ReelThoughts: April 08, 2008

"Video View"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


The hit-and-miss nature of high definition releases is maddening. The latest film to fall into the "where's the high-def?" category is There Will Be Blood. Coupled with Lust, Caution, this makes two egregious omissions in the past few months. It doesn't take much investigation to determine the underlying cause. Blood is distributed by Paramount Vantage and Lust by (Universal) Focus. Paramount and Universal were, of course, the final two HD-DVD holdouts. However, while Lust came out before the format war was over, the same cannot be said of Blood. Paramount's inability to get this title out day-and-date with its standard DVD counterpart will cost them sales. The more I study business practices in Hollywood, the more astounded I am by how dumb the studios appear to be. I used to believe that greed was the engine that drove Hollywood. Lately, however, I have come to realize that it's a combination of arrogance and willful blindness. Exhibit A: the high-def format war. Exhibit B: an inability to develop an intelligent response to piracy (more in an upcoming column). Exhibit C: the WGA and possible SAG strikes. How much money has been left on the table due to stubbornness?

Two movies are getting Blu-Ray and standard DVD releases this week: the faux Loch Ness Monster yarn, The Water Horse, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Titles coming out only in the standard DVD format are the aforementioned There Will Be Blood (although there are two versions: a movie-only edition and a two-disc special edition), Reservation Road, P2, the eco-doc The 11th Hour, and the Robert Redford Iraq War dud, Lions for Lambs. Blu-Ray catalog titles include The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Sixth Day. A remake of Day of the Dead is also arriving. It claims not to be direct-to-DVD, but I'm unaware of it having played in any theaters.

Jane Austen lovers can get their fill of the new TV version of Sense and Sensibility (recently shown in the United States on Masterpiece Theater), which is available as a standard and collector's edition DVD. The Cosby Show offers a double dip: both Seasons 7 and 8 are coming out. Other TV shows taking a bow this week: Grandma and Grandpa's favorite, Matlock Season 1, Hell's Kitchen Season 1, and the British The Last Detective Season 4. Pickings are indeed becoming slim when combing the Network TV archive vault.

There are two box sets of note this week. The first is a nine-movie collection called Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory - Volume 3. It contains: Hit the Deck, Deep in My Heart, Kismit, Nancy Goes to Rio, Two Weeks with Love, Broadway Melody of 1938, Broadway Melody of 1938, Born to Dance, and Lady Be Good. The other set is The Bette Davis Centenary Celebration Collection, which features five of Davis' best-known features (all of which are being re-released separately as well): All About Eve, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Virgin Queen, Phone Call from a Stranger, and The Nanny. At about $52 ($5.77 per movie), Classical Musicals is the better buy but, if you're looking for higher-profile titles, The Bette Davis Collection is reasonably priced at $37 ($7.40 per movie).


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