Chris Hicks: 'Network,' 'Presidents' get Blu-ray upgrade

Published: Saturday, Feb. 19 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star in the 1976 thriller "All the President's Men."

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Two of the best films of the 1970s get a Blu-ray upgrade this week, along with a bevy of recent movies making their DVD debuts.

"All the President's Men" (Warner/Blu-ray, 1976, PG, $34.99). A great newspaper picture wrapped in mystery-thriller conventions, Alan J. Pakula's expertly directed film faithfully adapts the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, chronicling their relentless pursuit of the truth behind the Watergate break-in and the shattering political scandal that was uncovered.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are at the peak of their powers as the two reporters, surrounded by great actors immersing themselves in the Oscar-winning script by William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Princess Bride") under the superb direction of Pakula ("Klute," "Sophie's Choice"). The one negative is all the foul language (the film was initially rated R, then reduced to PG on appeal).

As you would expect, the picture and sound are great on this new high-definition release, which includes all the previously issued bonus features and adds a photo-filled booklet attached to the box that recaps the movie's backstory (to include the 2005 revelation of Deep Throat's identity, which had been a subject of speculation for decades).

Extras: widescreen, audio commentary (by Redford), featurettes, trailers; 36-page booklet

"Network" (Warner/Blu-ray, 1976; R for violence, language, sex, nudity; $19.98). Paddy Chayefsky won the screenwriting Oscar for this brilliant satire of the television industry, a jet-black comedy that was viewed as somewhat fanciful in the mid-1970s. Now, it looks like prophecy.

Reality shows, news as entertainment, on-camera ageism, a fourth national network and many other things we take for granted today were predicted by this film as it chronicles the 15 minutes of fame earned by a TV anchor who's gone round the bend, and the executives behind the scenes who scramble to take advantage of his role as a fleeting zealot of the airwaves.

TV anchorman Howard Beale is perfectly embodied by Peter Finch, who won a posthumous Oscar for the role. Oscars also went to Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight, and nominations to William Holden, Ned Beatty and director Sidney Lumet. There was no nomination for Robert Duvall, but there should have been.

As a side note, take the R rating seriously; the film is replete with foul language, and the sex scene, while comic, is also specific.

Extras: widescreen, audio commentary (by Lumet), featurettes, excerpt from Dinah Shore's interview show "Dinah!" with Chayefsky, Turner Classic Movies episode "Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet," trailer

"Waiting for 'Superman' " (Paramount, 2010, PG, $19.99). For some reason, this stirring documentary was overlooked when Oscar nominations were announced. The film follows several young children through grade school, demonstrating how the education system is in dire need of a reboot. Despite what some may say, it's not an indictment of teachers, but rather of a system that rewards all the wrong things and the kids who suffer as a result. (Included is a $25 card for a school donation.)

Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes (including updates)

"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (Sony Classics/Blu-ray, 2010; R for language; $38.96). Woody Allen's latest is an ensemble tale of interconnecting tales of love, infidelity and anxiety, his usual subjects. Some episodes are amusing, some are more serious, some simply fall flat. Allen's fans will find more to enjoy than casual viewers. Stars include Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts.

Extras: widescreen, trailers (also on single-disc DVD, $28.95)

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