The Gold Rush (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9.25
(OUT OF 10)
Criterion continues to shine with its reissues of the works of Charles Chaplin, and this one is a definite highlight. Featuring both the restored 1925 version of the film, and the 1942 re-release with a new score and narration by Chaplin himself, this is movie heaven.
The '42 version of the Little Tramp in his gold-prospecting days, as he shacks up with Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain), is a slightly different experience. In a way, Chaplin was one of the first to offer a "special edition" of his film. Spielberg and Lucas can blame Chaplin when critics bust them for tinkering with their own movies.
The special effects in this movie still stand up. Most notable are Chaplin's use of a live bear; a moment when his cabin almost falls off a cliff; and his Tramp shuffle along an icy, windy mountain road. All of this was done in-camera, including his transformation into a chicken when his house partner has a hungry hallucination. It's impressive.
Some of Chaplin's more-memorable bits are in here, including the infamous roll dance, and the wonderful moment when the Tramp accidentally cinches up his pants with a dog's leash during a dance. (The dog winds up dragging him all over the floor when a cat shows up.)
You also get some of his greatest physical work, including his running against a windstorm and playing frozen. When he fakes frozen, and somebody picks him up off the ground, I could swear it was a dummy. Nope, it was Chaplin.
I hope Criterion keeps rolling with the Chaplin library. There is nothing currently making me happier in the home-entertainment world then getting these gems on Blu-ray.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The transfers for both of the films (especially the 1942 version) are stunning. The 1925 version is a little choppy in places, but it's forgivable. There's an excellent commentary from historian Jeffrey Vance that goes into great detail about seemingly every sequence in the film. Documentaries include a segment focusing on Chaplin's breakthrough usage of special effects, a feature about the film's music, and another feature dealing with the restoration of the movie.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 7.5
(OUT OF 10)
One of the greatest Westerns ever made came from director Clint Eastwood, who got a great performance out of himself as Josey, a farmer who loses his family and goes on a revenge spree.
While Eastwood went on to make Unforgiven, this one seems to be about forgiving. Josey starts out looking for blood after his wife and boy (played by Eastwood's actual son) are burned alive by Civil War rebels. As the film progresses, Josey takes on a new family of friends (including one played by the great Chief Dan George) and softens a bit. Sure, he'll still shoot you for looking at him the wrong way—but it would have to be a really dirty look.
Eastwood took over directing chores after filming had started, and that was a good development. It was the most-assured directing effort of his early years, and still stands as one of his best.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Last year, Warner Bros. released a "book" version of this, with a hardcover case and essays on the film. This is essentially the same disc without the book, and it costs as little as $10.99 in some places. You get some decent docs on Eastwood and his Westerns, with participation from Eastwood. Critic and Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel provides a commentary.
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 7.75
(OUT OF 10)
This one just completed a short, limited theatrical run, although it did have a stint at the Loft. It deserved a bigger release across the country, because it is funnier than most big-studio comedies.
Seann William Scott is terrific as Doug Glatt, a quiet, shy type with no true career goals until somebody notices his ability to kick ass. He puts on some skates and becomes the enforcer on a semi-pro hockey team. It all leads up to Doug's showdown with Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), another enforcer who is hanging up his skates, but not before he tries to beat the piss out of the up-and-coming badass.
The movie is funny (written by Jay Baruchel—who co-stars—and Evan Goldberg), and is based on the real-life exploits of hockey-player Doug Smith. You can see actual footage of Smith in action during the credits.
Knowing about hockey is not a requisite for liking this film, although if you have a problem with intense hockey fights, you might want to stay away. There are lots of broken teeth.
SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a lot of stuff on this disc. You can watch it in "Power Play" mode for a "behind-the-scenes" interactive experience. There are deleted scenes, bloopers, outtakes, interviews with the stars, Goon hockey cards and a commentary with Baruchel and director Michael Dowse.