This August sees a diverse selection of acclaimed favorites remastered and presented in stunning 4K resolution for cinephiles.
Celebrating their 25th Anniversaries are a cult classic from the Coen brothers and a sumptuous Oscar-winning historical epic starring Cate Blanchett. There's a spellbinding visual feast from the legendary Akira Kurosawa; a classic romantic comedy starring two stars from Hollywood's Golden Age on a trip to Rome; and a gritty Oscar-winning crime drama from writer-director Craig Brewer that hits all the right beats.
But first, as a part of the studio's centennial anniversary, Walt Disney Studios has restored one of their timeless hand-drawn animated classics, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.
Following from the huge success of 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature length animated film produced in the United States, Walt Disney and his animators continued pushing the boundaries of this animation with films like Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942).
In 1950, the studio released Cinderella, an adaptation of the popular 1697 Charles Perrault fairy tale. Directed by Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, and Clyde Geronimi, Cinderella went on to receive widespread critical acclaim and become the highest grossing film of 1950. Admirers praised the film's beautiful visuals, music and lyrics, and storytelling.
The timeless classic is, of course, about a kind young girl who lives with and is subjected to awful treatment by her cruel stepmother and two mean stepsisters. In spite of her living conditions, Cinderella remains hopeful that, in time, good things will happen to her. She is often cheerful, and enjoys the company of the animal friends around her home, specifically that of her two mice friends, Gus and Jaq. Meanwhile across the kingdom, the King decides that it's time for the Prince to find a suitable bride. It is decided that there will be a Royal Ball where all the eligible maidens will have a chance to meet the Prince. Cinderella, with the help of her Fairy Godmother, gets dressed up and sets off to attend the Royal Ball. The only catch is that her ball gown along with her horse and carriage will cease to be when the clock strikes midnight. She will find herself back in her regular clothes and her carriage will turn back into the pumpkin that it was before her Fairy Godmother got involved and worked her magic. Will Cinderella meet the Prince? Will the two hit it off and fall in love? Can she get out of there in time before the clock strikes 12? There's a good deal of suspense in this fairy tale.
Cinderella received three Oscar Nominations: Best Sound, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Best Original Song for "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo." In 2018, Cinderella was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.
To celebrate their 100th Anniversary, Walt Disney Studios is restoring and releasing several films in their catalog of legacy titles, and their new 4K UHD presentation of Cinderella does not disappoint. Sourced from an original 1950 SE Nitrate negative provided by the Library of Congress, the film was scanned in 4K. And using these new files, a new HDR color grade was created, giving the film's hand-drawn artistry a wider and more accurate color spectrum, true to the filmmakers' original intent. The film's 5.1 DTS HDMA audio track is also clear and refined. Supplements include From Rags to Riches: The Making of Cinderella, The Cinderella That Almost Was, and much more.
Get it: Aug. 1 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
The Big Lebowski
The Dude abides. The Big Lebowski, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, has become a beloved cult classic since its release in 1998. The crime comedy stars Oscar winner Jeff Bridges as Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, also known as His Dudeness or El Duderino. The Dude, as played by Bridges, is one extremely chill guy. He has no job. He spends his time drinking sweet White Russians and bowling with his friends (John Goodman and Steve Buscemi). He lives a rather drama-free existence in 1991 Los Angeles. But thanks to a case of mistaken identity, The Dude finds himself dealing with a few thugs who have broken into his home. They rough him up and ruin his rug — a rug that "really tied the room together!" The Dude then, to seek compensation for the rug, tracks down the man that the thugs mistook him for. Their first meeting isn't exactly a friendly one, but the man later offers The Dude the opportunity to do a job for him in exchange for an enticing sum of money. The Dude accepts the offer and embarks upon a quest during which he ends up facing all kinds of incidents, including unwanted encounters with some of the most unexpected characters.
The Coens modeled their script for The Big Lebowski on Raymond Chandler's 1939 hardboiled crime novel, The Big Sleep, and other noirs like it, where the protagonist is ensnared in a convoluted crime plot that can be somewhat difficult for the audience to follow and involves mysterious characters. The film is wry, satirical, and hilarious with broad comedy. Bridges' pitch-perfect lead performance is backed by a cavalcade of stars, including Goodman, Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Sam Elliott, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and others. Like 11 other Coen brothers films, The Big Lebowski was beautifully shot by the esteemed Roger Deakins. Another notable feature of the film is its eclectic soundtrack.
Since its release, the film's fan base has grown substantially, inspiring yearly "Lebowski Fest" conventions all across the country and even in a few cities across the pond. In 2014, The Big Lebowski was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is pulling out all the goodies for this limited-edition release. Housed in a collector's box, the release includes a collectible book, film cell replica and art cards. The 4K transfer with HDR offers fans a radiant looking presentation of the film and the DTS:X audio track delivers a sonic boost for the film's audio. The vast array of supplements include: The Dude's Life, Making of The Big Lebowski, The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever's Story, Jeff Bridges' Photo Book, and lots more. Also available in a limited-edition steelbook.
Get it: Get it Aug. 1 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray (Limited Edition).
Akira Kurosawa's Dreams
Presented in a series of eight engrossing vignettes, legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's wonderous masterpiece, Dreams takes inspiration from Japanese folklore along with the filmmaker's own dream state. There's tales of innocence as a boy attends a fox's wedding in the forest, to meeting the spirits of trees which have been cut down. The film also explores the darker side of humanity with depictions of a nuclear meltdown, and a man encountering the ghosts of an army platoon whose deaths he has caused. Vincent Van Gogh even makes a welcome appearance, portrayed by none other than Martin Scorsese.
Kurosawa's deeply personal Dreams is a grand visual experience and a celebration of a bold filmmaker's artistry. On one hand, it is a film for the child and dreamer in all of us; one the other, it is a film that portrays the terrifying perils of our world.
Returning to The Criterion Collection in this remastered 4K format, Dreams has received a stunning new restoration with HDR that was supervised by the film's cinematographer, Shōji Ueda. Supplemental extras include an audio commentary by scholar Stephen Prince, two feature-length documentaries with extensive behind-the-scenes footage, filmmaker interviews, Kurosawa's script for a never-filmed ninth dream sequence, essays, and much more.
Get it: Aug. 8 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Screen icons Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn delighted audiences in William Wyler's 1953 romantic comedy, Roman Holiday. Hepburn plays Princess Anne, a royal from an unspecified country. Overwhelmed by her obligations during a tour of European cities, she escapes for a free night in Rome. When she stumbles into the life of Joe Bradley (Peck), an American reporter who is initially hoping to get an exclusive story out of her, fate takes a hand and this unlikely couple begins to fall in love. Charming, funny, and beautifully made, Roman Holiday is considered one of the essentials of the romantic comedy genre.
Nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film took home Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Audrey Hepburn, Best Costume Design, and Best Motion Picture Story. Since Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted at the time during the McCarthy era, he did not receive his Oscar for writing Roman Holiday. In 1993, however, his widow received his Oscar for the film. In 1999, Roman Holiday was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Arriving for the film's 70th Anniversary, this new 4K UHD release of Roman Holiday comes complete with HDR10 courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution, and is a sight to behold. The film's audio remains true to its roots with a restored Dolby True HD 2.0 Mono track. The release boasts a curated collection of bonus materials, including Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday, Behind the Gates: Costumes, Rome with a Princess, Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years, Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist, Paramount in the '50s, Remembering Audrey, and more.
Get it: Aug. 15 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
Shekhar Kapur's 1998 historical epic, Elizabeth, is a rich and thrilling experience that depicts the early years and the turbulent rise to power of Queen Elizabeth I. Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett delivers a powerhouse performance as Elizabeth, the young queen forced to become wise beyond her years. It's the 16th century and the country is divided, Catholic against Protestant. Elizabeth must find a way to unite her people under one church. As a ruler, she has a keen eye for deception as she takes counsel from mysterious advisors. She must choose where to place her trust, with her secret lover, Sir Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) or her secretary Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush).
Throughout the film, Blanchett is joined by a cast of distinguished actors, including Rush, Fiennes, Richard Attenborough, and Emily Mortimer. Elizabeth received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Blanchett, and went on to win the Oscar for Best Makeup.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Elizabeth with a gorgeous new 4K UHD transfer with HDR10 and a DTS HD 5.1 master audio track. Extra's include an informative feature commentary track by director Kapur, two featurettes, and more.
Get it: Aug. 22 on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
Hustle & Flow
A 2005 audience and critical favorite, Hustle & Flow is an inspiring story of grit and redemption from writer-director Craig Brewer and producer John Singleton. Terrence Howard stars as Djay, a pimp struggling through a midlife crisis. Seeking help from his friends in his Memphis neighborhood, he plans to get his life together and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a well-known rapper. When Djay hears that superstar Skinny Black (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) is coming to town for the 4th of July weekend, he understands that this is his chance to get Skinny Black's attention and get signed to a recording contract.
Along with Howard's electrifying performance, Hustle and Flow is backed by strong supporting performances from Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai Parker, and Bridges. The musical drama also gave audiences a hugely successful soundtrack. Hustle & Flow received two Oscar nominations, one for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Howard, and another for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" by hip hop group Three 6 Mafia. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song.
This new 4K Ultra HD release of Hustle & Flow comes courtesy of the limited-edition Paramount Presents line of releases featuring a new scan from the film's original camera negative with HDR and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Extras include an audio commentary by Brewer, along with the featurettes Filmmaker Focus, Behind the Hustle, By Any Means Necessary, and Creating Crunk. There are also extended scenes, footage from the Memphis premiere, trailers, and more.
Get it: Aug. 29 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray (Limited-Edition).
By Adam J. Yeend