Enormously popular family musicals from more than four decades ago and an enormously popular animated family movie last summer headline the new Blu-ray releases this week:
- 1.) “Toy Story 3” (Disney, $45.99) is a remarkable third chapter in the story of toys trying to find their place in the world when their owner grows too old for them. It’s remarkable because of the seemingly unending imaginative situations created by the filmmakers. As for the rest:
— The story gets very intense and a little dark as the lives of the toys are in jeopardy when they propel on a conveyor belt towards an incinerator.
— There is no 3D here which is fine since the 3D was so subtle in theaters that it was barely noticeable.
— Day & Night“: Perhaps the best thing about the movie and this Blu-ray, this innovative Pixar short concept features a couple of competing blob-ish cartoons whose bodies are windows into opposite worlds of landscapes and activities in the daytime and the same scenes after dark. A not particularly illuminating very short making-of featurette is included here.
— Interesting NASA informational film featuring Buzz Lightyear in a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s when studios were often connected with governmental publicity efforts.
— Opening scene detailed: Two featurettes provide insight into all the technical work that goes into each and every scene, including the details of objects off to the side of the frame for a brief couple seconds that are barely noticed by most.
— “Where’s Gordon?” offers a fun way to convey what would typically be shown in a traditional interview — in this case it’s some simple animation set to the voice of an animator describing how his secret crawl-space hideaway became a trendy hang-out for the highest-ranking execs at Pixar.
- 2.) “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (MGM/Fox, $34.99) is the 1968 classic family musical starring Dick Van Dyke and featuring a delightfully and surprisingly successful blend of the best of Disney-type songs from the Sherman Brothers and the best of James Bond-type gadgets from the 007 movie producers such as a car that flies and floats. Full review and video with Dick Van Dyke here.
— Restored picture for HiDef video looks fabulous.
— Fun interactive game.
— Collection of terrific bonus features from 2003 DVD, including Van Dyke interview.
— Van Dyke meeting media throng three weeks into production.
- 3.) The Sound of Music 45th Anniversary Edition (Fox, two-disc $34.99; gift set $89.99) manages to make the umpteenth version of this nearly three-hour classic movie musical worth yet another purchase. Here’s why:
— A new 8k scan (8,000 lines of resolution) and 4k Master of the gorgeous Austrian settings originally filmed in 70mm widescreen Todd AO look fantastic here in HiDef Blu-ray.
— Fun and easy-to-use interactive on-screen options during movie: picture-in-picture behind the scenes footage of shots on screen like helicopter filming as you watch spectacular opening scene atop a mountain; pop-up trivia noting facts like 1 billion people have seen it and only two movies have sold more tickets – “Gone with the Wind” and “Star Wars”; on-screen sing-along lyrics; and a fun quiz with info about the locations.
— Musical Stages: a nicely-designed menu of many fascinating vignettes from the current Von Trapp family to the film restoration process to a profile of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein whose last song before he died was “Edelwiess.”
— City of Song: another easy-to-use, fun menu of photos, videos and trivia with interesting info about various locations from the movie in Salzburg, Austria
— Vintage programs, including 16-minutes from a 1973 episode of “The Julie Andrews Hour” TV program in which she sang a duet and yodeled with the real Maria Von Trapp.
- 4.) “The Bridge on the River Kwai Collector’s Edition” (Sony, $34.95) is one of those classics that I never regarded as highly as others. But for those who do love the sweeping 2 1/2-hour David Lean antiwar epic from 1957, this two-disc set in a handsome book-binding package with a 32-page color booklet and set of postcard-size versions of original theater lobby cards will be a cherished keepsake for those and the following reasons:
— HiDef Blu-ray widescreen presentation is vivid re-creation of Lean’s ability to visually transport audiences to another world
— “Steve Allen Show”: new 6 1/2-min. black-and-white clip talking with star William Holden from movie location
— very fascinating pop-up trivia about the real “death railway” and bridge (60,0000 Asians and 13,000 Allied soldiers died during 10-month construction from 1942-43) and picture-in-picture making-of footage relating to scenes as they play during movie
— Director John Milius appreciation from previous DVD noting that bridge was never blown up and none of story is true, but it is nonetheless one of his favorite films.
— Laurent Bouzereau’s previous DVD making-of documentary noting that Lean turned down writer of Stanley Kubrick’s antiwar movie of the same year “Paths of Glory,” and the origin of the whistling tune being the famous “Colonel Bogey” British march that came to be associated with rude lyrics that could not be included but which Lean figured the English would instantly recall when they heard the tune whistled.
— Holden narrating 2-minute film of premiere
— Holden hosting USC filmmaking short
— 6-minute archive chronicle of the building of the bridge for the movie
- 5.) “The Pacific” (HBO, $99.98) is an impressive six-disc set in a shiny tin case of the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks companion miniseries to “Band of Brothers,” this time tracking the battle with Japan during World War II. Among the highlights of this set:
— Nifty in-program control allows viewer to find scene-related pop-up trivia, historical perspective, and picture-in-picture video interviews by simply pushing the arrow buttons right or left on the remote control
— Amazingly extensive guide to events of the war via categories of animated maps, interviews, historical footage, and more
— 22-minute making-of featurette includes Spielberg and Hanks noting that this program delves more into personal lives before and after the war.
— Profiles of the real soldiers depicted, in 9-10-min video interviews with family and others.
— Analysis of the war with Spielberg noting the special challenge of dealing with Japanese code of honor Bushido, which he interprets as “death before dishonor”
— By Scott Hettrick