Modern Times (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9.25
(OUT OF 10)
It's about time Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times got the supreme Criterion Collection treatment; it's easily one of the greatest, most-influential films ever made.
Well after silent films were being displaced by talkies, Chaplin delivered this mostly silent gem about his Little Tramp suffering through working and housing difficulties during the Great Depression. It's also a statement about how technology was overtaking humanity—a sort of comic warning.
Modern Times is a wonder of cinematography. It's also the first film to use fart humor (well, stomach-gurgling, but it's close) and has a stunning prison sequence that includes the Tramp getting coked up and committing acts of heroism. Yes, Cheech and Chong owe plenty to Chaplin.
One of the film's many highlights would be the first words ever spoken by the Little Tramp on film, when he performs a musical gibberish number toward the film's end. It's a thing of beauty—and a great shock—to hear the man's voice for the first time. It's one of the more incredible moments in film history.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This release includes a lot of great Chaplin background material, including how he did the film's special effects (I never knew he used matte paintings and miniatures so extensively) and music. There's also an interesting look at the locations where he shot the film, then and now. Chaplin biographer David Robinson's audio commentary is decent enough. It's yet another great Criterion Collection effort.
The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection
SPECIAL FEATURES A-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8
(OUT OF 10)
I was addicted to this show as a child in the '70s. The iconic opening—with Lee Majors being in a devastating test-flight crash, getting rebuilt and running 60 mph in his badass jumpsuit—still gets me supercharged. The show was a massive slab of cheddar cheese on top of a plate full of 20 other different processed cheeses, but I still loved it. I even had the big action figure with the badass bionic eye.
Majors played Steve Austin, who had his eye, arm and two legs replaced with bionic super-powered parts, and shortly thereafter started beating up bad guys in slow motion. He preceded the Terminator and Robocop, and even had a showdown with Bigfoot during his five-season run.
Series guest stars included a hammy William Shatner, Farrah Fawcett Majors (the lead's extremely hot wife) and even Sonny Bono! The show kicked into high gear with the introduction of Lindsay Wagner during Season 2 as the Bionic Woman. Wagner would go off into her own series with her character, but the two would often do "crossover" episodes to help boost each other's ratings.
Getting this show finally on DVD has been a longtime coming, and there is a catch: Until October 2011, you can only buy it from Time Life at www.timelife.com; a trip to Best Buy will not net you these DVDs.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The set includes all kinds of stuff, including new interviews with Majors and Wagner (who have both aged gracefully) and Richard Anderson, who played Oscar Goldman, Steve Austin's boss and keeper. There are also featurettes dealing with the creation of the series, the making of its awesome opening sequence, insight into the science of the show and much more. Each of the five seasons has special features included. Best of all, you get the reunion movies from the '80s, including Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, co-starring an up-and-coming actress named Sandra Bullock as a paraplegic who gets bionic superpowers. Hey ... it's one of her better performances! (Actually ... it's not. I do jest.)
The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
20TH CENTURY FOX
SPECIAL FEATURES B
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 6.75
(OUT OF 10)
I used to get pissed when this film was on TV, because my parents always made the whole family watch it. I liked it the first time, but started to resent it the fourth or fifth time. After my dad managed to tape the damned thing, the tedium never ended.
Well, now that I am older and have built up a musical-theater immune system, I kind of enjoy it again. That first shot of Julie Andrews running around on a mountain is quite special, and the kids she baby-sits are kind of cute. I especially like the little one who falls asleep during "So Long, Farewell."
Best of all is getting to see Christopher Plummer melt, going from a total jerk to a nice guy who sings acoustic ditties and makes out with Andrews' almost-nun. I actually think he's the best thing in the movie. His dance number with Andrews is, shall we say, quite magical.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary with Andrews and Plummer would be the highlight. An interactive viewing feature called "Your Favorite Things" offers up plenty of behind-the-scenes goodies. You also get a standard-DVD version of the film, and more.