Blu-ray Disc Reviews
Review of movies and TV shows on Blu-ray Disc.
Pity Frank Miller’s second feature directorial effort: “The Spirit” pretty much sank and stank in terms of box office returns and critical/public reception, but the film isn’t nearly as bad as you might have heard… it’s not “Catwoman” bad. Though it looks as slick as “Sin City” (which Miller co-directed) and “300,” it never attempts to rise beyond the level of been-there-done-that mediocrity. Miller has essentially done a goof on the silly, scattershot style showcased in the celebrated Will Eisner comic, and yet the film isn’t nearly as fun as it could have been, barely sustaining its momentum due to wooden acting from the lead talent involved and uninteresting plot.
Black Snake Moan
Featuring: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina “Exploit Me” Ricci, Justin Timberlake and Kim Richards
This lurid title, redolent of the old miscegenation fallacies of the old American South is actually a morality tale whose title is taken from a blues song written in 1927 by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Other than that, this tale of a sex-addicted young woman named Rae (Ricci, in an shockingly immersive performance) and the religious ol’ bluesman who helps her find herself and overcome her mean demons, is a familiar yet off-beat redemption story told with originality and dramatic heft by the seasoned performers. Director Craig Brewer, of Hustle & Flow fame, continues to fuse his Southern Gothic influenced storytelling sensibilities with gritty, contemporary plotting to come up with engrossing stories that often had me rooting for folks that normally I wouldn’t give an iota of care about.
Imagine being a visitor from another planet (go ahead, imagine it!)… your approach to Planet Earth would be breathtaking in its scope as the small fuzzy blue dot becomes a blue-green and white sphere where obvious weather activity is taking place, but on closer inspection… wait! there seems to be spectacular changes taking place right before your eyes.
Pure entertainment of the first order! The Untouchables (Special Collector’s Edition), Brian DePlama and David Mamet’s film version of the old early 60’s TV show (and based on the real-life exploits of Bureau of Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness), is a completely re-watchable movie from start to finish. Well written by Mamet, it features lots of quotable dialog and memorable sequences staged so brilliantly by Brian DePlama as to overshadow much of his earlier, Hitchcock-style, suspense films. Two of the most well-known sequences, the meeting where Al Capone plays baseball with the noggin of one of his mob “employees,” and DePalma’s tension-filled Union Station homage to Sergei Eisenstein’s “Odessa Steps” sequence from the 1925 epic Battleship Potemkin are amazing in the way they play with audience expectations and the utter audacity with which they’re staged.
The Patriot: The Extended Cut (Sony)
Features: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson and Jason Isaacs
Based, extremely loosely, on the exploits of the Revolutionary War veteran Francis Marion (aka “The Swamp Fox”), this tale of a father’s love for his sons and his country plays with history the way a child plays with Legos… building whatever comes to mind regardless of what the factual directions say must be built. As historical action movies go, this Roland Emmerich film (his follow-up to the fairly awful Godzilla) is a fairly slick affair on par with the best of Edward Zwick’s historical film output. Centering on the father/son relationship between Benjamin Martin (Gibson), a musket-to-plowshares veteran of the French and Indian Wars, and his headstrong coming-of-age son, Gabriel (Ledger), The Patriot takes very little time in establishing the characters in the period of the American Revolution before plunging Martin’s large family into despair as the violence of war comes to their town in South Carolina. While his father knows of the brutality and misery of war, Gabriel feels it’s his duty to join the Continental Army and fight for freedom against the British… of course, things go awry as the prodigal son returns home bringing trouble with him.
Bridge to Terebithia (Buena Vista)
Featuring: Josh Hutcherson, Robert Patrick, AnnaSophia Robb, and Zooey Deschanel
Fantasy and reality collide in this second, bigger-budgeted film adaptation of the classic Katherine Paterson children’s novel. The story, updated to the 21st century’s pop-culture aesthetic hardly takes any real liberties with the book and instead stays faithful to it— not only in essence, but throughout scene after detailed scene. The child performers (Hutcherson and Robb) are wonderful, and miraculously the film doesn’t pretend all adults are insipid villains ready to make children’s lives miserable, rather each character comes across as genuine, especially when tragedy occurs and must be faced and dealt with. In his first live-action film, Gabor Csupo (of Klasky-Csupo animation studios), acquits himself well… making the film a fantasy with a firm footing in everyday reality, making the characters rounded and sympathetic, while creating a believable child’s world view of conflict resolution and grief. It’s a wonderful family film that doesn’t rely as heavily on CGI elements to tell its tale.
Blood Diamond (Warner)
Featuring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Arnold Vosloo and Michael Sheen
The movie that the De Beers company loves to hate, Blood Diamond actually received less mainstream press than I thought it would upon its premier last year. I figure most of the outrage against “blood” or conflict diamonds has already been generated from years of media reports covering the West African conflicts and South African profiteering that occurred during the 1990’s and eventually ended up in a process for ferreting out illegal diamonds mined out of war zones in order to illegally finance insurgent forces and their respective warlords. This process, called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (with “Scheme” sounding kinda sketchy, don’tcha think?) is supposed to create transparencies in the diamond trade and make those declaring their effusive love each other feel good about putting a high-grade, 4-C rock on the ol’ ring-finger. And that, with the development of character archtypes we care about, is basically the plot for this earnest film that offers plenty of bloody action for the gung-ho and grim reminders for the socially conscious.
Features: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin “to the ‘nth degree!” Bacon, and William Baldwin
I’ve never been a huge fan of director Joel Schumacher’s films, but I’m not one of those who slams the fella for either his overly slick visual style, which is so easily marketed by the studios, nor his homosexuality (casually linked and often attacked by those that don’t like his films… see comments via the web for that cinematic debacle known as Batman & Robin bunch, a director of note. Those so-called “… nipples on the Batsuit notwithstanding, the Batman/Boy Wonder partnership was always kinda gay to begin with).
The Fountain, now available on both Blu-ray disc and HD DVD. This sci-fi film was directed by Darren Aronofsky, and stars Hugh Jackman, Rachel “Hottie” Weisz, Ellen Burstyn. Read this week’s hi def movie review from Scanlines.
The Fountain (Warner) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel “Hottie” Weisz, Ellen Burstyn
Folks, I’ll put it plain and simple: THIS IS WHAT HIGH DEFINITION HOME THEATER SYSTEMS WERE MADE FOR! Run out now for Tuesday’s dual release in Blu-ray and HD DVD and plunk down the $50+ bucks you’ll find it for at most retailers, then run home and pop in the first disc in this collection and be simply astounded by the breathtaking detail and jaw-dropping clarity of this acclaimed production. This is the full, 11-part BBC series and not the Discovery Channel version that aired in the US with narration by Sigourney Weaver (which was widely panned despite the visual brilliance), rather this is the more thorough version that aired in Britain and Europe with each episode ends with 10-minute Planet Earth Diaries and includes 90 minutes not shown on the Discovery Channel version as well as a bonus movie: The Dream Is Alive.
April 24, 2007. This week’s blu-ray movie review includes the following releases: Deja Vu, Failure to Launch, Night at the Museum, Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series, Secret Window, The Queen, and the Ultimate Avengers Collection.
This week’s hi def releases include: The Pursuit of Happyness, Happy Feet, March of the Penguins, Children of Men, National Geographic: Relentless Enemies, Incubus: Alive at Red Rocks, and Warriors of Heaven & Earth.
Featuring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, and Brian Howe
I didn’t see this film on it’s theatrical release… I’m generally not into manufactured feel-good flicks, but on its video run, The Pursuit of Happyness turned out to be exactly what I thought…
There’s no doubt about it, James Bond, the venerable double-aught-seven himself, needed a serious make-over. What once worked (surprisingly well) for a jet-setting 60’s crowd of post-Camelot cold-warriors no longer worked for a generation too ADD-addled for the absurd, escapist action and too edgy, even cynical, for they type of tongue-in-cheek ribaldry and blatant sexism that was often present in their parent’s (and grandparent’s!) vision of Ian Fleming’s super spy.
First, a major correction: Last week’s blog stated that a certain series of Blu-ray releases were slated for last week, March 6th. Apparently, my spell checker doesn’t check for stupidity, so that got sent out and published, and of course, the date should have been March 13th. I also forgot to add ” The Holiday” to that week’s release schedule (well, I argue, it’s a forgettable film). Please ignore the idiot behind the curtain… he means well, and is housebroken, but apparently his editor doesn’t parse his material, so there.