Sunday, 29 April 2012

“The Blues Brothers – Augmented Reality Edition BLU RAY”. A Review Of The 2012 Reissue In Universal Studios “100th Anniversary” Series.


“…We’re On A Mission From God…”

Part of Universal Studios “100th Anniversary” celebrations - there are 15 UK-released titles in this 2012 BLU RAY and DVD series – and “The Blues Brothers” is one of them – an “Augmented Reality” issue.

So what is “Augmented Reality”? It’s a 3D mini-show that’s built into the front sleeve of each release. You download the free “Universal 100 App” to your Smartphone or Tablet (iPhone 3GS or above, iPad 2, Android and other high-end devices) – you open the download and hold your phone/tablet over the front sleeve. It loads up on your phone and begins playing a 3D display which lasts for about 20 seconds - in this case - both suited boys dancing on the cover. The "Jurassic Park" release has a Velocoraptor attack a T.Rex while it roars - pretty silly and over before it starts...

As you can imagine this is essentially a ‘gimmick’ primarily only available to iPhones users and the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Worse - some marketing bright spark has also stuck a lengthy “Lifetime Of Memories” Universal sticker right across the back of each release advertising holidays and prizes you can win – except that it completely covers that part of the back-cover whcih tells you what BONUSES on the disc. In other words you cannot tell what’s actually on the disc! It’s a simple mistake - but a staggeringly stupid one – and I’d argue sabotages sales of otherwise excellent titles. For instance this “Blues Brothers” issue has BOTH the Theatrical Release and the Extended Version – a superbly restored print - and comprehensive extras - but the packaging doesn’t tell you that because its busy selling you competitions and 3D gimmick packaging that few will see let alone want.

Better is the ‘price’ – this is the first time Universal has reissued BLU RAY retailing at less than ten pounds (these singular discs are eight quid in most places - the DVDs two for a tenner).

PRINT QUALITY:
Despite some grain and bad picture quality as the credits role – when you get to the following sequence where Jake (John Belushi) is being paroled from Chicago’s Joliet Prison – suddenly both the picture and sound kick in to extraordinary effect – really clean - and it pretty much stays that way for most of the movie. And while the print is beautiful in many places - I can’t emphasize enough how good the remastered soundtrack is. When the Henri Mancini Peter Gunn guitar riff is coming at you as the boys go into the Plymouth Hotel by the overhead rail tracks or when the Blues Brothers theme plays as they wreck the shopping mall in their ‘cop car’ – it’s just brill – full of power and clarity.

EXTRAS:
The Extras for “The Blues Brothers” are the same as the Special Edition: “Stories Behind The Making Of The Blues Brothers” runs to a pleasing star-filled 55-minutes and is broken down into 14 parts. Second up is a 14-minute “Transposing The Music” featurette that has interviews with Howard Shore (who gave them the name) and keyboardist Paul Schaffer (now with The Jay Leno Show) - and finally a tribute to John Belushi called “Remembering John” that features his wife Judy and film-star brother James Belushi. It’s properly comprehensive stuff and none are padded out with excessive duplication.

THE FILM ITSELF:
I had to double take when I looked at the date on “The Blues Brothers” – 1980? Is it really thirty-two years ago – Jeez Louise! I remember seeing it at the cinema with my mates and being absolutely blown away – audacious, funny, hip, property destruction on an industrial scale, car chases to make your nose bleed, the cool black outfits and shades, the cartwheel flips, the running dance routine, Aykroyd and Belushi gelling so beautifully - and better than anything – the totally killer music that seemed to fill every scene with life and joy.

“The Blues Brothers” literally set off a global phenomenon – the resurgence of Blues and Soul - and is beloved for it to this day. And like “The Big Lebowski” or “Withnail And I” - you know you’re in the presence of a cult classic when dialogue-quotes from it pepper the net... Kathleen Freeman as the fearsome nun Sister Mary Stigmata nicknamed The Penguin - whacking the boys with a wooden ruler every time they curse “…You come back here with foul mouths and bad attitudes!”, the lady at the house when the boys enquire after former members of their band “Are you from the Police? No Mam…we’re musicians…” John Belushi in the high-class Chez Paul restaurant asking a snob customer to sell his wife and daughter to him for sex “How much for the little one? I want to buy your women!” When they get into the Bluesmobile (BDR 529) and have to head to Chicago with all manner of State Forces giving chase – “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ll got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes and we’re wearing sunglasses – hit it!” And of course - best of all - the quote that titles this review… and their mantra throughout the film for getting the band back together to pay off $5000 worth of debt and thereby save a Convent for Orphan Boys ”We’re on a mission from God…”

Written with aplomb and affection by DAN AYKROYD and Director JOHN LANDIS – and played out by Akyroyd and the greatly-missed-madcap JOHN BELUSHI (who had an incredible singing voice as the “King Bee” extra shows) scene after scene is filled with their love of the Blues in all its forms. The 78” of Louis Jordan’s “Let The Good Times Roll” in their tiny Plymouth Hotel room - the picture of Big Joe Turner on the wall – all great touches.  

You also forget about the incredible number of cameos – Frank Oz of The Muppets as the Parole Officer in Joliet Prison reading out the contents of Jake’s worldly possessions (“one unused prophylactic – one soiled…”), Carey Fisher of “Star Wars” fame with a rocket launcher intent on killing Jake for running out on her three years earlier, Twiggy as a Chic Lady, Pee Wee Herman’s Paul Reubens as a waiter in Mr. Fabulous’ restaurant, Henry Gibson from “Saturday Night Live” as a hysterically funny neo-Nazi (the American Socialist White People’s Party), Mr. T from the A-Team in the crowd and you even get Steven Spielberg as a clerk with a sandwich in his mouth in the Cook County Assessor’s Office at the end of the movie.

But the film belongs to the music and the superstars of that music – Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, John Lee Hooker and Cab Calloway - many of who had their fading careers revived by the public’s rekindled love affair with Blues, R’n’B and Soul. There’s Cab Calloway as Curtis the Janitor in the convent counselling the Jake and Elwood on what to do next (“You get wise! You get to church!”), James Brown as the all-singing all-dancing revivalist preacher Reverend Cleophus (“Have you seen the light!”), Aretha Franklin as the mouthy owner of the ‘Soul Food Cafe’ in Chicago’s Maxwell Street (“There’s two honkies out there dressed like Hasidic diamond merchants!”), Ray Charles as the blind proprietor of a pawn shop who shoots two bullet holes in the wall as a street urchin tries to steal a guitar (‘breaks my heart to see those kids go bad”), John Lee Hooker singing “Boom Boom” and shouting “How! How!” in the street-market and then getting into a row about who wrote it. as if that isn't enouh - the backing band Murph and The Magic Tones turns out to be Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Willie Hall, Murphy Dunne and Tom Malone – the guts of Booker T and The MG’s who played on so many historical Stax cuts. There’s harmonica legends Walter “Shakey” Horton and Pinetop Perkins, guitarist Joe Walsh as a prisoner, soul legend Chaka Khan in the Choir, singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop as a chatty State Trooper…and on it goes.

In the end – a movie like “The Blues Brothers” defies description. But like a secondhand record shop that you stumble on – you’re so glad it’s there after all these years – still surviving – still bringing pleasure – still doing the business…

Gimmick packaging or not – dive in on this BLU RAY – (pun intended) you’ll be ‘soul’ glad you did.

BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
AUDIO: English DTS 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish

SPECIAL FEATURES:
1, Both Theatrical (186 minutes) and Extended (220 minutes) versions of the Film
2. Stories Behind The Making Of The Blues Brothers (14 parts, 55 minutes)
3. Transposing The Music (14 minutes)
4. Remembering John (9 minutes)


ADDITIONAL INFO - UNIVERSAL STUDIOS "100th Anniversary" Series - 

In April 2012 – the American movie giant Universal Studios celebrated a centenary of filmmaking – and since January 2012 have been re-releasing huge swaths of their back catalogue in the States in specialist “100th Anniversary” packaging. The American list is now pushing 60+ tittles and increasing all the time – most being 2-Disc sets containing a Blu Ray, DVD and means to download a Digital Copy. 13 of those releases have even been given full-on $300,000 restoration makeovers and put in beautifully presented limited edition ‘book packs’ – see my reviews for “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1961) and “All Quiet On The Western Front” (1930). But here in the UK (excepting some of those ‘book packs’) - the celebrations have been virtually non-existent. Until now…

Monday 23 April 2012 finally sees Universal Studios get in on the act and UK- release what they’re calling “Augmented Reality” Editions of some of their most popular titles. The 15 issued to date are:

BLU RAY and DVD
  1. Apollo 13
  2. Back To The Future
  3. The Blues Brothers
  4. The Bourne Ultimatum
  5. Despicable Me
  6. Gladiator
  7. Jurassic Park
  8. King Kong ()
  9. Mamma Mia! The Movie
  10. The Mummy
  11. Nanny McPhee
  12. Paul
  13. Shaun Of The Dead

DVD-only:
  1. The Birds (1963, Hitchcock)
  2. Dracula (1931, English Language Version)

[NOTE: disappointingly NEITHER of the above DVDs is the ‘restored’ version of the film despite being in 100th Anniversary packaging. The restored prints will appear in the US Blu Ray/DVD ‘book packs’ that are due later in the year. “Dracula” will also include the Spanish language version on that issue]

The American releases are:

BLU RAY:
Abbott and Costello – see “Buck Privates”
  1. All Quite On The Western Front. 14 Feb 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Digitally remastered and fully restored print of the 1930 Black & White masterpiece. Special 40-page book pack... (SEE REVIEW)
  2. American Graffiti. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set, Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  3. American Pie. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  4. Apollo 13. 30 April 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  5. Babe. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  6. A Beautiful Mind. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  7. The Big Lebowski. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  8. Billy Elliott. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  9. The Birds. Release date to be advised - restored and remastered and packaged as per "All Quiet On The Western Front"
  10. The Blues Brothers. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  11. The Bourne Identity. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  12. The Bourne Supremacy. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  13. The Bourne Ultimatum. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  14. The Breakfast Club. 10 Jan 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  15. The Bride Of Frankenstein. To be advised... (For DVD version see “Classic Monster Spotlight Collection” 3DVD Box Set)
  16. Brokeback Mountain. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  17. (Abbott And Costello in) Buck Privates. 17 April 2012. USA two-disc set. 1941 movie digitally remastered and fully restored. Book pack.
Creature From The Black Lagoon (DVD-only at present – see “Classic Monster Spotlight Collection” 3DVD Box Set in the list that follows this)
  1. Casino. 5 June 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  2. The Deer Hunter. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  3. Despicable Me. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  4. Do The Right Thing. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
  5. Dracula. 1931 Black & White. To be advised… (For DVD version see “Classic Monster Spotlight Collection” 3DVD Box Set)
  6. 8 Mile. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD & Digital.
  7. Erin Brockovich. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
  8. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial. To be advised...
  9. The Fast And The Furious. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  10. Fast Times At Ridgemont High. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  11. Field Of Dreams. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  12. The 40-Year-Old Virgin. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  13. Frankenstein. To be advised... (For DVD version see “Classic Monster Spotlight Collection” 3DVD Box Set)
  14. Harvey. Release Date To be advised. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  15. Inglorious Basterds. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  16. Jaws. August 2012. 2-disc set – Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Card Wrap and Book pack… (two variants)
  17. King Kong (Peter Jackson version). To be advised. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  18. Meet The Parents. 6 March 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray and DVD (No Digital Copy).
  19. Mamma Mia! The Movie. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  20. The Mummy. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  21. National Lampoon’s Animal House. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  22. The Nutty Professor. 6 March 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  23. Out Of Africa. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Digitally remastered and fully restored. Book pack
  24. Parenthood. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  25. Pillow Talk. 1 May 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. Book pack.
  26. Ray. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  27. Schindler’s List. To be advised…
  28. Seabiscuit. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray & DVD (No Digital Copy).
  29. Sixteen Candles. 5 June 2012. USA two-disc set – Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy
  30. Smokey And The Bandit. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
  31. Spartacus. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
  32. The Sting. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray & DVD 2-disc set. Fully restored and Book Pack like “To Kill A Mockingbird”...
  33. To Kill A Mockingbird. 31 Jan 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. See also UK release. (SEE REVIEW)
  34. United 93. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  35. Waterworld. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy - Theatrical and Extended cut (40 more minutes). 

DVD:
  1. Action Adventure Spotlight Collection [The Bourne Identity, The Fast And The Furious, The Mummy]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  2. American Graffiti. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  3. American Pie. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  4. Apollo 13. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy
  5. A Beautiful Mind – Russell Crowe and Ed Harris. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  6. Best Picture Winners Spotlight Collection [Out Of Africa, A Beautiful Mind, All Quiet On The Western Front, Going My Way]. 6 March 2012. 4DVD Box Set.
  7. The Big Lebowski. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  8. Billy Elliott – Jamie Bell. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  9. The Blues Brothers. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  10. The Bourne Identity. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  11. The Bourne Supremacy. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  12. The Bourne Ultimatum. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  13. The Breakfast Club. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  14. Brokeback Mountain. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  15. Car Wash – Richard Prior. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  16. Casino. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  17. Charade. 6 March 2012. USA 2-disc set. 1963 movie
  18. Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection [Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride Of Frankenstein and Creature From The Black Lagoon]. 6 March 2012. 4DVD Box Set. Note: The “Spanish Language” version of Dracula is also included on the “Dracula” DVD - effectively making this a 5-film box set although it doesn’t actually state it as such).
  19. Coal Miner’s Daughter. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  20. Comedy Greats Spotlight Collection [National Lampoon's Animal House, The Blues Brothers, The Jerk, Car Wash]. 6 March 2012. 4DVD Box Set.
  21. The Deer Hunter – Robert DeNiro. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  22. Despicable Me. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  23. Destry Rides Again – James Stewart and Mischa Auer. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  24. Do The Right Thing. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  25. Duck Soup. 6 March 2012. Marx Brothers. DVD & Digital copy.
  26. Earthquake. 1974 film with Charlton Heston. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  27. The Egg And I. 6 March 2012 DVD. Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert 1947 film.
  28. 8 Mile. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  29. 80’s Comedies Spotlight Collection [The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times At Ridgemont High]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  30. Fast Times At Ridgemont High – Sean Penn. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  31. The 40-Year Old Virgin. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  32. Frances The Talking Mule. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  33. Harvey. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  34. High Plains Drifter. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy. (See also Westerns Spotlight Box Set…)
  35. Hollywood Legends Spotlight Collection [Harvey, Spartacus, Touch Of Evil]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  36. Inglorious Basterds. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  37. Imitation Of Life – Two Movie Special Edition. 10 January 2012. Features both the 1934 version with Claudette Colbert and the 1959 remake starring Lana Turner. 2DVD set and Digital Copy.
  38. Inspirational Favorites Spotlight Collection. [Apollo 13, Field Of Dreams, Seabiscuit]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  39. The Jerk – Steve Martin. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  40. Jesus Christ Superstar – Ted Neeley. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  41. King Kong (Peter Jackson version). 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  42. The Last Temptation Of Christ. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  43. Mamma Mia! The Movie. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  44. Meet The Parents. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  45. Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life. 6 March 2012. DVD & Digital Copy
  46. The Mummy. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  47. Musicals Spotlight Collection [Mamma Mia! The Movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Flower Drum Song]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  48. My Man Godfrey. 6 March 2012 DVD. William Powell and Carole Lombard 1936 Black and White.
  49. National Lampoon’s Animal House. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  50. The Nutty Professor – Eddie Murphy remake. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  51. Parenthood – Steve Martin. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  52. Ray – Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  53. Schindler's List. 10 January 2012. USA DVD and Digital Copy.
  54. Screen Couples Spotlight Collection [Charade, Double Indemnity, Pillow Talk, My Little Chicadee]. 4DVD Box Set.
  55. Seabiscuit – Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper. 10 January 2012. DVD.
  56. Sullivan's Travels – Joel McCrae. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  57. Three Smart Girls – Deanna Durbin. 6 March 2012. DVD
  58. Touch Of Evil – Orson Wells. 10 January 2012. DVD & Digital Copy
  59. Westerns Spotlight Collection [High Plains Drifter, Destry Rides Again, Winchester ‘73]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  60. Winchester ’73. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy. (See also Westerns Spotlight Box Set…)


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