An iconic film from the 1960s, “Easy Rider” (Sony, 1969, $39.95), leads this week’s list of new Blu-ray releases.
Stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper had to beat on a lot of doors before a studio — in this case Columbia — would take a chance of the duo’s film that was the ultimate rebel movie. The two not only contributed to the script but Hopper also directed it.
It perfectly reflects the restless attitudes felt by many young people during that turbulent decade. Captain America (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) decide to hop on their motorcycles and discover the so-called American dream. Their journey takes them from California to New Orleans; a spectacular visual trip in high definition.
They’ve already become part of the counterculture by dealing part-time in peddling drugs. Part of the dream is realized by their ability to chuck everything behind and enjoying the freedom of driving down the highway. Along the way they meet an alcoholic lawyer, played by Jack Nicholson, who also is seeking escape from society’s demands.
While the film still has an impact, some of it is obviously dated. For example, the sequence in the hippie commune is rather embarrassing to view now. It’s the same feeling you get when watching some of those early 1970s movies with guys in bell bottom trousers, wide ties and plaid coats.
Still, for those who want to get a taste of what one part of the 1960s was like, “Easy Rider” is the movie to see. The film comes packaged with a 32-page booklet and includes a running commentary by Hopper. There is also the featurette “Shaking the Cage” with Fonda and Hopper and BD-Live features. The soundtrack is packed with tunes from the era; among them “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf and “I Wasn’t Born to Follow” by the Byrds.
“Easy Rider” is highly recommended as a piece of movie history and a social lesson.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis Play the Music of Ray Charles” (A&E, 2009, $29.95): On Feb. 10, 2009, country music great Willie Nelson and jazz great Wynton Marsalis joined together at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall for a salute to the late, great Ray Charles. The result is a memorable evening of music that only happens when two legends join forces and click immediately. Among the selections are “Hit the Road, Jack,” “Tell Me What I Say,” “Crying Time” and “Unchain My Heart.” Joining the duo are songtress Norah Jones, saxophonist Walter Blanding, pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Henriquez, drummer Al Jackson and harmonica great Mickey Raphael. Highly recommended.
“Waterworld” (Universal, 1995, $26.98): In the future, all those global warming fears have come true. The ice caps have melted and the world is covered in water. Kevin Costner plays Mariner, a trader who is a mutant with gills and can breathe under water. Dennis Hopper plays the leader of the Smokers, an outlaw band whose goal is to rule the H2O kingdom. Some of the neatest scenes come when Mariner swims deep beneath the surface to explore the cities that were buried in the water many, many years ago. This is by no means a classic, but it sure looks good in the high definition Blu-ray format.
“Land of the Lost” (Universal, 2009, $39.98): Will Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall who claims to have discovered a way to solve the fuel crisis. He’s invented a machine that sucks him and his fellow travelers into a vortex that takes them to another world where dinosaurs roam. This supposed comedy was inspired by the Saturday morning TV show that aired Saturday morning on NBC from 1974-77.
“Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1” (Genius, 2009, $26.95): Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is featured in six animated stories. The opening two-parter shows how the teenager became Iron Man.
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (Paramount, 2008, $39.99): Shia LaBeouf is back as Sam Witwicky and he’s ready to face those enormous mechanical aliens again in this sequel to 2007’s “Transformers.” There is plenty of action and noise as the good guys (the Autobots) take on the bad guys (the Decepticons).
“Blood: The Last Vampire” (Sony, 2009, $34.95): Saya (Gianna Jun), who seems to stay forever young, is a half-human, half-vampire samurai who has spent the past 400 years or so battling demons and full-fledged vampires. Now she is asked to help rid the world of what might be most terrible demon of all.
“Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $20.99”) Here’s the third (and hopefully final) installment of the “Wrong Turn” series. A group of escaped prisoners and a young girl find themselves in the woods of West Virginia trying to get away from the murderous and cannibalistic Three Finger. Janet Montgomery stars.