Empire Blu-ray Special: Crime

EmpireCrimeSquareThe Godfather Trilogy
The inclusion of Part II on a single disc is just one of the reasons why The Coppola Restoration is likely to remain the definitive edition of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adaptation of Mario Puzo’s bestselling crime saga, comprising two undisputed masterpieces and one belated, much maligned threequel. An immaculately conceived, immensely rich and intricately woven tapestry of family, morality, and tragedy of Shakespearean, if not Biblical profundity, The Godfather has arguably deposed Citizen Kane from its status as the greatest American film ever made, and certainly lends itself to endless repeat viewings. The first two films were restored to perfection for their HD debut. Restoration guru Robert A Harris and Coppola himself returning to the original negative to preserve, if not improve upon, the moody lighting and unique colour timing of the theatrical release, proving that Blu-ray can handle subtlety as deftly as clarity. The restoration process is covered in some detail in one of the many new HD features accompanying the copious extras included from earlier editions, including the original Coppola commentaries, ‘making of’ documentaries and deleted scenes. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, William Friedkin and Guillermo Del Toro join Coppola and producer Bob Evans in various supplementary features exploring the film’s difficult origins, troubled production and enduring legacy, showing the influence of American film’s first family of crime on everything from The Sopranos to The Simpsons and South Park. That a film so widely parodied and pillaged can look and feels as fresh today as it did when Nixon was president is yet another testament to Blu-ray’s brilliance.

Bonnie and Clyde
Equally influential – compare the killer couple’s bullet-riddled execution with Sonny’s bloody demise in The Godfather – Arthur Penn’s tragic true-crime caper, which made stars of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, richly deserves this glorious HD makeover, augmented by extras offering an in-depth exploration of the film and its real-life inspiration.

Natural Born Killers
Like Bonnie and Clyde on acid, the collision of Quentin Tarantino’s maverick invention with Oliver Stone’s attention-deficit disorder direction makes for a startling, audacious and absurdly violent grand guignol, presented in a dizzying array of film formats accompanied by an assaulting soundtrack, both of which Blu-ray delivers with relish.

The French Connection
Coppola’s contemporary, William Friedkin, used the hi-def release of his influential cop thriller as an excuse to digitally alter the colour palette, overseeing a gorgeous pastel-hued transfer while preserving the original grain. The extras, including some retro-fitted Blu-ray exclusives hosted by the boyishly enthusiastic septuagenarian, are equally definitive.

Zodiac
As if unsolved murders aren’t chilling enough, David Fincher channels Kubrick as he explores San Francisco’s notorious murder spree of the ‘70s, resulting in a compelling and disturbing anti-thriller. A flawless transfer (of the director’s cut) is augmented by Fincher’s typically exhaustive extras, including a documentary about the real-life Zodiac.

No Country for Old Men
Brilliantly written, masterfully performed and impeccably faithful to the source material: for example, neither the Coen brothers’ ‘80s-set crime thriller nor Cormac McCarthy’s novel have music. Yet it’s Roger Deakins’ luminous lighting that overwhelms on Blu-ray, whilst the absence of music gives the superb sound mix an extra kick.

A History of Violence
The clarity of David Cronenberg’s intellect is matched by the razor-sharp pictures of this morally arresting tale, which has important things to say about the nature of violence, and the possibilities for criminal redemption, while packing a narrative punch. Copious extras include a deleted HD dream sequence. Or should that be nightmare?

The Departed
The only remake to have won a Best Picture Oscar – hey, 2006 was a slow year – Martin Scorsese’s cops-and-robbers thriller demands a prize for sheer entertainment value, and shows how a master director can elevate relatively mundane source material to the near-classic status. A decent transfer is complemented by documentaries and deleted scenes.

Goodfellas
Arguably more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar than The Departed (or, for that matter, Dances With Wolves, which beat Goodfellas), Martin Scorsese’s true-life telling of wannabe gangster Henry Hill’s rise and fall is a tour de force, competently transferred to HD, with three documentaries and two commentaries – including one with Hill himself.

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