This week begins with 1974's Dark Star, and 1988's They Live, which are both titles from cult horror legend John Carpenter's oeuvre. Viewed together, the two pictures depict the progression of the genre auteur's movie-making gifts; Dark Star is an expansion of Carpenter's USC student film, and the full-length feature has the same junky, let's-put-on-a-show energy powering the early works of most fledgling filmmakers (fun fact: Dark Star screenwriter and actor Dan O'Bannon later revised this sci-fi-comedy into what would become Alien). They Live, on the other hand, finds Carpenter operating at the peak of his talents - not only does the film benefit from his widescreen aesthetic and action choreography (the Roddy Piper/Keith David throwdown is They Live's justly heralded highlight), but it also has a sharply satirical edge that has taken on even more relevance in today's wintry economic climate.
Also making their HD debuts on Tuesday are two vintage favorites from 1950: Sunset Boulevard and Rashômon. To this day, Sunset Boulevard remains one of the most acerbic and cynical black comedies ever made; its vision of a Hollywood rotting from the inside out remains deeply funny and deeply chilling. As Joe Gillis, the film's nominal lead, William Holden manages to make his character's innate loathsomeness surprisingly appealing, but it's Gloria Swanson who leaves the most dramatic impact as Norma Desmond, a fading megastar determined to reestablish her legacy...by any means necessary.
In his Blu-ray review, Martin Liebman reserves the highest praise for the feature, writing that it "show[s] the negative side of dreaming, replacing hard work and determination with fantasy, the dangers of plotting a course and sticking to it come hell or high water, refusing to make corrections on the way towards the goal. It's a dark and dangerous picture, extraordinarily performed and expertly crafted at every level. Sunset Boulevard is cinema at its most absorbing, telling a harrowing and gripping story with deep meaning and life insight with the sort of skill reserved for the finest of motion pictures."
And Rashômon forever deserves credit for introducing much of the world to Akira Kurosawa. It won worldwide acclaim - including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film - but more importantly, it remains a multilayered, complex tale of how morality and personal perspective intertwine. In his recounting of a savage rape and murder, Kurosawa favors ambiguity over melodrama thrills; he splits his sympathies and condemnations equally between four people associated with the incident, from the ghost of the deceased to the wild bandit (Toshirô Mifune, in the role that made him an international star) accused of the crime.
Svet Atanasov is effusive in his support for the film, noting that "one of the greatest films ever made, Akira Kurosawa's legendary Rashômon arrives on Blu-ray in spectacular fashion. Restored in 2008 by The Academy Film Archive, The National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kadokawa Pictures, Inc., the film undoubtedly looks the best it ever has. I think that those of you who have been patiently waiting for it to arrive on Blu-ray will be very pleased with Criterion's presentation."
Finally, the world of TV-on-Blu-ray gets a big addition with the release of Entourage: The Complete Series. Loosely inspired by actor Mark Wahlberg's rise to Hollywood stardom, the HBO comedy follows fledgling heartthrob Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his three best friends (Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, and Jerry Ferrara) as they hustle their way through Tinsel Town. The show has received accolades and derision in equal measures; many felt the show peaked with the high-intensity firing of Vince's hotshot agent Ari (the great Jeremy Piven), while others enjoyed the debauchery that Vince fell into during his late-season reemergence as an action star. Regardless, the Blu-ray set has it all - eight seasons worth - so fans can continue to debate the series' merits.
Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review echoes many of those same notes, how "the series reinvents itself again and again...without pulling (too many) punches. No, it isn't a perfect ride, and no, there isn't a perfect season to be had. Not its opening eight-episode volley, its fan-favorite second and third seasons, its rickety seventh go-round, or its satisfying eighth season eight-episode conclusion. But it has proven itself a far better show than most expected, soared where many thought it would crash and burn, and taken its leading men places few people saw coming. I, for one, am happy I stuck with Entourage to the end. It wasn't always easy, it wasn't always a sure thing, but it's been well worth the time."
I'm surprised that they label the weeks as Nov 6-13. It should be the 6th through the 12th. There are a lot of great titles coming out on the 13th and they certainly aren't on this list (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Lawrence of Arabia, Brave, Empire of the Sun, among others). The Amazing Spider man is showing a release date of Nov. 9 on its Amazon page but in my account it is showing a delivery date of Nov. 13th. Was Spider Man pushed back four days? Could that be why Spider man isn't on this list?
No mention of White Men Can't Jump?? WTF? I picked it up from walmart and watched it last night. The picture quality is fantastic!! It looks like a brand new movie, I would definitely recommend it. It was on sale for $9.99...................