Blade Runner (Warner)
It wants more life, father. The different versions of Blade Runner have taken on legendary status over the years, partly because this was an early, well-documented case of a film being changed — against the better judgment of its creators — by a studio made squeamish by middling test-screen results, and partly because it was one of the first high-profile films to have an alternate-version release in the then-nascent home-video market. The original Embassy Home Video VHS release presented Blade Runner in its European-release version, which included the bits of violence that were trimmed to secure an R rating in the U.S. That was a nice touch, but Blade Runner wasn’t really worth watching on home video until the letterboxed Criterion laserdisc came out. At the same time, the early workprint versions of the film that were screened for test audiences in Dallas and Denver gained currency on the fan circuit, and word started to spread that perhaps there was evidence in the source material indicating that replicant-hunter Deckard was himself a replicant with the same implanted memories as the poor souls he was charged with hunting down and exterminating. A lot has transpired since then, including a half-assed “director’s cut” release in 1992 that followed fairly close on the heels of an accidental, but well-received, screening of a 70mm blow-up from one of the workprints. This year, Ridley Scott created a “final cut” version of the film that includes some new material and digital tweaks to existing footage (a 60-year-old Joanna Cassidy reprised her role as replicant Zhora in newly shot material!), and that’s the excuse for this release. It’s available in a plethora of multi-disc configurations, but anybody with a serious interest in the long journey of Blade Runner from screen to screen to screen owes themselves the investment in this five-disc collection, which is the only way to get your hands on the original workprint version that represents Scott & Co.’s first close approach to the material. (Interestingly, the high-definition versions of the five-disc set are significantly less expensive than their standard-def counterparts, which are only available along with collectible geegaws in limited-edition packaging apparently patterned after a briefcase seen in the film.) For movie nerds of certain ages and proclivities, it’s a must-buy. (Also, Amazon dudes, why haven’t you mailed my copy yet?)
Buy it from Amazon.com: Blade Runner (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition) or Blade Runner (Five-Disc Complete Collector’s Edition) [Blu-ray] or Blade Runner (Five-Disc Complete Collector’s Edition) [HD DVD]
It’s an uncommonly great year for movie musicals, and I haven’t even seen Sweeney Todd yet. Director John Carney’s gentle romance turns a typically limiting digital-video aesthetic and resolute, not-quite-cloying sweetness into a winning combination. Not as pat as it sounds, nor as gloppy as might be suggested if you hear Glen Hansard’s songs — devastating in context — divorced from the story. I wrote a short review earlier this year.
Buy it from Amazon.com: Once
The first 20 minutes of The Simpsons Movie are, like, film-of-the-year material. Delightfully footloose and rat-a-tat-tat funny, they promise a rollicking departure from the strictures imposed by the franchise’s TV time slot (and its status as family-sitcom parody). Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and the screenwriting crew quickly falls back on the kind of mildly bizarre storyline (this one involves a gigantic bubble being placed over Springfield, isolating the city and its inhabitants from the rest of the world) that could drive any given 22-minute episode. The laughs become fewer and farther between — and more conventional — as the movie progresses, but that first reel of rapidfire gags is wonderful.
Well, I guess it had to happen — the rape scene present in test-screening prints has been restored to Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake for the “director’s cut” DVD. It’s obviously in poor taste, but it does play to Zombie’s strengths as an orchestrator of repulsive white-trash mayhem and enhances his strategy here of humanizing Michael Meyers. It makes the movie stronger, if not necessarily better. Horror buffs (yeah, that’s me) will probably want to see this once. Everyone else can steer well clear.
Buy it from Amazon.com: Halloween – Unrated Director’s Cut (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)