ReelThoughts: April 15, 2008

"Video View"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


It's David Lean week at the video store. Three of his films: Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and A Passage to India are being re-released as two-disc Collector's Editions. This is fine - classics like this deserve to be re-packaged and resubmitted to the public once in a while - but there's something strange going on here. A Passage to India is also being released in Blu-Ray format. This isn't surprising. However, the same cannot be said of either Lawrence or Bridge. Admittedly, we have been promised a high-def version of Lawrence for a while, but nothing has officially been announced. Wouldn't it have made sense to hold off releasing the Collector's Editions of Lean's two best-known movies until their Blu-Ray counterparts are available? And it's not as if the defunct format war could have impacted these releases. Sony owns all three titles so there's never been a question about whether or not they were going to come out in Blu-Ray. At any rate, for now at least, we only get one of these three titles in the new format, and that one is easily the least requested.

Moving on to movies that have nothing to do with David Lean, the big hitter this week is Juno, which is arriving in three versions: a one-disc standard DVD, a two-disc standard Special Edition, and a Blu Ray version. Juno's home video release now closes the book on the 2008 Oscar nominees - they're all available for DVD viewing. Three of the five nominees are also out in Blu Ray. High-def versions of Atonement and There Will Be Blood have yet to be announced. Two other titles this week are getting the joint standard/Blu-Ray treatment: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, which is being released "unrated." I can't say whether the "unrated" designation means more gore and violence, although that's probably a good bet. I'm not going to subject myself to another viewing of the movie just to make that determination, however. Once is enough in this lifetime.

Uwe Boll's latest masterpiece, In the Name of the King, arrives in a standard version only. Ditto for the much better Lars and the Real Girl, about the love affair between a man and a sex toy. In an odd bit of synergy, the cheesy '80s movie Mannequin is also being released. It would make an interesting double feature with Lars. A couple of Schwarzenegger catalog titles are getting the Blu-Ray treatment this week: Commando and Predator. We're still waiting for the good Schwarzenegger movies - primarily those done with James Cameron (although Conan the Barbarian would also be welcome).

TV releases on DVD this week are almost an afterthought. In keeping with their recent release schedule, Masterpiece Theater continues to have a fast turnaround time. They aired a new version of A Room with a View on April 20 and it's out on DVD two days later. Fans of Melrose Place can exult that Season 4 is now available. And "Volume 3" of American Dad hits shelves. I'm not sure whether the "Volume 3" signifies "Season 3" or just a third collection of random episodes.


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