Ten Great Films The Blu-ray Group Should Release In
High Definition Now!
Now that Blu-ray
is the victor of the HD format war thanks to Warner Bros. final decision to
support it, the earliest shot in this technology exchange has been
forgotten. Warner and Sony were both
vying for ownership of MGM to sure up their advantage when the HD formats
arrived. Though Warner made a
last-minute bid to get the company they once distributed, Sony won the bidding
war. Now that all of them are supporting
Blu-ray, it is an amusing side note.
With Warner permanently Blu, the early problem that too many of the same
titles that are either boring, predictable or simply repeat (i.e., day and date
with the DVD) releases arriving in Blu-ray.
with their expertise in releasing new hit and back catalog product, there
should be more surprises, exciting favorites or overlooked gems inspiring
people to want to adopt the format.
After all, if the format has the larger catalog to choose from, where is
the wide variety of titles?
this decision, I pondered and even discussed with studio people titles they
could issue in advance to break any monotony.
Sure, some titles are going to be held off until the format reaches a
wider user base, but that is exactly the reason all the Blu-ray exclusive
studios need to dig deep in ways they may not have considered. That even includes TV shows or telefilms,
like The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler (MGM, licensed from
Disney/ABC) which were the first TV movies on DVD (twice as a double feature
already) and should be the first on Blu-ray.
course, there are some films that may need further work (like Woody Allen’s
hilarious Take The Money And Run) or
possibly ready (like Sidney Pollack’s They
Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, both MGM, licensed from Disney/ABC film, both this
time among interesting films from their underrated Cinerama Releasing catalog)
and this is the case for all studios.
However, that is not an excuse to not release the ones that are ready
and fortunately, they all have varying programs to do so.
purposes, we will stick with the studios that supported Blu-ray solely from the
outset and when it comes to titles, to widescreen feature films of exceptional
merit that would that may not immediately come to mind on the majority of wish
lists, but I believe would show off the format because Blu-ray’s high
definition capacities would bring more out of the following than any of the
more obvious choices that will be released sooner or later:
Blood & Wine (1997/Fox) – Highly underrated
drama/thriller by Bob Rafelson (back in top form) with Jack Nicholson, Michael
Caine, Steven Dorff, Judy Davis and Jennifer Lopez on her way to super stardom. Nicholson and Caine play unstable old
con-artist friends with a past of heists and robberies for top dollar,
reuniting after many years because a new “opportunity” has arrived for them to
steal a very expensive necklace. In the
meantime, Nicholson’s wife (Davis) and son (Dorff) are about to have it out with
him in true dysfunctional family style – personal war at the worst possible
time, then things get more complicated.
Considered by many to be the conclusion of a trilogy about dysfunctional
families by Rafelson/Nicholson that began with their brilliant film Five Easy Pieces and continuing with The King Of Marvin Gardens (both of
which Columbia/Sony needs to issue on Blu-ray as soon as possible too) that all
fit together all too chillingly well.
Blow Out (1981/MGM) – Just before Scarface, the often controversial Brian
De Palma pulled off this daring, great thriller featuring John Travolta’s most
underrated performance as a sound effects man and designer for B-movies. Out one night needing new audio for a slasher
film, a tired gives way and the car it is on drives into the lake, but it turns
out to be the property of a married senator running for high office who was
cheating with another woman (Nancy Allen) and our soundman saves her. It is too late for the politician. When his handlers want to cover it all up,
the question becomes whether the tire had a blow out or was it shot out? The more he investigates, the uglier it gets. A winning amalgamation of Antonioni’s Blow Up and Coppola’s The Conversation, De Palma may have
made more thrillers after this one, but none come close. Dennis Franz and John Lithgow also star.
The Chase (1966/Sony) – One of the most
important films in American Cinema, this bold 1966 drama by Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde) delves deeply into
backstabbing, discrimination and dirty secrets in a small Texas town as
metaphor for the state of America at the time, and still today. A young man (Robert Redford) escapes prison
and a witch hunt ensures, but for political reasons. The ending was changed by the studio against
Penn’s wishes, but film is often recognized (by writers like Robin Wood in Hollywood: From Vietnam To Reagan) as
one of the first films to make Hollywood’s last golden age possible. With a strong cast that also includes Marlon
Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall, E.G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, James Fox,
Janice Rule and Martha Hyer, no Blu-ray release would demonstrate how serious
the format is about the art of film than one with a new HD transfer featuring
the original ending Penn intended. Plus,
the film looks so good, they made 70mm blow-ups, three-strip dye-transfer
Technicolor 35mm prints and the cinematography by Joseph LaShelle (& and
uncredited Robert Surtees) is very distinct.
Add the John Barry score and this would be great in Blu-ray.
House Of Mirth (2000/Sony) – So many period pieces
are badly done or boring, so when Terence Davies exceptional production of the
still-debated Edith Wharton novel (a private letter just turned up from the
author possibly ending an ambiguity, but maybe not) about young Lily Bart
(Gillian Anderson, easily breaking away from the confines of her X-Files success) trying to find her way
to happiness and in society, without compromising herself, it should had better
critical support. It did not and few saw
it properly. A powerful adaptation
worthy of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon
has stunning production design, costumes, period detail, character development,
acting and is so long overdue for rediscovery, it is unbelievable. The DVD could not capture the beautiful
cinematography by Remi Adefarasin (in 35mm Arriscope/Hawk Scope) very well, but
Blu-ray definitely could and make for a visual stunner that would impress
all. Eric Stoltz, Eleanor Bron (Help!), Laura Linney, Elizabeth
McGovern, Jodhi May, Anthony LaPaglia and even Dan Aykroyd are exceptionally cast.
The Limey (1999/Lionsgate) – Steven
Soderbergh’s most underrated film pits an angry father (Terence Stamp, General
Zod from the Donner Superman films)
who flies in from overseas to take on every dangerous soul in the dark
underside of Los Angeles, until he finds out how and why his daughter has been
killed. Those who try to deal with him
think he is an old man easy to deal with, but he has a very, very dark past of
his own. When he discovers she was
involved with an old rip-off, cut-rate record label owner (a great, thankless
Peter Fonda performance) who has been in the underside of that business for
decades, target number one is set and there will be hell to pay unless he gets
the truth. Great script, amazing
directing, exceptional editing, remarkable use of music and strong performances
all around would make this a slam dunk Blu-ray release that will impress all.
Narrow Margin (1990/Lionsgate) – Peter Hyams’
remake of the Film Noir classic as a
classy, smart, intense action film was one of the films to immediately show
that the end of The Cold War (along with the temporary hiatus of the James Bond
films) did not mean upscale thrillers were dead. Far from it, thanks in part to an
underappreciated performance by Gene Hackman as a too-honest DA who is so sore
at a gangster he cannot arrest and put away, that he’ll do anything within the
law to nail him. He and his partner (M.
Emmet Walsh) visit a witness (Anne Archer) who saw the man order his thug
assistant to shoot and kill her blind date (J.T. Walsh) while she was in the
nearby room unbeknownst to them. Now
they want her dead and the DA will protect her on a possibly deadly train ride,
all the way if necessary, to get her to court in one piece to testify. Sadly, it was not marketed as effectively as
one would have hoped and most people have only seen it in terrible analog
transfers or the old DVD from ten years ago.
On Blu-ray, a top rate transfer for its incredible scope Panavision
camerawork and solid sound design would be another big winner.
Real Genius (1985/Sony) – In all of the
geek/nerd cycle, this hysterical, brilliant comedy (written by Neal (Tunnel Vision) Israel, Pat (The Naked Gun) Proft and Peter (SCTV) Torokvei) stands far and above the
rest, set at the advanced Pacific Tech school where young Mitch Taylor (Gabriel
Jarret, Apollo 13) gets away from
his dysfunctional parents, only to deal with more nuttiness from staff and
peers he meets there. That includes the
seemingly friendly Dr. Hathaway (William Atherton, a few years before the first
Die Hard) who gets Mitch into the
school to use his talents and knowledge about laser technology for sinister
reasons. He rooms with fellow whiz kid
Chris Knight (Val Kilmer, at his most hilarious) and even a weirdo who lives in
their closet (Jon Gries, Napoleon
Dynamite) who just drifts around campus.
The guys become too distracted by work and fellow students to know what
Hathaway is up to, but it will not be long before Hathaway’s secret plans take
center stage. Director of Photography
Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters Of The
Third Kind, The Deer Hunter)
recently assisted Sony is restoring the film since its DVD release, preserving
director Martha Coolidge’s two-hour howler, so it is ready for Blu-ray. Rounding out the great cast are Michelle
Meyrink (Permanent Record,) Patti
D’Arbanville (The Sopranos,) Louis
Giambalvo (Hill Street Blues,) Sandy
Martin (Napoleon Dynamite,) Robert
Prescott (The Good Shepherd, Michael Clayton,) Severn Darden (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) and
now-producer Dean Devlin in one of his early acting roles. You’ll love the choice of music too.
Smilla’s Sense Of Snow (1997/Fox) – A terrific thriller
that becomes something totally unexpected, but the title must have thrown
audiences at the time. Smilla (the
underrated Julia Ormond) really knows her world, life and home of Copenhagen,
so when a young child she has tried to help before is found dead after plunging
off of the roof of their apartment building, something tells her it was no
accident. A remarkable cast including
Gabriel Byrne, Jim Broadbent, Tom Wilkinson, Robert Loggia and Richard Harris
thrive in the hands of director Billie August. The DVD was not bad, but Blu-ray could
capture the knockout location visuals delivered in real Panavision by Jorgen
Persson and the Harry Gregson-Williams (Spy
Game, Phone Booth) score with
the film’s good sound design just heightens the suspense, humor and excitement.
Suspect (1987/Sony) – Cher gives the most
underrated performance of her career as a lawyer who must defend a mute
homeless man (Liam Neeson) against a murder charge that seems odder, the
further she investigates. She even
starts to get illegal help from one of the jurors (Dennis Quaid) which could
get her into hot water, but when both see their suspicions become more
realized, she may not live to see the end of that trial. The underappreciated gentleman director Peter
Yates (Bullitt) delivers what is
easily one of the best legal thrillers ever made, with more suspense, mature
sexuality (from the leads) and intelligence in the screenplay than we have seen
in most similar films since. A real gem
that could benefit from an early Blu-ray release, finally giving the film the
credit it long deserves, it has solid, moody cinematography by Billy Williams, whose past triumphs
include Sunday Bloody Sunday and The Manhattan Project.
Vera Cruz (1954/MGM) – The great director
Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly) was
one of the gutsiest filmmakers in Hollywood history and this underrated Western
recently restored to its beautiful original condition by MGM is a great teaming
of Gary Cooper (High Noon) and Burt
Lancaster (From Here To Eternity) in
a very early example of a Hollywood-made Professional Western. They are part of a team hired by protect a
special lady and her ton of gold on a journey to the title locale, but they get
more than they bargained for in the middle of The Mexican Revolution. They are joined by a great cast that includes
Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and Jack Elam. Shot in the old SuperScope format (with a 2 X
1 frame!) by the amazing Ernest Laszlo and issued in three-strip Technicolor
prints at the time, MGM now owns and recently restored this film, but all we’ve
been stuck with is the 2001 DVD. Now is
the time for a stunning Blu-ray version, preferably loaded with extras.
the improvement in Blu-ray technology is amazing, especially as compared to
previous formats, it is going to take titles from all genres and eras to sell
it as more than just a replacement for DVD.
To say that the picture and sound is improved without demonstrating it
with more than current (and often overly digitized works that can look like
shallow video games) is not sufficient for the format. With great back catalog titles that endure
and can still deliver in combination with Blu-ray’s consumer friendly
abilities, only then can it sell itself as the Rolls-Royce of high definition
formats. These films would be a giant
step forward towards that goal, telling the public that enough people making
and backing the format respect filmmaking and customers willing to spend the
money to see and hear it better than ever.
For our previous Top Ten HD suggestions lists, try these links:
Ten Great Independent Films That
Should Be In The HD Formats Now!
Ten Great Foreign-Language Films
That Should Be In The HD Formats Now!
Ten Great Films Paramount, Rhino
& Universal Should Release In HD-DVD Now!
Ten Great Films Warner/New Line
Should Release In Both High Definition Formats Now!
- Nicholas Sheffo