The Remains Of the Day In Full Bloom

You may've guessed what my second Twilight Time post would be, since I named this film in my Twilight Time #1 post.  Sony double-featured the two films on DVD in 2010, though they don't have much to do with each other apart from starring Emma Thompson and having come out only a couple years apart (The Remains Of the Day in 1993, then Sense and Sensibility in 1995).  But they were also two must have blus from Twilight Time, so here we are.

Update 6/23/19 - 3/26/23: Sorry, this update's been a little delayed... I've had to go through two defective copies to arrive at a fully functioning disc.  But looking around online, no one else has been reporting problems, so I assume it's just been my bad luck.  Anyway, I have it in hand now: Sony's 4k Ultra HD of Remains, released last month and looking stunning.
The Remains Of the Day is the second of two back-to-back films where Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are at possible romantic odds with each other, directed by James Ivory, produced by Ismael Merchant, and written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.  The other, of course, being Howards End.  Certainly, there's a lot to distinguish the two, but since neither title particularly sets its film apart (one is abstractly vague and the other's just the name of the house), my short-hand for differentiating them is that this is the one with Christopher Reeves.  That's somebody you don't come across in a lot of English films.  So just commit that little "Remains Of the Day = Christopher Reeves" formula to memory, and you'll never confuse the two again.
But let's get serious about Remains Of the Day, because it deserves it.  Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, this film takes place in two timelines, before and after the second world war.  In the latter, head butler Hopkins has to come to grips with the fact that he devoted his life and everything he believed in to the lord of his house, who turned out to be an infamous Nazi sympathizer.  Mike Nichols was originally set to direct, and he stayed on to produce after he had to drop out, giving the film to the Merchant/ Ivory team as the material was obviously in their wheelhouse.  The whole cast is superb (yes, even Reeves), including pitch perfect supporting performances by Peter Vaughan, James Fox and Hugh Grant.
The Remains Of the Day has had a pretty simple life on home video.  It was released on DVD by Sony in 2001 as a pretty attractive special edition.  There was that double-feature disc with Sense in 2010, but otherwise that one DVD has been the whole story until 2013, when Sony released it on blu in the UK and other foreign regions.  Two years later, and Twilight Time brought it home to the US with their edition in 2015.  And now in 2023, Sony has upgraded it to a proper 4k Ultra HD disc in the US and several other regions.
1) 2001 Sony DVD; 2) 2015 Twilight Time BD; 3) 2023 Sony UHD.

Okay, I left the negative space around the first set of shots so you can see how the old DVD is slightly window-boxed.  Back in 2001, I guess that all would've fallen into overscan area anyway, but it does change the aspect ratio from 2.33:1 on the DVD to an even wider 2.39:1 now on the blu.  Curiously, even with those vertical bars and narrower ratio, the DVD manages to have slightly more info along the sides.  That's because the DVD is slightly squished, which the BD corrects.  Colors remain almost the same, although there is a bit of a red overcast that the blu-ray clears up (look at the sky behind Hugh in the first shots).  And while the DVD was anamorphic, non-interlaced and generally quite good for such an older disc, the blu is still a big win with crisp detail and finely rendered grain.  The DVD also shows some serious artifacting along its edges, which the blu happily removes.  All in all, Twilight Time gave us an even greater improvement than I was expecting to find in this comparison.

Now, Sony's announcement for their UHD described it as being "previously restored in 4k," and indeed it seems to utilize the same scan going back to 2013, certainly still 2.39:1 and almost identically framed to the 2015 BD seen here.  But this master has a new Dolby Vision/ HDR grade, approved by Mr. Ivory, and of course we're finally getting it in full 4k resolution (this is a 3-layer disc with over 76 GB dedicated to just the main feature itself).  And yes, the grain looks much more smooth and natural.  By comparison, it appears chaotic and digital on the BD.  That was a world above the DVD, but it doesn't look like TT gave it the kind of top quality encode Sony would have.  And that combined with the full res disc really enhances the naturalism of the image when you examine it up close, and even when you don't, small detail that gets blown out to pixelation or contrast is retained on the new UHD.  And the colors really pop now.  If there's any potential criticism of the new release it's that maybe they've gone a bit overboard, the grass from the windows behind characters indoors, for instance, is positively radiating green.  But it sure looks beautiful.  The blacks are deep, the whites are bright and all the colors look truer than ever before, and quite strong at that.
There was one minor disappointment with Twilight Time in the audio department as well.  The original DVD gave us the choice beween the original stereo mix and a new 5.1, plus French, Portuguese and Spanish dubs with English, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai subtitle options.  Twilight Time unsurprisingly drops the foreign language options, but they also dropped the original stereo track.  So we just got the 5.1 (though now in lossless DTS-HD) and English subs.

Sony went all out on their new UHD, though, bringing back the stereo mix, now in lossless DTS-HD, retaining the 5.1 DTS-HD and introducing a new Dolby Atmos track.  All that truly matters is that stereo mix, but you can't be mad at more options, and techies will like the new, cutting edge track.  They've also added seven foreign language dubs, and nineteen subtitle options, including both standard English and HoH.  So whatever you wanted, you've got it here now.
Sony's original DVD was pretty nice with the special features, too.  It features a lively audio commentary with Ivory, Merchant and Thompson, which strikes a nice balance between the seriously informative and anecdotal.  There are several deleted scenes, also with optional commentary, and three substantial featurettes that add up to roughly 75 minutes of 'making of' content, including interviews with all the stars, writers and major players, and some B-roll glimpses behind-the-scenes.  We're definitely talking more than your standard promotional quickie.  You also got the trailer and an insert with chapter stops.

Thankfully, Twilight Time retains all of that.  They don't add much more, but that's alright considering how much we already got.  The 2013 foreign blus seem to have dropped the commentary, but it's back here.  And they do add their signature isolated score track, of course.  Plus they throw in a second, international trailer and an 8-page booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo.  But basically, all the good stuff comes from the DVD.

And the UHD stays virtually the same, too.  All the DVD stuff is here, including the commentary, but we lose TT's isolated score track and the booklet.  Their international trailer got to stay, however, and it now comes in a sleek, stylish slipcover.
So this is an easy recommendation.  A great presentation of a great film.  The Twilight Time release was nice for its time, but this is down-right definitive, with its new HDR 4k presentation and the original stereo track, lossless for the first time.  This is a real "put this in your system to impress your friends" disc, and a film that truly deserves it.

The Cinematic Catalog of Josh Kornbluth

If this is your first time reading the name Josh Kornbluth, let me introduce you.  The shortest of short descriptions is that Josh is a monologist, like Spalding Gray.  He mixes humor with autobiographical drama, but without all the kooky new age stuff; and like Gray, every so often he produces a new work about another new stage or event in his life.  Is he as good as Gray?  That's a tall order, but he certainly stands up as an artist in his own right with a distinctive style and his own preoccupations.  He's working in the same, especially narrow field as Gray, but he's in no way a knock-off.  The comparisons wouldn't even be made if there were more monologists getting their work turned into feature films.  This is theater stuff that rarely gets to make the transition, but we're lucky when it does.  And at least Josh's work is better cataloged on DVD than Anna Deavere Smith's.  That's an M.I.A. post for another day.
Haiku Tunnel is Kornbluth's first film, from 2001, about his time starting as a temp and going perm at a law firm.  Josh co-directs with his brother, Jacob Kornbluth, who also lends a hand adapting the screenplay from Josh's original performance script.  It's more of an overt comedy than the works of Gray (or Smith), and as we'll see, that he always applies a lighter, more comic touch to his works.  This is also one of the most movie-movies in his oeuvre.  I promise I'll stop comparing everything to Spalding, but just to give you a sense, think of Terrors Of Pleasure, where interspersed throughout his monologue, we see actors, filmed on location, depicting the scenes being described.  But this goes even further, allowing the actors to speak their dialogue and have full, traditionally cinematic scenes, interacting with Kornbluth and each other.  Yes, there are monologue segments, where our star stands in a small, white room with a blackboard and a few props to directly address the camera/ audience.  But the rest of the cast is really able to shine, which is great, because he's assembled some a terrific team of co-stars.  They're mostly unknown, apart from a small but hilarious appearance by Harry Shearer, but they all deliver smart, memorable performances.
2002 Sony Classics DVD.
Sony Classic's 2002 DVD slightly window-boxes the film to a rough 1.82:1 and looks pretty good for SD.  Yeah, it's a bit soft, and would surely look nicer boosted to HD.  It was shot on 35mm, so just imagine.  But it's anamorphic, not interlaced, and the colors and detail are clean and attractive for a DVD.  The audio's a clear Dolby 2.0 track with optional English (and French) subtitles.  Sony always does first class work, so if this film has to be DVD-only, at least we got this one.

Especially since they gave this film a decent special edition.  There's an entertaining and enlightening commentary by both Kornbluths, some funny deleted scenes and outtakes and the trailer (and two bonus trailers).  It also includes an insert with chapter notes and a director's statement.  Unfortunately, the standards didn't stay this high.
2004's Red Diaper Baby is Josh's second film, made for the Sundance Channel, and it plays much more like Swimming To Cambodia, strictly as a one-man performance (or "concert film"), but filmed before an audibly present live audience and enhanced with moving cameras, colored lights, music and changing background images.  This one's less blatantly a "comedy," but still a quite comic reflection of his childhood, but with a little more heart and drama.  It's a more personal and mature work, not that Haiku Tunnel was lacking in these departments.  The title's a reference to how he was raised by devoutly communist parents in New York City, which would go on to inform his whole life (as we'll see in a later film).  Jacob Kornbluth sat this one out, which is instead directed by documentary director Doug Pray (Hype!, Scratch).  It took a while to get this on DVD, but Passion River eventually put it out in 2010.
2010 Passion River DVD.
Despite being a more modern disc, it's pretty problematic.  Maybe it's partly due to its television origins, or Passion River just being a less professional outfit.  But you can plainly see the issues above.  This disc is non-anamorphic (I've left the negative space around the first image to illustrate how it would display on a modern TV) and two out of every five frames are interlaced.  It's also window-boxed to an unusual AR of 1.64:1, which is certainly suspect.  Oh, and the left edge of the screen is colorless (presumably a part of the image that was meant to be cropped out.  Other than that, the image isn't too unattractive.  The picture seems clear when it isn't combed and the colors feel correct.  You could just about get away with it on a smaller fullscreen set, and I guess Passion River just took Sundance's broadcast master and slapped it on a disc, but it's hard to believe anybody would still try to pass this off in 2010.  Imagine the outcry if Netflix streamed something that looked like this.

The basic Dolby stereo track is fine, but subtitles are no longer an option.  And there are absolutely no on-disc extras.  The menu screen consists of nothing but a Play button.  They do at least continue the tradition of including an insert with a director's statement (and chapters).  But just that's pretty paltry.
Next up is 2012's The Mathematics of Change, about Kornbluth's falling in and out of love with math at Princeton University.  In a sense, as we're following Josh from his childhood years now to his college years, this can be taken as a pretty straight-forward sequel to Red Diaper.  It's another straight monologue, in the sense that there are no actors or dramatizations, just Kornbluth performing for another live audience (who we get to see this time and, curiously, they all seem to have papers set out in front of them).  It's performed, appropriately, in an actual mathematics auditorium at Berkley, and there are fewer theatrical effects (no alternating backgrounds, just a chalk board, and the lighting rarely changes, save for a few key moments).  Interestingly, it uses the same music as Red Diaper Baby and Jacob Kornbluth is back as director.  Mathematics was released directly to DVD and streaming by Quixotic Projects, which is essentially a self-release by the film's production team.  As of this writing, it's still for sale.
2012 Quixotic Projects DVD.
But these guys seem to know how to do DVDs better than Passion River, though.  It appears to be a properly pressed disc (not a DVR as I was expecting).  It's anamorphic and properly progressive, openly framed at 1.78:1.  It's the one that could most pass for a blu-ray of the three we've seen.  It has a 5.1 audio track and the menu screen at least has a Chapters menu, though disappointingly there are still no subtitles or any kind of special features.  There's no insert this time either, not that that's important, but I was starting to grow fond of the director's statements.
Finally, Josh Kornbluth has made one more feature film (to date), 2017's Love & Taxes.  You might think it would be his first title available on blu, but sadly it veered in the other direction, and is streaming/ direct download only.  I see Love & Taxes as the fan favorite, if not the best film, as it brings us full circle.  It's another movie-movie, even bringing back several of the cast members from Haiku Tunnel (yes, including Harry Shearer) for all the scenes where Kornbluth isn't standing alone, live on stage.  There's a romcom element to this one that lays a little flat, but otherwise it's everything you could want.  It documents the period of Kornbluth's life when he finally had to hire accountants and deal with his many years of tax avoidance (thanks to his communist upbringing).  It even brings us around to him filming Haiku Tunnel.  Jacob Kornbluth is back as director, filming scenes with another actor playing Jacob Kornbluth.  He even introduces a few of the real people from his life that we've seen throughout his work in the closing credits.  It's a really good film on its own terms, but even better if you've followed Josh on his journey through the previous films.
Unfortunately there's no disc to detail of this one, so I'll leave it at that.  This isn't strictly speaking the entirety of Josh Kornbluth's film work, as he also works as a character actor, appearing in films as diverse as Jack and Teknolust, and perhaps most significantly in the atypical documentary Strange Culture.  But these are the four true Kornbluth films, the creative visions he's written and starred in.  I would love, love, love it if Criterion or any other label out there boxed these four up in for a sweet little blu-ray set.  Even a halfway decent restoration to SD would benefit Red Diaper Baby.  But I wouldn't hold my breath.  I'm a little surprised nobody even put out a barebones Love & Taxes disc as a new release.  No, I'll keep hoping for more, but this is probably all we get.  But I highly recommend these, and hopefully we'll get a fifth film.  He's still active on Youtube and stuff, so I don't think we've seen the last of him.

Dive Right In To The Dead Pit

1989's The Dead Pit is an odd duck.  I mean, sure, it's not as weird as some other movies we've looked at here, but it's weird in terms of where it falls in terms of quality.  Like, if someone said to me, hey, I've never seen The Dead Pit, is it any good?  I wouldn't know how to answer.  It's almost a good movie.  In some ways it's an awesome movie.  But it's just too amateurish and crappy to cross that "Good" finish line.  So yeah, it sucks.  But it really delivers the goods, in terms of its imaginative aspirations and in the slick level of quality it manages to reach, that horror fans are looking for.  In other words, it's a real quagmire, just the kind of off-beat flick we cult fans turn to Code Red for.

Update 1/14/20 - 3/8/23: This post was originally titled "The Dead Pit Quagmire" due to some compromises fans had to accept in this film's releases.  But there's a brand new version that solves just about all of that stuff.  Would ya believe Code Red/ Dark Force have gone UHD?
So let's dig into it.  What is The Dead Pit, a zombie movie?  Well, technically, but they don't really show up until the end to up the ante and turn the finale into a wild, The Beyond-like spectacle.  For the most part, the film is a little more subdued, with a single Freddy Krueger-like supernatural slasher committing all the villainy through the bulk of the story.  It all takes place in a mental hospital, with our leading lady convinced that an evil, dead doctor is persecuting her.  She spends the majority of her time in comically exploitative underwear, and the film occasionally dips into "women in prison" territory, replete with a scene where a cackling nurse blasts her top off with a powerful fire hose.  It's all interspersed with some awfully wooden dialogue read by actors who are clearly struggling to remember the last few words of their sentences, which is what pulls the film down to suckage levels. 
But then there's all the stuff that makes it neat.  The hospital location is pretty spooky and expertly lit, with eerie green lights peaking up from The Haunting-like spiral staircases.  The film's directed by Brett Leonard, who went on to direct more mainstream fare such as Hideaway, The Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity.  None of those are what I'd regard as highly respectable films either, but you can see the qualities in here that would've lead New Line to give him those shots at the big time.  And it's full of great kills, from dental drills through the eye to melting faces and flying decapitations, all made with the classic 80s style physical effects fans trawled their video stores for back in the day.  If they'd just paid as much attention to the rest of the film as those sequences, we'd have, if not a Re-Animator level classic, at least an endearing entertainment like The Curse.  Instead, it's a more frustrating experience where cool scenes are ruined by the grind of joyless tedium you have to sit through in order to get to them.  In the end, is it worth it?  That depends on your level of patience and willingness to overlook serious flaws.  But I think this might actually work better on younger viewers who are still thinking less critically as the whole experience just washes over them, in the same way that an adult sees a man in a zippered rubber suit clumsily stepping on cheap models while a child just sees Godzilla rampaging through a decimated city.  That's why I think a lot of us are nostalgic for the old Dead Pit VHS with the novelty light-up box.
But for a very long time, it was largely academic whether you were fond or wary of The Dead Pit, because you couldn't get it on DVD if you tried.  At best, die hard aficionados were able to import hard-to-find budget discs that were barebones and fullscreen from random European territories.  Code Red finally arrived to do the film justice in 2008, releasing two versions of a proper widescreen special edition: a single disc DVD and a Best Buy exclusive 2-disc set.  It was everything you could've wanted until the HD age.  So in 2019, Code Red, this time in conjunction with Dark Force Entertainment, released a blu-ray upgrade... at least in terms of picture quality.  We'll get into it.  But any issues with that release are old news anyway, now that in 2023, Dark Force has released a brand new BD/ UHD 2-disc set with a "BRAND NEW 4k Scan with HDR and Color Correction." 
1) 2008 Code Red DVD; 2) 2019 Dark Force BD; 3) 2023 Dark Force UHD.

The blu wasn't 4k; it had a "Brand New 2k Scan from Original Negative with Extensive Scene-By-Scene Correction."  And it's certainly an obvious enhancement over the DVD transfer, with a far less muddy image and more natural colors.  Just look at the first set of shots; it's like you're trying to view the DVD through a sheet of wax paper, which has been lifted for the blu.  But the inconsistent, patchy and sometimes pixelated film grain falls a bit short of what we expect from a brand new 2k scan.  It feels like an older master, though maybe it's just troubled compression (this is a single layer disc, after all) or a side effect of their correction process.  Both are shown in 1.78:1, but the framing has shifted a bit between versions, so it's definitely not the same scan.  But I'd say most of the credit for this blu goes to the color correction rather than any great gain in resolution.
1) 2008 Code Red DVD; 2) 2019 Dark Force BD; 3) 2023 Dark Force UHD.
Happily, that is not the case with the new disc, which by the way has now been properly matted to 1.85:1.  Grain is now very distinct and fine detail is really improved, even over the blu.  Naturally, I was expecting an upgrade, but this is a surprisingly first-class UHD.  It helps that this time, they sprung for dual-layer.  The HDR is nice and subtle, giving the "normal" scenes more natural and authentic, while feeling even more supernatural for the abnormal sequences; a surprisingly attractive image.  Seriously, the jump from BD to UHD looks as extreme as the jump from DVD to blu.  The Dead Pit looks really attractive now.  There are still little flecks of film damage here and there, but nothing distracting.  In fact, they feel like they belong more than ever now that Dark Force has captured a perfectly filmic look.

For audio, we just get the original mono track (which is all I ask for), bumped up to DTS-HD on the BD and UHD, though it's still a little fuzzy.  There are no subtitle options on any of these.
Now, here's where the blu loses ground.  The special features consist of four really quite good on-camera interviews with Leonard, writer/ producer Gimel Everett and stars Cheryl Lawson & Jeremy Slate.  Neat.  We also get the trailer.  But the DVDs not only also had these interviews; they had considerably more.  There was a fun audio commentary by Leonard, Everett and Slate, and brief introductions by Slate and Lawson on the single disc edition.  Plus some bonus trailers.  Then, the 2-disc edition also included over half an hour of behind the scenes footage, and another half hour of special effects test and creation footage with effects artist Ed Martinez.  And there's a rather unusual "mini movie," which edits the film down to roughly 20 minutes, but includes alternate effects shots, particularly in the final scene where the villain suffers a completely different, gruesome fate.  Oh, and there's a stills gallery.
the 1.31:1 mini movie.
Now, I thought all that behind-the-scenes footage was pretty neat, giving you a real fly-on-the-wall vérité style peek behind the curtain of this film.  But, while it's a little disappointing, I can see why Dark Force decided not to carry all of that stuff over (the mini movie especially feels like they were just trying to find stuff to fill up that second DVD), especially if they weren't willing to spring for a second layer.  But it's just baffling to me that they decided to drop the audio commentary.  It's good natured, with a lot of laughing and back and forth, but never getting off track and failing to be informative.  Oh well.  One thing Dark Force did do is create two much-hyped glow in the dark slipcovers.  Mine, pictured above, is #2.  The first one uses the zombie artwork you see on the DVD, with the more cartoonish face.

But the 2023 release comes correct here, too.  The audio commentary is back on the UHD.  And, since this is a BD/ UHD combo-pack, it comes with a copy of the 2019 Blu-ray, so we still get the extras and the trailer.  Yeah, there was still more on the DVD, mainly Best Buy version.  But now we've got all of the best, high quality stuff.  Plus, we get another signature Dark Force slipcover (especially appropriate for this film, since it's famous for its special, VHS cover).  This one is both embossed and glow-in-the-dark.  That's a photo I took of it with my phone in the dark[left].  I'm not a big swag guy, but this is pretty bad-ass, I have to admit.
So yeah, I was a little underwhelmed by this one in 2019, but not anymore.  I was okay with, but a little disappointed by, the 2k transfer.  But the new 4k scan on UHD exceeds my expectations.  And I was annoyed by the loss of the commentary, which is now back.  A couple months ago, it leaked that the new UHD wouldn't feature the on-camera interviews, which had me pretty frustrated since I'd already pre-ordered and wasn't looking forward to losing stuff.  But that was before we learned this would be a combo-pack, so they're still secure.  Die-hard fans will still want to track down a copy of the Best Buy DVDs, but for most of us, this is all you need.

R.I.P., Banana Man.

Terry Gilliam Week Day #6: Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

I hope it hasn't felt too disrespectful these last few Days, doing two Monty Pythons and a documentary about a film that fell apart for Terry Gilliam Week.  Let's wrap up with a proper film of his, one of his best: Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.  I've read the criticism, and a few points do ring a little true - Terry seems overly focused on depicting the hallucinations over the human drama, the celebration of bad behavior is juvenile or that Johnny Depp's performance feels like too much of a caricature.  But for me, it all works, breathing the source material vivid cinematic life.  And if you want some perspective on how good a job is doing, just go watch the other Hunter S. Thompson movies - Where the Buffalo Roam, which came first and The Rum Diary, which came after.  Gilliam has gotten a grasp on this material that no one else has managed to get.
Sure, Gilliam is injecting his own inclinations, as any filmmaker should.  Being obsessed with the visions certainly puts you more in Duke and Gonzo's headspace, and you can't say he didn't nail some fantastically trippy set pieces.  Hunter's episodic plotting didn't prove more any compelling presented dry in the other films, anyway - if anything, that's their weak spot.  And by the time you get to the harrowing diner scene, I don't think you could accuse this film of missing the darker subtext.  Speaking of the diner scene, wow the supporting cast they've assembled here: Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Burstyn, Trancers' Tim Thomerson, Gary Busey, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, and like a dozen celebrity cameos.  Everybody's perfectly cast.  If you didn't like this film, fair enough, but I don't think we'll ever see a better adaptation of Thompson's work on any screen.
Universal released this in 1998 on a respectably anamorphic widescreen DVD.  But in 2003, Criterion turned it into a fancy, 2-disc special edition.  For blu, Universal again started us off with an almost barebones disc in 2010, which Criterion replaced with their own special edition BD (with all the same stuff as their DVD set) in 2011.  But in 2019, Arrow restored the film in 4k with a fancy, 2-disc limited edition blu-ray set (followed up by a single disc standard edition in 2020).
1) 1998 Universal DVD; 2) 2003 Criterion DVD;
3) 2011 Universal BD; 4) 2019 Arrow BD.

So Criterion's DVD has clearly just taken Universal's 1998 transfer and slapped their extras onto it.  It's anamorphic at 2.31:1, and generally free of problems.  But it's still soft and smudgy standard def stuff, which Universal's blu cleans up nicely.  Now framed at 2.35:1, it un-squishes the image a bit while also revealing more picture, particularly along the bottom.  But really it's just the sharper, cleaner image that attracts.  It's a nice bump to HD, and worth upgrading from the DVD for.  At least, it was until Arrow came along and trumped it.  Still at 2.35, it adjusts the framing a little, vertically, but the real benefit is the new, finer scan.  Grain that was just lightly hinted at is now distinctly visible, as is fine detail.  The general color-timing is the same across all the editions, but highlights and shadows that were a little over-contrasty and blown out on the old blu are now natural and photo realistic on the Arrow.

The Universal DVD gives us the original stereo mix with optional French and Spanish subtitles.  Criterion gives us a new 5.1 mix in addition the the stereo and replaces the foreign subs with English ones.  Meanwhile, the Universal blu makes the frustrating decision to give us just the 5.1, albeit in DTS-HD and with multiple subtitle options including English.  Thankfully, Arrow gives us the original stereo track as well as the 5.1 in DTS-HD, and keeps the English subs.
As for extras, I did describe the Universal discs as "almost" barebones.  That's because, besides the trailer, there's the deleted scenes and a quick 10-minute featurette. But Criterion, of course, had a lot more to add.  For starters, how about three audio commentaries?  One's by Gilliam (who also provides commentary to the deleted scenes and even the trailer), which is a solid, thoughtful overview.  One's by Depp, Del Toro and producer Laila Nabulsi, which is more fun and anecdotal.  And the last one is by Thompson himself, again with Nabulsi, which is... interesting. Then there's a 50-minute documentary that's not about the film.  It's actually a vintage Omnibus episode from the 70s with and about Thompson.  And then there are a bunch of what I'd call scraps, little featurettes, often just audio recordings or old film clips, a few about the film, and more about Thompson himself.  There's a 14 minute video where Depp reads his letters to and from Thompson aloud and snippets from a 1996 Fear and Loathing audio CD.  There are several stills galleries, TV spots, and a 28-page booklet.

Arrow doesn't have any of Criterion's extras, but they do have the stuff from Universal, plus a whole lot of their own including their own commentary with Gilliam.  Instead of the BBC Omnibus documentary, they have a 2006 feature-length doc on Thompson from 2006.  Then there are new on-camera interviews with Nabulsi and Del Toro and a great 30-minute featurette interviewing key members of the crew, including the cinematographer, production designer, etc.  And they have a video essay by critic Ian Christie and their own set of scraps, including vintage footage of Thompson and extra interview clips and B-roll from the original EPK, plus more TV spots, trailers and galleries.  And that's just disc 1.
2019 Arrow BD.
Disc 2 is dedicated to a recent documentary called For No Good Reason, all about Thompson's illustrator, Ralph Steadman.  I can't say I was super interested in this when the set was announced, but it's good.  We get a great look at his work and how he makes it.  And for Fear and Loathing fans, yes, Terry Gilliam is interviewed, and Depp is on location at Steadman's house, interviewing him and going through his work.  Sony had previously released it on blu in the US in 2012.  The film is presented in 1.78:1 and looks great with lossless 2.0 and 5.1 mixes and optional English subtitles.  It also has its own set of extras, including extended interviews, deleted scenes and galleries of Steadman's art.  Though it should be noted that Sony's disc had more extras, including a commentary and a Q&A with Steadman that didn't make it here.

The disc comes in a clear amary case with reversible artwork housed within a thick slipbox.  Also inside is a full-color 80-page book, six postcards, a double-sided fold-out poster and one of Arrow's cards for an upcoming release (mine's for Daniel Isn't Real).
So Arrow's release is easily the definitive release of the film to date, though serious fans may want to pick up a copy of the Criterion for the additional extras.  Depending how much you're interested in For No Good Reason, you might just opt for Arrow's standard edition.  Although if you haven't already got it by now, I'd advise waiting a little longer.  Between the time Terry Gilliam Week started and today, Arrow announced an upcoming UHD edition of their 4k Fear and Loathing restoration with Dolby Vision/ HDR to arrive May 22nd (so yes, I'm taking full credit.  I clearly made this happen).  Although, annoyingly, their upcoming release seems to have dropped some of the extras from their 2019 set.  But I'm sure it will be the definitive release... at least until Criterion comes out with their own UHD and the arms race continues.