Blog Archives

Cinema Fanatic’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

I was pretty happy with last year’s Holiday Gift Guide, so I thought I’d do it again this year. This year gifts range from $5 books to $250 dollar box sets. I’ve scoured Amazon for the best box sets, as well as added some films and books that have made my year pretty great. I think there’s a little something for everyone here. Treat yourself. Treat the movie lover in your life. Treat your favorite film blogger. Everything you need can be found in this handy, dandy guide. I upped this year’s list from 15 to 20 items because there were just so many great new Blu and box set releases this year!

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Pre-Codes Coming To TCM Vault Collection

Columbia is releasing five of its Pre-Code films through the TCM Vault Collection on July 2nd. The collection will have five films on it: Arizona (1931), Ten Cents a Dance (1931),Virtue (1932), Three Wise Girls (1932) and Shopworn (1932).

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New From WarnerBlu: “A Streetcar Named Desire” 60th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Book

Warner Bros. has this fancy new Blu-ray book release to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Elia Kazan’s masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire. This new Blu-ray edition hits shelves this coming Tuesday, April 10th. They call it a Blu-ray book because the packaging is essentially also a book. This means instead of a booklet or something that comes inside the case, the case itself is the book. It’s kind of an interesting concept.

Essentially, the special features on this new Blu-ray release are the same that are found on the 2006 DVD release:

  • Commentary on the feature film by Karl Malden, film historian Rudy Behlmer and Jeff Young
  • Elia Kazan movie trailer gallery
  • Movie and audio outtakes
  • Marlon Brando screen test
  • Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey documentary
  • Five other documentaries:  A Streetcar on Broadway, A Streetcar in Hollywood, Desire and Censorship, North and the South and An Actor Named Brando

I own that DVD release, yet somehow never watched the special features. Now I have, though! The 75 minute long Kazan documentary is from 1995 and features narration by Eli Wallach and some really great interviews with Kazan himself. It’s a great look at Kazan’s filmography, with insights from the director on the process of making each film. While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Scorsese’s A Letter To Elia, I definitely recommend it to fans of Kazan’s work.

The picture quality of the Blu-ray, however, makes this purchase worth it for collectors and those who enjoy owning their favorite films in the newest formats. The black and white cinematography is so crisp and the contrasts are utterly perfect. Even on my shitty little television that movie looked incredible.

Before you run out and pre-oder this set, let’s take a minute and remain in awe and wonder of Stanley and Stella in the scene deemed too hot by censors in 1951:

And Brando hissing at Vivien Leigh. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review disc given to me by Warner Bros., though the opinions are all my own.

Casablanca 70th Anniversary Edition

A few weeks ago I did an interview with Stephen Bogart as he was promoting the new Warner Bros. Smithsonian Theater in D.C. The theater’s first showing was a gorgeously restored digital print of Casablanca, which celebrates its 70th Anniversary this year. Last night Fathom Events did a one-night only screening of the classic film in theaters across the nation. I am in North Carolina right now on business (related to this site actually; more info on that coming soon!), so I was able to see the film with my friend Kate. I saw it in theaters once before when I was in college, but it is a film that just gets better and better with each additional viewing.

Next Tuesday Warner Bros. is releasing the swankiest Blu-ray edition ever as part of the film’s 70th anniversary. Not only does it feature a brand-new restored digital transfer, but the set comes with so many fantastic special features and goodies. I have definitely pre-ordered this baby and you should, too!

Cinema Fanatic’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year. Everyone is frantically trying to finish end of the year projects at work or at school. People are freaking out because they are alone (hopefully not forever though!), etc. etc. It’s also that time of year when we celebrate those we love by giving them things we think they’ll love (or that we love and want to convince them to love, too). Thus I give you my first-ever Holiday Gift Guide, filled with 15 things that I think would make awesome gifts for the movie lover in your life.

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William A. Wellman’s “Wings” To Be Released on DVD and Blu-Ray

It’s about freaking time, too. This is the first Best Picture winner – and the last to be released on DVD. I adore this film. It’s not only one of my favorite Best Picture winners, it’s one of my favorite films period. The DVD/Blu-Ray will be released on January 24th. You can read more about the specs here.


Discovering Jean Harlow

In March TCM celebrated Jean Harlow’s 100th birthday by showing Harlow’s films throughout the month. Prior to then I had only seen Platinum Blonde and Libeled Lady. During the month I watched all the films TCM showed: Red-Headed WomanThree Wise GirlsRiffraffSuzy, The Public EnemyBombshellRecklessPersonal Property, Wife Vs. SecretaryRed DustHold Your ManChina SeasThe Secret Six, Saratoga, Dinner At Eight, The Girl From Missouri and The Beast of the City.

It was quite a crash-course in Harlow. It was great to watch them all in such a confined amount of time because I could watch her progression as an actress. I firmly believe she would have been one of the great comediennes of the classic era had she lived. Since then I’ve also seen Hell’s Angels, which features her first performance (and what a stunning debut it was) and Iron Man, in which she plays opposite Lew Ayres. I’ve also seen Libeled Lady and Dinner at Eight on the big screen at the Castro Theatre. I think actually the only Harlow film I haven’t seen is 1931’s Goldie. If any of you dear readers can locate that one for me, I’d be ever so grateful.

Up until recently only a handful of her films were on DVD (visit our Jean Harlow store here), which is a real shame. It’s only by seeing someone’s work that you can ever truly begin to appreciate them. While I still wish someone would release Red Dust on DVD, I must say the new Jean Harlow 100th Anniversary collection that the Warner Archive released on October 25th is beyond amazing. Not only does it contain seven films that had previously not been released on DVD (including three remastered versions), but it also comes with gorgeous 5″ X 7″ portraits and a ton of special features. My favorite of the special features is the newly discovered trailer for Personal Property; I love that film oh so much.

What I like the most about the set is that it’s a nice cross-section of her career, starting with 1933’s Bombshell and ending with Harlow’s final film, 1937’s Saratoga (also her sixth pairing with Clark Gable). The other films included in the set are The Girl From Missouri (1934), Reckless (1935) – in which she co-stars with her real-life love at the time William Powell, Riffraff (1934) – featuring a wonderful performance from Spencer Tracy, Suzy (1935) – a strange wartime melodrama featuring Cary Grant and Franchot Tone and Personal Property – with Robert Taylor (this is my favorite Harlow film and one of my favorite films period). This set is definitely a must for anyone who loves Harlow, or really anyone who’s interested in this time period in film history.

I’m grateful that I’ve be able to become so familiar with Harlow’s work in the last year because I think she is utterly fantastic. She may well be my favorite actress and it’s funny to think I only really discovered her in the last year.

Disclaimer: This review is based on review discs given to me by the Warner Archive, though the opinions are all my own.

Review and Giveaway: The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher

The upcoming release of The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep tackling the role of Britain’s first female Prime Minister, has increased interest in Margaret Thatcher stateside. Case in point, BBC America released their three-film set The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher this week. The set features three films from the BBC set during three specific eras of Thatcher’s life.

The first film in the set is 2008’s The Long Walk to Finchley, which looks at Thatcher’s life from 1949 to her election to parliament in 1959. In it Andrea Riseborough plays Margaret Roberts (who halfway through the film marries and gains the last name Thatcher.) The film plays almost more like a comedy than a drama. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing, though, because it makes the film more relatable for those who don’t know much about Britain’s political climate at the time. Riseborough is great as the type-A Margaret, whose only interest is “politics” and who proposes to a young Denis Thatcher before he gets the chance to do it himself. Actually, Rory Kinear as Denis was my favorite performance in the film. He’s simply adorable. The production design is top-notch and more than reminded me of the BBC’s recent period series The Hour.

The second film in the set is 2002’s The Falklands Play, which is set in 1983 and features Patricia Hodge as Thatcher. I must admit this film lost me a bit. I don’t know much about this era or the Falklands war (aside from what I learned from This Is England) and I’m not sure the film has much appeal to people who aren’t military history buffs and/or live and breathe political thrillers.

The last film in the set is 2009’s Margaret, which mostly takes place during the waning days of Thatcher’s post as Prime Minster, though it does occasionally jump back in time to when she was first elected. Lindsay Duncan plays Thatcher in this film with such assurance and explosive vigor, that it’s clear why she was known as “The Iron Lady”. No matter how you might feel about Thatcher’s politics, I think you’ll be hard-pressed not to be a little moved by the film’s last fifteen minutes, as Duncan’s stiff upper lip begins to quiver, finally accepting that the end has come at last.

You can find the 2-disc DVD  set on sale now at the BBC America shop.

I’ve actually got a copy to give away to one lucky reader, so leave a comment (don’t forget to include a way for me to contact you so I can mail it to you should you win!) and I’ll pick someone at random next Wednesday.

[edit] Congrats to Megan, winner of this giveaway!

Site Update: The Oscar Vault Monday Shop is back!

California residents are allowed to operate Amazon aStores once again, which means your one-stop shop for all the films I’ve discussed for Oscar Vault Monday is back!

You can also access your Amazon wishlist through my aStore, so if you feel like buying something via Amazon and want to help me get some referral credit, that would be awesome as well.

“The Social Network” Coming To DVD and BluRay January 11th

According to RopeOfSilicon we have just over a month to wait to own what seems to be the “movie of the year” on DVD. Really loving this DVD cover. You can pre-order it here.