Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Black Sheep's Blu-Tuesday

I apologize in advance if I come across as some what scattered today.  There is a lot to get to and, to my detriment, I can't seem to find my focus.  I can however find my enthusiasm for the now tentative September release of Sam Mendes's 1999 Best Picture winner, AMERICAN BEAUTY, on Blu-ray.  This is one of my all-time favorite films and I cannot wait to see it restored to its original magnificence.  With it's 10-year anniversary behind us, I thought I was going to have to wait until 2014 for a 15-year release.  Other Blu-ray announcements this past week include the movie that kept me up for two nights straight when I saw it ... in college!  THE EXORCIST spiderwalks on to Blu-ray on October 5.  And another huge release for me - the movie that got me initially interested in the French Nouvelle Vague, BREATHLESS (AU BOUT DE SOUFFLE) has been restored and is being released by Criterion on September 14.  And for all you geeks out there, the BACK TO THE FUTURE series is circling on October 27 release.

There are also a lot of releases this week and I will start by warning you ...

Matt Damon and director, Paul Greengrass, worked so well together on the latter two Bourne movies, Damon has said that he won't return to the series without Greengrass.  After watching their latest collaboration, GREEN ZONE, I wish he would seriously reconsider this statement.  Ordinarily, my esteem for these two individuals is pretty high but this project is a disaster.  Greengrass's now trademark hand held camera is pushed to to the point where the action is practically impossible to follow.  When you can follow, you realize that you're watching a bunch of soldiers rebel against the controlling American government to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there aren't any to be found.  GREEN ZONE takes itself so seriously but doesn't realize how ridiculous it comes across.

I had never seen any of the three different incarnations this rags to riches tale has seen in its day.  This one dates back to 1954 and since that time, some of the footage has gone missing or been destroyed.  This restored version dates back to 1983 when film historian, Ronald Haver, reconstructed the film to its original length.  The Blu-ray quality is sometimes unbelievable, which makes it all the more jarring when the picture drops out and still images sub for the missing footage.  The soundtrack is entirely intact, which is great as it allows us to devour Judy Garland's impeccable vocals.  When she sings "The Man that Got Away" in the first act, I marveled at both how powerful and frail she comes across on screen.  This Gershwin musical is perfect for a rainy afternoon like the one I'm having now.

This last 2009 entry garnered two Academy Award nominations by sneaking in with a limited two-week qualifying run on a couple of screens in December.  It was then pulled from theatres and rereleased in January to capitalize on what it hoped would be the two nominations it actually received.  Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren both earned nods for their work as Russian author, Leo Tolstoy and his high strung wife, Sofya.  The film itself did not receive any other recognition, primarily because it plays out exactly as you would expect it to and there are very little surprises.  Still, the lead performances are so strong and their story itself so moving that it makes for a light but yes still effective experience.  Plus, I will pretty much watch anything to get the chance to stare into James McAvoy's beautiful, blue eyes.

ALSO AVAILABLE: Music fans rejoice as both U2 and Bruce Springsteen release their latest concerts for all those who could not afford their hefty ticket prices and for everyone else who actually wants to lay down a little more to relive the experience.  Minor spring titles, REMEMBER ME (with the pasty Robert Pattinson) and SHE'S OUTTA MY LEAGUE (with the plucky Jay Baruchel) look for more forgiving home audiences.  And Criterion releases Michelangelo Antonioni's 1965 film, RED DESERT.

Source: Blu-ray.com


Arie Prawira said...

Nice article, I was very impressed with the Demon when he played in the ocean eleven, there he is like an innocent man, but his ability no less than Bratt Pit.


Black Sheep said...

Matt Damon totally phones it in this time.