Away We Go (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6.5
(OUT OF 10)
After presenting one of cinema's all-time-nastiest couples in last year's Revolutionary Road, director Sam Mendes presents us with Burt and Verona (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph), one of the more likable onscreen couples in recent years.
Expecting their first child, Burt and Verona set out on a trip to pick the proper place to raise their baby, and their excursion takes them as far south as Tucson, and as far north as Montreal. They meet up with friends and family who exhibit varying degrees of eccentricity, and eventually settle on the perfect place.
Krasinski and Rudolph are both funny and touching, while supporting players like Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal score big laughs. This is basically a fantasy, because no couple with a cardboard window could afford the airfare for this trip, but it's best to just let go and travel along. Mendes and company make it worth your while.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A making-of featurette, a segment about green filmmaking and a commentary from Sam Mendes and writer Dave Eggers.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A
DVD GEEK FACTOR 10
(OUT OF 10)
Disney has now released two of 2009's best Blu-Rays, with this and their earlier release of Pinocchio. The digital restorations are amazing; the audio is incredible; and the experience of watching the films has never been better. Watching Snow White on Blu-Ray is a revelatory experience on par with listening to those newly remastered Beatles CDs. This new disc truly reveals the joy and wonder of Disney's pioneering vision.
The story is about a young princess who runs off into the forest and ... I'm just kidding. You know the story. Even though I'm very familiar with it, I hadn't watched the film in about a decade, and seeing it again in this presentation is a spectacular treat. This is a must-own.
SPECIAL FEATURES: An excellent commentary features archival interviews with Walt Disney. You also get some nice mini-docs about Hyperion studio, the original home of Walt's visions. Most wonderful is the discovery of Snow White Returns, an abandoned sequel idea that would have featured sequences deleted from the original film. The scenes are patched together with original drawings, and you actually get to watch the result. Interesting note for collectors: The movie is available in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo, and it is packaged in a snap case that is standard-DVD-size. So you will have a taller case towering above the other Blu-Rays on your shelf.
Stop Making Sense: 25th Anniversary (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8
(OUT OF 10)
The first thing I noticed about this 25th anniversary Blu-Ray of Jonathan Demme's classic capturing of the Talking Heads in concert is that the transfer kind of blows. It's a scratchy, dusty print, and little has been done to restore it or clean it up.
But once David Byrne started singing "Psycho Killer" with his boom-box accompaniment, I didn't care about the scratches. Byrne is nothing short of a fierce musical animal in this movie, a gyrating, sometimes wobbly, and yet always graceful master showman, dancing with lamps and working that famous big suit. His voice is in top form, fueling the argument that this is one of the best concert films ever made, if not the best.
Highlights include grandiose renderings of "Life During Wartime" and "Once in a Lifetime," the latter featuring Byrne re-creating his herky-jerky, spasmodic routine from their infamous video. (He even throws on a pair of black-framed nerd glasses for good measure.)
U2 most definitely stole a bit from the Talking Heads. For "Swamp," the band sang in front of an all-red, stage-wide backdrop, something U2 did for "Where the Streets Have No Name" in their concert film Rattle and Hum. In fact, the last time I saw U2, they were still doing that. Thieves!
SPECIAL FEATURES: The Blu-Ray contains an entire 1999 press conference, during which the band sat down for a Q&A after a screening at a film festival. I wasn't aware that this had ever happened; the discomfort that Byrne and bassist Tina Weymouth feel is palpable. Byrne had sued his bandmates two years before the event for calling themselves The Heads and releasing an album called No Talking, Just Head. He regarded it as a sad cash-in on the Talking Heads name ... and it indeed was. The band has since played together, when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, but there's been no movement on the Talking Heads front since. The disc also contains a commentary featuring all the band members—with their input recorded separately. Two tracks cut from the film, "Cities" and "Big Business/I Zimbra," are included here, as is a pretty funny video of David Byrne interviewing himself about the film back in 1994.