Switching to Blu-Ray for Criterion Collection Collectors

If there was ever a fire in my house, there are two things I would try to save first (before my body). One would be an awesome quilt my grandmother made for me when I was like 4 years old and never go a day without touching. The second would be my DVD collection. It’s the only thing in the house (other than the quilt) that I really care about and the only thing with any real value.

Like many readers and contributors here at R3, this DVD collection is something that I’m quite proud of and just like to look at sometimes. Among the list of titles are several from the Criterion Collection, a series of important classic and contemporary films (save for Armageddon) on DVD with extra care taken for the utmost in quality and features.

As many of you know, this series takes a bit bigger toll on the pocketbook than most other, mainstream DVDs. Even used, a Criterion Collection version of a title can go for anywhere from $19 up to $100; more if it’s an out of print title. But it’s usually worth the extra price for what you get; particularly for collectors.

But now that Blu-Ray has won the battle of the format wars, what do us collectors do? Do we start to slowly replace all of our DVDs with the better format version? Maybe just some of the more important titles? Or maybe we won’t replace anything and just live with the “inferior” versions, but from here on out only purchase the Blu-Ray versions. Replacement of titles could potentially cost many thousands of dollars, not to mention hard work and time.

These aren’t new questions to be asking. It’s been going on for decades: records to cassette, VHS to DVD, etc. And people have been talking it up for a couple years now concerning Blu-Ray. But today, besides deciding if and when to switch over to Blu-Ray, we have a bit of a bigger problem to worry about on top of this. What about our beloved Criterion Collection titles? That will cost us double, likely even triple, the amount of money to replace. Well, not so fast.

A while back, we mentioned that Criterion released their first set of Blu-Ray titles. This opened up a whole slew of questions from fans and consumers. Like why should I buy a Criterion right now, not knowing if in a couple of months a blu-ray version will appear (which is a question already asked by fans regarding special editions and director’s cuts of films that come out a couple months after a title so that studios can double-dip)? What will be the cost of these new versions? And will the spine numbers be the same?

You can check out all this information at The Criterion website, but to answer the first question, Criterion states very clearly that most of the titles they offer will be a long way down the road before the Blu-Ray market is sufficient enough to warrant a replacement release. As for new releases, if Criterion believes it has a shot of “making it” in the Blu-ray market, both the Blu-ray and the standard version will be released simultaneously so that consumers can make up their own mind on which version is right for them.

But what is the best news in this latest Criterion newsletter release is that they will be offering a DVD/Blu ray exchange program. Basically, Criterion is allowing customers to mail in their standard DVD version along with $25 and Criterion will send them a brand new Blu-ray version of the title. So instead of spending $40 and being stuck with both version (or going through the hassle of selling the old one) you can easily upgrade for twenty-five bucks. Still more than a drop in the bucket for some of us, but at least Criterion is trying to make it easier on us.

There is a small catch however. You don’t get the new packaging. You only send your disc (not the plastic case) to them and in return you get JUST the disc of the Blu-ray version. So even though you’re stuck with the old packaging, you at least have the newest and cleanest version. A small price to pay that hardly seems to matter anyway as Criterion does a lovely job with it’s packaging.

So there’s the long way of saying Criterion continues it’s customer service excellence by attempting to at least help out those of us that want as high quality film as possible but without sacrificing our checking accounts – especially in these trying economic days.

100 Essential DVD’s

The folks at Empire are at it again. This time around, they’ve compiled their list of “100 Essential DVD’s You Must Own.” Rather surprisingly, I don’t have too many complaints about their list.

Here it is, without having to scroll through pages of graphics (though if you’re into that, you can do so here), complete with witty commentary where appropriate.

1. The Adventures of Robin Hood
2. Alfred Hitchcock Collection
3. Alien Quadrilogy
4. Almost Famous
5. Anchorman / Wake Up, Ron Burgundy
6. Apocalypse Now (Complete Dossier)
7. Back To The Future (Collector’s Edition)
8. Batman Anthology
9. Batman Begins – Not quite sure why this one needs to be on the list. Rewatch value is not that high
10. Ben-Hur (4-disc Special Edition) – Even my parents, who are both big fans of the film, won’t sit through the extras

11. Blade Runner (Final Cut: Ultimate Collector’s Edition) – One of my prized possessions
12. Brazil Criterion Collection – Sinse we’re specifying, is this the single disc or 3 disc SE?
13. Bringing Up Baby (Special Edition)
14. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (The Chosen Collection) – I’d rather pick-up the Star Trek: Fan Collective – Borg
15. Casablanca (Special Edition)
16. Citizen Kane (Special Edition)
17. Clerks (10th Anniversary Edition)
18. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition)
19. Die Hard (Special Edition)
20. Dr. Strangelove (Collector’s Edition)

21. Eraserhead / Short Films Of David Lynch
22. E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (Ultimate Gift Box)
23. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Special Edition)
24. Evil Dead (Book of the Dead)
25. The Exorcist (Director’s Cut)
26. Fargo (Special Edition)
27. 50 Years of Janus Films – I don’t want to even imagine the cost of this set
28. Fight Club (Definitive Edition)
29. Ghostbusters
30. Gladiator (Extended Special Edition)

31. The Godfather Trilogy (Remastered)
32. Goldfinger (Ultimate Edition)
33. Gone With The Wind (Collector’s Edition)
34. Goodfellas (Special Edition) – This is awesome but I prefer Casino
35. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Special Edition)
36. Grease (Special Edition)
37. The Great Escape (Definitive Edition)
38. Halloween (25 Years of Terror)
39. Heat (Special Edition)
40. The Incredibles

41. The Indiana Jones Collection
42. Jaws (30th Anniversary Special Edition)
43. Jerry Maguire (Collector’s Edition)
44. King Kong
45. The Laurel and Hardy Collection
46. Lawrence of Arabia
47. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 1
48. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (Extended Version)
49. M Criterion Collection
50. Magnolia

Rest of the list is under the seat!

Would you like to know more…?

Rank ‘Em: Robert Downey Jr. Films

A little older. A little wiser.

Since this is officially The Summer of RDJ, let’s get a little discussion going on the man and his movies. Everybody knows about his run-ins with the law, the times he spent in prison, his career being all but over after being given so many chances. Some of these younger folk that are now beginning to idolize him this summer don’t realize that Robert Downey Jr. has been prevalent in the business since the mid-80s (did you know he even spent a season on Saturday Night Live in 1985?). Decades from now, we’re going to see a biopic made of this man and all of his struggles, because really, he is one-of-a-kind.

So, without further ado, here’s my top ten.

Would you like to know more…?

Fantastic Vanity Fair Paul Newman Article

With rumors running rampant that Paul Newman is battling cancer and may only have weeks to live, there have been plenty of television, magazine, and internet tributes being made for the greatest American actor the past few weeks. I stumbled across this one article on Vanity Fair, from renowned journalist and biographer Patricia Bosworth, that goes in-depth and chronicles Newman’s life from his roots all the way until the present. While I knew a lot of what she already wrote, it’s still a fantastically written article with a touch of personal encounters that really portrays Newman as the man that he really is.

You can check out the article right here.

IMDB’s Top 250 – How Accurate Is It?

Like all of us who spend a good deal of time here on Row Three, I love movies. However, (and I say this without knowing the depth or breadth of each person’s particular obsession), the way we express this love differs from individual to individual. For instance, one of the particular ways that my affair with all things cinematic has manifested itself is in an enormous excel database, one that I have been maintaining for six years now (in fact, it all started six years ago yesterday). In this database, I have compiled, among other things, daily viewing logs for every day since August 16, 2002 (there’s no real significance to that date…it’s just when I decided to start keeping track of this information), which I cross-reference with an alphabetical list of films and the days on which I viewed them. On March 19, 2003, the day the U.S. first launched the war against Iraq, I was busy watching The Big Bird Cage, a Roger Corman-produced exploitation film starring Pam Grier. The film I’ve seen the most since August 16, 2002 is Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which I’ve viewed 10 times in the past 6 years.

One of the spreadsheets I put together as part of this database was a list of IMDB’s Top-250 films, which I did with the express intent of watching every film on that list. To date, I’ve been fairly successful, with only 8 films on the list that I still need to see. The problem is that the top-250 I laid out for myself was from December 15, 2002. Looking at today’s IMDB top 250, the number I have yet to see has jumped to 17. Furthermore, only five of the films I haven’t seen from my original 2002 list are even on the newest top 250. Three of them (The Others, You Can Count on Me and The Man Who Would Be King) have dropped off completely.

Even the five that appear on both lists have shifted positions since 2002, some significantly:

Das Boot (#36 on the list in 2002, #66 on the current list)
Double Indemnity (#44 in 2002, #54 now)
It Happened One Night (#112 then, #130 now)
Arsenic and Old Lace (#131 then, #241 now)
His Girl Friday (#148 then, #231 now)

The new additions to the Top-250 that I haven’t seen are:

The Lives of Others
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Brief Encounter
Sleuth (1972)
The Lady Vanishes
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Kid (1921)
Ace in the Hole
Hate (La Haine)
Great Expectations (1946)

Now, the additions of The Lives of Others, Oldboy, and The Diving Bell and Butterfly make perfect sense; none of those films had been released at the time the 2002 list was compiled. What’s surprising is that the remaining nine are considerably older, and were around in 2002. Kind Hearts and Coronets, released in 1950 and completely left off the 2002 list, is now #140 on the current Top-250. Why the 110-position surge? I originally thought the answer might be DVD related, that the release of the film to the home market may have influenced its standing, but Kind Hearts and Coronets was first released on DVD in the U.S. three months prior to the 2002 list I copied (I don’t know when it was released in other markets). Has the film found a recent audience, or did a few zealous Alec Guinness fans ‘stack the deck’, taking the time to create hundreds of accounts on IMDB in order to vote it onto the list?

Other films have also changed significantly. Some (released around 2002 amid a great deal of hype, only to see the furor dwindle by 2008) make sense. Others don’t. Here are a few of the other ‘list shifts’:

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (dropped from #5 in 2002 to #20 today)
Citizen Kane (#4 in 2002 to #29 today)
Lawrence of Arabia (#22 then, #35 now)
Raging Bull (fell 20 places, from #51 then to #71 now)
Touch of Evil (down a whopping 35 places, from #58 then to #93 now)
Still other films on 2002’s list have now dropped off completely, and not just ones that were at the bottom to begin with:

All the President’s Men (was #171 in 2002…gone today)
The Iron Giant (#198 in 2002, also gone today)
Miller’s Crossing (from #205 to oblivion)
The Untouchables (#215 to nowhere to be found)
Clerks (#217 to nothing)

Of course, not every film has dropped. Some have even increased in popularity over the last 6 years:

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (#27 in 2002, #5 today)
Pulp Fiction (up 13 places, from #19 in 2002 to #6 today)
12 Angry Men (from #24 in 2002 to #10 today)
Fight Club (was #37 in 2002, and now it’s #23)
A Clockwork Orange (jumped from #64 in 2002 to #48 today)
And for the record, the #’s 1 and 2 films in 2002 were The Godfather (#1), followed by The Shawshank Redemption (#2). Today, #’s 1 and 2 are The Shawshank Redemption (#1) followed by The Godfather (#2)

So, how reliable do you feel the IMDB top-250 list is in determining the likes and dislikes of its contributors? Can it be heavily influenced by a ‘fad’ mentality (The Dark Knight is still sitting at #3 overall on the current list), or does it do a good job in detailing the tastes of the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of film fans who vote on a regular basis?

What do you think?

Sundance Channel’s Terminal City

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Sundance Channel’s Terminal City which just came out on DVD on August 5th. Since I’m busy watching The Wire I figured I’d just pop it in for one episode just so I can make a comment or two on the site and then I’d hold off on watching it till I have time to sit and watch it in a couple of sittings.

I’m not sure now. I can’t see me dropping The Wire so late in the series for this but it definitely piqued my interest. It looks like its going to be a good drama with some quirky comedy. There are a few really touching moments that combine humour, sadness and fear all together. I’ll let everyone know if the series is really worth while once I’m done but I’m guessing its going to be a pretty fine show.

Oh and I almost forgot its a Canadian Show!

Here is a brief synopsis from the official site:

A hit in Canada, where its writing and acting were critically compared to Six Feet Under, Angus Fraser’s witty and challenging drama series bravely examines life, death, family and reality TV. Vibrant 43-year-old mother of three Katie Sampson (Maria Del Mar) has been diagnosed with breast cancer. While undergoing treatment, her spirited and uninhibited comments catch the attention of TV producers who invite her to host the ultimate reality series.

Terminal City

I Need More Time!

dohI just went through and put all my DVDs in an excel spreadsheet. I have a nice collection of DVDs. It is not a large collection but it keeps me happy. Just for fun I decided that I would go through to find out just how many I own that I have not gotten around to seeing at least once.

If your interested you can check out the 131 DVDs I own that I’ve never seen below the cut. Am I only one who collects DVDs and never watches them. Feel free to post your list of DVDs that you haven’t watched in the comments.

Also, the family is going on a trip for a couple of days next week. Let me know which ones I should watch. I think its about time I play catch up.

Would you like to know more…?

Culminating Into Brilliance

My Winnipeg Movie StillWalking out of Guy Maddin’s genius My Winnipeg last night, I had flashbacks to another film I saw earlier this week. Though Paranoid Park is a completely different film (different story, mood and visual texture) the two have something in common: they are the result of years of experimentation. Years of working outside the system, of trying new things, years of minor successes and stumbles, falls and restarts. In their own ways, they are the perfect marriages of personal style (auteurship) and narration, both working on a level that makes me think that even if the rest of my film-going year proves to be a complete disaster, 2008 will have been a success because I saw two of the best films I’ve seen over the last few years.

Also earlier this week, the night before My Winnipeg to be exact, I managed to catch one of Maddin’s earlier films. Archangel is risky filmmaking. The narrative is muddled and confusing as are the visuals, the sounds, the setting. Maddin’s surrealistic take on events which take place in Russia at the height of WWI is an interesting work of multi-media art. I love the man’s work but this film, only his second full length feature following the equally bizarre Tales from the Gimli Hospital, makes little sense. Over the years, his style has developed a little further; the visuals are still those of early film making but the narratives are, for the most part, easier to follow but My Winnipeg is a gleeful combination of style and story. The flashes of text add an urgency and even authenticity to scenes while the images and music are a beautiful marriage of Winnipeg old and new. The narration is both funny and biting and regardless of whether the various stories actually happened the way Maddin describes them or whether their mystical figments of his imagination matters not. The experience is the selling point. And the joy. I want a film like this one about Vancouver. A film by a man (or woman if that be the case) who has so much love for his dreamy city that he’s willing to, and freely does, bend reality into absurdity letting the audience decipher what they want and can.

Would you like to know more…?

Brad Pitt and Eli Roth are Inglorious Bastards

I‘m not one to go off on passing along casting choices, exceptions should be made, as in the upcoming The Road, and Quentin Tarantino‘s super-fast-tracked re-envisioning of Inglorious Bastards which is aiming for a Cannes 2009 release. Brad Pitt, according to Screen.com, has been cast, pushing the previous rumour in to more actual fact. Eli Roth (also seen as playing misogynistic prick in Death Proof) has also been added to the cast.

Pitt has always brought his A-Game for genre flicks: True Romance, 12 Monkeys, Snatch and Kalifornia. And as for playing gloriously over-the top tough-guys, well, look no further than Fight Club.

Quentin Tarantino has a knack for making solid use of iconic movie stars in his films, and Brad Pitt certainly fits the bill, except that his career is not flagging or in a slump as per the usual Tarantino idiom. In fact, the next several months are looking fabulous for Pitt with David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Coen BrothersBurn After Reading, Terrence Malick‘s Tree of Life, Darren Aronofsky‘s The Fighter and if all goes according to the tight production schedule, Inglorious Bastards. That is a delectable line-up indeed.

(Image courtesy of www.fuenf-filmfreunde.de)