Sunday, 25 March 2012

"The Help". A Review Of The 2011 Film Now Available On BLU RAY.





"…You Is Kind…You Is Smart…You Is Important…"


Some have criticised "The Help" and its depiction of racism as way too easy on the eye and cheery on the ear - slyly dodging the 'physically violent' reality of segregation in 1960's Southern America in favour of entertainment. But I think that's being massively unfair to the movie's genuine achievement - it's brilliant portrayal of the 'mental' apartheid levelled every day at black people - which ran hand-in-hand with the opposite side of the coin - the love given to white children by black maids. This is a story you can't help but feel 'needed' to be told - and a rare balancing act that got it right on so many fronts. In fact I was left with two stark impressions as the end credits rolled (a) this movie is a real gem in a sea of sequels and mediocrity and (b) how did the likeable but essentially gimmicky fluff that is "The Artist" ever take the Best Picture Oscar over this?

Adapted from Kathryn Stockett's first book of the same name (itself the subject of a nasty court case over character likeness - the lawsuit was eventually thrown out) and Directed by Tate Taylor in 2011 - "The Help" has a virtual flood of truly blistering performances from black and white actresses at the top of their game - women given meaty material they want to do justice to. It's resulted in global box office success and a whopping 53 nominations - followed by as many wins (BAFTA and OSCAR included).

While Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Aunjanue Ellis have rightly been praised for their layered portrayals - I was blown away by the most difficult role of all - that of the odious Hilly Holbrook played by Bryce Dallas Howard. All nail-manicured, freckled-faced and shocked at any suggestion of impropriety - Howard is awesome as a truly hateful white woman with meanness literally hardwired into her DNA. Hilly Holbrook lords it over her cackling local ladies with the fist of a dictator - she sits in her car and spitefully takes pleasure as she watches a black maid who crossed her be arrested by white cops - in the bathroom she marks the individual toilet sheets with a pen to see if her black maid crosses that sanitation line. You literally despise this vacuous witch with every molecule of your being and would gladly whack her across her perfectly combed-back hairdo with a large still-hot skillet. Jessica Chastain too as the blonde and ample social outcast Celia Foote who is perceived as a husband robber but is just lost - another belter of a performance. Lesley Jordan as the less-than-subtle newspaper editor, Sissy Spacek as the mentally ailing mum, Mary Steenburgen as a New York book editor - so many class acts.

The story goes like this - a headstrong 22-year Southern gal called Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan decides to step up from her bottom-of-the-ladder job on a local newspaper as a columnist on 'cleaning tips' and become a real writer (anything to avoid her mother's constant scheming towards marriage). Her subject matter is going to be the black maids who raised the white children of Alabama and their side of the story. The author will be 'Anonymous' and the book will be entitled "The Help". But of course because of fear and intimidation it doesn't prove easy to document and the journey tests Skeeter's loyalties and personal courage to the maximum too (spot-on casting in the lovely and hugely talented Emma Stone). It proves even more traumatic to her 'one-of-the-gals' mother Charlotte (a stupendous turn from Allison Janney) who makes a staggeringly crass mistake on the back of white peer pressure.

But to get started - Skeeter needs a cohort. So when a middle-aged maid she knows gets fired - Skeeter gets her first interviewee. Giving a deeply touching and humane performance, Viola Davis plays Aibileen Clark. Aibileen is 53, works 8 am to 4pm six days a week as a cook, cleaner, maid and full-time nanny (she's mothered 17 children in her life) - and all for peanuts money. And like her mother and grandmother before here - she is virtually a house slave to whatever white family will employ her. This time it's Raleigh and Elizabeth Leefolt and their 3-year daughter Mae Mobley. Aibileen has also lost her grown-up son Treelore to haphazard white working practices and now her job over a trumped-up 'theft of silver' charge. Aibileen may be reluctant at first - but when she sees the sincerity of Skeeter - and feels the need to tell the truth - the stories and details of home-by-home racism come pouring out. But Aibileen loves children - and even when useless mom Elizabeth callously fires her - Aibileen grabs the vulnerable and hurting child Mae Mobley - and in tears - reiterates her mantra of life positivity to her (its dialogue titles this review).

Aibileen's best friend is Minny Jackson - an ace cook and rotund force of nature (despite her husband's occasional beatings). After a hilarious incident involving pie and a non-nutritional substance contained within it (a really great joke that is milked for a good twenty minutes) - she too becomes involved (an unbelievably good Octavia Spencer).

Skeeter's nanny is the elderly and wise Constantine (beautifully played by veteran actress Cicely Tyson) - a source of love, encouragement and constancy in Skeeter's life. Skeeter has so many warm memories of her. Constantine pleating her hair on the porch as a child, Constantine comforting her as young teenager on prom night when the local boys cruelly label her as 'ugly'. But Skeeter can't find out why Constantine suddenly left after 29 years of loyal service. What her mum is hiding is later played out to chilling effect. Allison Janney's character Charlotte is verbally browbeaten into firing Constantine by some cold-blooded Daughter Of The South for some menial infringement. And as Charlotte closes the screen-door on a woman who has given her family a lifetime of love - her trembling hurt is raw like an open wound. It's absolutely heartbreaking. It can't have been an easy scene for even the experienced Janney to do. Her character's later redemption of sorts is convincing and moving.

Getting back to the darker side - there are scenes that shock - make you feel deeply uncomfortable. Black people stream up the concrete steps at the side of the cinema marked `colored entrance' - rich beauty-parlour white mothers talk about diseases being passed from negroes to their white children through toilets in the presence of their maids (they actually try to pass a bill to build separate latrines in every home) and worst of all - the chilling reading out of the "Mississippi" Law Book which will have you wincing in your seat in disbelief. There's the word 'nigra' used as a weapon - the hypocrisy of raising 'benefit' money for children in Africa - the husband who quickly bails from the dinner table as his black maid asks for a loan to put both of her sons through college…

Filmed on location in Greenwood, Mississippi - the homes and interiors are all real - and Stephen Goldblatt's incredible cinematography of the local scenery gives all of its 146 minutes a deeply rich hue. Better still - it's defaulted to 1.85:1 aspect ratio - so the picture fills your entire screen (no bars top or bottom). It means that the BLU RAY image is full-on beautiful all of the time. Add to this a gorgeous and emotive score by THOMAS NEWMAN ("The Shawshank Redemption", "Green Mile", "The Road To Perdition" etc) and the whole thing feels special the moment it opens. The only downer for me came at the film's end in the form of the ubiquitous saccharine ballad - the cheesy and formulaic 'Living Proof' by Mary J. Blige. It would have been far better to simply play out to Newman's affecting music - and classier too.

EXTRAS: even though it's only 24 minutes long - the 'Making Of' is genuinely informative and even moving in places. The Author Kathryn Stockett and Director Tate Taylor are from Jackson, Mississippi and have known each other since childhood. More importantly they both came from broken homes and had black maids whom they loved and admired. It was a story they felt had to be told. Combining this with the magic touch of Steven Spielberg (one of the Executive Producers) - and you begin to understand why and how the lovely tone of the film was achieved and maintained - the right people were let do the job and not some Hollywood name. At just under 12 minutes duration - the 'In Their Own Words...' extra where Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer talk to real 'Maids of Mississippi' is too short - but what there is of it - is wonderfully insightful and uplifting.

To sum up - touching, funny, horrifying and ultimately moving - "The Help" blew my family and myself away.

Well done to Kathryn Stockett, Tate Taylor, DreamWorks and all the good souls who fought to see it made.

BLU RAY Specifications:
PICTURE: 1080p High Def, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French, Spanish and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Spanish, Russian, and Ukrainian
EXTRAS:
1. The Making Of The Help: From Friendship To Film (24 minutes)
2. In Their Own Words: A Tribute To The Maids Of Mississippi (12 minutes)
3. Deleted Scenes With Introductions by Director Tate Taylor (3 scenes)
4. "The Living Proof" Video (by Mary J. Blige)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

"Nightlife: Deluxe Edition" by THIN LIZZY (2012 Universal/Mercury 2CD DE Reissue - Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






"...Time Has A Way Of Healing..."

With a lacklustre sounding CD of this album in the marketplace since 1989 - Lizzy fans will know that only 4 tracks from this criminally-overlooked and long-forgotten 1974 LP have been remastered properly - they're on the 2001 4CD Box Set "Vagabonds, Kings, Warriors, Angels".

Well all that changes with this 2012 'Deluxe Edition' of "Nightlife" - the first time the entire album has been sonically upgraded and now including relevant bonus material on Disc 2. It's also being released on the same day as a DE version of its 1975 follow-up "Fighting" (see separate review). Here are the finite details...

UK released Monday 12 March 2012 (1 May 2012 in the USA) – "Nightlife: Deluxe Edition" by THIN LIZZY on Mercury 2792226 (Barcode 602527922263) is a 2CD Reissue/Remaster that plays as follows:

Disc 1 - The Album (37:40 minutes):
1. She Knows
2. Night Life
3. It’s Only Money
4. Still In Love With You
5. Frankie Carroll
6. Showdown [Side 2]
7. Banshee
8. Philomena
9. Sha-La-La
10. Dear Heart
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Nightlife" released 8 November 1974 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 116 and on Vertigo VEL-2002 in the USA (later on Mercury SRM-1-1107).

Disc 2 - Bonus Tracks (46:21 minutes):
1. She Knows
2. Sha-La-La
3. It's Only Money
4. Philomena
5. Dear Heart
6. Banshee  - Tracks 1 to 6 live 'BBC Sessions' - 1 to 4 were recorded 3 October 1974 with 5 and 6 done on 23 October 1974
7. Showdown (Demo with Gary Moore)
8. Still In Love With You (Demo with Gary Moore)
9. It's Only Money (Demo with Gary Moore)
10. Showdown (Alternate Take)
11. Still In Love With You (Rough Vocal Mix) - features Frankie Miller

As with "Fighting" - there's no wrap-around plastic on these new Deluxe Editions (miss them actually) and it's nicely laid out. The 12-page booklet has liner notes by MALCOME DOME which features interviews with guitarist Brian Robertson and drummer and founder member Brian Downey. The collage photos that pepper the text are a mixture of trade adverts, concert posters, a New Spotlight Magazine cover and rough drafts of Jim Fitzpatrick's iconic album artwork. At two pages shorter than the "Fighting" booklet - it's hardly pushing the boat out in terms of content - but the real fireworks come in the 2011 remaster by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM - which is absolutely superb.

The opening track "She Knows" is not one of the four remasters available previously - so fans will immediately be blown away by its clarity here. It's also a very accomplished recording - the fastidious RON NEVISON and his original production values coming to the fore now. It continues with the slinky barroom shuffle of "Night Life" (the words are separated for the song title) where the string arrangements by JIMMY HORROWITZ are particularly lovely and just the right distance into the back of the mix. Great stuff. We then get the album's first out-and-out rocker - the brilliant "It's Only Money" - a typical Lynott winner that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go.

But what follows is the record's big hitter - the aching blues of "Still In Love With You". Featuring guest duet vocals with FRANKIE MILLER and Lead Guitar by GARY MOORE - it would of course be completely trounced by the Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham live version on 1978's legendary double-album "Live And Dangerous". Still - it's nice to hear this more subdued studio original get decent sound at last (lyrics above). Side 1 ends with the family morality tale of "Frankie Carroll" which features keyboards by JEAN RUSSELL and sounds like a throwback to a "Vagabonds Of The Western World" story-song. And again the string arrangements on it are beautifully done.

"Showdown" is great Side 2 opener and I love the huge melodies and production on the instrumental "Banshee" that follows it - both sound fantastic. Next up is the only UK 7" single issued off the album - "Philomena" b/w "Sha-La-La". A song about his Lynott's mum - "Philomena" was released October 1974 on Vertigo 6059 111 - and like the album - it didn't chart. It's not surprising that the band hated this record-company decision because it's not a great leadoff track. The lone US 45 was an altogether better double-sided choice - "Showdown" b/w "Night Life" - released January 1975 on Vertigo VE-202. In Europe there was also "It's Only Money" on the back of the laid back "Night Life" as a single (a picture sleeve of it is featured in the booklet)). The album ends with the manic pace of "Sha-La-La" - followed by the mellow guitar and string vibes of the lovely "Dear Heart".

The bonus tracks on Disc 2 are a mixed bag of the polished and the Billy Goat gruff. First up - missing in action is the USA 7" edited version of "Showdown" at 3:29 minutes that turned up on Promo Copies of Vertigo VE-DJ-7 (a variant of VE-202). The B-side carried the full album version at 4:33 minutes. It's sloppy not to have included it on here. The 6 live 'BBC Session' tracks are much better that I'd expected - especially the rocking first three that show just how tight the band were. In complete contrast to the 3 Oct date - the 23 Oct session that produced "Dear Heart" and the stretched-out-more instrumental "Banshee" hears the boys in a supremely mellow and melodious mood.

The three Gary Moore demos are really hissy - but exciting to hear precisely because they're so raw. "Showdown" features great slide guitar flourishes that aren't on the more polished finished song - and a prize for fans is Gary on duet-vocals with Phil Lynott instead of Frankie Miller on "Still In Love With You". Even on this early take of six and a half minutes - the fabulous blues guitar playing he fills the song with is just so good - and far meatier in some ways than the rather wimpy final.  The 'Alternate Take' of "Showdown" shows both guitarists trying to find flicks and fills - and mostly succeeding. The last bonus track has Frankie Miller (uncredited on the packaging) cursing at the opening and joining Phil on lead vocals. It's kind of ruined by both boys talking about getting 'beer and wine' into the studio as the guitar solos in the background! To sum up Disc 2 - even though there aren't juicy album outtakes (as there is on the DE of  "Fighting") - it's an impressive set of bonuses nonetheless...

Niggles - the booklet is good - but similar to "Fighting" there is this unnerving lack of acknowledgement of the main man - PHIL LYNOTT. Both Downey and Robertson's quotes are selective to say the least. It's all "we" and "our" - without ever noting that Lynott wrote eight outright and co-wrote the other two, sang them, fronted the band, provided the hits etc etc. It's like the remaining members are slyly trying to rewrite the band's history in their favour. And the total lack of liner notes for the 11 tracks on Disc 2 is just lazy. There's also no interview with Jim Fitzpatrick - an integral part of the band's Seventies image. But overall - it's a good release - and one fans have been waiting for - for decades.

To sum up - the remaster is a belter, some of the extras are absolute must owns and the packaging is what you'd expect. Admittedly with its slightly languid and funky feel - "Nightlife" may not be everyone idea of twin-guitar nirvana - but there's still so much on here to admire - and I've especially loved rehearing the record in this really great sound. From here it was onwards and upwards to 1975's "Fighting" and the breakthrough "Jailbreak" in 1976. What a band...

Two of my friends are buried in the same cemetery as Phil in Dublin - and I visit all 3 whenever I go back. God bless them wherever they may be. And all are sorely missed...

PS: see also remaster reviews for "Thin Lizzy", "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage", "Bad Reputation" and 2CD Deluxe Editions of "Vagabonds Of The Western World", "Fighting", "Jailbreak", "Johnny The Fox" and "Live And Dangerous".

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"All Quite On The Western Front". A Review Of The 1930 Film – Now Fully Restored And Reissued On Blu Ray In 2012 for Universal’s 100th Anniversary.

"...Neither An Account…Nor A Confession…"

In April 2012 Universal Studios is 100 years old - and to celebrate that movie-making centenary - they've had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. But it doesn't stop there. As many as 80 other titles will be given re-launches across the year as well each featuring distinctive "100th Anniversary" gatefold card-wrap packaging and in some cases a host of new features. Most (not all) of these re-issues will be two-disc sets containing the Blu Ray, the DVD and also means to obtain a Digital Copy via download.

1930's "All Quiet On The Western Front" is one of the thirteen singled out for full restoration (see list below) - and age hasn’t diminished its anti-war punch one jot. If anything this incredible new restoration finally gives this black and white masterpiece the care and attention it so thoroughly deserves.

US released 14 February 2012 (13 February in the UK) - it comes in a gorgeous limited edition 'book pack' (Barcode 5050582882773). The outer hardback holder has a card-pouch wrapped around it at the base and a 40-page booklet contained within. The book has a two-page preamble by American film historian and chronicler Howard Maltin followed by biog pages on Lewis Milestone the Director – whose other credits include "The Front Page" 1931, "Of Mice And Men" 1939, "Ocean's Eleven" 1960 and "Mutiny On The Bounty" 1962. Each of the principal actors is featured accompanied by a classy black and white photo. Unknown at the time - Lew Ayers played the disillusioned German soldier Paul Baumer - a burly and gruff Lewis Wolheim played Sergeant Katczinsky who fathers it over the rookie platoon - and wizened-up Arnold Lucy played the rabid almost Nazi-like teacher Kantorek - who whips the young idealists of his 'beloved class' into patriotic 'Fatherland' frenzy with a mixture of bullied-guilt and sly wording. There are some 'Not In Picture' stills from deleted scenes, pages of press clippings and telegrams… It's a visual feast and Universal are to be praised for it. But the real fireworks comes in the glorious new print...

Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements - Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration - and the results are BEAUTIFUL. First up is the picture quality – when you see what it did look like before (covered in lines and scratches) – the new print is little short of miraculous. Lines, tears, blocking, flickering and rips in the negative – have all been repaired. Women buying flowers to throw at the troops marching through city streets at the beginning – the recruits exiting a train at the front when the town gets shelled - Katczinsky stealing a pig carcass at night in the rain – it all looks amazing. It isn’t perfect by any means – there are occasional scuffs and grain – but mostly the depictions of war are so authentic and the print so clean - that it feels like you’re eavesdropping on actual historical footage. And the sound is expertly woven in too – hiss gone, crackle - the voices now expressive and clear. Then you also notice the complete lack of music - which adds an almost eerie and maniacal feel to many of the scenes – especially in the trenches and bunkers where the soldiers are slowly losing it after days of shelling and starvation. An exemplary job done.

Unfortunately - after the copious amount of quality extras on “To Kill A Mockingbird” (which sent that release into the stratosphere – see separate review) the extras here are frankly a major let down. The 'Introduction' by Robert Osborne turns out to be barely two and half minutes long - but it's followed by The Library of Congress 'Silent Version' of the film (with word cards replacing the dialogue) which does at least show you how bad the original print was.
The two 'Universal' features are very interesting (and indeed informative) – but as generic titles to the series, they'll be on all releases and don’t advance this one. What was needed here was a dedicated 'Making Of' – and it's a very real let down not having it…

The movie itself has entered into folklore – based on the 1929 novel "Im Westen Nichts Neues" by Erich Remarque – he was a German World War One veteran who joined the Rhineland front in 1914 (his book's prologue printed on screen at the beginning of the movie titles this review). The adapted screenplay involved as many as 8 experienced writers including Maxwell Anderson and George Abbott. The huge production utilized the fearless skill of Arthur Edeson as principal cameraman and cost 1.5 million dollars to make – a staggering amount of money for the time.

Some scenes are seared into the memory – the transformation from youthful exuberance to terror as the new arrivals dig trenches and cut their hands on barbed wire to the muzzle flashes of artillery in the distance - the machine guns panning left to right as they mow down soldier after soldier in No Man’s Land on yet another pointless assault – Baumer trapped in a bomb crater haunted by the look of the young boy he’s just killed.

Being so old though, it’s not without problems. With talkies only beginning – it has to be said that some of the acting is seriously hammy – a throw back to silent films where over exaggeration was the way to get noticed. But it doesn’t stop the set pieces from being unnerving. We get the training 'before' they went to war where the men are brutalized ("Full Metal Jacket" really fleshed this out). On the other side of the coin we get the brief moments of elation and humanity - an officer lets the famished men have two rations of food instead of one despite a cook’s clumsy protests – laughing, flirting and swimming with the local farm girls in the moonlight.

To get authenticity they even brought in a German drill Sergeant who put 50 extras through their paces – callisthenics, marching, drill, discharging and maintaining arms – just as it would have been in the Hell Hole of the trenches. It was money well spent – "All Quiet On The Western Front" wowed audiences and critics alike and won Universal their 1st Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930. Director Lewis Milestone also received the Academy Award and there were nominations in two other categories – Cinematography and Writing. Its anti-war message has been a subject of scholarly debate ever since.

"All Quiet On The Western Front" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" are amongst the first vanguard of these 'restored' releases – and they’re superbly done. It's heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of its movie legacy - and be proud about doing so too. I for one will collect the whole series - and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.

To sum up - despite the lack of a documentary on the making of the film – this is an absolutely first-class release because the money's been spent on what matters – bettering and preserving the print for posterity. It won't be everyone's idea of a nice afternoon in – but that was of course the point – and "All Quiet On The Western Front" has proved its point very well for over 80-years. Impressive to say the least…

BLU RAY Specifications:
EXTRAS:
1. "Introduction By Film Historian Robert Osborne"
2. "All Quiet On The Western Front (Silent Version)"
3. "Theatrical Trailer"
(Blu RAY Exclusives)
3. "100 Years Of Universal Academy Award Winners"
4. "100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics" - An in-depth look at the intricate process of preserving the studio's film legacy by those involved
5. Pocket Blu - download content to your Smartphone and Tablet

VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Full Frame 1.33:1
(Print Digitally Remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements)
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese DTS Mono 2.0
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Traditional Mandarin

PS: The 13 'restored' Blu Ray titles in Universal's 100th Anniversary series are:

1. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930). Released 13 Feb 2012 in the UK. Restored, Remastered and a beautiful 40-page book pack...
2. The Birds (1963). Release date to be advised. Restoration, remastering and packaging probably as per 1...
3. Abbott And Costello's Buck Privates (1941). The Blu Ray is USA released 17 April 2012 (see Amazon.com for artwork) - a 2-disc "Collector's Edition" with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. It's fully restored, digitally remastered and in a book pack.
4. Dracula (1931). Release date to be advised. Restoration, remastering and packaging probably as per 1. Will include both English and Spanish versions.
5. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982). Release date to be advised.
6. Frankenstein (1931). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as per 1 above, packaging probably the same...
7. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935). Sequel that's better than the 1931 original - release date yet to be advised and will probably be in the same packaging as "Western Front" and "Mockingbird"...
8. Jaws (1975). And about time too - Spielberg's masterful 1975 shark-movie finally gets to Blu Ray. Release date to be advised (probably June 2012) and as above....
9. Out Of Africa (1985). Many will be pleased to see this picturesque romance finally get the Blu Ray makeover. 6 March 2012 release in the States.
10. Pillow Talk (1959). 7 May 2012 UK release - two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. In a beautiful book pack.
11. Schindler's List (1993). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as above, packaging probably the same...
12. The Sting (1973). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as above, packaging probably the same.
13. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) 10 January 2012 - reviewed above.

PPS: For a list of the 60 or so titles in the "100th Anniversary" series see the 'comment' section attached to this review

Sunday, 18 March 2012

"Fighting: Deluxe Edition by THIN LIZZY (2012 Universal/Mercury 2CD Set Of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…Wild One…You've Been Away Too Long…"

Thin Lizzy fans have had something of a rollercoaster ride with the huge slew of DELUXE EDITIONS thrown at them in the last few years - some stunning - some maddeningly off the mark (remasters that aren't etc). But as a huge fan of these twin-guitar beginnings "Nightlife" (1974) and "Fighting" (1975) - I'm thrilled to say that these 2CD sets may indeed be the best in the series so far. Here are the details...

UK released Monday 12 March 2012 on Mercury 2792227 - the DELUXE EDITION of "Fighting" breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (38:08 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Fighting" released 12 September 1975 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 121 and on Mercury SRM-1 1108 in the USA
[Note: the UK 'alley with weapons' artwork is used for this release and not the different US and European artwork - the 'standing outside a derelict house' cover used on US and Euro covers is featured as the lead page of the booklet]

Disc 2 - Bonus Tracks (61:40 minutes):
Track 1 is "Half Caste" - the non-album B-side to "Rosalie" - issued June 1975 in the UK as a 7" single on Vertigo 6059 124
Track 2 is "Rosalie (US Album Mix)"
Tracks 3 to 5 are "Rosalie", "Suicide" and "Ballad Of A Hard Man" - three live 'BBC Sessions' recorded 29 May 1975
Track 6 is "Ballad Of A Hard Man (False Start and No Vocal)" - an alternate version
Track 7 is "Try A Little Harder (Alternate Vocal)" - an instrumental album outtake written by Phil Lynott
Track 8 is "Fighting My Way Back (Rough Mix With Alternate Vocals)" - an alternate version
Track 9 is "Song For Jesse (No Vocal)" - an instrumental album outtake written by Phil Lynott
Track 10 is "Leaving Town (Acoustic, Bass & Drums - No Vocal)" - an instrumental album outtake written by Phil Lynott
Track 11 is "Blues Boy" - an album outtake written by Brian Robertson
Track 12 is "Leaving Town (Extended Take)" - longer version of Track 10
Track 13 is "Spirit Slips Away (Extended Version - Take Four)" - an alternate version
Track 14 is "Wild One (No Vocal)" - an alternate version
Track 15 is "Bryan's Funky Fazer (Silver Dollar)" - an alternate version written by Brian Robertson

There's no wrap-around plastic on these new Deluxe Editions (miss them actually), but it is nicely done. The 16-page booklet has liner notes by MALCOME DOME which features interviews with guitarist Brian Robertson and drummer and founder member Brian Downey. The collage photos that pepper the text are a mixture of ticket stubs, concert posters, 7" single picture sleeves for the two releases off the album - "Rosalie" and "Wild One" - and well as a 'bloodied noses' photo of the band as rejected artwork. But the real fireworks come in the 2011 remaster by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM - which is absolutely superb.

The power of the album opener "Rosalie" as it exits your speakers is tremendous. One of only a handful of covers Lizzy ever did - it was originally on Bob Seger's 1973 album for Capitol Records called "Back in '72" (he even issued it as a 7" single in the UK and USA). Lizzy had been touring the States with Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Seger on the same bill - only to witness how the song came alive in a live environment. They took his slower studio cut and speeded it up - and to many people - it practically 'is' a Lizzy song now. I'm sure Bob approves - because to this day - "Rosalie" (with its anti-racist non-album B-side "Half Caste") is one 'the' great 45s of the Seventies (it also features Roger Chapman of Family on guest vocals - just before the solo comes in).

The power of "For Those Who Love To Live" is fabulous too as is the wonderfully melodic "Wild One" (lyrics above). In fact as you listen again to the album - its amazing how accomplished Lynott's writing had become (he penned/co-wrote 7 of the 10 songs) and how the band's new twin-guitar sound had 'gelled'. 1976's "Jailbreak" and its breakthrough was just a year away - but they found their true path on "Fighting" and with their cracking new material were already an awesome thing 'live'. I particularly love the slinky feel of Robertson's excellent "Silver Dollar" which just sounds huge all of a sudden (it features the second guest on the album - Ian McLagan of The Faces on keyboards). "King's Vengeance" has such muscle now too - and the rocking brilliance of "Suicide", "King's Vengeance" and the powerhouse album finisher "Ballad Of A Hard Man" have never sounded so good.

As you can imagine the bonus tracks on Disc 2 are a mixture of the ordinary and the brill. I find the 3 BBC Sessions strangely lacklustre considering the material - but the rough in-the-studio alternate versions of "Ballad Of A Hard Man" and "Fighting My Way Back" are raw and powerful - they show a band that was so brilliantly tight - even in rehearsals. One of the real gems here is once again by Lynott - the lovely "Try A Little Harder" is in the same vein as the sleeker part of "Spirit Slips Away" and has a great guitar solo in it. "Song For Jesse" sounds suspiciously like an instrumental that was recently done - there's no recording date and no indication as to who does the superb piano work on it. "Leaving Town" is the real deal and is featured here twice. First is an Acoustic, Bass and Drum version - second is an extended version of that. But as pretty as it is in places - without vocals and emotion it's merely a curiosity (what a shame he never finished it). The brill and sneaky rock-blues of "Blues Boy" is different though - a truly great Brian Robertson penned outtake with Lynott giving it some mean vocals and the guitar work from both of the boys just fantastic. Lizzy fans will love this. It's a genuine highlight...

Niggles - the booklet is good - but there is this unnerving lack of acknowledgement of the main man - PHIL LYNOTT. Both Downey and Robertson's quotes are selective to say the least. It's all "we" and "our" - without ever noting that Lynott wrote the bulk of the tracks for God's sake, sang them, fronted the band, provided the hits etc etc. It's like the remaining members are slyly trying to rewrite the band's history in their favour. And the total lack of liner notes for the 15 tracks on Disc 2 is just lazy - or again - trying to hide something. But overall - it's a good release - and one fans have been waiting for - for decades.

To sum up - the remaster is a belter, some of the extras are absolute must owns and the packaging is what you'd expect. It's truly terrible front cover notwithstanding - "Fighting" is a properly great Thin Lizzy album - and this DE version finally does it justice.

Two of my friends are buried in the same cemetery as Phil in Dublin - and I visit all 3 whenever I go back. God bless them wherever they may be. And all are sorely missed...

PS: see also reviews for "Thin Lizzy", "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" and 2CD Deluxe Editions of "Vagabonds Of The Western World", "Jailbreak", "Johnny The Fox" and "Live And Dangerous".

Thursday, 8 March 2012

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" on BLU RAY. A Review Of The 2011 Film.




"…Show Me Your Big Move..."

It appears that Ryan Gosling is going to take over the world - or at least your living room - because the guy is 'everywhere'. And like Bradley Cooper about six months ago - everyone wants Ryan. And I mean everyone. And on the strength of "Drive" and this - it's easy to see why. Women are drooling over him - and guys want to be his drinking buddy.

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling play Cal Weaver and Jacob Palmer - two polar-opposites in the cool stakes. Cal has only ever had one woman and wife - the beautiful but slightly wayward Emily (Julianne Moore). Jacob has had more women in an hour that politicians have had billable brunches. His prey is sophisticated but loose business types that frequent the bar Jacob hangs out in - women with the corporate finesse of a piranha that hasn't eaten in a week. When Cal stumbles into an ill-advised divorce because of one mistake on the part of Emily - he enters Jacob's world - and with advice that appeals to a man's ego - enters into way too many easy lays. His journey back to his true love makes up the rest of the movie...

Clearly relishing the witty and smartly written script - the two wildly different male leads spar off each other very convincingly. Julianne Moore is her usual classy self as always (such a great actress). There's even a tremendously clever and funny pairing of young love in the 13-year old Robbie (Cal's son) who is besotted with his 17-year old babysitter Jessica (great work by both Jonah Bobo and Analeigh Tipton). On the bumbling adult front - Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei bump up the cringe and laugh count too.

But for me it's the fabulous Emma Stone who brings the whole macho proceedings to life - and like her breakthrough performance in "Easy A" - she injects some badly needed reality into the picture. Her character's bubbly nature is infectious and her palatable vulnerability fills her love scenes with Gosling with a sense of danger and thrill. Stone's Hannah wants her heart fulfilled - not used - not shattered by some smarmy barfly out to chalk up another notch on the headboard of his waterbed. Stone's Hannah is nervous, giddy, talkative, loving, trusting - she gives Hannah a 'this-is-how-a-real-woman-is' set of reactions - and the movie is so much the better for it - warm even.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" is not pretending to be "War And Peace" - but it's a hugely enjoyable romp when those sort of things seem to be in short supply these days. Besides - it passed the ultimate litmus test - my missus and teenage daughter gobbled up every moment of it and could not be tempted away - even by morsels of Cadbury's Twirl...

Do my girls want to discover the true meaning of love? Find out the joys of marital bliss? Bath in the wisdom of enlightened relationships? Do they bo**ox! They want to lick strawberry Haagen Daz off the Gozzer's rippling abs and YouTube the experience afterwards to make all their friends jealous. It's enough to make me go back to the gym (well now - let's not be too hasty my dears...).

In fact - now that I think of it - forget the review. Can somebody please slip some soluble ugly tablets into Ryan Gosling's Spritzer...and do all of us mere mortals a favour...

PS: my 18-year old daughter watched "The Notebook" for the 40th time immediately after it...

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

“Welcome to The Rileys” on DVD. A Review Of The 2011 Film.


"…He's So Old School…"

Kristen Stewart will of course get the lion's share of publicity on this one as a prostitute that's one step away from oblivion (she actually deserves the hype that surrounds her) - but for me it's the combo of James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo who are astonishing.

Directed by Jake Scott and Executive Produced by his famous relations Tony and Ridley of Scott Free Productions - 2010's "Welcome To The Rileys" is a small independent movie with a big heart and even bigger performances.

Doug Riley is on autopilot - playing out his joyless poker games on Thursday night with the boys - sleeping with Vivienne the waitress in the local diner - not sleeping with Lois his wife of 30 years. But there's a reason for his wife's frigidity and her desperately lonely pill taking - not to mention Doug's quiet sobbing in the garage with a cigarette in the dark. Both Doug and Lois lost their 15-year old daughter Emily in an avoidable car accident in 2001 - and with unspoken hurt and unallocated blame - have been escalating damaged goods ever since. But when Vivien his diner-lover of 4 years dies (a subtle performance by Eisa Davis) and Doug goes on a business holiday to New Orleans - he gets more than he bargained for when he goes upstairs with a 17-year old pole dancer and hooker. And this is where the real story begins...

The acting in "Welcome To The Rileys" is top class and goes a long to forgiving the largely terrible picture quality (a lot of night shots with little or no clarity). First up is a magnificent turn by Gandolfini. In what could have been such a pervy role, he lends his big-bruiser Doug a good-man's gravitas that is wholly believable. Melissa Leo gets the toughest role - and she eats it up with a performance that keeps you glued. And then there's the talented and beautiful Kristen - her jumpy malnourished creation is all spotty skin, blurred eye shadow and bruised limbs. Mallory has been dumped on all of her life - and her street-fighting cornered-rat mistrust of everything takes some breaking through. But Doug is determined - and so is his wife - who comes after Doug and has to make some major life-adjustments herself. All three have been rightly applauded for their work in this...

Ok - "Welcome To The Rileys" is perhaps a little implausible at times - but the writing and the storytelling will slowburn their way into your heart. And it has an ending that isn't pat - despite the huge pressure there must have been on Jake Scott to deliver just that - happy families all the way...

A bit of an overlooked gem frankly. I liked this film a lot.

Put it high on your rental list.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

“How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? By SINEAD O’CONNOR. A Review Of The 2012 Album On One Little Indian Records.

"...Gonna Reach My Hand Out..."

There aren’t many singers who can open a song with "I wanted to change the world, but I could not even change my underwear…" and then a few minutes later – stop your giggling in its tracks by moving you to tears. But then Sinead O’Connor has always been impossibly special – and at times – a complete space cadet.

Newly signed to One Little Indian Records – 2012's "How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?" is a hugely accomplished record – and more importantly – it's a moving one.

The opening number is catchy enough - a clever ditty on marriage called "4th And Vine" (and a potential single), but the haunting "Reason With Me" is different. It's beautiful and its message about knowing that you need to seek help is incredibly moving (lyrics from it title this review). "Old Lady" grows on you like mad – an upbeat winner - as does "Take Off Your Shoes" with its religion and reverence. "Back Where You Belong" is properly great – a gorgeous melodious vocal with a drum rhythm that feels like a march towards something spiritual. It's followed by the joyful single "The Wolf Is Getting Married" (recently aired with such confidence on The Graham Norton Show on UK TV to a rapturous audience response). The witty and angry "Queen Of Denmark" has her best ever lyrics (mentioned above) and is followed by a powerhouse of hurt and longing called "Very Far From Home" where she pines with a stunning emotiveness "I long for you…see you in my dreams…" The last two tracks "I Had A Baby" and "V.I.P." suffer a little from being too preachy, but are powerful stuff nonetheless.

To sum up – like John Martyn, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Kate Bush and so many other great songwriters with brains and heart and the courage to wear their world on their sleeve for all of us to see - there is 'always' magic in their latest offering - that track that simply floors you - touches your soul even...

Well folks - Sinead O'Connor is back with an album chock full of them - and I'll openly admit that many of them left me in tears of admiration. "How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?" is a bit of a blinder frankly.

Way to go you gorgeous woman.

Universal 100th Anniversary Collection Reissues Series - BLU RAY and DVD - A List For 2012...


Universal's 100th Anniversary BLU RAY and DVD Reissues For 2012...
An Ongoing List..(June 2012)

USA BLU RAY:
Abbott and Costello – see “Buck Privates”
Abbott and Costello – see “Meet Frankenstein”
  1. Airport (1970). 4 September 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  2. 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)
  3. American Graffiti. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set, Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  4. American Pie. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  5. Apollo 13. 30 April 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  6. Atonement. 4 September 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  7. Babe. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  8. A Beautiful Mind. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  9. The Big Lebowski. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  10. Billy Elliott. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  11. The Birds. Release date to be advised - restored and remastered and packaged as per "All Quiet On The Western Front"
  12. The Blues Brothers. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  13. The Bourne Identity. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  14. The Bourne Supremacy. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  15. The Bourne Ultimatum. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  16. The Breakfast Club. 10 Jan 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  17. The Bride Of Frankenstein. To be advised... (For DVD version see “Classic Monster Spotlight Collection” 3DVD Box Set)
  18. Bridesmaids. 4 September 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  19. Brokeback Mountain. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  20. (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. Eternal Sunshine Of The Mind. 4 September 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  10. The Fast And The Furious. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  11. Fast Times At Ridgemont High. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  12. Field Of Dreams. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  13. The 40-Year-Old Virgin. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  14. Frankenstein. To be advised... (For DVD version see “Classic Monster Spotlight Collection” 3DVD Box Set)
  15. Harvey. Release Date To be advised. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  16. Inglorious Basterds. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  17. Jaws. August 2012. 2-disc set – Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Card Wrap and Book pack… (two variants)
  18. King Kong (Peter Jackson version). To be advised. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  19. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. 4 Sep 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  20. Meet The Parents. 6 March 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray and DVD (No Digital Copy).
  21. Mamma Mia! The Movie. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  22. The Mummy. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  23. National Lampoon’s Animal House. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  24. The Nutty Professor. 6 March 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  25. Out Of Africa. 6 March 2012. USA Digitally remastered and fully restored. Book pack.
  26. Out Of Africa. 4 September 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy [Non Book Pack]
  27. Parenthood. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  28. Pillow Talk. 1 May 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. Book pack.
  29. Ray. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  30. Scarface. 4 September 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  31. Schindler’s List. To be advised…
  32. Seabiscuit. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray & DVD (No Digital Copy).
  33. Sixteen Candles. 5 June 2012. USA two-disc set – Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy
  34. Smokey And The Bandit. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
  35. Spartacus. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
  36. The Sting. 5 June 2012. Blu Ray & DVD 2-disc set. Fully restored and Book Pack like “To Kill A Mockingbird”...
  37. To Kill A Mockingbird. 31 Jan 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. See also UK release. (SEE REVIEW)
  38. United 93. 5 June 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
  39. Waterworld. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy - Theatrical and Extended cut (40 more minutes).




USA DVD:
Abbott and Costello – see “Meet Frankenstein”
  1. Action Adventure Spotlight Collection [The Bourne Identity, The Fast And The Furious, The Mummy]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  2. Airport (1970). 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  3. American Graffiti. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  4. American Pie. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  5. Apollo 13. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy
  6. Atonement. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  7. A Beautiful Mind – Russell Crowe and Ed Harris. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  8. 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.
  9. The Big Lebowski. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  10. Billy Elliott – Jamie Bell. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  11. The Birds. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  12. The Blues Brothers. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  13. The Bourne Identity. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  14. The Bourne Supremacy. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  15. The Bourne Ultimatum. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  16. The Breakfast Club. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  17. Bridesmaids. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  18. Brokeback Mountain. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  19. Car Wash – Richard Prior. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  20. Casino. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  21. Charade. 6 March 2012. USA 2-disc set. 1963 movie
  22. 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).
  23. Coal Miner’s Daughter. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  24. Comedy Greats Spotlight Collection [National Lampoon's Animal House, The Blues Brothers, The Jerk, Car Wash]. 6 March 2012. 4DVD Box Set.
  25. The Deer Hunter – Robert DeNiro. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  26. Despicable Me. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  27. Destry Rides Again – James Stewart and Mischa Auer. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  28. Do The Right Thing. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  29. Double Indemnity. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy. 
  30. Duck Soup. 6 March 2012. Marx Brothers. DVD & Digital copy.
  31. Earthquake. 1974 film with Charlton Heston. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  32. The Egg And I. 6 March 2012 DVD. Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert 1947 film.
  33. 8 Mile. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  34. 80’s Comedies Spotlight Collection [The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times At Ridgemont High]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  35. Eternal Sunshine Of The Mind. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  36. Fast Times At Ridgemont High – Sean Penn. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  37. The 40-Year Old Virgin. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  38. Frances The Talking Mule. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  39. Harvey. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  40. High Plains Drifter. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy. (See also Westerns Spotlight Box Set…)
  41. Hollywood Legends Spotlight Collection [Harvey, Spartacus, Touch Of Evil]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  42. Inglorious Basterds. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  43. 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.
  44. The Incredible Shrinking Man. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  45. Inspirational Favorites Spotlight Collection. [Apollo 13, Field Of Dreams, Seabiscuit]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  46. It Came From Outer Space. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  47. The Jerk – Steve Martin. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  48. Jesus Christ Superstar – Ted Neeley. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  49. Jurassic Park. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  50. Jurassic Park – The Lost World. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  51. Jurassic Park Part III. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  52. King Kong (Peter Jackson version). 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  53. The Last Temptation Of Christ. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  54. Mamma Mia! The Movie. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  55. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  56. Meet The Parents. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  57. Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life. 6 March 2012. DVD & Digital Copy
  58. The Mummy. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  59. Musicals Spotlight Collection [Mamma Mia! The Movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Flower Drum Song]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  60. My Man Godfrey. 6 March 2012 DVD. William Powell and Carole Lombard 1936 Black and White.
  61. National Lampoon’s Animal House. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  62. The Nutty Professor – Eddie Murphy remake. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  63. Out Of Africa. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  64. Parenthood – Steve Martin. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  65. Psycho. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  66. Ray – Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
  67. Scarface. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  68. Schindler's List. 10 January 2012. USA DVD and Digital Copy.
  69. Screen Couples Spotlight Collection [Charade, Double Indemnity, Pillow Talk, My Little Chicadee]. 4DVD Box Set.
  70. Seabiscuit – Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper. 10 January 2012. DVD.
  71. Sullivan's Travels – Joel McCrae. 6 March 2012. DVD.
  72. Three Smart Girls – Deanna Durbin. 6 March 2012. DVD
  73. Touch Of Evil – Orson Wells. 10 January 2012. DVD & Digital Copy
  74. Vertigo. 4 September 2012. DVD & Digital Copy.
  75. Westerns Spotlight Collection [High Plains Drifter, Destry Rides Again, Winchester ‘73]. 6 March 2012. 3DVD Box Set.
  76. Winchester ’73. 5 June 2012. DVD and Digital Copy. (See also Westerns Spotlight Box Set…)

Universal's 100th Anniversary Collector's Edition – UK RELEASES
UK BLU RAY Reissues For 2012 - An On-Going List…
Today’s Date: 12 June 2012.

  1. Apollo 13 - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  2. Back To The Future – Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  3. The Blues Brothers – Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012. SEE REVIEW.
  4. The Bourne Ultimatum - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  5. Despicable Me - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  6. Gladiator - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  7. Jurassic Park - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012. SEE REVIEW.
  8. King Kong (2005) - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  9. Mamma Mia! - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  10. The Mummy - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  11. Nanny McPhee – Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  12. Paul - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.
  13. Shaun Of The Dead - Augmented Reality Edition. UK-only issue. 23 April 2012.

ALL OF THE ABOVE – BUT THE FOLLOWING TWO ARE DVD-ONLY

  1. The Birds (1963, Hitchcock)
  2. Dracula (1931, English Language Version – NOT RESTORED)

UPDATED - 12 June 2012

Sunday, 4 March 2012

"To Kill A Mockingbird" on BLU RAY. A Review Of The 1962 Film – Now Fully Restored And Reissued On Blu Ray In 2012.





"…Fairness…Stubbornness…Courage…Love…"

In April 2012 Universal Studios is 100 years old – and to celebrate that movie centenary - they’ve had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. But it doesn’t stop there. As many as 80 other titles will be given re-launches across the year as well - each featuring distinctive "100th Anniversary" card-wrap packaging and in many cases a host of new features. Most (not all) of these re-issues will be two-disc sets containing the Blu Ray, the DVD and also means to obtain a Digital Copy via download.

1962's "To Kill A Mockingbird" is one of the thirteen singled out for full restoration (see list below) – and an absolute peach it is too.

Released 10 January 2012 - it comes in a gorgeous limited edition 'book pack' (Barcode 5050582881844). The outer hardback holder has a card-pouch wrapped around it at the base and a 45-page booklet contained within. The book has interviews with Veronique Peck (his wife of 40 plus years), Harper Lee (author of the 1960 novel), pictures of the Shooting Script, Original Storyboards, Original Posters and Lobby Cards (from around the world), Press Book Excerpts and even Correspondence surrounding the movie (telegrams of congratulations from Fred Astaire, Betty Bacall and Charlton Heston). It’s a visual feast with loads of photos peppering the wonderful memorabilia. Universal are to be praised for this because it absolutely looks the part. But the real fireworks comes in the other two elements at play here – the extensive extras - and the glorious new print…

Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements – Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration – and the Lowry results are BEAUTIFUL. Even from the opening logo and credits of a child drawing - there are no lines of scratches of any kind – and the black and white cinematography of 1930’s Alabama is fantastically clear. Stand-out clarity - the scene where the accused black man Tom Robertson is sweating in the courtroom as he relays his side of the story (a superlative Brock Peters – he read the Eulogy at Peck’s funeral in 2003 at Peck’s request), Atticus’s son Jem is in his dad’s car outside the family home of the black Robertson family as the hateful Bob Ewell looks on, the three children watching from the bushes as the mob try to take the jail with Atticus guarding the doorway, Atticus explaining what happened to Tom Robertson after the trial as the moonlight shines on his suit, the young girl Scout pointing out the simpleton Boo Radley behind the bedroom door (Robert Duvall’s stunning cinematic debut where he doesn’t utter a word but leaves an indelible mark) – it’s all suddenly gorgeous. And the sound is rounded and clean too. An exemplary job.

The extras are equally superb – the centrepiece of which is a near one and half-hour documentary called "A Conversation With…". It’s a feast for Peck fans – interviews with Barry Norman in 1974, Terry Wogan in 1979 and other notables throughout the years are peppered with home movies and footage of Peck giving a one-on-one show to a Virginia audience in 1999. It's a raconteur tour-de-force a la David Niven – an 83-year old Peck is generous, charming, witty, responsive – full of anecdotes about Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Harper Lee. We get stories about meeting his wife in Paris just before shooting for "Roman Holiday" began – there's footage of dinner in Paris with the President of France Jacques Chirac and his family in Paris – US President Bill Clinton giving Peck the National Medal Of Arts and dropping it! But most of all you 'get' why Gregory Peck was greeted with such staggering affection everywhere he went in the world – he exuded 'good guy' – that old style Hollywood class that didn’t have a mean bone in his body. It's joyful stuff to watch.

The movie itself has entered into folklore – released in 1962 and filmed in Black and White – it primarily centres on a black man accused of raping a white woman and the trial that follows. Such was the power of the story – and especially Peck’s central performance as the principled lawyer Atticus Finch (his only Oscar win) it literally inspired members of the public to take up the law as a profession and even impacted on America’s turbulent and changing racial landscape of the time.

The performances by the children as innocents are particularly superb too – but it’s Peck who dominates the whole thing with a gravitas and sincerity that few actors could match. His stand against bigotry is magnificent and filled with a quiet decency that has touched audiences for decades. As if sensing the importance of the part, Peck’s scrawl is all over the shooting script – to the point that it often obliterates the text - the four words he scribbled on the last page describing the character he plays title this review – and describe the great man himself.

To sum up - with the 1930 anti-war masterpiece "All Quiet On The Western Front" also being amongst the first vanguard of these 'restored' releases – it's heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of its movie legacy – and be proud about doing so too. I for one will collect the whole series - and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.

An absolutely first-class release – and then some.

BLU RAY Specifications:
EXTRAS:
1. "Fearful Symmetry" – A feature-length documentary on the making of "To Kill A Mockingbird" with cast and crew interviews and a visit to Harper Lee's home town
2. "A Conversation with Gregory Peck" – an intimate feature-length documentary on one of the most beloved actors in film history with interviews, film clips home movies and more
3. "Academy Awards Best Actor Acceptance Speech"
4. "American Film Institute Life Achievement Award" – Gregory Peck’s memorable remarks upon receiving the AFI Life Achievement Award.
5. "Excerpt From Tribute To Gregory Peck" – Cecilia Peck's heart-warming farewell to her father given at the Academy in celebration of his life
6. "Scout Remembers" – Actress Mary Badham shares her experiences working with Gregory Peck
7. "Theatrical Trailer" – Original Theatrical Trailer of the film
8. "Feature Commentary" – with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula
9. "100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics" – An in-depth look at the intricate process of preserving the studio's film legacy
10. Blu-Ray Exclusive – U-Control
11. Pocket Blu – download content to your Smartphone and Tablet

VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1
(Print Digitally Remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements)
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese DTS Mono 2.0
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Traditional Mandarin

PS: The 13 'restored' Blu Ray titles in Universal's 100th Anniversary series are:

1. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930). Released 13 Feb 2012 in the UK. Restored, Remastered and a beautiful 40-page book pack...
2. The Birds (1963). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as per “All Quiet…” and the packaging probably the same...
3. Abbott And Costello’s Buck Privates (1941). The Blu Ray is USA released 17 April 2012 (see Amazon.com for artwork) - a 2-disc "Collector's Edition" with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. It's fully restored, digitally remastered and in a book pack.
4. Dracula (1931). Release date to be advised. Packaging probably as per "All Quiet On The Western Front" - restored/remastered etc. Will include both English and Spanish versions.
5. E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982). Release date to be advised.
6. Frankenstein (1931). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as per 1 above, packaging probably the same...
7. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935). Sequel that's better than the 1931 original - release date yet to be advised and will probably be in the same packaging as "Western Front" and "Mockingbird"...
8. Jaws (1975). And about time too - Spielberg's masterful 1975 shark-movie finally gets to Blu Ray. Release date to be advised (probably June 2012) and as above....
9. Out Of Africa (1985). Many will be pleased to see this picturesque romance finally get the Blu Ray makeover. 6 March 2012 release in the States.
10. Pillow Talk (1959). 7 May 2012 UK release - two-disc set – Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. In a beautiful book pack.
11. Schindler’s List (1993). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as above, packaging probably the same...
12. The Sting (1973). Release date to be advised. Restoration and remastering as above, packaging probably the same..
13. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) 10 January 2012 - reviewed above.

THE FULL LIST
Universal's 100th Anniversary Collector's Edition BLU RAY and DVD Reissues For 2012...An Ongoing List

BLU RAY:
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...
2. American Graffiti. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set, Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
3. Apollo 13. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
4. Babe. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
5. A Beautiful Mind. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
6. Billy Elliott. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
7. The Birds. Release date to be advised - restored and remastered and packaged as per "All Quiet On The Western Front"
8. The Blues Brothers. 6 March 2012 USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
9. The Bourne Identity. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
10. The Bourne Supremacy. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
11. The Bourne Ultimatum. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
12. The Breakfast Club. 10 Jan 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. 1985 classic - but early word is that the print isn't any better than DVD?
13. The Bride Of Frankenstein. To be advised...
14. Brokeback Mountain. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
15. Abbott And Costello's Buck Privates. 17 April 2012. USA two-disc set. 1941 movie digitally remastered and fully restored. Book pack.
16. The Deer Hunter. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set with Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
17. Despicable Me. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
18. Do The Right Thing. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD & Digital Copy.
19. Dracula. 1931 Black & White. To be advised…
20. 8 Mile. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD & Digital.
21. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial. To be advised...
22. Fast Times At Ridgemont High. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
23. Field Of Dreams. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
24. The 40-Year-Old Virgin. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
25. Frankenstein. To be advised...
26. Harvey. Release Date To be advised. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
27. Inglorious Basterds. 4 March 2012 USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
28. Jaws. To be advised...
29. Meet The Parents. 6 March 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray and DVD (No Digital Copy).
30. Mamma Mia! The Movie. 10 January 2012. Two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
31. The Nutty Professor. 6 March 2012. Two-disc set Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
32. Out Of Africa. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Digitally remastered and fully restored. Book pack
33. Parenthood. 6 March 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
34. Pillow Talk. 1 May 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. Book pack.
35. Ray. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
36. Schindler’s List ???
37. Seabiscuit. 10 January 2012. USA two-disc set - Blu Ray & DVD (No Digital Copy).
38. The Sting. To be advised...
39. To Kill A Mockingbird. 31 Jan 2012. Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Fully Restored and Digitally Remastered. See also UK release.
40. 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. 3DVDs.
2. American Graffiti. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
3. Apollo 13. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy
4. A Beautiful Mind – Russell Crowe and Ed Harris. 6 March 2012. DVD.
5. Best Picture Winners Spotlight Collection [Out Of Africa, A Beautiful Mind, All Quiet On The Western Front, Going My Way]. 6 March 2012. 4DVDs.
6. Billy Elliott – Jamie Bell. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
7. The Blues Brothers. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
8. The Bourne Identity. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
9. The Bourne Supremacy. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
10. The Bourne Ultimatum. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
11. The Breakfast Club. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
12. Brokeback Mountain. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
13. Car Wash – Richard Prior. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
14. Charade. 6 March 2012. USA 2-disc set. 1963 movie
15. Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection [Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride Of Frankenstein and Creature From The Black lagoon]. 6 March 2012 4DVD box set - all restored prints.
16. Coal Miner’s Daughter. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
17. Comedy Greats Spotlight Collection [National Lampoon's Animal House, The Blues Brothers, The Jerk, Car Wash]. 6 March 2012. 4DVDs.
18. The Deer Hunter – Robert DeNiro. 6 March 2012. DVD.
19. Despicable Me. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
20. Destry Rides Again – James Stewart and Mischa Auer. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
21. Do The Right Thing. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
22. Duck Soup. 6 March 2012. Marx Brothers. DVD & Digital copy.
23. The Egg And I. 6 March 2012 DVD. Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert 1947 film.
24. 8 Mile. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
25. 80’s Comedies Spotlight Collection [The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times At Ridgemont High]. 6 March 2012. 3DVDs.
26. Fast Times At Ridgemont High – Sean Penn. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
27. The 40-Year Old Virgin. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
28. Frances The Talking Mule. 6 March 2012. DVD.
29. Harvey. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
30. Hollywood Legends Spotlight Collection [Harvey, Spartacus, Touch Of Evil]. 6 March 2012. 3DVDs.
31. Inglorious Basterds. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
32. 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.
33. The Jerk – Steve Martin. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
34. Jesus Christ Superstar – Ted Neeley. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
35. The Last Temptation Of Christ. 6 March 2012. DVD.
36. Mamma Mia! The Movie. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
37. Meet The Parents. 6 March 2012. DVD.
38. Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life. 6 March 2012. DVD & Digital Copy
39. Musicals Spotlight Collection [Mamma Mia! The Movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Flower Drum Song]. 6 March 2012. 3DVDs.
40. My Man Godfrey. 6 March 2012 DVD. William Powell and Carole Lombard 1936 Black and White.
41. The Nutty Professor – Eddie Murphy remake. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
42. Parenthood – Steve Martin. 6 March 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
43. Ray – Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington. 10 January 2012. DVD and Digital Copy.
44. Schindler's List. 10 January 2012. USA DVD and Digital Copy.
45. Screen Couples Spotlight Collection [Charade, Double Indemnity, Pillow Talk, My Little Chicadee]. 4DVDs Box Set.
46. Seabiscuit – Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper. 10 January 2012. DVD.
47. Sullivan's Travels – Joel McCrae. 6 March 2012.
48. Three Smart Girls – Deanna Durbin. 6 March 2012. DVD
49. Touch Of Evil – Orson Wells. 10 January 2012. DVD & Digital Copy
50. Westerns Spotlight Collection [High Plains Drifter, Destry Rides Again, Winchester ‘73]. 6 March 2012. 3DVDs.

SOME OF MY E-BOOKS FOR SALE on AMAZON (All Updated to 2018)

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters

OVERLOOKED ALBUMS 1955 to 1979 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS FOR 400 FORGOTTEN LPS...

BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, RHYTHM & BLUES and ROCK & ROLL on CD - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

GROOVIEST SOUNDS AROUND! 1960s MUSIC ON CD (All-Genres) - April 2019 Update

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 3 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970 - BEST CD REMASTERS

CLASSIC ROCK & POP 1970 to 1974 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1971 - BEST CD REMASTERS

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD Volume 1 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

CLASSIC PROG ROCK, PSYCH and Other Genres Thereabouts - Exceptional CD Remasters...

MY BROKEN HEART (75 Days In The NHS) - Poem of Poems

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order