Be prepared to spend a long time with this one. It's packed with excellent special features, and the transfer to Blu-Ray is absolutely astonishing.
Walt Disney's second feature-length animated movie wasn't a giant box-office hit like the first, Snow White, but it is a much better movie. Armed with mega-confidence after the success of Snow White (not to mention some nice money), Disney and his cronies went to work on what would become one of the great enduring movie masterpieces.
The sequence in which Monstro the whale tries to devour Geppetto and his wooden son still stands as one of the greatest animated moments ever put together. It's always heartwarming to hear Jiminy Cricket sing "When You Wish Upon a Star," and Pinocchio's "I Got No Strings" is still a winner. This was a sterling example of Disney's willingness to mix a little darkness into the action and entertainment. The little boys turning into donkeys is creepy stuff.
I have no problem with CGI (Pixar always amazes me), but there's just something about these old Disney animated movies. They're constantly moving works of art and will always be worthwhile.
Special Features: The two-disc Blu-Ray set also comes with a standard DVD of the movie; this would be a great purchase for somebody who doesn't yet have a Blu-Ray player, but plans to get one soon. There's an exemplary hour-long documentary featuring interviews with animators and vocal stars of the film. A deleted-scenes section utilizing old storyboards is a twisted revelation. (An extended version of Geppetto starving in the whale got really warped.) There's also old test footage of actual actors performing Jiminy Cricket's movements, which were traced and put into the animation.
If you've been sitting around all sad, because you couldn't own all the Batman films in high-definition, take note: Warner Bros. has released the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher films in a Blu-Ray anthology package, and the movies are looking pretty damn fine.
You know the drill: The Tim Burton films were quite good; Schumacher's Batman Forever was a train wreck; and his Batman and Robin was the cinematic equivalent of an asteroid hitting Earth. Still, it's good to have all of the films. Even Schumacher's chapters are worth watching if you're totally drunk or something. Batman (A-), Batman Returns (B+), Batman Forever (C-), Batman and Robin (F).
Special Features: There are tons of documentaries and commentaries. It's actually fun to hear Schumacher explain his monstrosities.
While Leonardo DiCaprio delivered last year's best performance in Revolutionary Road, Sean Penn was the most deserving of those nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. His portrayal of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States, has the potential to rip your heart out, as well as warm it. Gus Van Sant delivered one of his best films, and I can't say enough about the beauty of Danny Elfman's Oscar-nominated score. Josh Brolin is a harrowing study of insanity as Dan White. The final scene with Brolin and Penn is one of the saddest I've ever seen.
The film is a moving testament to one of the greatest political figures of our time, made all the more worthwhile because it features one of the greatest actors of our time.
Special Features: There's a nice documentary about Milk containing interviews with those who knew him. There are also a couple of deleted scenes and a making-of documentary.
Kristin Scott Thomas is remarkable as Juliette, a woman trying to assimilate back into society after a 15-year prison stay. While the script cops out a bit, Thomas (speaking fluent French) does not. Much of her performance is understated, but she runs the gamut of emotions, and it's the best work of her career.
When Juliette is freed after her prison stay for an unspeakable act, she is welcomed into the family of her younger sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein). Juliette is icy and closed off, but as time passes, she starts to appreciate life again.
Writer-director Philippe Claudel sees the need to over-explain Juliette's crimes near the film's end; I would've preferred Juliette's crimes to remain ambiguous. The movie goes from hard-edged to softball in an instant, because Claudel sees a need to make Juliette more sympathetic. The movie works best as a depiction of a guilty person trying to live life on the outside while trying to forgive herself; softening the character messes that up.
Special Features: The special features are sparse--just a couple of deleted scenes.