Almost more than when new movies come out on Blu-ray, I love it when classic movies come out on Blu-ray in fancy schmancy editions. Why? Because some care is actually put into them, and they usually pack it with extras that make it worth the price. Yes, most movies are available to stream somewhere, but I want my physical media, and the only way I’m realistically going to buy Blu-rays now is if I get something in return. Hence, the collector’s edition. My God, how I love these.
It’s getting dangerously, maddeningly close to the release of Mad Max: Fury Road so it’s high time for Scream Factory to be releasing a collector’s edition Blu-ray of the one that started it all: George Miller’s landmark 1979 Ozsploitation masterpiece, Mad Max, which made a star of young didn’t-even-want-to-be-an-actor Mel Gibson. While the movie didn’t do much in America, even with its ridiculous American-dubbed release, after Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior came out (minus the Mad Max 2 part), the original suddenly became much more enticing to people.
This movie is very different from its sequels. It’s not a post-apocalyptic desert movie at all; in fact, it’s in the near-future with society on the brink of breaking down but still very much alive and well. The roads have been taken over by biker gangs and it’s up to the police squads in their suped-up Interceptors to stop them. Gibson’s “Mad” Max Rockatansky is just one of a group of police officers in the movie, but one who wants to get out following the brutal murder of his best friend and partner, “The Goose,” by the gang led by the insane Toecutter. When Toecutter refuses to leave Max and his family alone, that’s when Max really goes mad. Mad Max features some of the very best and most brutal car stunts ever put to film, and all done on a shoestring budget without much in the way of “professional” effects people. Lucky nobody died.
The Blu-ray features brand new interviews with Gibson, co-star Joanna Samuel, director of photography David Eggby, a feature on Gibson, a commentary by Eggby, art director Jon Dowding, and effects guys Chris Murray and Tim Ridge, and much more.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Now THAT is a way you start a movie. Martin Scorsese‘s masterpiece (well, one of three, along with Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) is the movie that put the capper on the mafia film, I think once and for all. Based on the true story of notorious mobster-turned-informer Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), Goodfellas let us observe that lifestyle, hang out with those larger-than-life characters, get to like them, get to fear them, get to feel sorry for them, get to despise them, all in the course of a few hours. It’s an immensely quotable film, thanks to Nicholas Pileggi’s script and Scorsese’s willingness to let his actors improvise, which resulted in the “How am I funny?” exchange that’s still aped in movies today.
It’s hard to believe it’s 25 years old, but it’s influence was felt almost immediately. Remember how Animaniacs had a cartoon called Goodfeathers with three pigeons doing impressions of DeNiro, Pesci, and Liotta (their character names Bobby, Pesto, and Squit)? They perched on Scorsese’s head. We also would definitely not have The Sopranos without Goodfellas, since never before had wiseguys been depicted as being neurotic, deep, or funny in such a way. It’s also eminently watchable; I dare anyone to watch the first ten minutes without wanting to watch the remaining 136.
The special edition Blu-ray features a 36-page retrospective booklet, a new documentary, a feature-length doc about the history of the gangster film, featurettes from earlier releases, and more. It’s the definitive way to see this definitive Scorsese classic.
Ol’ Blue Eyes made some pretty great movies in his day, aside from singing some good tunes. This set brings together five of his most beloved, two of which have never been on Blu-ray before. The set consists of:
Anchors Aweigh – George Sidney’s 1945 musical starring Frank and Gene Kelly, who choreographed all of the dances and pretty much lit up the whole movie with his rug-cutting ability. Frank sings the somber hit “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and he and Kelly duet “We Hate to Leave,” which is a show-stopping number if ever there was one. The funniest part of this is that they play Navy men returning home from the war, but Sinatra didn’t serve in the military at the time, instead just being a ladies man at home after getting a deferment.
On the Town – Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly co-directed this 1949 follow-up to Anchors Aweigh in which Kelly and Sinatra again play sailors, this time on shore leave for 24 hours and running into Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen, or as I choose to call them, “The Legs” and “The Waist.”
Guys and Dolls – Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed this 1955 musical in which Frank plays gambler Nathan Detroit and, inexplicably, Marlon Brando plays Sky Masterson. Worth the super long running time just to hear Sinatra croon “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.”
Ocean’s 11 – I bet you didn’t remember/know that the Rat Pack were in the original Oceans movie. It’s a good ol’ heist with Frank, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Angie Dickinson, Cesar Romero, Henry Silva, Norman Fell, Richard Conte, and a bunch of other guys in the Las Vegas of 1960. Back before it was quite so salacious and just run by the mafia.
Robin and the 7 Hoods – Finally in the set, we have a 1930s gangster movie version of Robin Hood. Bing Crosby is in this one because Frank had shunned Peter Lawford out of the Rat Pack by 1964. This movie is just okay, but it rounds out a set nicely.
We also have vintage featurettes (a staple of classic Warner Bros Blu-rays) and some old cartoons thrown in as well. Always a lot of fun.
Easily one of the best movies of 2014, and one that should have gotten way more Oscars notice than it did, Ava Du Vernay’s Selma is the depiction of the civil rights movement in the deep south, and specifically in Selma, AL, and the march from there to Montgomery which resulted in horrendous police brutality. Right at the center is a brilliant, star-making performance from David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. And that Oscar-winning song by John Legend and Common? Yeah, you’re gonna need a tissue when it plays at the end of the movie. Just be warned.
Mr. Turner – A biopic about English artist J.M.W. Turner, played by the brilliant Timothy Spall. It’s a Mike Leigh movie, so of course it’s awesome.
Duel – Steven Spielberg’s first film, albeit a TV movie, is a tense battle between man and semi truck.
The Sugarland Express – Spielberg’s first feature film, this one with Goldie Hawn as a woman who helps break her husband out of prison and together they kidnap their son and have to take a police officer hostage in the process.
Ladyhawke – Fantasy-romance about two cursed lovers (Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer)–she’s a hawk in the daytime while he’s a traveling swordsman and he’s a wolf in the night time while she’s a human woman. Matthew Broderick plays a funny guy who helps them.