DVD Tuesday: ‘The Young Victoria’ and ‘Minority Report’

by W. Andrew Powell

Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend in The Young Victoria

Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend in The Young Victoria

New this week on home video, Emily Blunt stars in The Young Victoria; plus Steven Spielberg‘s Minority Report and James Cameron‘s epic Avatar both arrive on Blu-ray.

The Young Victoria
Starring: Emily Blunt, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong, Paul Bettany, Rupert Friend
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s The Young Victoria is a period drama about one of the history’s most powerful women, but while the politics of the time play a big part in this tale, the real story here love.

Set in 1837, actress Emily Blunt plays Victoria at the tender age of 17, just as the princesses’ life is changing and she is looking forward to becoming the Queen of England. But, Victoria is also stuck between three people who are all struggling for power over the throne: her uncle King William, played by Jim Broadbent, her mother, the Duchess of Kent, played by Miranda Richardson, and her advisor, played by Mark Strong.

Diving headlong into the politics of the day, and Victoria’s fight for self among the warring heads of state, the film is ultimately about the relationship between Victoria the Queen and her people, and Victoria the wife to her husband Albert, played by Rupert Friend.

While the politics shape the story, and Victoria’s life, the heart of this tale is the future Queen’s love affair with Albert. Her life is wrapped up in the emotion of this relationship, and it is this story that makes Victoria’s early years so enthralling.

The film paints a beautiful portrait of 19th century England, with every scene sparkling for the camera. Vallee and his team did a marvellous job telling the tale, and bringing the history to life. The cinematography alone is spectacular, but add in the costumes, set decoration, and every other little detail and the film’s individual frames become art unto themselves.

Likewise, Blunt is a work of art in this role, alongside the cast of strong performers, like Friend.

At times the story drags along though, partly because the actual history was honestly less than riveting, and partly because of the restricted timeframe we glimpse in Victoria’s long career as queen. The performances are intriguing enough to make up for this sometimes slow pace, and it’s also helpful that the film is not an overly long epic either.

For the avid history buff, the DVD features are mildly disappointing. The biggest feature is the 22-minute package of deleted scenes, but there are also worthwhile features looking at Sandy Powell’s Oscar-winning costumes, and a historical featurette about the real Queen Victoria. You also get a peek at the making of two of the big scenes, Queen Victoria’s coronation, and her wedding.

Minority Report [Blu-ray]
Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow, Kathryn Morris
Director: Steven Spielberg

Director Steven Spielberg has a legendary resume that now spans five decades, and while he has many, many noteworthy gems on that list, one of my all-time favorites is the sci-fi thriller, Minority Report.

Arriving for the first time on Blu-ray this week, Minority Report stars Tom Cruise in one of his best roles from the last decade.

Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, and set in the year 2054, Cruise plays chief John Anderton, the man in charge of the newly-formed “Precrime” division of the Washington, D.C. police. Using three psychics known as Precogs, the unit hunts down people before they commit murder, ridding the city of the crime entirely.

But a special agent, played by Colin Farrell, has been assigned to review the unit and ultimately help decide if precrime can become a national program, just as Anderton’s life is thrown upside down when the Precogs predict that he is about to murder someone in less than two days.

Featuring nearly perfect special effects, which still look fantastic today and were positively the best of the year when it was released in 2002, Minority Report is a powerful, dark thriller with a strong plot and mood. Though there are the occasional light moments, the film is a taunt drama, and it looks perfect in this Blu-ray release.

Adding to this release is a fantastic array of features, which are all either new, or in a few cases have been remastered in high definition from the original DVD. The package comes with a whole separate disc of quality Blu-ray features looking at every angle of production. About the only thing missing is a commentary track, but with everything else, it really wasn’t necessary.

Arriving on Blu-ray April 22…

Avatar [Blu-ray – April 22]
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez
Director: James Cameron

Coming out well ahead of schedule, Avatar debuts on Blu-ray for Earth Day, and even though this release has no features, it’s bound to be a huge hit.

Written and directed by  James Cameron, Avatar hardly need an introduction. It became the top grossing film ever made, and made 3D films instantly cool with its eye-popping visuals.

Filmed using motion capture and then rendered to photorealistic quality in a computer generated world, the story is set in the year 2154 on a planet called Pandora in the Alpha Centauri system.

Lush and green, and inhabited by gigantic blue humanoids known as Na’vi, Pandora is a world filled with life and dangerous creatures which has been besieged by the machinations of a heavily armed contingent of humans who have been sent to the planet to plunder its resources.

Attempting to make nice with the Na’vi, the company behind the space mission has come up with a way of breeding what they call Avatars – part-human and part-Na’vi clones which can be remotely inhabited by specially trained people. The Na’vi know the Avatars for what they truly are though and will not accept them into their fold.

That is, until Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, lands on the planet.

Jake is a paraplegic ex-Marine who has fallen into the Avatar mission in the hopes that it will pay for treatment to heal his legs, and while the program is one of science, the military minds on Pandora hope he can help them move the Na’vi from their home, which happens to sit on top of a vast quantity of minerals they want to mine.

As the human operation pushes for war against the Na’vi, to get them out of the way of their mining operations, Jake has to decide where his allegiance lies, and how much he cares for one Na’vi who he has fallen in love with.

Filled with rich, intriguing characters, and emotional scenes between the humans and the Na’vi, the film is certainly an ecological commentary, but it’s also an amazing action-drama that is essentially the best epic we’ve seen on screen since The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I wonder if it’s going to be a hard sell on Blu-ray, without all the 3D magic, but while the film was unbelievable in theatres, it is still going to wow audiences at home.

For those who don’t want to own two copies of Avatar, it’s worth mentioning that a big four-disc special edition of the film is planned for release this November.

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