"Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) on Blu-ray -- How to Make a Horse Opera!

This is yet another film which has benefitted greatly from revisionist reviews. The ORIGINAL reviews, particularly in the US, were dismissive, if not downright scathing. Vincent Canby in the New York Times wrote along the theme, "If you can ignore the fact that this is a really bad movie, you will find it is both interesting to look at and fun." How's THAT for hedging your bets?

Since then, the film has gone on to achieve more than mere cult status, and now is viewed by critics as a seminal film, and possibly one of the BEST Westerns ever made! There's some good analysis of this arc in the Extras and Commentary. The film is now considered "ahead of its time" in that it was one of the first "films about films" -- a film which deliberately quotes elements from other key films of a genre.

The term "Operatic" is also used -- a LOT -- noting the exceedingly slow pacing of critical scenes, as in an opera, where no one can die before everyone sings about it for 15 minutes or so. One commentator goes so far as to suggest, "In this film, stares in close up serve the place of arias!"

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"Muscle Shoals" (2013) on Blu-ray -- A Great Documentary!

With the passing of Aretha Franklin this month, and of Rick Hall back in January, I thought it high time to revisit my thoughts on this terrific documentary from 2013!

Greg ‘Freddie’ Camalier's Directorial debut is a documentary featuring extensive interviews from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Steve Winwood, Gregg Allman, Percy Sledge, Alicia Keys, Clarence Carter, and Donna Godchaux.  Not to mention archival material from Duane Allman, Otis Redding, the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, and Freeman Brown.

And yet these are not the stars!

The STARS are the backing musicians and recording engineers who created musical magic in the sleepy, backwater village of Muscle Shoals, Alabama -- population 8,000 and surrounded by dirt roads -- starting in the late 50s.  As Atlantic Records music mogul Jerry Wexler says at one point, who would ever believe the best from, say, Aretha Franklin -- the unchallenged Queen of Soul -- was music made by a bunch of young, white guys who all looked like they worked at the corner grocery store?

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Quick Tip: Suffering Individual Disc Playback Freezes? Clean The Disc!

When you try to play your latest, smash hit, movie disc, does your player "freeze up" part way through?  Does this always seem to happen just as the movie gets to the GOOD part?  Does it then ignore all your desperate efforts to get it playing again?

And are your friends and family now judging you; given all the money you've spent on your Home Theater system, only to have THIS happen?

Is that your problem, Bunky?

Well take heart old chum!  Your problem may have an easy fix:  Clean The Disc!

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"The Black Pirate" (1926) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

WOW! Come on, me hearties it's time to buckle your swash!

Cast your mind back:

It's 1926, and Douglas Fairbanks, then 42 and owner of his own studio, has decided he wants to get away from the more, light-comedy, action roles he's recently been playing and make a full-on, all-action movie.

About pirates!

AND he wants to do it in full color!

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"Chico & Rita" (2010) on Blu-ray. Amazing Animation with Jazz Recreations!

"Chico & Rita", made in Spain, and with mostly Spanish dialog, achieved the nearly unimaginable by garnering a Nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 2012 Oscars. Unfortunately, it had the bad luck to be up against "Rango"!

Viewing the film, there's no doubt whatsoever it deserved this Nomination. There's enough artistic brilliance in this feature to make, oh, 3 or 4 first rate movies. And the transfer on this Blu-ray disc is staggeringly wonderful!

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"Fire Maidens of Outer Space" (1956) on Blu-ray -- The Point 'N Laugh Experience!

Here's a film so hilariously bad, it's a wonder it has not made it to shiny disc before!  Seriously, it must be RIGHT up there on ANYONE's list of the Worst Films Ever Made.  Olive Films saw their chance, and released it on both SD-DVD and Blu-ray.

This cheesy, British, sci-fi outing was Written, Produced, and Directed by American Cy Roth, has American Anthony Dexter as its star, and goes to great pains to try to feature American accents throughout in the dialog.  Indeed, it's very much as if the Brits were ALREADY trying to distance themselves from it!

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Why do I Have to Watch Ads before my Blu-ray Movie? OR, "Oh Noes! PUOs!"

Movie discs, be they SD-DVD, Blu-ray, or UHD, have many advantages:  Superior picture quality and access to the best audio tracks, for example.  They are also permanent:  Not subject to the temporary nature of Studio content licensing contracts, which can leave you in the lurch when the “streaming” content you thought you had "purchased" suddenly stops being available!

But that doesn't mean discs are entirely free of annoyances!  And right at the top of most anybody's list of complaints would be that most movie and TV show discs try to FORCE you to watch commercials before you get to see your show!

In this post we will discuss the mysterious and frustrating world of Prohibited User Operations (PUOs, or sometimes, confusingly, UOPs).

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"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess: San Francisco Opera" (2014) on Blu-ray -- Live Opera Recording!

In the midst of the Great Depression, the hugely successful team of George and Ira Gershwin set out to do something absolutely new:  New both for them AND for music. They contracted with the Theater Guild to create the first, "folk opera"; to be based on the 1925 novel and 1927 stage play, "Porgy", by DuBose Heyward. George Gershwin composed the music. The Libretto was produced by Heyward.  And the Lyrics by Heyward and Ira Gershwin.

It would take 50 years for it to come to be!

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Why Won't My Movie Disc Restart Where I Stopped It? OR, A Steaming Mug of BD Java!

One of the biggest, conceptual changes introduced with Blu-ray discs (and continued with UHD Blu-ray discs) was the idea the Studio could include computer program code -- software -- ON the disc, which would load and run whenever you played that disc, and which would CONTROL that playback.  No longer would disc playback be strictly limited to the "user interface" features implemented by each, different, Blu-ray player!  So long as the player could run the on-disc software, the DISC could invent its OWN user interface!  There was nothing like this for prior, SD-DVD discs.

This on-disc software would be written in a variant of the Java programming language to be called "BD-J" (Blu-ray Disc Java).  The expectations for how Studios would use BD Java were truly grand -- to begin with.  All sorts of fancy features were proposed to "enhance" the customer value of these discs.  The actual result has been rather a mixed bag.  In particular, some Studios seem to be most keen on how BD Java can be used to make a disc really difficult to copy -- something which has NOTHING to do with the customer’s experience.

In this post I'll talk about BD Java, and how it relates to the perennial complaint: My disc player won't let me do Resume Play on my movie!

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"The Seven Year Itch" (1955) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

George Axelrod's 1952 play was a major, Broadway success, and pretty much all of Hollywood was eager to cash in on it.  So much interest was expressed, the Hays Office took the unusual step of announcing, even BEFORE anyone secured the rights, that THIS material could NEVER ever be made into a film!

The problem was, the play is about a middle-aged everyman who has an adulterous fling while his wife and child are away on summer vacation, and then feels very very guilty about it in very very humorous ways.  But one of the fundamental provisions of the Production Code was that adultery could NEVER be treated as a subject for comedy or laughs!

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