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New on Disc: 'American Graffiti' on Blu-ray and more …

30 May, 2011 By: Mike Clark

American Graffiti: Special Edition

Street 5/31
Universal, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, $26.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Suzanne Somers.
American Graffiti was the definitive nostalgia piece of its day, and Blu-ray serves the movie’s sensual subtleties well: bright colors coming through the nighttime grain of early morning shooting and a Walter Murch sound design that took the place of a musical score the picture couldn’t afford once George Lucas & Co. shelled out for the oldies soundtrack that plays wall-to-wall. With occasional halo-ing that reflects how I recall it looking in theaters plus an old-school 2.0 soundtrack, I love Universal’s new Blu-ray edition. Director Lucas was going for a documentary feel, and shooting in Techniscope was a good start. That widescreen process used less film and, thus, created more grain — one step up from 16mm, as is noted in this release’s outstanding making-of documentary carried over from the earlier DVD edition.
Extras: Beyond a picture-in-picture feature where Lucas comments on the action, Laurent Bouzereau’s 78-minute documentary is one of the best behind-the-scenes looks ever.
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Pale Flower

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
In Japanese with English subtitles.
Stars Ryu Okebe, Mariko Kaga.
Director Masahiro Shinoda’s yakuza/gambling toughie is one enigmatically hip movie that keeps lingering in the mind. Flower has one of those endings that makes you reconsider everything that’s come before, which makes one want to find the time to take a second look.
Extras: In one of the bonus extras, an amazingly youthful-looking Shinoda (he turned 80 in March) says Toru Takemitsu’s feverish score was probably the most avant-garde music around anywhere at the time. Film scholar and Takemitsu expert Peter Grilli does a partial commentary for one of the other extras, and I like the accompanying essay by Chuck Stephens.
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First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.1 million, $27.95 DVD, NR.
Several reviewers have noted that this documentary about assassinated two-time Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was as much a history of her country since its 1947 partition as it was her personal story. Using a flood of old clips dating back to the regime of her father (Prime Minister and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), this portrait leaves little doubt about the degree to which trouble has followed Pakistan around in most of our lifetimes. If Bhutto doesn’t quite feel rounded, it is compelling all the way — and it would be even without the recent Pakistani intrigue in Osama Bin Laden’s dispatching.
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Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Mystery, $19.95 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars James Garner, Gayle Hunnicutt, Carroll O’Connor, Sharon Farrell, Bruce Lee.
An obvious reason to catch this rather pedestrian L.A. mystery is that it is what it is: the only screen adaptation ever made out of Raymond Chandler’s 1949 novel The Little Sister. There are two fabulous altercations — one in an office, one outside of a skyscraper restaurant — between Marlowe (James Garner) and a whacked-out Asian, played by Bruce Lee, who works for one of the movie’s heavies. I don’t know which is more fun: to have seen these scenes cold at the time or to see them in full context, knowing what Lee’s career became.
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