Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (Blu-Ray)


If you've read my profile, you probably noticed that my two favorite all-time films are The Godfather, Parts I and II. Luckily for me and the many other fans of the Corleone family saga, the trilogy was released Sept. 23 on Blu-Ray and standard DVD in beautifully restored editions.

If you haven't seen these films, make it your mission this coming week to see at least the first two installments. While Part III is not as bad as people remember, it can't come close to capturing the magic of the initial chapters. Then again, few films can hope to achieve such status, so why punish for being merely...good?

As much as I love film, I'm not much of a technical buff. However, since buying a PS3 last November (mainly to witness the pristine glory of Pixar's Ratatouille), I have paid a bit more attention to the overall visual quality of the films I watch/own. As someone who has seen the Godfather films numerous times throughout the years, I noticed a difference in the new editions almost instantly. Then again, most die-hard fans of the saga are going to shell out the money for the new discs, regardless of what some brilliant guy on the internet says about them. I picked up my copy at Best Buy for $69.99, which was the same as Wal-Mart's in-store price. However, Best Buy was also giving away a free bonus book of quotes from the film. Nothing earth-shattering, but it did the trick.

Some have worried that the notoriously dark scenes in the film would be shamelessly brightened to show off the possibilities of Blu-Ray. Having already watched a few specific scenes (the opening one, for example), I can state that it seems neither artificial or disrespectful toward Gordon Willis's landmark cinematography. In fact, Willis himself was heavily involved in the restoration process, as one of the many extra features explains. The external daytime scenes look glorious, especially the wedding party and Michael's temporary stay in Sicily. Some will argue that it still looks a bit grainy or that people in the background still seem a tad blurry. This is simply because of how it was shot and what film stock they used back in the early 1970s.

I personally can't stand people who whine all day about technical aspects of movies, especially when the film is a wonderful story that should transcend such petty arguments. However, I'm also leery of older films being artificially improved for the sake of making extra money. I'm eager to see the upcoming Blu-Ray edition of Taxi Driver, which is another of my all-time favorites. However, that film is meant to look gritty and seamy. If they can maintain the grime while still presenting an honest representation of the film's original look, I'll probably break down and buy yet a third copy of the film. It is in situations like these that the inclusion of Extra Features play such a big part in people's decisions to re-purchase films, and I hope studios are getting wise to this.

Again, I won't normally write at length about technical issues, but I was just really thrilled to slip Disc 1 into my player, kick back and watch the epic unfold in all its restored glory. Now if only Coppola & Co. would begin working on a Blu-Ray edition of Apocalypse Now, which I have intentionally refused to buy until a hi-def version becomes available.

Are there any classic films that you're aching to see make their way to Blu-Ray?

The Proposition / The Road

The Road, a post-apocalyptic novel by renowned author Cormac McCarthy, is less than a few years old, but is already considered one of the greatest novels of the past 25 years. If you don't believe me, ask America's leading trendsetter, Oprah Winfrey. Anyway, the book is a great read, unless you're illiterate. It's also being made into a major Hollywood movie, positioned for a November release, smack dab in the heart of Oscar season.

A few stills from the film, featuring the weary father played by Viggo Mortensen, have made their way onto the web in recent months, but an official trailer is still yet to be seen. While I'm not quite sure how Hollywood intends to adapt a highly descriptive, thinly-plotted tale consisting primarily of two characters that rarely speak, I have faith in the film for one simple reason: John Hillcoat.

If you don't know his name, it's because you suck. Or you simply haven't seen his previous stroke of genius, a gothic Australian western entitled The Proposition. I had only caught a few random scenes of the film on TV, but they were enough to convince me it might be worth picking up on Blu-Ray following its release in late August. Better still, the company producing the Blu-Ray chose to offer it at a retail of $19.99, with many stores offering it for $15.99 or less. I only wish more studios would follow in their footsteps. Luckily, the price was highly disproportionate to the product itself. The film was great, and the stunning cinematography was brought to startling life in the gorgeous Blu-Ray transfer. With some additional extras thrown in, including Director Commentary, which is always the first feature I look for, this was a helluva bargain.

I have neither time nor desire to go into details about the film itself, but let's just say that it is also a somewhat thinly-plotted piece set against an integral landscape. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Hillcoat would be considered for The Road. I can't imagine the film being as memorable or haunting as the novel, but I'm anxious to see Hillcoat's attempt in action. And with Viggo as the lead, fresh off his tremendous work in the last two David Cronenberg films, I'm sure the final result will be well worth watching.


UPDATE:

For those of you who are as eager to see The Road as I am, there has been recent talk blowing in the wind that the film may not be ready in time for this year's Oscar season. Because the studio obviously wants the film to be a serious candidate for awards, I'm worried they may push until late NEXT year. Such a move would not be unheard of, but I hope it won't be the case with this particular film. Still, I don't want Hillcoat feeling pressured to rush his film simply to meet some arbitrary deadline. I'll keep you posted as this unfortunate story develops.