VIDDY WELL, MY DROOGIES — It’s hard to believe that four decades have passed since Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic rendering of A Clockwork Orange hit cinemas, stirred up massive controversy and warped our delicate little minds. Recently reissued in a 40th anniversary package that includes two new documentaries and a color book, the movie pops in HD and looks totally rad on a big screen TV. If you have never seen this disturbing meditation on the nature of free will, or have not watched it in years, check it out. And if you want to learn more about the mind of star and chief droog Malcolm McDowell, watch his recent documentary, Never Apologize, which captures (with film clips and photos) his one-man show about the late Lindsay Anderson, the cantankerous director he worked with on three films (including the controversial If…) and whom he had a powerful connection with. It’s a lot less visually dazzling than Clockwork, but it reveals a lot about the actor, his attitudes, beliefs and philosophical musings. There is also a funny anecdote involving Steven Spielberg.
SUPERMAN SOARS — No matter what anyone says, I still feel that Christopher Reeve is still the ultimate Superman. He played the iconic superhero as a compassionate gentleman who was not afraid to his brawn when necessary. A few years ago Warner Home video created an awesome box set that packaged all four of the Reeve films with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, Super cartoons from the ‘40s and the all-important Richard Donner cut of Superman II that, while incomplete, showed how much better the sequel would have been had the arrogant father and son Salkind producing team not been so short-sighted by firing the talented director and replacing him with the less capable Richard Lester. You haven’t seen 75 percent of Donner’s newer Superman II, as much of it was reshot or replaced with other footage, which will make it a treat for diehard fans. The sequel was great, but it could have been even greater and darker had Donner finished it. At any rate, it’s all out on Blu-ray now as Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006) for those craving it in HD, along with all 20 hours of bonus materials. Yeah, I know, Superman III was dicey and IV was God awful, but Reeve is always fun to watch. I also think Superman Returns is quite good, regardless of what many critics say.
ADJUST YOURSELF — Philip K. Dick continues to inspire filmmakers, and this adaptation uses his short story as a springboard for an imaginative expansion that the author probably never envisioned. While it made a decent splash at the box office this past winter, The Adjustment Bureau is a fun fantasy film that deserved more success. It features genuinely electric chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as a couple supposedly meant to be kept apart by the titular secret group that runs our lives based on preordained paths. But Damon’s politician protagonist has other ideas and wants to thwart their plans, with Terence Stamp being his chief antagonist. It’s fun to see Jason Bourne and General Zod butt heads, at least philosophically, and the trippy chase at the film’s climax is exhilarating.
LET THERE BE BON ONCE MORE — Wildman Bon Scott is one of those legendary figures in rock ‘n’ roll; the intense, off-the-wall frontman who led AC/DC to the success that turned them into heavy rock icons by the time Back In The Black was released. Sadly, Scott would not appear on that now nearly 50-million selling disc as he choked on his own vomit in a car in early 1980. Luckily for us, we have six studio albums spotlighting his work, not to mention Let There Be Rock, the concert film that captured one of his final live performances, which is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. Now you can see why he was one of a kind. The limited edition Blu-ray/DVD package includes a 32-page mini-book, a custom guitar pick, 10 Postcards with images from the show plus an hour’s worth of new interviews with the likes of Anthrax/Damned Things guitarist Scott Ian, AC/DC author Susan Masino and music executive Jerry Greenberg.
SLIP OF THE SNAKE — I’m going to confess that I became incensed when Whitesnake released the 1987 and Slip Of The Tongue albums. I don’t begrudge David Coverdale his success because I thought the band should have been huge with Slide It In and their more classic sound. The live incarnation captured on the Live At Donington 1990 concert video is what I call Fake Snake. While there is plenty of talent involved (including shredding guitarists Adrian Vandenberg and Steve Vai), this is the pop incarnation that ignored nearly the entire pre-1987 catalog. I guess I’ll be damning with faint praise here by saying the reason to watch this, if you’re not a fan of this version of WS, is to see David Coverdale in command of 72,500 of their “closest friends,” to watch his agile axemen play over-the-top solos and to see how crazy excessive things got in the late ‘80s. Admittedly, it is cool to see a massive throng sing along to the vintage Snake cover of Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City.” Thankfully the group returned to its musical roots in the late ‘90s, although far less fans know about that. The DVD also features a genuinely interesting look into the making of Slip Of The Tongue, complete with cheeky Coverdale commentary that was shot on video back in the day.
WHY YOU NEED TO UPCONVERT:
Even if don’t have a Blu-ray player, it is wise to obtain one, or at the very least buy an upconverting DVD player for your big screen TV. Why, you ask? Resolution issues. Allow me to be a tech geek for a moment. HD TVs are either 720p or 1080p, which means 720 or 1080 horizontal lines of resolution per frame. By comparison, standard definition DVDs and TVs offer 480p. So obviously, they feature far lower resolution. At least with an upconverting DVD player or a Blu-ray player, a DVD can be upconverted to 720p (I won’t get into how), making it more compatible with any HD TV. Even if you don’t plan to go Blu-ray, upconverted DVDs, especially releases from the last four or five years, look really good on a new TV. So you actually have no reason not to upgrade your hardware, even if you want to stay with DVD, which has become a much more economical choice these days. Plus a lot of Blu-ray players allow you to use Netflix, Facebook and more on your big screen TV.