Welcome to the second edition of The British Beat, my quarterly column on DVD and Blu-ray releases of British TV shows and feature films. This time I have 9 reviews for you: Wallander (on Blu-ray from BBC Video, distributed by Warner Bros.); Murder on the Orient Express (on Blu-ray from Acorn Media); The Guilty, Mr. Palfrey of Westminster, Midsomer Murders: Set 16, and Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files (all on DVD from Acorn Media), and Executive Stress: The Complete Second Series, Is It Legal?: The Complete Second Series, and The Likes of Sykes (all on Region 2 PAL DVD from Network). I also have a few comments on the desirability of two recent A&E DVD re-releases: Rumpole of the Bailey: The Complete Series and Benny Hill: The Thames Years 1969-1989 - The Complete Megaset.
Welcome to 2011, everyone. I trust you all had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season and are fully reinvigorated, ready to take on the new year and whatever it may bring. Yeah, neither am I really, but I guess we don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. But before 2011 builds up too much steam, let’s take yet another look back at 2010.
Monsters vs. Aliens
2009 (2010) - DreamWorks Animation (Paramount)
Monsters vs. Aliens was the first Blu-ray 3D title available to own, if only packed in with Samsung's 3D glasses starter pack. Still, this disc represents most enthusiasts' very first taste of what the Blu-ray 3D format has to offer.
2006 (2010) - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
We've all known that cranky old neighbor who screams "Get off my lawn!" at you. But what if he actually a reason for doing so? Mr. Nebbercracker has mysteriously amassed a dragon's horde of tricycles, basketballs and kites beneath his house over the last 40 years, and it's up to intrepid young DJ (whose parents are away for the weekend), and a self-absorbed teenage babysitter, to crack the mystery of how and why.
In this edition of High Definition Matters, I've got 11 reviews for you: Jonah Hex (from Warner Bros.); Toy Story 3 (from Disney); Arn: The Knight Templar, Splice, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and Love Ranch (from E1 Entertainment); The Pillars of the Earth (from Sony); Life Is Beautiful and Elf: Ultimate Collector's Edition (from Alliance Canada); True Grit (from Paramount); and The Last of the Mohicans (from Fox).
Disney's A Christmas Carol
2009 (2010) - Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Who doesn't know the story of A Christmas Carol by now? The latest silver screen version comes from director Robert Zemeckis' Image Movers Digital, previously responsible for films like The Polar Express and Beowulf. It's also Disney's first trip into Blu-ray 3D.
As anyone who follows my Classic Coming Attractions column regularly will know, I do occasionally include reviews of British TV series there. They don't really fit that column so I've decided to start up The British Beat as a vehicle more appropriate to such material. This column will be a little more wide-ranging than TV series reviews, though. I'll include coverage of classic and recent movies that are quintessentially British - the Red Riding Blu-ray review in this first edition of the column is a good example. I'll also try to alert you to forthcoming British titles that seem worthy of your attention. The column will appear irregularly, at least to start, and its focus will be on North American releases.
Okay... the following should be considered VERY tentative. However, we've now heard it from multiple independent sources, including reliable industry insiders, so.... Sources are telling us that director James Cameron has been (or it about to begin) working on a new high-def transfer and master of The Abyss, presumably for eventual Blu-ray Disc release.
As many of you know, The Abyss is a title that doesn't even have an anamorphic widescreen DVD release (neither does True Lies for that matter) so it's LONG overdue. We've been hearing this might soon happen from industry insiders for a couple of months now, but the most recent report on this comes from a longtime Bits reader (thank you, Jon H!) who actually had the chance to meet Cameron a few weeks ago. He asked specifically about the possibility of The Abyss coming to Blu-ray, and Cameron said that he was about to start work on a new transfer using the same process he did with the Aliens Blu-ray. Cameron then proceeded to say that he was really excited about how good Aliens looks on the format. So... fingers crossed... maybe we'll finally see those remaining Cameron titles on Blu-ray in the next 12 months or so...
As always, none of this should be considered official until the studios make their official yadda, yadda... You all know the drill by now. Stay tuned!
- Bill Hunt
So... for those of you who might be wondering about the release dates for a few of the remaining, as-yet-unannounced Summer films on DVD and Blu-ray, retail sources have checked in with a couple hints.
First, our sources are telling us to expect 20th Century Fox's The A-Team, Universal's The American and Sony's The Other Guys to hit stores on or around 12/14. Sony's Salt is currently expected to follow on or around 12/21. Do keep in mind, these dates could shift a little bit and should be considered tentative until the studios make their final, official announcements.
- Bill Hunt
When Lionsgate recently announced their new 3-disc Full Disclosure Blu-ray Edition of Francis Ford Coppola's legendary Vietnam War film, Apocalypse Now, the news seemed almost too good to be true for longtime fans. The set, which streets on 10/19, is due to include both versions of the film, many hours of bonus features and, at long last, the infamous Hearts of Darkness documentary – the first time the film and documentary have ever been presented together on disc. It also includes – for the first time in ANY home format – both versions of the film in their original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Given the film's complex history, and the equally complicated history of its past home video editions, fans of Apocalypse Now immediately began to have questions about the Blu-ray release, and quickly began to speculate about the release online. How would the new transfer compare to the 2001 release? How involved were Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in preparing the new transfer? What surprises might the new edition bring?