[17 November 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Arguably the most famous motion picture ever made, “Gone With The Wind” (1939), and a rebooting of a science-fiction legend, “Star Trek” (2009), sit atop this week’s lineup of titles making their first appearance on the Blu-ray high definition DVD format.
“Gone With the Wind 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition” (Warner Brothers, $84.99) is another impressive example of Warner’s commitment to vintage classic films. The 3-disc set comes packaged in a beautiful red velvet box which also contains a hardcover book packed with photos, production notes and memos, 10 art prints, a reproduction of the original 20-page theater program and a CD soundtrack sampler.
The movie itself looks absolutely breathtaking on Blu-ray. From the opening credits to the famous closing line, the colors are vibrant, the detail stunning and the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is flawless. The scenes at Tara and Twelve Oaks come alive as never before and you can almost feel the heat during the burning of Atlanta.
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes, Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton, Hattie McDaniel as Mammy and Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O’Hara again shine in their famous roles. The sweeping Civil War romance, based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel, has lost none of its luster and ability to entertain.
Little wonder it took America by storm in 1939-1940 and captured 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Victor Fleming. Leigh won for Best Actress and McDaniel won for Best Supporting Actress to become the first African-American to walk off with an Oscar. Max Steiner’s memorable music score received a nomination as did Gable (he should have won) and de Havilland.
The two extra DVDs include a treasure of video extras. Disc 2 contains documentaries “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year,” “The Making of a Legend,” “The Legend Lives on,” “Gable: The King Remembered,” “Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond” and, believe it or not, much, much more. Disc 3 has the marvelous 6-hour documentary “MGM: When the Lion Roars.”
“Gone With the Wind” on Blu-ray is a must for anyone who loves motion pictures. The collector’s edition is also available on standard DVD at $69.92. There is a two-disc standard DVD special edition at $24.98. Highly recommended.
“Star Trek” (Paramount, $39.99) is the studio’s effort to pump new life into the 43-year-old franchise originally created by the late Gene Roddenberry. The result is an exciting, fast-paced adventure with stellar special effects and a story that takes the U.S.S. Enterprise in a slightly different direction.
The new cast manages to capture the spirit and personality of the original characters of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urvan), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scott (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yulchin). Of course, this was in their younger years; or is it their younger years to be since it’s set in the future?
Kirk’s birth is depicted in a hair-raising opening sequence and then we flash forward to find out how he ends up joining Star Fleet. It’s here Kirk first encounters Spock and eventually the rest of his crew-to-be. Your initial reaction is “Oh, so that’s how they met?” Well, yes, but you had better follow the story very closely after that. Enter Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from the future, who has a score to settle with Spock and the Federation. Part of that score is to destroy Vulcan. He even manages to transport the older Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) to the future so that he might see his planet die.
Nero’s actions change the course of the future, which means all the events seen on previous Star Trek series and movies aren’t going to happen, or at least not happen the way they did originally. If that’s so, then isn’t it possible that the event that angered Nero might not happen at all? Then wouldn’t that ... well, never mind. Don’t try too hard to figure it out; just sit back and enjoy.
Not all “Trek” fans are going to like the new twist but it’s probably the cleverest franchise makeover ever done. The Blu-ray includes three hours of extras and a digital copy. “Star Trek” is also available on standard DVD at $29.99. Recommended.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“Rome: The Complete Series” (HBO, 2005-07, $139.99): Here are all 22 episodes of the absorbing series that chronicled the last days of a Republic and the birth of an Empire. We see it all through the eyes of two fictional soldiers who are caught up in the historical events that took place in ancient Rome. Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Brutus, Pompey and the other famous figures come to life and seem like real people unlike those who occupied the stoic drawings in history books. Dazzling sets and deft special effects stunningly recreate the period. Winner of seven Emmys. Also available in standard DVD at $99.98. Recommended.
“Fight Club: 10th Anniversary Edition” (20th Century Fox, 1999, $34.99): Definitely not a film for everyone, it’s dark, bloody, violent and disturbing. Director David Fincher takes us into a world few people would want to enter. Edward Norton plays a guy who is stressed out by the hum drum existence of daily life and suffers from insomnia. He meets up with Brad Pitt, who is in the same boat. To relief his frustrations, Pitt and a bunch of other guys get together and beat each other to a pulp. The pain supposedly offers relief. There’s more, but you get the idea. For those who purchase this disc, expect a surprise at the very beginning.
“Is Anybody There?” (Magnolia, 2008, $29.98): Michael Caine plays Clarence, a retired magician who checks himself into an old folks home in 1980s England. There, he makes friends with 10-year-old Edward (Bill Milner) whose parents run the home. Living in such an environment, the boy is obsessed with ghosts and what happens after a person dies. Caine, as always, is a pleasure to watch.
“Sex, Lies, and Videotape” (Sony, 1989, $24.98): Director Steven Soderbergh explores how people have different views of what can be erotic. Ann (Andie McDowell) is married to John (Peter Gallagher). She doesn’t think sex is any big deal. He does, which is why he is having an affair with Ann’s sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). Meanwhile, John’s old roommate Graham (James Spader) comes to town and stays with the couple. Soon Graham and Ann form a most unusual relationship.
“My Sister’s Keeper” (New Line, 2009, $35. 99): This one has something of ghoulish premise. Eleven-year-old Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) was conceived by her mother Sara (Cameron Diaz) for only one reason — to provide spare parts for her 16-year-old sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who has leukemia. Tired of existing just to keep her sister alive, Anna seeks help from a lawyer.
“Galaxy Quest” (Paramount, 1999, $29.99): A funny spoof of science-fiction TV shows (read: “Star Trek”) and their overly obsessed fans. The film begins at a convention for just such wacky fans. Then, something strange happens: The cast of the TV show is beamed up by real aliens who want their help. The aliens believe the actors are the real thing and that the TV show chronicles actual events. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub star.
“Leon: The Professional” (Sony, 1994, $24.95): Jean Reno plays Leon, a professional hit man who finds himself taking care of 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) after her family is murdered. She wants Leon to help her gain revenge on the killers. Also in the cast are Gary Oldman and Danny Aiello.
Also now available on Blu-ray:
“Bruno” (Universal, 2009, $39.98): Sacha Baron Cohen; “Chasing Amy” (Walt Disney, 1997, $39.99) Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams; “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $29.99) Glenn Howerton.