Tuesday, October 16, 2007

monumental roundup

Monumental as in huge or big? Well, yes, but not size-wise. We're talking monumental importance. There are only a couple of worthy releases today (unless you are checking out Transformers, which I haven't yet, but will), but that's alright. You're saving up for that Halloween costume, right? That's what I thought. Just don't forget to pick up a very important DVD release as well...

Top Shelf Pick of the Week!
The Jazz Singer
That's right. If you are interested in movie history, or the evolution of film technique- heck even American Culture in the 20th century, then this week's release is a no brainer. Warner's releases the three disc Deluxe Edition of the monumental 1927 film, The Jazz Singer. Starring Al Jolson in the title role, the film's story isn't revolutionary. It's a fairly typical tale of the age when European immigrants crowded New York. It's a story of a first generation American child of immigrant parents who yearns to discover what America holds for him, contrary to the wishes of his parents clinging to the old ways. The story appealed to many Americans and Al Jolson was a known quantity, starring in a adaptation of a popular Broadway play. What was new was the sound. And not so much the sound, as the new process where sound was synced with the film and coming from the film instead of an in-house organ. It was a revolutionary process called Vitaphone, and Warner's was banking on the system to bring them out of financial problems. In essentially what amounted to an ad-lib on Jolson's part, audiences were thrilled to hear Jolson talking to them. It was a landmark sea change for films, and Hollywood never looked back.
This week's three disc release is a treasure trove of film history and extras. In addition to the feature itself, there are a ton of Vitaphone Varieties (3 1/2 hours worth), several documentaries, commentaries, stills, reproduced programs, photocards and much more. It's one of the most important releases of the year and we'll have a full review of the DVD here at the Shelf later, so stay tuned.

MGM Holiday Classics:
Another set that comes out today is the MGM Holiday Classics collection. The 3 disc set includes the traditional holiday films, The Bishop's Wife, March of the Wooden Soldiers, and Pocket Full of Miracles. These have seen previous releases, but mostly with some disappointing prints. We love The Bishop's Wife in particular, and hope that they've received a print and audio restoration or upgrade. No extras to speak of - so we're not holding our breath. Still it's a great set of films to add to your holiday collection to start watching around Christmas.

Thomas Fleming: The Perils of Peace: America's Uncertain Fate After Yorktown
It was a war that seemed to be without win. Although America had secured a victory, the enemy did not acknowledge defeat. Sporadic fight continued to break out, and our relationship with our allies was becoming strained. Sound familiar? It's the situation in America in the two years between the defeat of the British a Yorktown and the signing of the peace treaty. War and peace are never easy. And for those armchair pundits and historical revisionists, it would do you some good to read just how difficult peace, freedom and a new government can be. And the effect that determined leaders, like George Washington, can have in seeing the ultimate goal through, no matter the odds.

That's all for today, kids. Hey- I never said it would be a long roundup- just monumental one!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet!

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