Layer Cake (Sony Blu-ray Disc). Kicking off with a bang - an explosion that rips from front to back as an armored van is blown open - this 2004 pre-Casino Royale Daniel Craig movie takes us on a historical journey through the London underworld.
Open Season (Sony). This Blu-ray Disc's picture, shot digitally in high-def and authored with MPEG-4 compression, is incredibly three-dimensional and realistic. Boog the bear's fur looks like you could reach out and stroke it, and other objects look extremely solid.
For standard DVD, Warner has collected five Stanley Kubrick classics in a Directors Series box - but on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, they're only available individually. Full Metal Jacket was released in high-def previously, so I'll stick to the four debuts.
Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a young Cuban immigrant, lands in Miami in search of the American dream. There he meets Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), who mentors the young man on how to succeed in a life of crime, and Montana eventually becomes one of Miami's most feared drug kingpins. Staying at the top isn't easy, especially if you're mentally unstable, and when Montana neglects the two most important pieces of advice from Lopez, his empire begins to unravel and all that's left is his "little friend."
Written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian De Palma, Scarface is a gritty tale filled with violence, foul language, and a fantastic performance by Pacino. That being said, this isn't one of my favorite gangster films. While I enjoy the mesmerizing cinematography, I find the screenplay to be a tad shallow, and at 170 minutes, it's much too long.
Steven Spielberg’s long-rumored dream project—bring- ing the factual, Holocaust-set book Schindler’s Ark to the screen—finally arrived to great acclaim in 1993, culminating in Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, and more. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a clever civilian businessman and a bit of a cad who achieves a fortune by manufactur- ing pots and pans for the German army during World War II. His secrets? World-class schmoozing and an unpaid legion of Jewish laborers. He has no love of the Nazis or their agenda, but as he bears witness to their escalating atrocities, he is reluctantly moved to become a champion of his ill-fated workforce. His steps are small at first, ultimately leading to the creation of a list of more than 1,000 names of people to be kept at his factory instead of sent to concentration camps or gas chambers. This decision winds up costing Schindler all of his vast wealth, but his selfless act made history. It’s a profound tale told with great passion and indelible images.
Kicked out of his band and desperate for work, Dewey Finn intercepts a call meant for his roommate and lands an extended gig as a substitute teacher at Horace Green Elementary, a $15,000-per-year private school in the Northeast. The school’s uptight principal suspects something is amiss when the new teacher is less concerned about the students and is more interested in when the school day ends, but he gets the gig anyway. Dewey’s attitude changes when he hears the kids in their music class and realizes they have some serious potential if he can take them under his wing. He forms his own “classroom band” and involves the entire class with a costume designer, backup singers, security, and even a band manager with two goals in mind—to not get caught by the principal and to win the local Battle of the Bands contest.
The Mystery Inc. gang reunites in Scooby Doo to find out what's behind the jinky-jittery goings-on at Spooky Island, the spring break hot spot run by Emile Mandavarious (Rowan Atkinson). Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed finds our heroes with their hands and paws full trying to find out why Coolsville is overrun with monsters the pals thought they'd defeated years earlier.
While Scooby-Doo is no Casablanca, these live-action recreations of the popular cartoon are harmless family entertainment. When my kids were younger the spooky monsters made them cringe, but now that they've matured a few years they laugh along with Mom and Dad.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls for the girl of his dreamsliterally. In order to win her heart he must battle her seven evil exes or die trying. Does he have the power to defeat them?
I'm a big fan of Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead), but this one is a little too quirky for my tastes. I liked how the sounds and graphics from video games were integrated into the picture, but I couldn't relate to any of the characters. Maybe I'm getting too old?
I sometimes wonder if the filmmakers behind those cheesy science-fiction/horror B films of the 1950s ever believed that they were creating high art. Certainly films like Creature with the Atom Brain, Invasion of the Saucer Men, and I Married a Monster from Outer Space must have seemed pretty ridiculous to the moviegoers of the time too, don’t you think? And yet since then, those films have been elevated to a near-mythic cult status.
With one week until retirement the last thing detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) needs is a serial killer on the loose in his city, but life isn't fair. Teamed with a young detective (Brad Pitt), the pair discover the killer is out to murder people he feels are guilty of committing one of the seven deadly sinsgluttony, lust, envy, pride, sloth, greed, and wrath. Can they get their man before Somerset turns in his badge?
David Fincher's resume includes many notable films like Fight Club, Zodiac, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but Se7en may be his best. His villain feels justified to mete out his vengeance as he sees fit given the sad state of society and Freeman's character shares many of his views but doesn't agree with his methods.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/seabiscuit.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>The little horse that could debuts on Blu-ray with a fantastic VC-1 encode and an encompassing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. It was difficult to pick only three scenes to highlight here, since virtually the entire film is filled with worthy scenes. For example, any of the racing sequences will give you the illusion of riding a horse in the middle of a high-stakes race with the animals' labored breathing and pounding hooves. The same can be said of the video and its impeccable attention to detail. Each of the three scenes below will give you a general idea of why this disc deserves the title of "Ultimate Demo."
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/seabiscuit.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>Based on the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand, <i>Seabiscuit</i> tells the true story of the horse that could and the three men who made him a winner—owner Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), and jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire). With the nation suffering from the effects of the Great Depression, the undersized racehorse gives America something to cheer for.