The release of the new “Harry Potter” Ultimate Edition Blu-rays may seem a little premature considering the last two movies won’t even hit theaters until 2010 and 2011, respectively, but I actually like Warner Brothers’ aggressiveness with getting the first batch out so soon. Not only does that give them ample time to put out the other four movies before the release of “Deathly Hallows: Part One,” but it’s also a great way to ring in the new decade. After all, “Harry Potter” had a massive impact on pop culture over these last ten years, and what better way to celebrate that than with a really cool collector’s set?
Having said that, however, the Ultimate Editions are really only for those diehard fans that want to know anything and everything about the making of the films, because with the exception of a new series of featurettes called “Creating the World of Harry Potter” (with a new installment appearing on each release), these are nearly identical to the original Blu-ray and DVD releases. The addition of extended versions of both “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets” is a nice touch (as are the Chocolate Frog-inspired character cards that come packaged in the box set), but the only reason anyone should be buying these are for the aforementioned featurettes and their corresponding books.
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Wake up. It’s been a busy day in movie world.
* Plenty of festival happenings up are in the offing up in Toronto, the most high profile of which is the famously award-savvy Weinstein Company’s pick, for a reported $1-2 million, of “A Single Man.” This is a sort of film that would be strictly art-house fare, and low profile art-house fare at that, if it weren’t also potential Oscar fare. From fashion designer-turned director Tom Ford, it’s a drama about a college professor (Colin Firth) dealing with the death of his lover over the course of a single day in 1960s Los Angeles. The film also stars Julianne Moore and Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt in “Watchmen“) and is based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the openly gay mid-century English-born writer whose stories about Wiemar-era Berlin eventually became “I Am a Camera” by playwright John van Druten, which eventually became the movie and stage musicals, “Cabaret.” Variety has the details along with more about the activity surrounding a number of other new movies.
The most interesting of these to me is “Harry Brown,” which stars Michael Caine in a film that’s going to be plugged, probably inaccurately, as the Brit “Gran Torino.” I’ve always liked Caine’s movie work, but he became something of a personal hero of mine while I was researching a Bullz-Eye look back at his career not so long ago. If you’ve never seen the original version of “Get Carter,” it’s important to know Caine is capable of being at least twice as tough as Mr. Eastwood or just about anyone else this side of Lee Marvin. That’s largely because he’s an extremely disciplined film actor and also probably partly because his pre-stardom life was, really and truly, no picnic. The man’s known grinding poverty, serious action in the Korean War, and the down and dirty truth of crime in his native London. His acting only gets better as such relatively recent films as “The Quiet American” and “Children of Men” proves. This one really has my attention.
* The new head of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, made her rep partly as the manager of the Harry Potter “brand” for Warner Brothers. No word on whether and/or how much she was involved, but Warners is annoucing a deal with the Universal Orlando Resort for a Harry Potter theme park. Nikki Finke has the press release and videos showing the basic layout (it’s essentially Hogsmeade, the town adjacent to Hogwarts from the books and movies), as well as plugs from Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.
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