May 17, 2024

The Best of PARAMOUNT PRESENTS (so far)

From the Frisky Staff of FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE😻

Beginning in 2020, Paramount Pictures began releasing selected titles on Blu-ray (and later 4K) as the Paramount Presents series. Consisting of films from the silent to the modern era, not only are they nicely restored, each comes with impressive slipcover packaging that features a replica of the film’s original one-sheet, as well as assorted new and vintage bonus features. Many classic titles have made their Blu-ray debuts as part of the series. 

As of this writing, Paramount Presents consists of 44 titles with more on the way this year…including Chinatown on 4K! Yay! Since Free Kittens Movie Guide has had the pleasure to review many of them, we've selected the 10 which make us purr the loudest (so far). 

10) ROMAN HOLIDAY (#9) - It goes without saying that Roman Holiday is a must-own for classic movie lovers and Paramount does right by the film with this Blu-ray (it has since been re-issued in 4K). In addition to the great transfer, there’s also a bigger batch of bonus features than any previous PP release at the time. Most are fairly short and not all of them are directly related to the film, but they’re enjoyable, especially the feature about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, which succinctly summarizes what McCarthyism did to so many careers. 

9) LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL (#18) - Lauren Bacall once famously said, “It’s not an old movie if you haven’t seen it.” Though John Sturges has directed many classic westerns, 1959’s Last Train from Gun Hill is an overlooked, underappreciated gem...and brand new to me. With a plot similar to 3:10 to Yuma, Last Train from Gun Hill is exciting, fast-paced and culminates in a tension-filled climax…a terrific film made available on Blu-ray for the first time. There isn't much bonus material, but the film is beautifully restored and well worth rediscovering. 

8) 48 HRS (#19) - Not the first so-called “buddy” action-comedy, but it’s definitely the most influential. Of course, Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) aren’t quite buddies, but the quasi-antagonistic relationship between the two became a working blueprint for a slew of other films which dished-out equal amounts of wisecracks and gunplay. This one’s a little light on bonus features, but the film’s a modern classic and one of Murphy’s best (Nolte’s too, for that matter).

7) BREAKDOWN (#26) - One Kurt Russell film that’s often criminally overlooked - featuring one of his best performances - is 1997’s Breakdown. It was a critical & box office success, but sort-of forgotten over the years and never released on Blu-ray until surprisingly included for the PP series. While its cultural impact pales in comparison to some of Paramount’s bonafide blockbusters from the ‘90s, Breakdown is one of the better action-thrillers of the decade and certainly worth rediscovering.

6) THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE 4K (#31) - Including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in the PP series is a no-brainer. Not only a big hit, it’s arguably the last great film directed by the legendary John Ford and pairs two Hollywood legends for the first time. This release is also noteworthy for being the first PP 4K UHD offering (along with a Blu-ray version). This 2-disc set also includes extensive bonus features, as well as outstanding packaging.

5) A PLACE IN THE SUN (#22) - Having never seen it until it was released on Blu-ray for the first time, this one was a pleasant surprise. Despite a misleading ad campaign, the second half of A Place in the Sun has more narrative and aesthetic similarities to film noir than a love story of the ages, an entertainingly dark film about an irredeemable character. As one of the studio’s most critically lauded films of the ‘50s,it’s been given a great video/audio facelift and supplemented by interesting archival bonus features.

Pepper & Mr. Bonnie's Paws of Approval.
4) AIRPLANE! (#7) - Like an issue of MAD Magazine come-to-life, the non-stop parade of quotable dialogue, parody and gags-within-gags makes Airplane! infinitely re-watchable. We've been seeing its influence in countless parodies ever since, some good, some not-so-good and most downright shitty. 40 years later, Airplane! flies-high over all of them. Newly remastered, this disc also boasts great new bonus features. The Q&A session, in particular, will be of special interest to fans, where the ZAZ team offers all kinds of amusing anecdotes about the making of the film.

3) THE COURT JESTER (#13) - I was never much of a Danny Kaye fan, but must also confess I’ve only seen a small handful of his movies. However, The Court Jester turned out to be terrific fun. The story is a massive comedy of errors filled with plot twists, misunderstandings, clever wordplay, elaborate slapstick and the funniest sword fight this side of The Princess Bride. Kaye is the undisputed star and the fun he appears to be having is infectious. Though light on bonus features, the film is beautifully restored in all its VistaVision glory.

2) THE WAR OF THE WORLDS 4K/WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (#35) - This 2-disc set of The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide includes the one-sheet that was created to promote their re-release as a double feature back in the ‘70s. The 4K UHD transfer of War is a knockout and the Blu-ray debut of When is too tempting for any classic sci-fi fan to pass up. It’s almost as if Paramount had my childhood in-mind. Whether you grew up in the ‘50s or belatedly discovered them in the ‘70s, these films paired together are a nostalgic blast and the perfect double feature.

1) ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST 4K (#44) - Sergio Leone does with the western genre what only a few others have...raise it to a level of high art. He pays homage to virtually every western that ever mattered while consistently confounding the viewer's expectations. Another long-overdue 4K release (with an accompanying Blu-ray), the picture quality is quite good, while the DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds excellent. This one includes a new audio commentary, a brief appreciation by critic Leonard Maltin and slew of vintage bonus features.

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