British director Ridley Scott's latest stylish thriller, "The Counselor," hits the big screen today, but the filmmaker known for larger-than-life drama makes an even bigger impact on the small screen.
A video pioneer, Scott often makes alternate cuts of his films for home release, in addition to providing his own audio commentaries and hours of documentary footage. Scott consistently delivers DVD and Blu-ray packages worth your time and money in an era when fewer and fewer people buy physical copies of their favorite movies.
Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" arguably benefits the most on home video. The original theatrical release was hampered by hammy, lifeless narration by star Harrison Ford; Scott's 1992 director's cut removes it, and adds one shot that changes the audience's perception of the ending.
But Scott wasn't finished tinkering. In 2007, he released a version called "Blade Runner: Final Cut," that digitally fixes some technical and continuity glitches and even includes some newly shot footage. This version -- along with four others -- is available on an exhaustive Blu-ray release that includes multiple audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes in addition to a 211-minute documentary, "Dangerous Days," that is arguably more interesting than the movie itself.
Eighteen years after "Blade Runner," Scott found box office glory and Oscar gold with "Gladiator," the crowd-pleasing epic that made Russell Crowe a movie star. Like "Blade Runner," the "Gladiator" Blu-ray package is expansive -- and, happily, it's not expensive. All of the excellent documentary footage included on the film's original 2001 DVD release is included, as well as new features created for the also-included 171-minute extended cut of the film. (I told you this guy likes to tinker.)
Perhaps the best, most surprising feature: The notoriously dour Crowe is in high spirits whenever he pops up on the "Gladiator" Blu-ray, a happy byproduct of his working relationship with Scott.
Also worth a look on Blu-ray: The amazingly dense "Alien Anthology," which includes Scott's 1979 horror classic and the pseudo-prequel "Prometheus," which proves to be more interesting as a lesson in the perils of big-budget filmmaking than a film itself.
He does comedy, too?
Yes, to varying degrees of success.
"Matchstick Men," available on DVD and VOD, is successful, thanks to a wonderfully unhinged performance by Nicolas Cage as a con man with OCD who discovers he has a daughter (Alison Lohman) -- and she wants to learn the family business. It came and went in the fall of 2003 and rarely appears on cable, but "Matchstick Men" is a delightful surprise.
Less successful is 2006's "A Good Year," available on DVD and VOD. If you've ever wanted to see Russell Crowe try his hand at light comedy on a vineyard in France, here's your chance. This film's one great contribution to American moviegoing was Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose" one year later.
What about streaming?
Ridleyphiles have only two options on Netflix's app: The widely bashed Christopher Columbus epic "1492: Conquest of Paradise," starring Gerard Depardieu, and the Oscar-nominated chronicle of the Battle of Mogadishu, "Black Hawk Down." The latter is a grueling, overwhelming experience, but its impressive cast gives you plenty of chances to say, "Hey, it's THAT guy!"
• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. What he does in life echoes in eternity. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.