BITS – DVD and Blu-Ray Reviews

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Media Distribution

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One
CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Media Distribution

The history of Star Trek on a variety of home video formats has been fairly lackluster, with the notable exception of a Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition nearly a decade ago, which not only revamped the perennially underrated film, but also was laden with a bounty of spectacular special features. Unfortunately, the movies as well as the superset of the revamped TOS all looked great (even with its lackluster new visual effects), but had a package of amateurish and white-washed special features. Thankfully, CBS/Paramount’s new ST:TNG Blu-ray special edition (being released by season, starting this month) scores on all fronts with stunning new transfers in which the VFX have been revised for hi-def. Equally impressive, if not even more so, are the comprehensive and candid special features in which no stone is left unturned in telling the real story of the show’s tumultuous and troubled origin. Replete with obscure material, including screen tests and early promotional videos, as well as interviews with virtually every significant crew person and cast member, this is a lesson in how to do justice to a vintage television release. While the first TNG season itself is hit-or-miss, this premiere release is a bullseye. — Mark A. Altman

Verdict: 93%

Bits Space 1999 300x420 BITS  DVD and Blu Ray Reviews Space: 1999 – The Complete Season One
A&E Home Video

If you liked our spaceship porn feature in this issue, you’re a natural victim for Gerry Anderson’s 1975 TV series Space: 1999. Its ridiculous premise has Earth’s moon blasted out of orbit, leaving the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha (including stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain) struggling to survive as the moon becomes the biggest starship ever to wander through the galaxy. A miracle of production design and visual effects, the show features a spectacular moonbase equipped with dozens of neat spacecraft, but also saw fit to throw in a new, giant alien spacecraft or spectacular alien city (or in the case of “Mission of the Darians,” a giant, spectacular alien spacecraft city) each and every week. At the time of its original broadcast, the show’s plots and acting seemed pretty thin compared to reruns of the original Star TrekSpace: 1999’s only real competition. Almost as a reaction to Gene Roddenberry’s classic, the costumes, color scheme and performances on Space: 1999 were deliberately subdued and muted, which made the show often come off as boring. But compared to crap like Fantastic Journey and The Invisible Man — the stuff airing on American network TV at the time — Space: 1999 now seems downright visionary. One thing’s for sure: on Blu-ray it looks absolutely amazing, especially since visual effects director Brian Johnson (who worked on Kubrick’s 2001) created almost all of the show’s space shots in-camera, so the final image quality was top-notch to begin with. The Blu-ray set includes two discs full of extras, from in-depth looks at the episodes with producer Anderson and the show’s writers to two vintage episodes of the old BBC show Clapper Board, which visited the Space: 1999 sets and visual effects stages to chat with Anderson and a reticent Johnson. There are also commentaries, although they seem gleaned from the interviews on the behind-the-scenes feature. It’s too bad the Blu-ray producers got no access to the show’s major stars (only a wizened but still plucky Zienia Merton) and Landau and Bain only appear in stagey, vintage Channel 4 promos. But if you’re a fan of this show, or just curious to look at an entirely handmade TV series that still manages to look absolutely spectacular, this set is worth getting. — Jeff Bond

Verdict: 88%

Bits The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 300x373 BITS  DVD and Blu Ray Reviews Bits Chinatown 300x300 BITS  DVD and Blu Ray Reviews

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Paramount Home Media Distribution 

There’s probably no more technically savvy filmmaker working today than David Fincher, so it’s a delight to have the prickly auteur holding court on not only one new Blu-ray of his own visually stunning film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but sitting in with screenwriter Robert Towne to offer insight into the making and appreciation of the masterful Chinatown. Dragon Tattoo boasts a nearly flawless transfer and has a special features package that totals over three hours, chronicling most every aspect of the film. The only drawback is the lack of a “Play All” feature that makes navigating the disc problematic at best, but it’s worth it, as is Fincher’s insightful commentary. Even more satisfying is Paramount’s new release of Chinatown, in which Fincher and Towne discuss the making of Roman Polanski’s masterpiece. But other than the gorgeous new transfer, the real highlight here is the three-part documentary about the history of the real story that inspired Chinatown, in which Los Angeles conspired to secure its water needs. Both are essential viewing. — M.A.A.

Verdicts: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 94%;Chinatown 96%;

Bits The Hunger Games 300x352 BITS  DVD and Blu Ray Reviews The Hunger Games

The most important thing to establish at the outset is that The Hunger Games is not Twilight — the only similarity between the two is that they’re based on best-selling YA novels. What we get instead is an adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ dark, dystopian world with the stomach-churning notion that a group of a nation’s children are forced to fight to the death until there is only one survivor, all as annual punishment for an attempted revolution against the government. While director/co-writer Gary Ross successfully captures the look of the future as suggested by Collins’ prose, and the performances by the principles (which include Liam Hemsworth) are strong, the need for a PG-13 rating has diluted the author’s main point of indicting society’s dual fascination with violence and reality television. This two-disc set features a look at author Suzanne Collins and the phenomenon of her best-selling books, a making-of doc, a Panem propoganda film, a conversation between director Gary Ross and film critic Elvis Mitchell, and a feature on Ross’ preparation for filming the movie–all of which might overstate Ross’ contribution in making the movie the hit it was. — Edward Gross

Verdict: 83%

Bits The String 300x376 BITS  DVD and Blu Ray Reviews The Sting

There may be no more entertaining Oscar winner than The Sting, a delightfully charming 1930s-set movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as two hustlers who perpetrate the ultimate con against a pitch-perfect Robert Shaw. Part of Universal Pictures’ 100th anniversary celebration, this new transfer of The Sting, clad in a sturdy and slick digibook package, looks excellent and features a satisfying, if not exceptional, collection of supplemental materials, including several re-ported featurettes on the making of the film and several more recent, and less impressive, promotional segments on the studio’s centennial. — M.A.A.

Verdict: 91%


Shallow Grave

Great presentation of the Danny Boyle thriller with myriad special features including Kevin Macdonald’s making-of doc.


The Great Dictator

Chaplin gets his due on this sensational Blu-ray version of The Little Tramp’s most audacious classic.


Episodes: Season One

The slight if amusing Matt LeBlanc series whose only special features confoundingly showcase episodes of other series.


Bits Yellow Submarine 300x300 BITS  DVD and Blu Ray Reviews Yellow Submarine
(Capitol Records)

Still one of the oddest animated movies ever produced, in which the Beatles are not even voiced by the Fab Four themselves. But the film gets its due with a full package of special features and, most importantly, a beautiful new transfer and stellar audio mix. All aboard!


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy(Universal)

You’re likely to find this Cold War spy thriller an incredibly satisfying experience if you have the attention span for it. Bonus features help illuminate any loose ends, although reading the le Carré book upon which this exceptional film is based would help even more. — M.A.A.


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