ARCHIVED NEWS - 13th-19th JUNE 2005


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16th June 2005

Universal Pictures Video will release a box set featuring seven classic comedies directed by the great Preston Sturges on August the 22nd.

The seven-disc Written and Directed by Preston Sturges box set will feature The Great McGinty (1940), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Lady Eve (1941), Hail The Conquering Hero (1944), Christmas in July (1940), Palm Beach Story (1942) and The Great Moment (1944).

The Sullivan's Travels disc will feature a commentary track by Terry Jones. The set will come with a twenty-page booklet featuring "mini biographies and facts for Preston Sturges and the actors / actresses starring in these seven films". The RRP for the set is 69.99.

Warner Home Video will be releasing two vintage movie collections exclusively to HMV on August the 22nd. The Bette Davis Collection and The Joan Crawford Collection feature seven films not previously available on DVD in the UK.

The Bette Davis Collection will feature Mr Skeffington, a new, fully-restored edition of Dark Victory, Now Voyager (also restored), and The Letter (with an alternate ending).

Extras include:

Mr Skeffington - commentary by director Vincent Sherman, a featurette, Mr Skeffington: A Picture of Strength and a theatrical trailer.

Dark Victory - new digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements; commentary by film historian James Ursini and CNN film critic Paul Clinton; a new featurette, 1939: Tough Competition for Dark Victory; and a theatrical trailer.

Now Voyager - Max Steiner scoring session music cues; cast career highlights; theatrical trailer

The Letter - new digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements; Lux Radio Theatre broadcast featuring Davis and co-star Herbert Marshall; alternate ending

The Joan Crawford Collection features The Damned Don't Cry, Humoresque, Possessed and Grand Hotel.

Extras include:

Humoresque - new featurette, The Music of Humoresque; theatrical trailer

Possessed - Commentary by film historian Drew Casper; new featurette, Possessed: The Quintessential Film Noir; theatrical trailer

The Damned Don't Cry - Commentary by director Vincent Sherman; new featurette, The Crawford Formula: Real and Reel; theatrical trailer

Grand Hotel Checking Out: Grand Hotel featurette; 1932 newsreel footage of the Hollywood premiere at MGM's Grand Hotel; 1932 theatrical announcement, Just A Word of Warning; 1933 Vitaphone short, Nothing Ever Happens.

RRP for The Bette Davis Collection is 34.99. RRP for The Joan Crawford Collection is 29.99.

The second series of the BAFTA-award winning Channel 4 comedy series The Book Group will be released on July the 18th. The disc will feature all six half-hour episodes. The RRP is 19.99.

Nouveux Pictures' release of Empire of Passion has been rescheduled: the disc will now be released on July the 25th.

Finally Warner Home Video's US division has announced the release of a number of SF and horror films, including their remaining key Hammer film, Dracula AD 72. The film will be released on October the 4th. For full details, and sleeve art, check out DVD Times.

15th June 2005

On Wednesday I had the chance to see Batman Begins at a press screening at the IMAX cinema at Waterloo. The film is the latest Warner Brothers movie to be especially adapted to the IMAX DMR format (others include the Matrix sequels and The Polar Express). As usual, the IMAX presentation was most impressive. The quick-cut action scenes were a bit too much to take in, though, and, if you're treating yourself to the Imax Experience, I suggest you sit towards the back of the auditorium, to help you take it all in. I expect the scenes in question are rather impressionistic, anyway. Fight choreography isn't the movie's strong point.

Having paid good money to see Joel Schumacher's god-awful Batman and Robin, I approached Batman Begins with some trepidation. The signs were good - a sound director in the shape of Memento's Christopher Nolan; what read like a pretty decent script by Blade's David Goyer; and an inspired piece of casting, in the shape of Christian Bale - and the noises that Warner was making about reinventing the franchise were most encouraging.

Well, Batman Begins isn't a great movie, but it is a great Batman movie. Fans crying out to see the Batman as re-envisioned by Frank Miller for Batman: Year One will be cheering in the aisle! Batman Begins is certainly a bold new start for the character.

The film is beautifully cast. Loyal as I am to the great Michael Gough, I have to admit that Michael Caine's Alfred is note perfect; 28 Days Later' Cillian Murphy is great as Arkham's Doctor Jonathan Crane, and Gary Oldman makes a wonderful James Gordon. If there's one slightly sour note, it's Katie Holmes'  Rachel Dawes. With her cute-as-a-button Dawson's Creek face, it's hard to believe that she's an Assistant DA! Incidentally, cult TV fans should keep an eye out for The Champions' Alexanda Bastedo - she plays Mrs Delane in the movie.

Batman Begins opens at the IMAX tomorrow!

There's a new audio CD review on the site today, for BBC Audiobooks' innovative Doctor Who Reconstructed: The Power of the Daleks MP3-CD. It offers the chance to see a slideshow version of an otherwise-lost Doctor Who story, syncing up the episode's audio with a series of off-monitor photo's. For the full story, click on the sleeve image (left), or here. The disc is released on Monday.

Australian label Umbrella Entertainment will release a DVD of Eric Sykes' four Thames comedies on August the 31st.

The Eric Sykes Collection will  feature The Plank, Rhubarb Rhubarb!, It's Your Move and Mr H. Is Late. As a bonus, Sykes' 1993 short The Big Freeze (which, like the others, is dialogue-free), is also included. The five films feature the cream of British comedy talent from the last four decades, including Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd, Arthur Lowe, Spike Milligan, Harry H. Corbett and Richard Briars. RRP for the disc is AU$29.95

Cinema Club has sent me a copy of their forthcoming Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me disc (which is due fro release on July the 25th).

Anyone who has a copy of the old Second Sight disc who was wondering if it was worth buying the new version should wonder no more: the Second Sight disc is officially obsolete. A quick spin of Cinema Club's disc revealed a number of pleasant surprises.

Firstly, the new disc offers a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448kbps) and DTS 5.1 (at 768kbps) soundtracks. A cursory toggle between the two reveals that there's a substantial volume difference between the two (the Dolby track is much louder), which will make a proper comparison difficult.

The transfer on the new disc is a huge improvement. It's less sharp, but doesn't have the old disc's edge-enhancement artefacts, giving it a much more film-like appearance. Colour fidelity and saturation is much improved, too. There's a slight running time discrepancy between the old and new versions (129'08" for Cinema Club's version, 129'04" for Second Sight's). The new version drops the two logo's at the beginning of the old version (they were probably added for European theatrical distribution), and begins with a black screen. The bitrate for the new version is higher - 6.27Mb/s versus 4.51Mb/s, but much of that difference can probably be attributed to the additional audio data (the old disc was 2.0 only). The old version would have wasted bitrate encoding apparent detail, though, so the Cinema Club disc should still have the advantage in this regard, however marginal.

The new disc has optional English subtitles. This may not seem like a big deal (unless you're hearing impaired, of course), but fans will know that there's a particular scene where the dialogue is - quite intentionally - virtually drowned out by the music. Some prints of the film had superimposed subtitles for this scene, others did not. The old disc didn't have any subtitles at all, so the point was moot. The Cinema Club disc allows you to watch the scene with subtitles, if you wish.

Although they've not been willing or able to offer the film's infamous deleted scenes as a bonus feature, the disc does at least feature the film's original EPK, which includes a short featurette (this runs for about eight minutes, and features soundbite interviews with key cast and crew members, Lynch excepted). A section of "actor clips" is redundant (they're simply clips from the films excerpted for TV broadcasters to use). The EPK then presents some short interview clips, with Ray Wise, Sheryl Lee, Madchen Amick and Moira Kelly, which total another six minutes or so. (See below for pictures). Finally, there's the film's theatrical trailer (2m).

Finally, the new disc has chapter marks. David Lynch doesn't generally like to add chapter marks to his DVDs, preferring that the viewer watches the film in one sitting, from beginning to end. The Cinema Club disc offers something of a compromise: it has chapter titles, but they're very cryptic ("708", "Plastic", "2TH 504", for example).

Menu screens from the new release, and a few comparative screen grabs from the two versions are available here.

Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed here.

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