Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best of 2008?

The 10 Best Blu-Ray, DVD Releases of 2008

1. “The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration”

The painstaking restoration of The Godfather trilogy for Blu-Ray is so flawless that it can bring a tear to your eye. No one has seen “The Godfather,” one of the best movies ever made, until they’ve seen this restoration. The visual detail is overwhelming. Even people who can quote these movies in their sleep will be blown away. The final disc of the four-disc Blu-Ray set includes nearly five hours of bonus materials, almost all in HD themselves. All of the featurettes from the 2001 release were imported along with great new ones like “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t,” featuring interviews with people influenced by the series including Guillermo Del Toro, David Chase, Alec Baldwin, and Steven Spielberg. The history and impact of the film is expanded upon in the just-as-good “Godfather World.” Some movies stand the test of time but “The Godfather” has that very rare quality of moviemaking that just makes the film seem better every time you see it. People who don’t like “The Godfather” simply don’t like movies. And there isn’t a Blu-Ray player on Earth truly living up to its potential if “The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration” isn’t sitting next to it.


Best DVDs of 2008: The top 20

Godfather blu-ray set 2. The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration -- Blows away any other video incarnation of the Francis Ford Coppola gangster classics, especially when seen on Blu-ray. That amber tone comes on orders from cinematographer Gordon Willis.

My A-B comparisons of the new and old "Godfather" DVDs quickly demonstrated why the restoration was overdue. Even when the 2001 DVDs were given the advantage of upconversion, there was simply no contest. Comparing the Blu-rays to the old DVDs proved ... ridiculous. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Read the full review of "The Godfather" on Blu-ray

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not another awards show!! - Godfather Blu-ray Accolades

By John Latchem | Posted: 11 Nov 2008

LOS ANGELES — Despite joining the Blu-ray Disc camp just after the end of the format war this year, Paramount Home Entertainment scored huge wins at the second High-Def Disc Awards.

The studio’s new The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Collection Blu-ray boxed set won for best of show and best catalog title.

2008 High-Def Award Winners:

Best of Show: The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Collection, Paramount Home Entertainment

Best Theatrical Blu-ray: Iron Man, Paramount Home Entertainment

Best Catalog Blu-ray: The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Collection, Paramount Home Entertainment

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pakistani Film Kala Pul (Black Bridge) at ZAP

We are helping Bay Area indy filmmaker Saqib Mausoof (he's originally from Karachi, Pakistan) with post production on his new short film Kala Pul. It premiers this Thursday at the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival.

According to the film fest program: Kala Pul is named after a bridge in Karachi, which connects, and simultaneously separates, the affluent parts of the city and the lower income areas. Our protagonist, Arsalan, returns from the Middle East to this segregated world to investigate the violent death of his younger brother, blamed on fundamentalists. He finds himself estranged from his family, which is divided in opinion between his anglicized father and his devoutly militant younger brother. Now Arsalan must navigate these diverging and conflicting paths to discover his dead brother’s past and Karachi's future.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Apocalypse Now and the Holy Grail

The Guardian (UK) had an article in their film section recently describing the joys of viewing a boot-legged video copy of the legendary "5-hour cut" of Apocalypse Now. Ever since we prepared the special 2-disc "Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier" version a few years ago in which we included more than 26 minutes of "deleted scenes" (which really meant scenes that had not been in the final cut of either version of the film: 1979 or 2001) I thought that the mythic status of the 5.5 hour long Betamax video assembly would have faded into oblivion. Not so. Below is Gordon Coates October 17th article. It is followed by my letter to the editor in which I tried to correct some inaccuracies. It was published last weekend.

Coppola's slow boat on the Nung

Gordon Coates on the five-hour Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

The long and the short of it ... Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

The work print is the holy grail of film collecting. These are the vastly long, rough versions of a picture, containing much of the movie-making fat that is trimmed out by the editing process. For years, film collectors tap their keyboards until their fingers bleed in attempts to track down the bum-numbing versions of movies such as Dune and This Is Spinal Tap for the unseen gems they may or may not hold.

Of all the legendary work prints out there, the most persistently tantalising prospect is seeing the rumoured 289-minute version of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. The theatrical release print runs a mere 153 minutes, and the Redux reissue 202 minutes, so the work print offers almost an hour and a half of unseen footage. To a serious film geek, the prospect is unthinkably exciting - surely it couldn't be true?

Despite a lack of tangible proof that it even existed - including denials from the film's producers - the most dedicated collectors spent years searching for it, until something supposed to be this grail-like object found its way into the public domain. After exhaustive negotiations with an American film collector who had tracked down a copy, I found myself signing for an airmail package, booking the day off work and settling down for some serious viewing.

The first thing to point out is that to call this five-hour work print a "rough cut" is a mistake. It's an "everything-and-the-kitchen-sink" cut, which takes almost all the material from the 238-day shoot and tapes it together in a linear form. The work print moves at a snail's pace, with unfeasibly long scenes. The Ride of the Valkyries helicopter episode alone accounts for well over 30 minutes of footage. Scenes that, with expert editing, would become tense and compelling simply drift along aimlessly, interesting only to anoraks for the extra line of dialogue here and there.

There are, however, gems amid the mass of footage, which leave the viewer wondering how Coppola could have taken the scissors to them. Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz has three extra scenes, which more than quadruple the size of his part. In one, Brando reads from Time magazine to an imprisoned Martin Sheen. In another he delivers a monologue to Sheen about the "master liars" in Washington who "want to win, but can't stand to be thought of as cruel". In a third, he reads TS Eliot's The Hollow Men, while Dennis Hopper gets excited and says "man" a lot.

One of the things removed from the film for the cinematic release, along with the extra footage, is its political conscience. Scenes in which the characters question and criticise the US involvement in Vietnam and the conduct of American government are cut. Themes of politics give way to an exploration of the human nature and psychology.

Of all the cuts, the unkindest are dealt to Scott Glenn's character, Colby, Willard's predecessor, who was charged with killing Kurtz, but instead falls under his spell. In the work print, Colby is revealed to be a significant character who taunts an imprisoned Willard and, more importantly, shoots Hopper's character before being killed himself. Likewise, the character of Lance (played by Sam Bottoms) gets extra scenes designed to show his instability. In one, he inexplicably machine-guns a water buffalo, while screaming: "I control the destiny of every living thing which passes before my sights."

It took Coppola and his editors more than 700 days to turn a million feet of celluloid into a watchable film. What the work print makes clear are the choices editors are forced to make when faced with almost unlimited footage. Scenes that drove the crew to the brink of madness and Coppola to the edge of financial ruin were dropped without sentiment - simply because they didn't improve the story.

Letter: Apocalypse Now and the holy grail

Gordon Coates (Coppola's slow boat on the Nung, Film & Music, October 17) referred to the "holy grail" of film collecting as a "rumoured 289-minute version of Francis Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now", adding that the film's producers denied the existence of this long version. In reality, it comes down to semantics. When the film-makers returned from their 238-day shoot, the editors put together a rough assembly that ran to nearly five hours, and contained all the scenes that had been shot. So when one heard "there is no five-hour version", the producers were not being evasive. It is not a version of a film, it is a catalogue of everything, which then had to be edited into a coherent narrative.

In 1999 Coppola decided to revisit the raw material to create a new version that would be more faithful to his original vision. Apocalypse Now Redux was screened at Cannes in May 2001 and had a theatrical release later that year.

In that long first assembly is the scene in which Kurtz is reading from Time magazine. It was restored, recut and included in the Redux version, along with several other scenes. Brando's reading of Eliot's The Hollow Men can be seen in its entirety as a special feature in the special two-DVD release, Apocalypse Now (Steelbook Edition).

Many significant scenes that were neither in the original nor the Redux version are in the Steelbook version. They include scenes with Willard's special ops predecessor Colby, and the death of the foreign correspondent played by Dennis Hopper. It also includes audio commentaries by the director in which he addresses the editing decisions he faced in the 70s and again in 2000-01.

Kim Aubry
Co-producer of Apocalypse Now Redux

This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday November 01 2008 on p39 of the Editorials & reply section. It was last updated at 00.06 on November 01 2008.

Tarkovsky takes Brazil

Our good friend Dmitry Trakovsky won a special mention jury award at the 2008 Mostra film festival in São Paulo, Brazil last week. Congratulations to you Dima!
Here are some links to Brazilian festival coverage and reviews.

Poetic Identification, The Means to Enjoy Tarkovsky

Jornal da mostra

  • 32ª Mostra > 23/10/2008
Edition: Renata de Almeida and Leon Cakoff
Dmitry Trakovsky

Poetic Identification, The Means to Enjoy Tarkovsky

Son of Russian poet Arseniy Tarkovsky and one of the most important filmmakers in Russia since Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky is often admired by those that identify with the poetic rhythm of his films, since without this identification his work can at times be seen as slow and difficult. That is what Dmitry Trakovsky, the director of Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky, said in an interview to journalist Rubens Ewald Filho in the Clube da Mostra on Tuesday, October 21st.

In spite of their similar last names, Dmitry explained that he is not related to Tarkovsky. Born in Russia, the young filmmaker lives in the US and, even though he does not often visit his native country, he still maintains strong spiritual ties with his motherland. He could not pinpoint an exclusive reason why he identifies with Tarkovsky´s work, but he did emphasize that he likes the rhythm and the language of his films.

Dmitry, who once studied to become a doctor, explained that American universities offer students the possibility to take courses in parallel to their majors. This system led him to study Buddhism. After completing a short film on the subject, his professor encouraged him to apply for a grant to further pursue filmmaking. This funding laid the foundation of the documentary, Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky.

Dmitry said that Tarkovsky preferred to use long takes because he believed that time is the fundamental fabric of cinema. Mirror, from 1975, is Tarkovsky´s film that Dmitry admires the most, as he believes this to be the director’s most personal and poetic work. Conversely, Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Tarkovsky’s first film, is Dmitry’s least favorite because, as Tarkovsky would admit himself, it did not yet completely reflect the poetic language developed later on in his work.

The young filmmaker took three years to complete the documentary, and tried to investigate the idea, proclaimed by Tarkovsky, that death does not exist. Dmitry’s next project is to make fiction, maybe in a short film.
21/10/2008 - 15h14

Documentário investiga a permanência do cineasta Andrei Tarkovsky

Especial para o UOL
Dmitry Trakovsky faz sua estréia como cineasta com o documentário "Conhecendo Andrei Tarkovsky"
O plano do estudante Dmitry Trakovsky, russo emigrado para aos EUA aos 2 anos, com seus pais, era estudar Medicina. Na própria universidade, na Califórnia, porém, o cinema desviou-o desse caminho. Ele acabou estreando como cineasta com o documentário "Conhecendo Andrei Tarkovsky", que tem sua première mundial na 32ª. Mostra Internacional de Cinema.

As coincidências foram muitas até chegar ao filme, a começar pelo sobrenome do jovem cineasta, quase igual ao de seu ídolo, Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986), prestigiado diretor de "Solaris" (72), "Stalker" (79) e "O Sacrifício" (86).

and a blog entry in Portuguese

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Godfather Attention

Sponsored By
The New Mob Boss

The latest 'Godfather' sequel—this one on Blu-ray—is going to make a killing.

Malcolm Jones
From the magazine issue dated Oct 27, 2008

How many times does Paramount think it can make us an offer we can't refuse? Fans of Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" trilogy have bought the VHS version, the laser disc version and, most recently, the 2001 DVD edition with new commentary tracks by Coppola that set a hard-to-beat standard for frankness, intelligence and wit. Now we're confronted with yet another version, the "Coppola Restoration," in both standard DVD and Blu-ray editions. The latest set has been struck from newly restored film of the originals, and bless the restorationists, who give us crisper images and better color without any of that shrink-wrapped slickness that digitization often produces—the DVD versions of these movies still look like movies. And don't think for a second that you're being suckered into buying something that you already own. These films haven't looked this good since the first week they played in theaters.

Most stories about film restoration sound the same. Again and again, we hear about neglect, deteriorating film stock and faulty printing. Even great films ("Lawrence of Arabia," "Vertigo") suffered these indignities. Still, the news that Coppola's first two "Godfather" movies direly required repair comes as a shock. It is hard to imagine two films viewed more often, or more cherished, by more people. Ironically, the first two "Godfathers" have suffered because of their popularity (the third installment, made in 1990, has suffered hardly at all). If you saw part one when it was briefly rereleased in theaters a few years ago, you had to wonder if all the original hoopla over Gordon Willis's photography was unquestioned hype, since a lot of what appeared on screen looked muddy and depthless. But that's what happens when duplicates are made from duplicates and no one bothers to compare the fifth-generation copy with the original print.

Will the new versions radically revise our opinions of these films? Obviously people have been watching and rewatching these classics without undue trouble for years (the most hilarious bonus feature included in the new set shows actors—and hard-core Godfatherites—Richard Belzer and Seth Isler lobbing lines from the script at each other like two tennis pros). But few films were ever more dependent on the way they looked than the "Godfather" movies. In scene after scene, it's the Rembrandt-like palette—orange, umber, red and a dozen shades of black—that defines the various moods of the movie. Destroy that look, and you sap a lot of the film's power. Restore it, and you get what the latest editions of these classics offer: freshly minted masterpieces.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

NOT FADE AWAY: DVD is Dead - Long Live DVD

I wanted to re-publish a page from a now extinct web site. This eulogy is around 13 months late. But with the advent of Blu-ray, not advent, but product re-launch as the winner of the HD disc format war, I find myself wondering how long this platform will last. Will it make serious inroads into home entertainment.

DVD in 1998 was a BIG LEAP for consumers. The discs were cheap to produce, they could be viewed in portable players and laptops, and the improvement in picture and quality from VHS tapes was immense. Initially, the purists and videophiles decried the new format...the image would look too "compressed" and "digital" compared to their beloved Laserdiscs. (remember them?).

The Zoetrope DVD lab mastered our first DVDs in 1999. Our first title was a not widely known cult film called Fando y Lis by the Mexican director Alejandro Jodorowski followed quickly by Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Tucker, The Man and His Dream and The Conversation.

By 2001, there were dozens of DVD review websites, fan sites...everyone writing on those sites was now an expert in image quality, sound quality, and the true "director's intention." Wine-tasting like adjectives began to proliferate in these earnest reviews "...the new transfer features rich burgundy reds...full enveloping Dolby sound with an edgy bite..." (I am not kidding.)

By 2002, $199 DVD no-name DVD players were available. And as the consumer economy continued to thrive despite the dot com bust, everyone was upgrading their aging 25" glass CRT televisions to 42" flat Plasmas or LCDs or even digital projectors.

Early HD adopters were trying out all kinds of early-adopter stuff: JVC had an HD "D-VHS format," and in the Summer of 2003, Cablevision launched their ill-fated VOOM HD satellite service which survived for less than 2 years, but programmed a vast range of films and other HD content to the few thousand subscribers that had signed up.

Meanwhile, a fierce ego-driven battle of titans kept a viable HD Disc from consumers: Sony and Pansonic were behind the eventual "winner" the Blu-ray Disc. Toshiba backed the loser, the HD-DVD. The movie studios changed alliances so many times it became impossible for consumers to choose one.

But in that interval, most consumers who had just spent $700 to $2,000 for their new large HD-capable screens found that by hooking them up to their plain old DVD players, movies looked pretty darn good. Without something to compare it to, their library of standard definition DVDs when presented on big wide-screen flat panels with scalers essentially LOOKED LIKE HD.

Back to where I started: here is a reprint of the last web issue of The DVD Journal from August of 2007:
Wednesday, 29 Aug. 2007

Dimming the lights: On August 26, 1997, Digital Video Disc made its unofficial debut, with Warner Home Video placing 61 titles in nationwide release after a six-month trial period in test markets. Sony's flagship DVD player at the time, the DVD-s7000, cost $1,000; entry-level models reached the marketplace several months later with price-tags around half that, which still wasn't cheap. The nascent format faced several challenges — not all Hollywood studios were on board with the new digital media, while video-rental chains would not clear out a portion of their VHS shelf-space for the shiny new discs. However, thanks to a passionate group of early adopters, home-video divisions at Warner and Sony, the release of movies on DVD without the traditional "rental window" applied to VHS, and retailers stocking discs at affordable prices, consumers began crossing the digital divide. Since then, DVD has changed not just the way we watch movies, but how we think about them.

It's hard to understate the impact that DVD has had on our movie-consuming culture. Just as a lot of us will someday (even today) explain to young people what the world was like before personal computers or the Internet, we have to make an effort to scan back to the mid-1990s, when the idea of feature-length movies on CD-sized discs was a holy grail of film collectors. Prior to 1997, the condition of feature films on home video was sorry indeed. VHS tapes offered poor transfers compared to today's viewing standards, while film collectors hoarded hard-to-find movies captured from rare, late-night TV screenings. At the time, Laserdisc was the cineaste's choice, although the format was expensive, unwieldy, and sometimes subject to degradation thanks to the infamous "laser rot" that plagued more than a few collections. Folks who didn't have Laserdisc players and deep pockets could purchase some movies on VHS with widescreen transfers, but they came at a premium price. And then there was videotape itself — bulky, non-indexed, and liable to warp, break, and degrade, it simply was not durable enough to satisfy film collectors.

Looking back, we see there simply is no comparison between 1997 and 2007. Today, it's not only possible, but affordable for the average consumer to own an excellent personal film collection and home-theater equipment. It can even be done "on a budget," as it were. Compared to the pre-home-video era (basically, at any time before mass-market VCRs), the transformation is nothing less than astonishing, and it's worth thinking about. It was not that long ago that only the very wealthy could afford home theaters and actual prints of films for private screenings. It would require not only a large room, but a separate, muffled projection room as well, and somebody to run the projector (recall that famous scene in Sunset Boulevard, for example). You couldn't have a setup like that and, say, live in an apartment. DVD has made movies accessible to everyone, not just reclusive movie stars. This is one time when the movies may have gotten smaller, but they also got better.

As of this morning, The DVD Journal is ceasing publication. DVD first reached store shelves ten years ago this week, and this website went online with its very first DVD reviews nearly a year after that. Since then, we've posted almost 4,000 DVD reviews, watched the retail sheets for the best upcoming DVDs, and hopefully steered a few folks into renting or purchasing movies they otherwise might have overlooked.

Compared to many websites, very few writers have contributed to the Journal over the years, with a core group of around ten based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. The editor would like to thank all of them — it has been a privilege to be their first reader every week, and to be associated with a talented group of film critics who also happen to be good friends. Our own world has changed in the past decade as well, with marriages, children, new homes, career changes, and various other things that happen to sensible people when the subtle business of adulthood creeps up on them unawares.

The writers would like to extend thanks to everyone in the home-video industry we have had contact with over the past decade, from the hard-working publicists who do their best to get products out in advance of street-dates, to the miracle-worker technicians who have done the most challenging, and most important, job of all — restoring classic films to the best condition possible, allowing us to enjoy them at home, and forever. For many, this was the one true promise of DVD, and we rarely have been disappointed. We would also like to extend a special thanks to the good folks at The Criterion Collection, who have always set the highest bar for others in the industry to watch, and who got into this business back when Laserdiscs were a niche, and thus made the transition to the mass market with the greatest care, and as little fuss as possible.

For now, we will leave this website online, and while we won't be posting any regular features, all are welcome to return and get a look at a decade's worth of DVD, in review.

Finally, we thank our readers, for we too have been a niche of sorts, happily reviewing movies and posting release news without the need to fling around pop-up ads or hawk particular products to cover our bottom line, or worry about our own "growth" for the sake of raw traffic numbers. We're glad you made the time to drop by. We had fun. We hope you did, too.

—The Editor

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Godfather Redux - Out Today

Here are more excerpts from press reviews of The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration out today on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

'The Godfather,' at Its Greatest

By JEN CHANEY Staff Writer
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

Stop what you're doing and clear a space on that crowded home entertainment center shelf. Room must be made for "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration," ($69.99) the box set that releases today and delivers one of the most influential series in cinema history, looking better than it ever has before.

A team of technicians spent more than a year meticulously restoring the three "Godfather" films, which also make their debut today on Blu-ray disc ($124.99). The results? A sun that shines even brighter on Connie Corleone's wedding day in "The Godfather"; blacker-than-midnight shadows in Michael Corleone's study in "The Godfather Part II"; and blood that pops with crisper crimson color during the Atlantic City shoot-out in "The Godfather Part III." In short, anyone who loves the movies simply must experience filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's classics -- or at least the first two, since, let's face it, the third one most of us could take or leave -- through these DVDs, which capitalize on modern technology in a way that only enhances Coppola's and cinematographer Gordon Willis's original vision.

For those whose adoration of The Godfather" borders on religious fervor -- you know these people, they're the ones who can never resist a "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli" joke -- this collection is the definitive one to own. Everything that came with the 2001 box set, including several featurettes, 34 deleted scenes and three solid commentary tracks by Coppola, is here. But so is another disc with an all new slate of excellent extras, including one that explains every detail behind the restoration of the movies in more technical terms than some fans may have ever thought they needed.

Another smart addition: "Godfather World," a featurette that has great fun digging up homages to the mafia saga in everything from "The Simpsons" to "The Sopranos" to a recent Audi commercial. A wide range of admirers -- "Sopranos" creator David Chase, "South Park" mastermind Trey Parker, Coppola pal Steven Spielberg -- also appear in the interviews to explain why these movies have so widely influenced pop culture. (As actor Joe Mantegna puts it, "The Godfather" is "the Italian 'Star Wars.'")

Given the intense popularity and acclaim earned by this trilogy, some viewers may be surprised to realize how perilously close "The Godfather" came to never happening at all. The half-hour documentary "The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't" delves into all that ugly behind-the-scenes history. For Corleone family scholars, many of the details -- about the shake-ups at Paramount in the late '60s and early '70s, the studio's desire to remove Coppola from the production and Al Pacino's near failure to be cast as Michael -- will sound very familiar. But for those just discovering these epics, the documentary does a fine, concise job of explaining this Oscar-winning enterprise's place in cinema history.

Most Oddly Comforting Bonus Point: With the economy on shaky ground, many Americans may find themselves living in fear of getting fired. Maybe some of them will feel better to know that, as "The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't" and Coppola's commentary explain, the director lived with that same fear. And this guy is one of his generation's finest filmmakers. "It's a good reminder of what a delicate thing it is to create a really fine work of art, in any discipline," notes San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle. "And how dangerous it is to interfere with that."


The battle over 'The Godfather'

At one point, Coppola was almost fired. Tempers were short. Arguments were constant.

And then, on March 15, 1972, "The Godfather" premiered, and the world changed.

"I was pulverized by the story and the effect the film had on me," Steven Spielberg says in documentary material accompanying the new, digitally cleaned and remastered "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration." The new DVD edition of the "Godfather" trilogy is out Tuesday.

"I also felt that I should quit, that there was no reason I should continue directing because I would never achieve that level of confidence or the ability to tell a story [as well as Coppola did in 'The Godfather']," he added. "In a way, it shattered my confidence."

Behind the scenes, things weren't going as well. Besides casting, Coppola and studio executives battled over music (the studio didn't like Nino Rota's score) cinematography (Gordon Willis' compositions were considered too dark), locations (Coppola wanted New York; the studio suggested cheaper St. Louis) and even era (Coppola wanted a period piece, the studio wanted the present day).

"There were people on the crew trying to take over the production," Coppola protégé George Lucas recalls in the documentary material.

Oscar-winning sound editor Walter Murch, a longtime Coppola friend, recalls the director being saved by the Italian restaurant scene in which Michael kills two opponents. "The feeling up to that time was, 'What is this movie? It's not turning out the way we thought it would' -- whatever that was," he says in the DVD.

The bickering continued practically up to the release date, with Coppola overshooting the two-hour, 10-minute running time the studio desired and the studio -- though pleased with the final two-hour, 55-minute cut -- uncertain how to please exhibitors who longed for more showings. Paramount came up with two solutions: eliminate an intermission -- de rigueur for long movies -- and open it in many theaters at once.

What emerged was a phenomenon.

"The Godfather" opened wider than any film before, changing Hollywood economics, and became the most successful film in history up to its time. ("Jaws," its successor as box office king, would codify the wide opening once and for all.) The film won best picture, gave the language such lines as "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse," and spawned two sequels, a video game, more Puzo underworld novels and -- essentially -- every gangster work to follow.

"When we started 'The Sopranos,' [referencing 'The Godfather'] was one of the original conceits," says "Sopranos" creator David Chase in the DVD set. Indeed, "Sopranos" characters are forever quoting from the films, thinking of them as a model for the mob experience.

"The Godfather Part II," which came out in 1974, did what no sequel has done before or since: win best picture. With its more intricate structure, many critics consider it the best film of the three. The third film, "The Godfather Part III" (1990), though the least successful, still contains some fine work; as a character on "The Sopranos" said, "A lot of people didn't like it, but I think it was just misunderstood."

The American Film Institute ranks the first film as the second-best of all time, after "Citizen Kane"; Internet Movie Database denizens have ranked it as No. 1 or No. 2 for years. It's been more than 35 years now, and the films still have a hold on the American psyche.

Just ask Joe Mantegna, who starred in "Godfather III" and plays Fat Tony on "The Simpsons" -- a character that owes an obvious debt to "The Godfather."

" 'The Godfather' was the Italian 'Star Wars,' " he says in the DVD.

New DVDs: ‘The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration’


Many of Francis Ford Coppola’s films, including the recent “Youth Without Youth,” have been haunted by the passing of time and an acute awareness of its destructive handiwork — the sense that once a treasured moment has been lost, nothing can be done to recover it.

But now a piece of Mr. Coppola’s own youth, which also happens to be one of the greatest works in American film, has been recovered, and spectacularly so. On Tuesday Paramount Home Entertainment is issuing the three films that make up Mr. Coppola’s “Godfather” saga, miraculously rejuvenated by a team of digital restoration experts under the supervision of the film preservationist Robert A. Harris. Offered both in high-definition Blu-ray and standard DVD editions, Mr. Coppola’s three films seem to have reclaimed the golden glow of their original theatrical screenings — a glow that has been dimmed and all but extinguished over the years through a series of disappointing home video editions.

Most of Mr. Harris’s work has gone into the first (1972) and second (1974) films in the trilogy. The later and less well-received third installment (1990) did not need as much effort, having been shot on a newer generation of film stock and never subjected to the abuse that nearly destroyed Parts I and II. By all accounts, the original negatives of the first two films were so torn up and dirty that they could no longer be run through standard film laboratory printing equipment, and so the only option became a digital, rather than a photochemical, restoration.

The final product, which the studio is calling “The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration,” combines bits and pieces of film recovered from innumerable sources, scanned at high resolution and then retouched frame by frame to remove dirt and scratches. The color was brought back to its original values by comparing it with first-generation release prints and by extensive consultation with Gordon Willis, who shot all three films, and Allen Daviau, a cinematographer (“E.T.”) who is also a leading historian of photographic technology.

The tight grain of the image, so important a component of Mr. Willis’s original low-light photography, has returned to particularly spectacular effect in the four-disc Blu-ray edition. The effect is not unlike that of a pristine 35-millimeter print projected in perfect focus — a rare enough phenomenon in a movie theater and, until quite recently, inconceivable in the living room.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Godfather Films Restored in HD at last.

Below: Excerpts from DVD and Blu-ray reviews (print and web) coming over the transom. The new Blu-ray 4 disc set goes on sale Tuesday 23 September.

We actually completed the 70 minutes of new documentary materials last February because at that time, Paramount was insisting that this new set had to go on sale for Father's Day on DVD.

So we worked at a maddening pace from Thanksgiving 2007 through Valentine's Day 2008. Then, a new regime at the studio reconsidered the release date. Then a few months later, Paramount announced that they were back in the BD camp (a "decent interval" had passed, I guess.)
By the time we were given the 6 month "reprieve," the work was essentially complete.

All the new documentaries were filmed and finished in HD and they look great (if I can say that), and the three Godfather films do look superb. The cheerleaders in the trade press and the industry booster websites are saying that this release will really "launch Blu-ray," but I am not so sure. A question for our blog readers: Does Blu-ray disc matter at this September
2008? Or will it be a footnote as viewers download films, VODs or get cerebral implants ?

'Godfather' Finds a New Way to Keep Dragging Us Back In
Posted on Sun, Sep. 21, 2008
Miami Herald


In one of the new featurettes found on The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Giftset (Paramount, $70 DVD, $125 Blu-ray), actor Alec Baldwin compares the first film in the trilogy to a drug. ''When it's on, you're gonna watch it whether you want to or not,'' he says.

The Godfather movies -- at least the first two -- are, in fact, insanely rewatchable. But no matter how many times you've seen them before, these newly restored editions are a revelation. The subject of a painstaking, frame-by-frame clean-up that brought the original, badly damaged negatives back to the way they were intended to be seen on opening day, the first two Godfathers have simply never looked better.

Home theater aficionados who crave shiny, glossy images will be disappointed, though. Cinematographer Gordon Willis made distinct choices during the filming of the movies -- choices that would inspire an entire generation of filmmakers -- that resulted in images that look alternately underlit or overlit. The new discs reproduce those choices faithfully, from the film grain that permeates the shadows in Don Corleone's office to the blown-out whites of Connie Corleone's wedding dress.

The DVDs look great, but the Blu-rays are even better, practically doubling the amount of fine detail in wide shots and revealing subtleties in close-ups that were too fuzzy to register in previous releases (right before the restaurant shooting of Sollozzo and McCluskey in Part I, you can see tics and emotions cross Al Pacino's face that were simply invisible before).

Careful color correction has also evened the golden sepia tones used through the first two pictures, which the disc producers have craftily extended to the Paramount Pictures logo preceding the films, so it, too, is bathed in the warm, honeyed light of a memory. The negatives for Part III had not deteriorated nearly as badly, so the film's presentation here isn't quite as eye-popping. But it is still good enough to make you want to sit through the movie again and give it another chance.

This definitive release of the trilogy is accompanied by a definitive assortment of extras, running more than four hours in total. The 30-minute retrospective documentary The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't recounts the legendary making of the first film, in which Coppola was forced to battle Paramount executives over practically every creative choice he made, including the casting of Pacino and Marlon Brando, neither of whom met the studio's approval.

Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin, South Park's Trey Parker and Sopranos creator David Chase are among the famous folk who show up to talk about the movie. Spielberg admits he was dismayed the first time he saw The Godfather, because he felt he would never be able to make a movie anywhere near as good and seriously thought about quitting filmmaking. Chase admits he had a problem with the presence of Brando and James Caan in the film, because they weren't Italian, but learned to live with it.

The 11-minute Godfather World consists of clips from other movies and TV shows that reference the trilogy, everything from The Sopranos (hilarious) to The Simpsons, You've Got Mail to a TV commercial for Audi autos. The fascinating Emulsional Rescue: Revealing the Godfather is a 20-minute featurette detailing the complex restoration process the first two films underwent, which was kick-started by a memo Spielberg sent to Paramount chief Brad Grey after that studio became the home of DreamWorks Pictures.

When the Shooting Stopped is a 15-minute look at the post-production process of the trilogy. Editing consultant Walter Murch recalls how producer Robert Evans vetoed the original plan to have an intermission in the middle of The Godfather (right after the Sollozzo shooting) because he ''didn't want to let the audience off the hook'' by giving them time to catch their breath. Murch also talks about the tweaking of the musical cue leading up to the horse-head scene and shows you both the original and the final versions, for comparison's sake.

Murch also discusses why Pacino's scream at the end of Part III was rendered silent, while Coppola reveals that his first cut of Part II was liked by no one, because he shifted back and forth between the story's two timelines too often, damaging the pacing of the movie. Once he minimized the chronological interruptions, the picture fell into place. The disc also includes a two-minute featurette in which Coppola finally shares the details behind the death of wiseguy Peter Clemenza, which was brushed off with a fleeting reference in Part II and no explanation (Coppola tried until the last minute to convince actor Richard S. Castellano to reprise the role in Part II, but Castellano would only agree if his girlfriend got to write all his dialogue).

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Giftset isn't just a monumental release for fans of the trilogy: It may also be the DVD of the year.

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration on Blu-ray Disc

By Chris Chiarella Big Picture Big Sound

Godfather was an uncommon instance where I actually wanted to watch one of the featurettes, "Emulsional Rescue," before the movie itself. I know how they all end, so no worries about spoiled surprises, but the included vignette about the restoration helped me figure out what to look for, how to appreciate what we've been given in this significant new set. Several factors have left the physical elements for the Godfathers in horrible condition. The success of the film necessitated many duplicate prints being copied off of the original film negative. Add in the less-than-perfect quality of film stock circa 1971 and the abundance of dark, dark scenes, and we were left with a soft, murky mess for far too long on home video. Prior cleanup attempts had made some improvement, but not nearly on the scale of The Coppola Restoration.

A Blu-ray We Can't Refuse: The Godfather Trilogy - The Coppola Restoration
Glenn Erickson, Sep 19, 2008

Glenn takes the cannoli and says this release elevates these classics to a whole new level of home video.

"Film printing is really a contact sport."

That's a quote from Robert A. Harris, explaining how old film negatives accrue damage through lab handling. In a featurette on The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration, Harris and other film experts give the clearest explanation yet of the nature of film restoration. And it's only one excellent mini-docu in a score of interesting short subjects and interactive extras. Paramount's four-disc Blu-ray set -- available Sept. 23 -- includes all three Godfather films in stunning new high-definition transfers. It's the kind of release that will influence more home video enthusiasts to take the Blu-ray plunge.

Happily, the marketing hype is limited to an insert booklet, leaving Kim Aubrey's HD extras (located on a fourth Blu-ray disc) to examine the films in a critical light. The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't is an exemplary making-of chronicling The Godfather's highly unlikely path to the screen. Key background is given in excellent interviews with Walter Murch, George Lucas, Francis Coppola, Peter Bart and Robert Evans, with additional input from other directors and actors. The beautifully organized docu touches on the difficulties of casting and production, comparing Coppola's ethnic vision with the portrayal of Italian-Americans in classic-era gangster pictures.

"Godfather World" concerns itself with the film's legacy, using clips from shows like South Park and The Simpsons. David Chase is on hand to explain how his TV series The Sopranos couldn't have existed without the The Godfather. His characters frequently discuss and debate scenes from Coppola's movies.

"Emulsional Rescue" gets into the details of the restoration process, using well-chosen graphics and visual examples to simplify confusing concepts. When cameramen Gordon Willis and Allen Daviau explain how over-printing damaged parts of the film negatives, we see the actual reinforced splices that marred earlier transfers. Willis purposely under-lit the movie for a certain look, leaving a negative that doesn't duplicate well. We find out that the 4K scanning process was able to recovered one major scene (the shooting of Captain McCluskey and Sollozzo) almost ruined by bad lab work back in 1971. Expert Robert A. Harris follows up nuggets of film wisdom like, "Added resolution is not the same as sharpness" with excellent explanations of the concepts involved. The insightful featurette is especially recommended for viewers uncomfortable with film technical talk.

"When the Shooting Stopped" isolates some great anecdotes from post-production, such as how Coppola cleverly retained control of the editing when the studio insisted on holding him to a contracted running time a little over two hours. Murch explains why the three-hour film has no intermission. He also remembers that the studio disliked Nino Rota's score so much that he had to re-engineer the music for the horse-head scene. Editor Richard Marks discusses the more experimental cutting in Godfather Part II, and Murch rationalizes his decision to drop the audio for Michael's screams at the end of Part III.

Three short films are orphaned interview bits; the best explains why Richard S. Castellano wasn't rehired to play Clemenza in the second movie. Godfather on the Red Carpet is a less interesting collection of comments from younger celebrities apparently taped at a preview of Cloverfield. Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album is a glossy presentation of photography from the Visconti-like wedding scene in Godfather #1.

The extras become exceptional again with The Family Tree and the Crime Organization Chart, interactive features that lay out the cast of characters for all three films using photos and pop-up info windows. The "Crime Rap Sheet" data on the second chart is especially helpful for keeping straight "Rivals and Associates" like the Tattaglias and Cittis. We need something like this for the books Dune and War and Peace!

Overall, this Blu-ray set has the best added value extras I've seen this year. Many new movies are burdened with puff pieces straight from the marketing department, while older classics are too often slighted with under-funded featurettes made on editorial assembly lines. [yowch...KA] Godfather: The Coppola Restoration is an exceptionally good Blu-ray release, and its extras elevate the stature of the disc supplement format.

'Godfather' trilogy dwarfs all other new Blu-ray releases
by Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

Simply put, “The Godfather” trilogy (Paramount, $119.99) is a magnificent example of how enjoyable great films can be on Blu-ray.

The set, which arrives in the DVD high-definition format Tuesday, not only includes all three films but a fourth disc that is packed with more than a dozen absorbing extras...Disc four includes featurettes “Godfather World,” “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t,” “When the Shooting Stopped,” a piece on the restoration, a couple of “The Making of ...” shorts, additional scenes and much more. Coppola’s commentary also accompanies each film.

“The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration” will also be available in a standard DVD 5-disc set ($72.99), but the suggestion here is to opt for the Blu-ray edition. For those who haven’t switched to the format, “The Godfather” trilogy is the perfect reason to do it now.

Posted By JOHN LAW


Blu-Ray has given studios a whole new excuse to double-dip, though Godfather fans may forgive this one.

All three films have been beautifully restored with digital surround sound, eliminating the flaws which dogged the original DVD release in 2001.

This is the version we should have gotten back then, but people were so eager for the trilogy, they overlooked the scratchy print and steep price.

For this re-release, director Francis Ford Coppola brings the gorgeous cinematography back to its original lustre, giving these dark films -especially II - a noir look they haven't had since their original run in theatres. The restoration is discussed in an all-new bonus disc, showing how badly the first two film's original prints had eroded. It doesn't matter how many times you've seen I and II -watching them without any visual flaws and new surround sound is bliss.

The other treat on the bonus disc is The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't, revisiting how Paramount nearly ruined the first film by, among other things, insisting it take place in a modern setting, and how the story shouldn't focus on the mafia. (Huh??)

Coppola fought every dumb decision to not only make possibly the greatest film ever, but save Hollywood from a slump which threatened the entire movie industry. Things were so dire before The Godfather, Paramount was sold for $600,000 and producer Robert Evans made a video begging the new owners not to shut them down.

The other features are hit and miss (does anyone really care what the cast of Cloverfield thinks about The Godfather?), but there's also the original supplements from the 2001 release which includes a great retrospective on the first film as Coppola was preparing Part III. And to get the hidden Sopranos tribute, just keep pressing 'next' on the screen for DVD Credits.

The Godfather Collection: The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray Review

Cinema's great crime trilogy debuts in a glorious high definition package.

Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 18, 2008

Given the opportunity to travel back in time, specifically to the end of March, 1972, for the sole purpose of going to the movies in a major U.S. city, your choices of the notable films released that month were interesting and varied. The original Tales from the Crypt with Peter Cushing, and Frogs, with Ray Milland and Sam Elliott, might satisfy your desire to bring a little Horror into your life. If you would prefer a dose of Sci-Fi, you could choose Silent Running starring Bruce Dern, or the film version of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five, in which Perry King and Valeria Perrine each received their first screen credit. Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal’s What’s Up, Doc? satisfied both female audiences and the "date night" movie niche for the month. Each of these films is a somewhat entertaining example of their genre, but one film, released that same month, would not only redefine its genre, it would redefine American cinema and prove to be one of the most cherished and influential films of all time, and serve as a career-defining film for all involved. Released on March 24, 1972, based on the novel by Mario Puzo, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather quickly attained the status of instant classic, and if anything, has only risen in the estimation of critics and film fans worldwide. The success of The Godfather led to the inevitable sequels, both with their own unique followings and reactions, each of which we will with time approach in this review. Although we cannot, as of today, travel back in time to witness this indelible American classic on the big screen, Paramount Pictures' Blu-ray edition, released some 36 and a half years following the original film's theatrical debut, allows both film aficionados and newcomers to these classics to see the films as closely to the originals as any home video format currently allows, and with the stamp of approval from director Francis Ford Coppola himself.

The Godfather Collection comes to Blu-ray with a fourth disc full of supplemental material, and a feature-length commentary track with director Francis Ford Coppola accompanying each film. Across all three movies, spanning some 10 hours, Coppola runs the gamut of The Godfather in what is a comprehensive overview of the films. Coppola never falls into the trap of only discussing the action on-screen simply to fill up dead air. Instead, his comments are always insightful, whether he is discussing the performance of an actor, minor details added to the movie from the Mario Puzo novel while retaining the "dynamism" of the book, or describing something as simple as shooting locations. Coppola has a way of storytelling that is rare indeed, remaining engaging and entertaining no matter the topic at-hand. His is a natural, authoritative, yet friendly approach and delivery, and I doubt even the casual Godfather fan would lose interest in any of the fine commentaries accompanying these films. Even at around 10 hours, these commentaries are well worth your time. I imagine a day when you may be under the weather and home sick from work or school might be the ideal time to dig through all of the tracks. What better than a day with one of the finest filmmakers of all time to brighten your mood and forget your ailments?

Disc four contains a wealth of extra materials, some of which is ported over from previous releases, and some of it is new for this incredible Blu-ray release. The features begin with The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't (1080p, 29:46). "It is impossible to imagine a world without them," the feature states up front, regarding the Godfather films. Indeed, this piece tells the story of how the first film was almost passed on by the studios. The decade was the 1960s, and Hollywood was in upheaval, as the studios pinched pennies and people sought to exit the business rather than enter into it. This feature contains interviews with American Zoetrope co-founders Walter Murch, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, then-Senior Vice President of Paramount, Robert Evans, and others. As Zoetrope was founded in the late 1960s, Hollywood was in a period of flux, as tastes changed, ticket sales plummeted, and the future was bleak, thanks in large part to the introduction and mainstream embracing of television. This feature looks at the history of Paramount Pictures in the years leading up to the release of The Godfather, the non-acceptance of Sicilian mafia movies (due in large part to the lack of Italians working in and on such films), and Francis Ford Coppola's initial involvement in this project. Also discussed are squabbles over casting, shooting locations, the dark look of the film, the turing point in the film that also happened to be the turning point in the studio's backing of Coppola's work, the premiere of the film, and so much more. The piece then moves into reaction to the film, including that of Richard Belzer, John Turturro, Steven Spielberg (who calls this a confidence-shattering film, meaning he could never attain such directorial heights), Trey Parker, Alec Baldwin David Chase, and plenty of others. The feature, and the interviewees, also delve into the authenticity of the film, its contrast to previous gangster pictures, and more. This is a swift-moving 30 minutes and is a must-watch for anyone who purchases this set.

Godfather World (1080p, 11:19) is a pleasing look at the influence of the films in our culture and its mention and parody in film and television. Emulsional Rescue: Revealing the Godfather (1080i, 19:05) is an extended look at the restoration of these films. Included are interviews with Gordon Willis, Allen Daviau, Steven Spielberg, film preservationist Robert A. Harris, and others. This is a fascinating feature, an education all its own, and is required viewing for anyone who watches Blu-ray, reads our forums, or wants to appreciate what goes into the restoration process. ...When the Shooting Stopped (1080p, 14:18) looks more at the conflict between filmmakers and studio, this time focusing in on the music that plays over the famous "horse head" scene. Later, the piece delves into some thoughts on the themes of The Godfather sequels and how they tie the series together. The Godfather on the Red Carpet (1080p, 4:03) features a series of sound bites with various actors as they express their thoughts on the films.

This Blu-ray edition of The Godfather Collection is perhaps the most impressive set ever released on home video. Sure, other collections may have offered more supplemental features, more movies, and many have offered audio and video qualities that present to viewers and listeners that "modern" high definition experience, and all of that is absolutely wonderful. However, no other collection can boast three all-time classic films, so painstakingly restored and presented exactly as they should be, in line with the original theatrical presentations, beginning back on March 24, 1972, and spanning some 18 and a half years. Now, almost 18 more years after the third installment of the series first screened in theaters, The Godfather Collection is available to own in a package that director Francis Ford Coppola closely supervised during the year-long restoration; we can watch this new Blu-ray edition with the high expectation that the director himself has issued it with his own recommendation as to the presentation's quality. The set also contains a wealth of entertaining and insightful supplemental features. Despite this lengthy review, few need me to convey how good this set is. It speaks for itself, as do the films, and like the films contained thereon, The Godfather Collection on Blu-ray will go down in the annals of home video as one of the finest releases of all time. Leave the gun, take the cannoli, and buy the Blu-ray. This set easily receives my highest recommendation.

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray Review
by Cindy White

EXTRAS: It's nice to see that all of the new extras have been produced in HD.

Among the new offerings, "Godfather World" features critics, authors, filmmakers and other celebrities talking about how they've been influenced by the films. Among those interviewed are Alec Baldwin, Richard Belzer, David Chase, William Friedkin, Trey Parker, Guillermo del Toro, Joe Mantegna (fun fact: he's voiced Fat Tony on The Sopranos for 17 years!), Sarah Vowell and Steven Spielberg. The featurette also covers the influence on pop culture as a whole, from The Sopranos to The Simpsons.

"The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't" is the story of how the corporate masters at Paramount (then owned by Gulf & Western) tried their best to screw up The Godfather at every turn (they didn't want it filmed in New York; they didn't want it to be a period piece; they balked at the casting of DeNiro, Brando and Pacino; and generally disapproved of Coppola's entire vision). Through interviews with Coppola and his contemporaries such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, as well as Hollywood legend Robert Evans, the old story of the making of The Godfather is rehashed once again. It's old territory, sure, but it's still interesting to hear the story from those involved. It highlights the clash between art and commerce and ends up being as much critique of American capitalism as the film itself.

More disagreements emerge in "When the Shooting Stopped," which focuses on the fights over the editing process, the length of the film, the music and the pace of the story. It's also one of the few new segments which discusses The Godfather III in detail, as the editor discusses the creation of the sequence in which Michael laments the death of his daughter.

The most pointless inclusion here is "Godfather on the Red Carpet," which seems to have been filmed at the premiere of the Paramount film Cloverfield. In this piece of gratuitous studio promotion, various stars from that film and other Paramount releases talk extemporaneously about their opinions and recollections of the Godfather trilogy. The actors appear to have been taken surprise by the question and sometimes seem a little out of their depth. The "Godfather World" featurette accomplishes the same thing, only better and with celebrities who actually have some authority on the subject.

"Four Short Films on The Godfather" is a bit of a misleading title, as the segments aren't really short films, but interview pieces. "GF vs. GF Part II" features film critics and other celebrities debating the merits of the two films and their opinions on which is better. "Riffing on the Riffing" has Richard Belzer testing the knowledge of the star of a one-man stage version of The Godfather with random quotes. "Cannoli" explains the significance of the famous Italian dessert as it relates to the films and reveals that the famous "leave the gun, take the canolli" line was not originally in the script, but improvised by actor Richie Castellano as Clemenza. And speaking of "Clemenza," the final segment here has Coppola answering the lingering question of the character's fate, something which has puzzled fans to this day. Apparently, the director refused to comply with Castellano's request that his girlfriend write his dialogue and chose to write him out of the sequel. In Coppola's mind, he merely died of natural causes.

Finally, the sly menu design on the first disc, featuring the tomato patch that where Don Corleone meets his natural end, is worth a mention and is the best of the three.

Score: 10 out of 10

The Bottom Line
A fantastic collection worthy of this masterpiece.

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration

Blu-ray Disc reviews by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits
Film Ratings (I/II/III): A/A+/B-
Video (1-20): 19.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Extras: A+
Paramount's The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration is, in my opinion, the current favorite for best Blu-ray Disc release of 2008... at the very least in terms of classic film presentation and restoration in high-def, if not overall. Yes, it's that good...

As if the restored, high-definition image quality wasn't enough to justify this set's purchase, Paramount has seen fit to include a great batch of bonus material as well, including EVERY SINGLE EXTRA THAT WAS ON THE PREVIOUS DVD COLLECTION BOX SET. You get all three audio commentaries by Coppola. You get all the deleted scenes. You get all the featurettes, all the storyboards and the filmmaker bios. You get the Family Tree, you get the photo galleries. You even get all four Easter eggs (in roughly the same place they were on the DVD set) AND a new one as well. Plus you get the trailers, now presented in HD. That's just for starters - and keep in mind, all of that material was pretty awesome in its own right...

But there's newly-produced material here too, exclusive to this Blu-ray release, all of it in full HD - something like 2 hours worth of new featurettes in all, including new interviews with Coppola, Willis, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and many other filmmakers, technical people and more. The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't (30 mins) examines the history of the production and how, as you might guess, it almost never came to be. Godfather World (11 mins) features filmmakers, actors and others discussing the impact of the film. When the Shooting Stopped (14 mins) features stories from the editing room and post production by those who were involved. The best of the new material, in my opinion, is Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather (19 mins) in which Harris and others talk about the process and the effort involved in restoring these films. There's a ton of interesting information here on the subject of restoration, all well explained and illustrated. Of less interest is The Godfather on the Red Carpet (4 mins) in which various actors and celebrities comment on the films. And the "four short films" (The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II, Cannoli, Riffing on the Riffing and Clemenza) are basically just short bits of interview footage that didn't really fit anywhere else - interesting stories, anecdotes, etc. (They're not actually self-contained films in their own right, just so you know.)...

People often ask me, "Why Blu-ray?" Well, folks... THIS is why. Sets like The Godfather (and last year's Close Encounters and Blade Runner sets) are EXACTLY why serious film fans should upgrade to Blu-ray. The very best thing about this format, in my opinion, is not its ability to show off the latest eye-candy blockbusters in total perfection. No, the best thing about Blu-ray is its ability to show you films that you've loved, in some cases for your ENTIRE life, in the kind of quality you've NEVER seen them in before. The kind of quality that was only ever available in a handful of the very best theatres when the films were first released. If you love the cinema, Blu-ray releases like this are a revelation, that serve to expand that love and appreciation even more. And isn't that, after all, what home video formats like DVD and Blu-ray are all about? The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration is a jewel, and should be regarded - along with a few other recent Warner classics on the format - as a new benchmark for the presentation of classic films in high-definition.

I'll tell you, it's days like this that I really love my job.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tarkovsky by Trakovsky

Андрей Арсеньевич Тарковский

Our latest project literally walked in off the street one day.

A recent UC Santa Cruz graduate, a Russian American kid named Dmitry called one afternoon recently to ask for advice. He wanted to know how to get his film post produced and into film festivals. [Oh god, not another film student first-time filmmaker...looking for free advice, somehow always available.] Time for tough love. "Forget it...don't bother...don't waste my time."


This kid wasn't calling about a hypothetical film. He'd actually already gone out and spent a year shooting, editing, and writing and recording his voiceover and made a perfectly presentable DVD screener...with original cover art. I was impressed. Dmitry takes us on a mission to learn who Tarkovksy is, and what the filmmaker meant when he asked in his long long films if death really exists.

And get this...he's not even a film student. Former pre-med.

So I watched [selectively] his screener, and we figured out what else needed to be done to raise it to the next professional level. Oh and I'm a UCSC alum too, and I am 75% Russian-American. But I freely admitted to Dmitry that Solaris put me to sleep when I first saw it when I worked as a projectionist in an arthouse cinema in the early 70s. (I liked Space Oddity more) And I had a hard time with Andrei Rublev when I got around to watching it in the 90s.

The new 90 minute film is called "Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky..." ballsy title considering that Tarkovsky died when young Dmitry was just 1.

Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky (the filmmaker's site)