Media | DVD Releases | October 23, 2007: Welcome to this week's droogy home video releases, focused entirely on the American market. Sorry, rest of the world.


Roundup by | Posted October 22, 2007


Pick of the week


Stanley Kubrick Collection
2001: A Space Odyssey / Dr. Strangelove / A Clockwork Orange / The Shining / Lolita / Barry Lyndon / Full Metal Jacket / Eyes Wide Shut. Okay, so you've bought all of these before. But now you can buy them again! Looking on the bright side, though, it might actually be worth your while; this collection represents the first time some of these films have appeared in anamorphic widescreen formats. In the past, they've predominately been available only in open-matte, 4:3 transfers. "Open-matte" means that the film was originally shot 4:3 (the size of a standard television screen) and then was cropped for the theatrical exhibition.

Controversially, Kubrick himself hated letterboxing for home video and only wanted his movies -- with a few exceptions, most notably 2001 -- released full frame. Personally, I feel that when he shot the films, he composed them in the frame for the theatrical experience, and I'd therefore prefer to see them widescreen, regardless of the filmmaker's protestations and preferences. Normally, I'd rather go with the filmmaker's choice for the best presentation of his work, but one need only look at The Shining, for example, to see why letterboxing is ideal. The Shining suffers from extraneous video information seen only in the frame version, creating flaws such as the shadow of a helicopter in the famous "driving up the mountain road" sequence and an overabundance of visual information above the characters' heads (which is particularly noxious in the tricycle sequence). These are issues that didn't exist in the cropped theatrical versions but were introduced when the open frame cuts were released. The tighter, widescreen shot just looks better.

Lest you write me off as a widescreen television snob, I must tell you that I used to use felt to create my own letterbox when viewing my VHS copy of The Shining on a 13-inch SD TV, which is still one of my favorite films of all time. (And let's face it, Kubrick's opinions were probably more relevant before televisions adopted the 16:9 standard. An open frame version would look ridiculous on an HD set. - Mr. Editor) The bottom line is that this collection includes some really fantastic movies, and their presentation appears to be outstanding, making this one of the rare occasions where I don't mind studios double-dipping into my wallet.


Also out this week


Breathless
Meanwhile! If French New Wave is more your thing than Kubrick's clinical -- some say emotionless -- directoral precision, check out this new version of Godard's Breathless.


The Company
With the popularity of films like The Bourne Identity and The Good Shepherd, now is a good time to be a fan of spies. The Company is based on a novel by Robert Littell and explores the CIA in the time of the cold war. Reviews were mixed, and I can't really see Chris O'Donnell as anything other than Robin, but genre fans may find themselves intrigued nevertheless.


Home of the Brave
A famously large flop at the box office, Home of the Brave was criticized for trying to make a film about the war in Iraq that would please everybody. Surprise, surprise: the final result ended up being so toothless as to be irrelevant.


Meet the Robinsons
A modern, non-Pixar Disney movie worth watching? I have a hard time believing it, but many people whose opinions I respect have told me that it's true. Sure to scratch your CG-animated feature itch while you wait for Ratatouille to make its home video debut.


Mr. Brooks
Kevin Costner playing against type, trying to get some of that Dexter or American Psycho love. I was really psyched to go see this in the theater, but two words caused me to cancel my plans and wait for video instead: "Dane Cook."


TV on DVD


Two of my all-time favorite series enjoy DVD releases of their final seasons. For the record: The last scene of the last episode of the Sopranos is brilliant. Veronica Mars was taken away from us before its time, but at least it didn't stick around long enough to degenerate into muck like Alias or The X-Files (two others series I was completely obsessed with during their lifetimes).


High-Def Alert: The World of Blu-Ray and HD DVD


Holy crap. That is a lot of high definition movies! Obviously, the Kubrick movies stand at the top of my list, including the unedited release of one of the most under-appreciated films in recent memory, Eyes Wide Shut. I'm a big fan of the film, critical drubbing be damned; I love the way it uses atmosphere and tone to build suspense, and the way it tackles issues of trust and faithfulness. Meanwhile, one need only watch The Shining to realize exactly how barren and empty the modern "torture porn" horror movie trend really is. And speaking of torture porn, you can watch people graphically eviscerated in high definition with Hostel and Hostel 2. A really great picture and a chance to become desensitized to human suffering , all in one convenient package! Elsewhere, King of New York, from Bad Lieutenant director Abel Ferrara, is a classic crime movie that (1) deserves to enjoy the cultural impact for which Scarface is celebrated (2) is intrinsically intertwined with 1980s-era hip hop culture and (3) has one of the best character performances from Christopher Walken ever. No matter what you're looking for, it's a great week for anyone with an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player to feed.


Fall Children: Halloween on DVD


If you haven't yet seen Black Sunday, there's a rerelease this week that gives you the perfect excuse. Get to it! There's also Hostel, its sequel and far too many imitators. (In case you couldn't guess, I can't wait for the whole torture porn trend to die off. Ideally in a suitably violent.) And not to be confused with torture porn crap, Hellraiser is an actual classic; its exploration of sadism, pain, and pleasure being far more interesting than Saw, Hostel and a dozen more of their ilk combined.

Some of the direct-to-DVD stuff this week looks interesting, too. Fido appears to be the story of a girl and her pet zombie, and how can you not get behind that? I heard a rumor that the DVD cover of Gag was taken from the vacation photos folder of the notorious Philliam, a strange half-man / half-Internet-meme creature that frequents the forums.

What do you think of the state of horror today? Which Kubrick film is your favorite? Discuss that and more in the Add To Queue official thread on the forum!


Prepared with the assistance of The Digital Bits, a wonderfully comprehensive home media site, and cover art courtesy of Amazon, where you can purchase any of these titles. Rent all of the movies covered in the column online at Netflix. We recommend waiting until the format war is over before investing in an HD player, but if you have to do it right away our money is on Blu-ray. Be sure to PM the author via the forums if you have any suggestions for the column. What is a man? Thanks for reading!