Also out is the alone-in-the-dark horror chiller (or snoozer, depending) The Strangers. Check back here for a special feature on new horror for Halloween, if you dare.
TV on DVD this week is pretty strong for Family Guy fans, what with Fox's Vol. 6 set as well as a Freakin' Sweet Party Pack and a Total World Domination Collection, not to mention the Amazon.com exclusive Complete Collection.
Joining them are:
Bill Bixby ripping the purple pants for years in The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series
The Looney Tunes Golden Collection (Vol. 6)
Knight Rider: The Complete Series
and My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas
But the coolest TV on DVD this week? The James Bondiest, spy gadgetiest, Napoleon Solo-est new item taking up a whole lot of shelf space? It's Time-Life's The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series, a 41-disc DVD megaset holding the entire 1960s Cold War series that set out to bring the James Bond craze to American television, and did it memorably well with charming, often tongue-in-cheek verve. The discs come packed in a briefcase holder and are loaded with extras. Listing at $199.00, this set may also come with a sleep-gas canister, a tracking device in the handle, and two tickets to the 1965 World Series, but all the same it's a temptation for the new DVD shelf I just put up (pull out the DVD of Our Man Flint and the shelf revolves to reveal the secret passage to the underground lair).