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The original summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s JAWS quickly became my favorite film growing up, having devoured it on VHS and on ABC’s Sunday Night Movie presentation (the one with the added footage) so many times I could recite dialogue before I was out of grade school. Over the years I’ve been able to see it on the big screen (thanks to a visit with Lukas on Martha’s Vineyard back in ‘96 or so), but despite that – and having reviewed numerous laserdisc and DVD releases over the years – only now with Universal’s Blu-Ray edition do I feel like I’ve really, completely seen “Jaws.” This is a spectacular HD presentation on every level and is sure to thrill fans of this classic 1975 screen adaptation of Peter Benchley’s bestseller.

There’s not much I can say about the movie that hasn’t been written or documented – from behind-the-scenes books to countless documentaries – since the film’s 1975 release date. Spielberg’s miraculous direction took advantage of every difficult production situation to create an all-time film masterwork that’s always been as satisfying for its unforgettable characterizations, surprising humor and memorable atmosphere as it is a white-knuckle thriller about a great white marauding swimmers off the shores of Amity Island. As I write in my review of the terrific “Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard” book a year ago, “Jaws” itself was a collaborative success, one that saw actors from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw down to extras improvising their lines, giving the film a real, human center that we seldom see in modern filmmaking. The daily shooting schedule couldn’t be mapped out all that far in advance since screenwriter Carl Gottlieb spent most nights working on the script with Spielberg – combined with our unpredictable and ever-changing weather here in southern New England, “Jaws” relied on the people making it so much that it’s because of their efforts – as well as Spielberg who marshaled them all together – that the movie overcame its physical production struggles. In fact, had the movie not endured such a tumultous shoot, it’s likely that “Jaws” never would’ve become the classic it did.

Universal has produced a number of “100th Anniversary” Blu-Rays this year with remastered transfers – the results have ranged from superb to mediocre, but none have looked as brilliantly detailed as “Jaws.” Restored from high-res 35mm original film elements, this is one of the most satisfying catalog releases the studio has produced on Blu-Ray to date: Bill Butler’s cinematography is richly textured down to the finest detail, with warm colors and just a dazzling appearance that, even though I’ve watched the movie dozens of times, brings new background details to light with a clarity that I’ve never seen before in any format (there’s also, thankfully, been no attempt here at “tweaking” the movie’s color scheme like we’ve seen on too many BD releases over the years). The water has more depth, the Martha’s Vineyard locations come into sharper focus, and just the faintest hint of some filtering is apparent on a transfer that is content to let the movie’s natural cinematography speak for itself. It just looks phenomenal. On the audio side, viewers can select from the movie’s original mono soundtrack as well as another, "rethought" 7.1 DTS MA stereo remix, both of which are more full-bodied than their DVD counterparts, though purists may still object to some of the alterations in the latter (i.e. the "new" gunshots at the end still sound closer to the controversial 5.1 DVD remix from a decade ago than they do the original mono recording. In other instances, though, portions of the original mono mix have been carried over. It's at least a noticeable improvement in that regard, though still not exactly what Universal claims it to be in the disc's restoration featurette).

Extra features are something of a letdown, mainly because they’re almost all in non-anamorphic, 4:3 standard-definition and suffer from low bit-rates. The “Jaws Archives,” for example, is comprised of direct screen captures from the laserdisc, many of which look blurry and should’ve been cleaned up for high-def. Ditto for the deleted scenes, which appear to be filtered and ported straight off the LD (and the DVD). The eight-minute “From The Set” segment includes candid footage of the production’s first few days on-location in Martha’s Vineyard. Included here is priceless footage of Carl Gottlieb falling overboard and into the icy, early May waters of the Atlantic -- all for the abandoned first attempt Spielberg made at showing the discovery of Ben Gardner’s boat. It’s a wonderful segment and it’s a shame it doesn’t go on longer than it does.

Laurent Bouzereau’s dry but essential two-hour documentary from the ‘90s Signature Collection laserdisc is back, and it’s been complemented by “The Shark is Still Working,” a 2007 labor of love doc from James Gelet, Jake Gove, Erik Hollander, and James-Michael Roddy that treads over ground previously traveled by numerous other behind-the-scenes docs, as well as profiles other aspects glossed over by them (such as an interview with Percy Rodriguez, who performed the voice over for the film’s classic theatrical trailer). Unfortunately, the inferior visual presentation does no favors to the program, with heavy compression and “jaggies” present throughout its 103 minutes. Finally, the movie’s original, primary theatrical trailer is also on-hand here, in a likewise poor, non-anamorphic standard-def presentation that’s worse than its laserdisc appearance from years ago. Of course, given that the prior DVD didn’t have trailers of any kind, it’s at least an improvement in that regard (the movie’s original teaser is a regrettable omission yet again).
The sole new addition is an eight-minute look at Universal’s restoration efforts on the picture, presented in HD, plus a digital copy and Ultraviolet copy. The disc is housed in a standard two-disc Elite case with one of Universal’s nice 100 Years slipcovers; fans looking for more deluxe packaging ought to check out Best Buy’s exclusive (though pricier) Digibook release, or the UK’s Steelbook edition, which arrives in early September.

Ultimately, Universal has done one of their crown jewels proud with a Blu-Ray that boasts one of the format’s finest catalog transfers – not just from Universal, but any label. Spectacular! (****, 124 mins., 1975, PG; Universal)

Also New on Blu-Ray

Few movies that I was so excited about in high school disappointed me as much as TOTAL RECALL
(**½, 113 mins., 1990, R; Lionsgate). This expensive, long-gestating adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel – which bounced around for years in pre-production hell – finally found a home at Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna’s Carolco Pictures in the late ‘80s, who tailored the film as a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The combination of Arnold, the author of “Blade Runner,” a Jerry Goldsmith score and director Paul Verhoeven coming off “Robocop” had action fans of all ages (at least those with parents willing to bring their teens to the R-rated film) feverishly anticipating the picture  – yet the finished product has never been a personal favorite of mine.

“Recall,” which was scripted originally by the “Alien” tandem of Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon – and rewritten by Gary Goldman – finds Arnold as Quaid, an “everyman” construction worker in 2084 who, haunted by visions of Mars, decides to have artificial memories implanted in his brain courtesy of the “Rekall” company. Of course, something goes horribly wrong (or does it?), with Quaid subsequently attacked by his own wife (Sharon Stone), who believes that he’s a secret agent involved with warring factions on a colonized red planet. Soon Quaid heads to Mars with the villainous Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) and his henchman Richter (Michael Ironside) in hot pursuit of the man they know as “Hauser.”

Arnold was in full control of “Total Recall,” basically brokering the deal for Carolco and choosing Verhoeven to direct the film. Unfortunately, despite its compelling premise and “can’t miss” talent, the movie has numerous elements that I’ve never cared for, starting with the unappealing appearance of the claustrophobic, Mexican-lensed production. The movie looks like a product of 1990, no question, dominated by loud colors and garish visuals, and the set-bound confines of the picture have always been a turnoff. Though Rob Bottin’s make-up effects are mostly effective (the laughable “Arnold puppet” notwithstanding), the visual effects are more hit-or-miss, utilizing old-fashioned miniature models and opticals that haven’t held up well (they weren’t entirely cutting edge at the time of the production either, being inferior to the type of work ILM was producing around the period).

What’s more, the screenplay of the film is distressingly basic. “Total Recall” is essentially one long chase picture with amplified violence and repetitive visual gags that grow tiresome – particularly when Verhoeven brings the “triple breasted woman” back for an encore appearance. Arnold gets to deliver several patented one-liners, Stone and Rachel Ticotin fare well as the movie’s dueling female protagonists, and Ironside is at his conniving best – but the picture is never as captivating or enthralling as it should’ve been, particularly when compared to the era’s superior sci-fi/fantasy hits, with an especially weak final third.

Now, all of that being said, I’ve warmed to the film a little bit in recent years – mainly thanks to the music. Jerry’s score – the “Anvil of Crom” like opening titles aside – is a magnificent effort, complimenting every element of the action, with furious action cues and evocative melodies for the red planet and its mysterious underworld. It’s a symphonic feast that keeps you invested in the film, despite its shortcomings.

“Total Recall” is being resurrected on Blu-Ray this month from Lionsgate in the form of a “Mind Bending” Special Edition re-issue. The original Lionsgate Blu-Ray was a poor, early-format effort, and this new AVC encoded 1080p transfer is a huge upgrade by comparison, even though the film itself doesn’t appear flawless (with all the optical effects, it’s no surprise that there’s something of a slightly “dirty” aspect to the entire transfer). That said, the lack of DNR is quite welcome and the overall look hugely satisfying, with the transfer closely resembling Studio Canal’s superior European Blu-Ray releases of the film (in fact it seems to be a new encoding of that older master). The DTS MA audio nicely represents Goldsmith’s score, while extras – none of which were contained on the prior Blu-Ray – are rounded up from Lionsgate’s old DVD releases.

These include a chatty Verhoeven-Schwarzenegger commentary, which is wide-ranging and most interesting when it divulges the rocky development of the film, particularly the Bruce Beresford-directed version that was days away from shooting with star Patrick Swayze before DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group went under. There’s also talk about the proposed “Total Recall 2" sequel that was supposed to adapt “Minority Report,” while an interview with Verhoeven, 2001 “Imaging ‘Total Recall’” and special effects documentaries, the trailer, a photo gallery, and a restoration comparison round out a fine budget-priced Blu-Ray that’s unquestionably better than the release that preceded it.

CLUE: THE MOVIE Blu-Ray (**½, 86 mins., 1985, PG; Paramount): Of all the ‘80s comedies to apparently generate some kind of cult following, you wouldn’t have imagined Paramount’s holiday ‘85 offering “Clue: The Movie” to be one of them – yet this box-office disappointment arrives on Blu-Ray this month, in a solid presentation from Paramount that suffers from the same primary issue as its DVD predecessor.

Originally a John Landis vehicle (he's still listed as an executive producer and receives co-story credit), director Jonathan Lynn’s “Clue” is a fast-paced, wacky whoduneit with all the principal characters from the famous Parker Brothers board game assembled for a night of murder and mystery. The cast tries their hardest to make the frantic shenanigans of Lynn's script come to life (Tim Curry is terrific as the Butler, while Martin Mull and Michael McKean provide some laughs as iconic characters from the game), but the problem with the movie is that it often tries too hard to be funny – leaving you exhausted by the time the outcome is revealed.

“Clue” was shot with three different endings (A, B, and C) and was originally released that way to theaters, with multiplexes advertising the specific version of the movie they were showing. On its initial video releases, all three endings were clumsily assembled to create a disjointed finale that didn't really work too well.

For the Blu-Ray – much like the DVD – Paramount has taken the three endings and presented them in a frustrating manner: you can either choose to watch the movie with all three finales (as it was released on video), OR you can choose to watch the film with a random ending selected from all three conclusions. Good idea, right? Well, not if you've seen the movie once, played one random ending, and then viewed the same finale again the next time out! A better idea would’ve had the viewer select which ending they'd like to see, but alas, once again that didn't happen.

One area, at least, where the Blu-Ray improves upon its predecessor – outside of its generally pleasing, AVC encoded transfer which hasn’t been doused with DNR – is that all of the different endings (including the home video “trilogy” compilation) are available to view separate from the film in the supplemental section, along with the theatrical trailer (in HD). The DTS MA mono audio is fine for what it is (I haven’t looked it up but you’d imagine this was one of the last big studio releases to be released in mono), with John Morris’ score working as hard as the ensemble cast.

FOREVER MARILYN Blu-Ray (Fox): Box-set retrospective includes seven of the iconic star’s more memorable pictures from the Fox and UA (MGM) archives, several of which are new to Blu-Ray this month. Here’s a look:

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, RIVER OF NO RETURN, THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS and THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH each make their debuts in this box (all are available individually as well). For the most part, Fox has done a superb job with each of these transfers; elements, naturally, vary at times, yet from what I sampled, the AVC encoded 1080p transfers are natural and freed from excessive DNR. Extras are mostly on the thin side (all include trailers, and “Gentlemen” and “Millionaire” also include Fox Movietone newsreels) with the exception of “The Seven Year Itch,” which includes a commentary from Billy Wilder biographer Kevin Lally, an isolated score, deleted scenes, behind the scenes retrospective extras, and an interactive “Hays Code” feature.

The box also includes two previously released Marilyn Blu-Rays:

THE MISFITS: The final film for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, John Huston’s well-respected 1962 film boasts a highly pleasing 1080p AVC encoded transfer with DTS HD MA mono sound. No extras are on tap.

SOME LIKE IT HOT sports a number of extras carried over from its last Special Edition DVD: commentary including interviews with stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, plus comments from Paul Diamond (son of co-writer I.A.L. Diamond, who penned the film with long-time collaborator, director Billy Wilder) and comedy screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel; several featurettes and the original trailer. Fox has served up another satisfying AVC encoded 1080p image here that doesn’t look like it’s been trashed by DNR, while DTS HD MA mono sound is the sole audio option.               

Fox’s cardboard packaging is pretty flimsy – this isn’t one of those sturdy, hardbound books like the “Star Wars” and “Alien” sets, and doesn’t give you much bang for the buck in that regard. Still, Monroe buffs should be pleased with the transfers, whether they choose to go for the individual releases or this anthology package.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU Blu-Ray (*½, 100 mins., 1996, Unrated; New Line): If it weren’t for Marlon Brando wearing an ice bucket, Val Kilmer doing an impression of the corpulent star, and Fairuza Balk providing fleeting moments of sympathy as the “panther girl,” this deservedly maligned adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel would be completely unwatchable. As it is, this rendition of “Moreau” is still pretty awful – and actually worse than I recall it being upon its original, end-of-summer ‘96 theatrical release.

Much has been written about how original director Richard Stanley was fired several days into shooting, only to sneak back onto the set of his would-be film by donning some of Stan Winston’s make-up effects. The tumultuous nature of the shoot was also intensified by star Val Kilmer’s decision to back out of the film’s main lead, bringing Rob Morrow in to fill the vacancy...until Morrow had the good sense to bow out, leading David Thewlis to take over. If that wasn’t enough chaos, John Frankenheimer replaced Stanley, bringing something less than a clear vision of how to handle this (so far) most recent version of the oft-filmed tale.

The resulting film is indeed a directionless mess, with lost-at-sea Thewlis being taken in by Kilmer, henchman for Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando), whose work mixing human and animal DNA has lead to the creation of a number of beasts that roam his uncharted tropical island. It doesn’t take long, though, before the hybrids start to question their true nature and overthrow Moreau’s despotic rule.

Brando appears about a half-hour into the picture and departs after chipping in less than 30 minutes of screen time – it’s basically an extended cameo that’s patently bizarre (Moreau first shows up drenched in sunscreen and later gets a massage from “daughter” Balk by having her place ice in a barrel that sits on top of his noggin) but dramatically non-existent. Moreau’s neither interesting, scary or sympathetic in the picture – a problem that also extends to every other character, including Thewlis’ unlikeable “hero” and Kilmer’s utterly bizarre turn as Moreau’s second-in-command. Apparently difficult to deal with on-set, Kilmer’s performance matches the alleged reports of his behavior during production – once Brando has departed, Kilmer turns up the insanity by stuffing his shirt with pillows and pretending to be his top-billed counterpart in several outrageously funny sequences that have the feel of improvisation. Ditto for Kilmer’s howler of a death sequence, which has to be seen to be fully believed.

Though Kilmer’s deranged performance might offer bad movie lovers scattered minutes of amusement, the film provides few pleasures otherwise. While the movie is certainly unpleasant, none of it is engaging dramatically. Frankenheimer brings a leaden touch to the entire picture, failing to play off the obvious eccentricities of Brando or Kilmer and missing the chance to bring some much needed dark comedy to the project. Obviously hampered by a haphazard script, the movie is bereft of action set-pieces and concludes with a confounding, preachy social message that’s heavy handed to an extreme. On the visual side, Stan Winston’s weak make-up effects rank as some of the great make-up artist’s lesser accomplishments, and Digital Domain’s early CGI effects are likewise pedestrian. Gary Chang’s score is, at least, better than expected, though a far cry from the superb effort Laurence Rosenthal provided to the superior 1977 AIP version with Burt Lancaster, Michael York and Barbara Carrera (which is available on Blu-Ray in a region-free Australian release).

New Line’s Blu-Ray edition of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” includes the slightly gorier 100-minute, unrated cut of the picture in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer. Though lacking any obvious use of DNR, this isn’t that stellar of a presentation, with some noise evident in the day time shots and not a ton of HD detail present. Nevertheless, I’m guessing the problem lies with the source material and this is probably as good as the picture will ever look. The DTS MA audio is decent, and extras include two theatrical trailers (featuring the unforgettable combination of dialogue lines “Father???....Oh My God!”) and a brief Making Of promo featurette with Kilmer, once again, acting off-the-wall. Perhaps it was a method performance?

Also New on Blu-Ray

HATFIELDS & McCOYS Blu-Ray (290 mins., 2012; Sony): The most watched non-sports program in the history of basic cable, star Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds’ fifth collaboration together (following “Fandango,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Waterworld” and a producing collaboration on the latter’s “Rapa Nui”) is a highly entertaining, compelling chronicle of the infamous, warring Confederate clans along the West Virginia/Kentucky border in the late 19th century. Costner and Bill Paxton star as the heads of the respective families, who find themselves in a deadly blood feud that plays itself out with murder, misunderstandings and illicit love affairs over the course of several decades.

Shot in Romania, “Hatfields & McCoys” has a superb cast, with Tom Berenger, Powers Boothe, Jena Malone and Mare Winningham bringing the surprisingly sympathetic characters to life over the course of the mini-series’ three parts. John Debney and Tony Morales’ score is another plus, while Ted Mann and Ronald Parker’s teleplays balance character development with melodrama that never goes overboard into the type of soap-opera theatrics one would typically associate with this type of production.

Sony’s Blu-Ray of “Hatsfields & McCoys” includes the entire mini-series in flawless 1080p AVC encoded transfers and DTS MA soundtracks. Extras are lightweight, with just a Making Of and a Modern West music video on-hand. Highly recommended!

A SEPARATION Blu-Ray (123 mins., 2011, PG-13; Sony): Powerful Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Film, this Iranian import profiles the difficult struggle of a woman named Simin, who wants to leave Tehran in order to provide a better life for her daughter abroad. Her husband, Nader, refuses to leave his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father behind, causing a permanent rift that echoes the class struggle of modern Iranians at the same time it spins a pungent character drama. Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Sony brings “A Separation” to Blu-Ray in the form of a crisp and well-detailed 1080p AVC encoded transfer with DTS MA audio. Extras include a commentary from writer/director Asghar Farade, plus two featurettes profiling the director. Highly recommended (available August 21st).

GRIMM - Season 1 Blu-Ray (aprx. 16 hours, 2012; Universal): One of NBC’s few surprise hits (albeit a modest one) this past year, “Grimm” is a somewhat standard-issue “supernatural cop” series starring David Giuntoli as an Oregon police detective who finds out he’s one of a long line of “Grimms” – warriors who intermediate between humans and mythological creatures who continue to live in the real world. Each episode of “Grimm” is a basic spin on classic fairy tales with “CSI”-like police procedural cliches thrown in – it’s all pretty predictable, yet the show is well-produced, with effective cinematography and capable performances. Universal’s Blu-Ray of “Grimm”’s Season 1 includes all of its 22 episodes in superb AVC encoded 1080p transfers and accompanying 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks. A good amount of extras include deleted scenes, several behind the scenes featurettes, audition tapes, a BD exclusive “Grimm” interactive guide, plus an Ultraviolet copy and two collectible trading cards.

BREATHLESS Blu-Ray/DVD (91 mins., 2011, R; Anchor Bay): Texas trash Gina Gershon and Kelli Giddish try and knock off Gershon’s no-good husband Val Kilmer in Jesse Baget’s black-comedy/thriller which bypassed a theatrical release and went straight to video. As is usually the case, it’s not difficult to see why, as this heavy-handed affair finds Gershon and Giddish attempting to outwit local sherriff Ray Liotta and a dogged P.I. (Wayne Duvall) to mitigating results, as Baget’s film manages to be less than thrilling or funny. Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray of “Breathless” streets on August 14th and includes commentary from Baget and producer Christine Holder as well as a Making Of featurette. The 1080p transfer and Dolby TrueHD soundtrack are both just fine.

DEXTER Season 6 Blu-Ray (aprx. 10 hours; CBS): Dexter takes on the Doomsday Killer and tends to being a single father in this sixth season of the popular Showtime series with Michael C. Hall. CBS’ Blu-Ray edition of “Dexter’‘s Season 6 includes interviews with Hall and fellow cast members Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Welez, C.S. Lee, Colin Hanks and Desmond Harrington; bonus episodes from House of Lies, Californication and The Borgias; and 1080p transfers and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks spread across its three discs.

LOCKOUT Blu-Ray (**, 95 mins., 2012, Unrated; Sony): Disposable, Luc Besson-produced sci-fi actioner does give Guy Pearce the opportunity to play a snarky CIA agent who’s recruited to save the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace again) after she’s trapped on an outer-space prison where the inmates have decided to run the asylum. “Lockout” takes too long to get going and offers only moderate entertainment for undemanding sci-fi/action fans once it does. Pierce looks like he’s having fun but the movie itself – an unappealingly designed, dreary slog with poor visual effects – doesn’t aspire to being much more than one of its prolific producer’s lesser “Eurotrash” imports. Sony’s Blu-Ray includes a fine 1080p transfer with DTS MA audio and very little in the way of extras, with just two featurettes and an Ultraviolet copy included.

ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION (**½, 92 mins., 1997, R; Blu-Ray): Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garafolo supply a large quotient of laughs in this piece of comedic fluff, which gets by in the end due to its highly enjoyable performances. As a pair of L.A. airheads who head back home to Stagebrush High in Tucson for their high-school reunion, Kudrow and Sorvino are delightfully ditzy, perfectly capturing the essence of bubble-headed feminism. They're complemented by an uneven script from Robin Schiff, which incorporates such sitcom-ish elements as cutaway flashbacks and a prolonged dream sequence into its brew of high--and low--minded comedy. Still, Sorvino and Kudrow put this one over the top with their perfect sense of comic timing, while Garafolo is a blast as one of their obnoxious, now highly successful, classmates.

Buena Vista’s Blu-Ray is one of a number of catalog releases coming to HD for the first time this month from the label. Unfortunately, despite carrying a “15th Anniversary Edition” banner on the packaging, this release – much like the studio’s “Rocketeer” and “Color of Money” Blu-Rays – has no extras on it whatsoever. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is decent, more or less in line with Buena Vista’s prior BD catalog releases, and DTS MA 5.1 audio is also included. Among BV’s other releases this week is the tepid Penny Marshall remake of THE PREACHER’S WIFE (124 mins., 1996, PG), which likewise includes a serviceable 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack and no extras.

MARLEY Blu-Ray (145 mins., 2012, PG-13; Magnolia): Bob Marley fans will want to check out this lengthy documentary from director Kevin MacDonald and producers Steve Bing and Charles Steel, recounting the music, political activism, and personal life of the reggae singer. Magnolia’s BD includes a slew of extras, from multiple featurettes, commentary from the director, and the trailer, to additional interviews with Marley’s children, a 1080p transfer, DTS MA soundtrack and a photo gallery.

LA GRANDE ILLUSION Blu-Ray (113 mins., 1937; Lionsgate): Jean Renoir’s 1937 classic is the latest domestic release in the Studio Canal Collection, offering a 1080p B&W transfer with mono audio and plenty of extras: “La Grande Illusion: Success, Controversy” by Renoir expert Olivier Curchod; Natacha Laurent’s “The Original Negative”; critic Ginette Vincendeau’s “La Grande Illusion”; trailers from 1937 and 1958; and a restoration featurette.   

LOL Blu-Ray (100 mins., 2012, PG-13; Lionsgate): Miley Cyrus stars as a typical high schooler in a predictable comedy-drama from director Lisa Azuelos that never received a wide theatrical release. Demi Moore co-stars in “LOL,” which Lionsgate has brought to Blu-Ray with a 1080p transfer, DTS MA soundtrack, commentary and three featurettes.

New on DVD

TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE DVD (80 mins., 2011; Sony): Slight but likeable UK comedy about an American pop singer (Luke Treadaway) and a British indie rock chick (Natalia Tena) who are handcuffed by a preacher at a music festival, with predictable rom-com shenanigans that follow. Good natured and nicely acted, “Tonight You’re Mine” comes to DVD this month from Sony with a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 soundtrack and extras including a Making Of, interviews with the stars, a music featurette and a featurette on the costume design.

SQUIDBILLIES: VOLUME 5 DVD (124 mins., 2012; Adult Swim/Warner): Fifth volume of the popular Adult Swim series hits DVD, offering all 10 episodes from the series’ fifth season (Snow Daddy, Velvet Messiah, Asbestos I Can, Class of 86, The Big E, Keeping It in the Family Way, Ballmart, The Pharaoh’s Wad, Return of Gaga Pee Pap and Trucked Up!) in 16:9 transfers and stereo soundtracks. Extra features include Art & Music, a bonus digital video “discisode,” “Trucked Up 2: Glenn’s Revenge,” “Trucked Up 3: The Scrambler Revealed,” and guest stars “featuring the back of Shawn Coleman’s Head.”

GUNSMOKE, Season 6, Volume 1 DVD (aprx. 8 hours, 1960-61; CBS): The first 19 episodes from the venerable TV western’s sixth season (its last in half-hour format) come to DVD on August 7th from CBS. Episodes include Friends Pay Off; The Blacksmith; Small Water; Say Uncle; Shooting Stopover; The Peace Officer; Don Matteo; The Worm; The Badge; Distant Drummer; Ben Tolliver’s Stud; No Chip The Wake; The Cook; Old Fool; Brother Love; Bad Sherriff; Unloaded Gun and Tall Trapper. The crisp B&W transfers and mono soundtracks are each in respectable condition.   

GHOST HUNTERS, SEASON 7, PART 1 DVD (aprx. 9 hours; Image): Four-disc set includes the first half of episodes from the Syfy Channel series, including Haunted Town; Pennsylvania Asylum; Century of Hauntings; French Quarter Phantoms; Hotel Haunts Unleashed; Frozen in Fear; Residual Haunts; Knights of the Living Dead; A Soldier’s Story; Pearl Harbor Phantoms; Urgent!; and Hill View Manor. 16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfers and stereo soundtracks are on-hand throughout.

LAKE EFFECTS DVD (100 mins., 2011; Anchor Bay): Hallmark Movie Channel-broadcast original production follows the lives of two sisters (Scottie Thompson and Madeline Zima) who, along with their mother (Jane Seymour), come together after the death of their father (Jeff Fahey) to settle his estate. Pleasant family-drama written by Scott Winters offers the type of feel-good melodrama typical of Hallmark original movies. Anchor Bay’s DVD includes a Making Of plus deleted scenes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.

MISFITS Season 1 DVD (273 mins., 2011; BBC): Five malcontent teens gain superpowers after performing community service in this British import which tries to add some sarcastic humor into a different take on a well-worn, “Heroes”-like premise. BBC’s Season 1 DVD set of “Misfits” includes a Making Of, cast/crew interviews, “Simon’s Films,” 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks.

New From IFC/E One...LAST DAYS HERE (92 mins., 2011, Not Rated) is a documentary from Don Argott and Demien Fenton, profiling the life and times of cult legend Bobby Liebling, the lead singer of the hard rock metal band Pentagram, who finds his music being newly appreciated by the music genre’s underground. IFC’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer, 2.0 stereo soundtrack, deleted scenes and the trailer...A hit man struggles with his newest assignment in KILL LIST (95 mins., 2011, R), a British import starring Neil Maskell that profiles the protagonist’s descent into paranoia in a psychological thriller from director Ben Wheatley. IFC’s Blu-Ray includes commentary from the director, a secondary commentary with cast members, interviews, a Making Of, bonus featurette, the trailer, a 1080p transfer and DTS MA 5.1 soundtrack.

Also New from Lionsgate...The Hong Kong actioner THE SWORD IDENTITY (110 mins., PG-13) comes to DVD this August from Lionsgate. The disc includes a 16:9 transfer (1.85) plus Mandarin and English dubbed 5.1 soundtracks...WILLIAM & CATHERINE: A ROYAL ROMANCE (90 mins., 2011) is a made-for-cable dramatization of the romance between Prince William and Kate Middleton, with Dan Amboyer and Alice St. Clair as the couple and Jane Alexander, Victor Garber and Jean Smart in supporting roles. Lionsgate’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer (1.78) and a 5.1 soundtrack....The indie horror sequel KNOCK KNOCK 2 (84 mins., 2012, R) offers another “found footage” tale of four friends who go looking for supernatural shenanigans and unfortunately find more than they bargained for in a house known as “1666.” Lionsgate’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 soundtrack and cast/crew interviews...BLUE LIKE JAZZ (107 mins., 2012, PG-13) is a strange, if sensitively made adaptation of Donald Miller’s bestselling memoir, with Marshall Allman starring as a college sophomore struggling with his Christian roots who flees for a liberal school in Portland, Oregon. Steve Taylor directed and co-wrote “Blue Like Jazz,” which isn’t just another heart-wrenching “religious movie,” but has awkward passages that might be best appreciated by readers of the novel. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray includes commentary from the author and director; deleted scenes; a half-dozen featurettes; photo gallery; the trailer; a 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack.

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Comments (4):Log in or register to post your own comments
"Jerry’s score – the “Anvil of Crom” like opening titles aside..."

Oy, this again. Am I the only person who played them both back to back and can only find two sustained notes at the beginning to be the same? Same key, same instrument, same tempo, but really two notes and then they diverge. Both themes are then completely different. Hardly worth all the mentions.

Though it's a fair bet the titles were temped with Anvil Of Crom (and The Terminator).

"The movie looks like a product of 1990, no question, dominated by loud colors and garish visuals,.."
Well compared to the new near black and white version, everything with a modicum of colour would come across as loud. The colours are not loud, they just are present. It's like a colour film of the 50s compared to a mid 70s film. As for the garish visuals, give me garish over moving pseudo pre-Rafaelite oil paintings any day. The CGI rubbish in the new version is completely uninvolving. What’s worse, they have been of the same unconvincing non-quality as they have been the past decade so the original’s version are less old fashioned than the new ones (
“the visual effects are more hit-or-miss, utilizing old-fashioned miniature models and opticals that haven’t held up well (they weren’t entirely cutting edge at the time of the production either, being inferior to the type of work ILM was producing around the period)”). The only thing the computer graphics have gained over bad late 90s early 2000 rubbish is that they took the “all plastic all of it, air brush finish” of things. Added to it all is that this story, as so many nowadays, suffers from “Matricitis”: “Alright latinoish deary with hair that has the obvious black dye look, you are a super fighter. So that means landing on one leg bent and one leg stretched with one hand on the ground and the other pointing to the stretched leg, look to ground look up and do so through your eyebrows.... or something like that, and action or what we pass of as such”.

I have to chime in on the comments about Island of Dr. Moreau. I agree the film is a total mess, but it's a total mess like the 1967 Casino Royale. There's something compelling about it that makes you watch in spite of the train wreck it is. I think Stan Winston's make-up work was actually quite interesting, particularly that little mini-Moreau who is so bizarre you can't take your eyes off him. And some of the more developed manimals are very effective, far superior to anything in the Lancaster version, which I find a pretty boring by comparison to the Frankenheimer.

I also disagree that Gary Chang's score is a far cry from the Rosenthal. I love much of Rosenthal's work, but his Moreau score just kind of sits there like the movie. Chang's score is propulsive, filled with orchestra color and emotion. It gets better the more you listen to it and familiarize yourself with the themes.

You should have mentioned the opening credit sequence, which I think rates as one of the most visually exciting I'd ever seen. When I first saw the movie, watching the credits I thought we were in for a classic. Of course I was sadly disappointed, but the film has much to pull you along. Even though Brando isn't much in it, his persona carries so much weight (literally as well, I guess), he almost doesn't need to act much to pull it off. And the film has some true surprises. The operating table in the house of pain was short but hideously effective, as was the first clear view of a cat-like manimal that turns and snarls.

I agree with you that the message was pretty heavy-handed, and the climax was overly cruel. SPOILER - The death of Fairuza Balk's character, in particular was a waste of what they could have done with her if she'd gone off with Thewlis. The same could be said of the other versions with their variations on the panther girl or cat girl, but Falk was actually more interesting than them and it was mean spirited to do away with her the way they did. At least in Island of Lost Souls the panther girl dies trying to save the main character.

Apparently, since this version of Dr. Moreau keeps showing up on DVD in some form or another, there is an audience who keeps coming back to it. So it has something, wedged in there amidst all the aimlessness.

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