The Great White Blu-Ray Hunt

Today is the day. The day JAWS came out on Blu-Ray. On my late and dearly missed Mom’s birthday, no less. And I had a solid plan to get it in my grubby hands.

It’s here…

Could I have ordered it online on Amazon? Sure. But when I saw this past Sunday there was a Best Buy exclusive coming out with 40 pages of stuff that I probably didn’t need but wanted, I decided that was the one to get. So I dropped Mrs. Von Luger off at Port Authority in NYC for a trip to sunny Mt. Pocono, PA and headed over to Best Buy on 44th and 5th. But first I killed some time at a Barnes and Noble two blocks down. Big mistake? Maybe…cause there were no more Collector’s Series copies of JAWS left when I got to Best Buy!

The back…

After mulling over my options and maybe buying the regular Blu-Ray, I made the choice to head down to 23rd and 6th to another Manhattan Best Buy. But this time I would be smart and call first to see if they had any left! Oh no – on hold for five minutes! Screw that! As I neared 34th Street I changed course and headed to Penn Station. Made a train by literally one minute, then headed East to Little Neck and the Von Luger Mobile. Then I set out to my “local” Best Buy in Carle Place, NY, deftly avoiding any sight of the office where I work a half a mile or so west of Best Buy (since today was a day off for yours truly).

Aaaaaannnndddd…..They didn’t have any copies of the Collector’s Series Digibook either. Ugh…. What to do? I stalled, looking blindly and punch-drunkedly for other stuff I couldn’t find anyway, while holding in my paws a copy of one of the few regular Blu-Ray copies left. I checked the Customer Kiosk for stock, to no avail. I asked Mike, the guy patrolling the movie/games sections, to no avail. I got on line to pay. I got off the line, hemming and hawing. I decided to look up on my phone just what the heck is in the Digibook and is it worth it, and found a video review which I watched in the store. That’s when I decided to have them order me a copy. Screw it. So I don’t have it today, no biggie.

Meantime, Mike the movies/games guy was looking behind the register to see if there were any regular copies left for a customer that asked him. Aaaaaannnndddd….. Someone left behind a copy of the Collector’s Series Digibook Thingie and my hero Mike saw me and handed it over, then I handed the other customer my regular copy (hopefully not too sweaty by now) and all was good in the ocean! Hurray for me! No waiting! Hemming and hawing paid off for the first time ever!

Now, the smattering of faithful VLB readers know how feel about JAWS. Truth be told, it’s my second favorite film behind The Great Escape, but it’s rapidly becoming 1 and 1A. Now, how is the Blu-Ray you ask? (OK, maybe you don’t give a crap, but I’m telling you anyway!)

First, the packaging is pretty sweet. 42 pages of stuff in the BB exclusive Digibook (boy, that word sounds silly when you keep saying it). Notes on the production, the cast and crew, the film’s influence and legacy, storyboards, a couple of script pages, great photos, etc.

Inside Front Cover

The Intro by Richard Zanuck

Benchley novel

Roy Scheider

Storyboards

Ah, but let’s pop that sucker in the old Blu-Ray player. Man, it looks amazing. Fantastic digital restoration. Crystal clear, but not to the point of looking fake. Depth and detail is fabulous. And it sounds terrific. John Williams’ masterful score is better than ever.

Blu-Ray Main Menu

“It’s a Digibook.” “A wha??”

“Hey, thanks for breakfast!”

For some reason, this made me think of Mummenschanz

Fast fish! One of my Dad’s favorite scenes.

But the real pull for me, in addition to the great extras from previous versions, which include an awesome 2-hour Making of JAWS documentary that first showed up on the super Laserdisc edition, is the inclusion of The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws, which I heard about 5 years ago and finally got to see. Great clips and interviews! Narrated by Roy Scheider! Richard Dreyfuss mimicking the shark! Three uses of the word “recalcitrant” in one minute! Schweet…..The only bad thing is it’s not in full HD. What’s up with that? Eh, no matter. Just wish my Dad was around to share this with. It was his second favorite movie also.

The doc is worth the price of admission

My favorite part of the new doc is Spielberg watching the Oscar nominations…with Joe Spinell (!) who exclaims about the non-nod for Steve: “Who made the picture,  somebody’s muthah?” Or maybe my favorite part is how they talk about the Signature Collection Laserdisc and how people bought Laserdisc players just to get this set, which included one of the best docs ever made, the famous Laurent Bouzerau one which is more of a must-see than this new guy. (They’re both on the new disc!) Well, what are you waiting for? Get thee to a Blu-Ray store!

Here’s another GREAT article about the restoration, and the film, courtesy of The New Yorker. (Thanks to Drax for sharing!)

Images from the Blu-Ray © Universal Studios.

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Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm  Comments (9)  
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Take Me To The River

This year, for our 10th anniversary, my awesome wife bought me a Blu-Ray player. Now I will admit I was a little hesitant at first only because I knew a Blu-Ray player would cost me money due to my DVD addiction. But I vowed not to upgrade existing DVDs unless the extras were out of this world. Of course, I broke that soon with some great deals that could not be passed up (Blade Runner, Braveheart, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan) and much better editions (Red Cliff, The Exorcist). But the smartest upgrade so far? Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition. By far.

This is the good stuff

Of course, I already had The Complete Dossier DVD, which remains unopened, but after doing due diligence by searching some reviews (Dad would have been proud), I thought it would be worth it to upgrade to the Apocalypse Now Blu-Ray. Is it? Well, while recovering from gallbladder surgery recently, I decided to line up a bunch of movies to watch in order to kill time in between pain meds (if needed) and found myself stuck mostly on one in particular — my new Apocalypse Now Blu-Ray. Lemme tell ya, it’s worth running out and buying a Blu-Ray player right now.

This high-def version of Apocalypse looks amazing, and sounds incredibly amazing, even on my two little Bose speakers that sound like full surround given the proper medium. One of my top ten favorite movies, I first saw Apocalypse Now as a 12-year-old back in 1979 because my Dad, bless his heart, took us to see everything. It made an instant and lasting impression. You all know the story of this Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is ordered to go up river and terminate the command of seemingly gone-loco Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). He travels with a band of misfits and they encounter adventure, danger, and surrealism from start to finish. And it’s freakin’ awesome.

The original Hot Tub Time Machine?

Everyone knows the issues Coppola had making the movie. Typhoon, madness, budgets, replacement casting, the star having a heart attack. If not, the Blu-Ray also includes the bravura documentary Hearts of Darkness, a must-see for all film fans which can help fill in the blanks.

The cast is uniformly amazing, from Sheen to Brando to Dennis Hopper to Frederic Forrest to Sam Bottoms to a teenaged Laurence Fishburne. My fave is the underrated Albert Hall as The Chief. And of course the cliché favorite is Robert Duvall as Col. Kilgore and everyone endlessly quotes his “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” But to me it’s more the little things that make Duvall’s performance so memorable, whether it’s his drinking coffee in the helicopter during the famous Ride of the Valkyries attack which remains one of the most incredible scenes ever filmed (and I now realize James Cameron may have swiped this for Stephen Lang’s character in Avatar) or when Kilgore lets the guy holding in his guts drink from his canteen, but once someone mentions surfer Lance Johnson is with Willard, he forgets about the guy in a heartbeat. For my money the best Kilgore line is “What do you know about surfing, you’re from goddamn New Jersey!”

Now that's how you make a movie poster

Speaking of the helicopter attack scene, famously set to some classic Wagner, it was all pre-CGI (duh). Imagine what Michael Bay would do with that today, with 258 computer generated helicopters and 10,000 explosions in 5 minutes. Well, it would be unwatchable for one.

I watched the Apocalypse Now Redux edition since the BR features both the theatrical and Redux, which I hadn’t seen yet, and has around 45 minutes of added scenes. Some work, some don’t. The extra Playboys Bunnies scene is effective, a bit heartbreaking and strange. With boobies.

The Plantation scene has been described in a couple of reviews as slowing the movie down, and it’s slightly true. It’s also borderline preachy, angry (oh, those silly French), and it seems like the crew is there for a week’s vacation. And there’s an opium smoking scene that features even more boobies, which doesn’t really seem necessary (not that there’s anything wrong with the idea though). But it does contain a nice sendoff for Mr. Clean, and if I could pick out the best thing about the Plantation scene, it makes the following scene even more jarring and more powerful than before.

The extras on the Blu-Ray are worth the price of admission. Among the new features not included on The Complete Dossier are excellent and enjoyable interviews between Coppola and screenwriter John Milius and star Martin Sheen. Milius gets a lot of credit from Coppola for creating Apocalypse Now, especially for the characters and the Wagner/helicopter scene. They kept bringing up George Lucas, which I thought was odd, but it turns out (which I did not know) Lucas was supposed to direct Apocalypse but instead went to do Star Wars (thankfully), and second choice Milius directed The Wind and the Lion instead. Coppola needed to make money for Zoetrope, so decided to direct a Guns of Navarone-type action epic. Um…not quite. But it’s ok, ’cause his movie is better.

Sheen’s interview, the first thing you notice is his big fake choppers. Well, they look fake although I don’t think they are. He and Coppola have a hoot reminiscing in the same studio where they recorded Willard’s voiceover narration, sharing lots of laughs, and some good inside info too.

The horror, the horror...of not owning this Blu-Ray

And there’s SO much more to watch: featurettes on the sound, sound design (they basically invented 5.1 for the movie), music (a bunch of percussionists scored the entire film at one point), casting (Nick Nolte? Really?), and so on, including deleted scenes, a lost scene, alternate credits with commentary. Man. I quite simply can’t recommend this Blu-Ray highly enough. I still have to watch Hearts of Darkness, which I only saw once with a band of great friends back at Film Forum long ago, and which here includes even more extras, plus listen to Coppola’s audio commentary. No reason not to take another trip or two up river.

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 12:28 am  Comments (5)  
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Eh-vatar

So I guess I was the last self-proclaimed film geek to see Avatar. Back at the end of July (yes, I’ve been meaning to post about it for that long but haven’t made the time) I watched it on Blu-ray, courtesy of the fine folks at Netflix. Is Avatar the biggest box-office hit of all time because it’s the greatest movie ever? Nah. Honestly, I thought it was just OK. Would I have liked James Cameron’s film more if I had seen it in 3D in the theaters? Maybe, but probably not.

I’m not going to bore anyone with a mundane recap of the plot here. You’ve probably all seen Avatar already anyway. And read plenty of recaps of the story too. Suffice it to say there’s a lot to like about Avatar, but it suffers from similar issues as Titanic. Mainly a little too long, and a below-average screenplay. That’s not to say James Cameron is a bad filmmaker. I love the first two Terminators, and Aliens is awesome. I like The Abyss and True Lies is OK. I even like Titanic, besides the aforementioned negatives. But I feel Avatar didn’t live up to the hype. Now, none of my friends have said it’s the greatest movie ever, but there has to be a handful of people out there who think so, probably more. I just don’t know any of them.

 

Meaner and more musical than the Na'vi

 

The effects are fantastic. Yeah, you can tell it’s CGI/motion capture in a lot of parts with the Na’vi, but in other parts it looks damn good. The battle scene at the end is borderline spectacular. The sets are ambitiously great (but maybe, as one fellow blogger friend with a hat room has brought up, Pandora and the album art of Roger Dean have a little too much in common). The cinematography is great too. And the Blu-ray disc looks and sounds absolutely incredible.

But…the acting is a bit hammy at times. Yeah, I’m talking to you Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang. (OK, maybe not Stephen Lang because you expect him to be a little hammy. And I did like the stupid thing he did drinking coffee in the cockpit of the battle ship. And he’s a nasty SOB throughout.) The leads are just OK. The Pandorian beasts looked a bit fake at times, but then again they are alien. The story is mildly interesting, and maybe a little silly, but certainly good for techno-geeks. And eco-geeks. And Blue Man Group geeks. OK, maybe not the last group.

 

Bigger, fatter, and less honest than the Na'vi

 

So, do I recommend Avatar? Well, it’s certainly worth seeing. Would I see it again? Maybe. Yeah, I guess once more wouldn’t kill me. Would I want to own it though? Eh….

Published in: on October 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm  Comments (4)  
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