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Published on March 20th, 2011 | by Greg

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New on Blu-Ray: Miyazaki, Rain Man, Last Tango, and Every Day

San Fran­cis­co is in the mid­dle of the rainy sea­son, so we’ve been spend­ing some time test­ing out au­dio and video equip­ment while watch­ing some new re­leas­es. On­ly one of these movies is new, strict­ly speak­ing, but the re­main­der are new to Blu-ray. And we’ve got some­thing for just about ev­ery­one in to­day’s round-up, from some clas­sics to an­i­mat­ed films.

Let’s start with the old­est. Last Tan­go in Paris of­fers one of Mar­lon Bran­do’s best roles, and had a ma­jor im­pact on sev­en­ties cin­e­ma. This movie has held up quite well over time- about 38 years since it’s the­atri­cal re­lease. We watched it with a few peo­ple who had nev­er seen it be­fore, and they were pret­ty shocked- the movie is se­duc­tive and sexy, and bit­ter­sweet in it’s por­tray­al of an mourn­ing ex­pat who meets a French wom­an and forms a sex­u­al­ly-charged re­la­tion­ship. Ev­ery­thing here is strong- from the mu­sic to the cin­e­matog­ra­phy, and it’s all held to­geth­er by the ex­cel­lent act­ing. It’s rat­ed NC-17, note, for a good rea­son. For those who own the movie on an­oth­er medi­um, you won’t gain a lot from the Blu-ray pre­sen­ta­tion. Sound and video are fair­ly ba­sic, if sol­id- col­ors are clear and crisp, but there is some noise. And the lack of ex­tras was sad- the on­ly one in­clud­ed is a trail­er. Avail­able wide­ly for $20.

Rain Man is a must-see. Think what you might about Tom Cruise, in 1988 he was a ma­jor ac­tor and at the top of his game, and played one of the worst char­ac­ters of all time with aplomb. And Dustin Hoff­man might not be draw­ing a lot of at­ten­tion these days, but as the autis­tic sa­vant broth­er, he made the movie what it is- ba­si­cal­ly a sort of road trip, fam­i­ly dra­ma with plen­ty of broad com­e­dy. The premise is sim­ple- Cruise is the broth­er left out of the fam­i­ly for­tune which was in­stead left to Hoff­man’s char­ac­ter. Hi­jinks en­sue, and this Best Pic­ture and Best Ac­tor Acade­my Award win­ner is both easy to en­joy and of­fers plen­ty of depth for mul­ti­ple view­ings. On Blu-ray, MGM steps up their game a bit- the movie doesn’t even have a menu, for bet­ter or worse, and the trans­fer looks a bit mud­dy at times- this isn’t a re­mas­ter, and the age def­i­nite­ly shows a bit. Au­dio is sur­pris­ing­ly good though, boom­ing through six chan­nels, with on­ly a few au­dio odd­i­ties (a cou­ple of lines of di­a­logue were hard to catch, per­haps in­ten­tion­al­ly). But the re­al prize is the au­dio com­men­tary by di­rec­tor Bar­ry Levin­son- two oth­ers are in­clud­ed, but are not quite as strong or as in­ter­est­ing. The sin­gle in­clud­ed delet­ed scene was worth see­ing, but we on­ly scanned through the PSA fea­turette “Jour­ney of Rain Man”. $20, avail­able wide­ly.

On­to some­thing dif­fer­ent- a pair of an­i­mat­ed films from Miyaza­ki fa­ther and son, the el­der a mas­ter of ani­me and the younger pre­sent­ing his first fea­ture.  Both Nau­si­caa of the Val­ley of the Wind and Tales from Earth­sea are mak­ing their way on­to Blu-ray for the first time. There hasn’t been a bad film from Stu­dio Ghi­b­li- from Ponyo to Spir­it­ed Away, they’ve been matched on­ly by Pixar for sheer con­sis­tent qual­i­ty. Rat­ed PG, Nau­si­caa fea­tures a re­al­ly good dub fea­tur­ing folks like Uma Thur­man, Patrick Stew­art, and Shia LeBeouf. We’re par­tial to sub­ti­tles and the orig­i­nal au­dio track, but the En­glish dub is sur­pris­ing­ly good… maybe even bet­ter, per­haps since it’s al­most 30 years new­er. Avail­able as a com­bo DVD/Blu-ray pack, this film might not grab younger kids the way Princess Mononoke can… but the mes­sage is there and the char­ac­ters as strong as al­ways and the film looks pret­ty good on BD (though not quite as crys­tal sharp as oth­er re­cent Dis­ney/Ghi­b­li re­leas­es). There are plen­ty of bonus fea­tures as well, in­clud­ing triv­ia, sto­ry­boards, and a neat doc­u­men­tary/in­ter­view with the di­rec­tor him­self. Some call this among the best an­i­mat­ed films of all time, and it’s easy to see why. Though it’s not even the best Miyaza­ki, it has held up amaz­ing­ly well over the years, and shines de­spite it’s age.

Tales from Earth­sea, on the oth­er hand, is from the son, Goro, and based not on an orig­i­nal idea bu the book by Ur­su­la LeGuin. And de­spite some great scenes and some love­ly an­i­ma­tion, it just doesn’t hold up- it feels un­even, and even the dub­bing is a bit sec­ond-rate. The film cer­tain­ly looks great- the trans­fer is ster­ling and this is Blu-ray that is easy to show off, with vivid col­ors and lush sound. Again, some triv­ia is avail­able, along with a be­hind-the-scenes bonus, but we com­pared to Nau­si­caa, it couldn’t re­al­ly com­pete. Each film runs un­der $20, and are avail­able now.

Fi­nal­ly, the newest of this batch of films… and sad­ly, per­haps the weak­est. It’s un­fair to com­pare it to Rain Man, it’s true, but we sim­ply want­ed Ev­ery Day to be a de­cent ro­man­tic com­e­dy. Star­ring Liev Schrieber, He­len Hunt, Car­la Gug­i­no and even Ed­die Iz­zard, the cast seemed to have po­ten­tial. But noth­ing much works here, as char­ac­ters feel un­re­al and hol­low, not to men­tion shal­low. The gay son, over­bear­ing boss, stressed out wife all feel a bit stale and rou­tine, with on­ly a few sharp one-lin­ers and the fair­ly lik­able main char­ac­ter haul­ing the au­di­ence along for the ride. It isn’t a painful ride, and at 93 min­utes, pret­ty brisk. But there just isn’t a whole lot to rec­om­mend, even on Blu-ray. Rat­ed R, the Blu-ray is as good as you’d ex­pect from a film of this kind and on­ly the darks feel a lit­tle off. Sound is ex­cel­lent, with a nice mix ac­tu­al­ly. The tagline says it all: “Not quite the par­ty you signed up for”. Delet­ed scenes and a trail­er, along with cast in­ter­views round out the ex­tra fea­tures on the disk. $16, avail­able wide­ly now.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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