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Monday, May 17, 2010

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

Releases for the Week of 05/10/10 - 05/17/10 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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Daybreakers

(2010)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig

Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Vince Colosimo, Isabel Lucas

Lionsgate//Rated R//Horror//98 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

In a futuristic world, vampires and corporate greed rule the roost. The story, heavy on atmosphere uses ghastly mayhem as a means of inducing bouts of conscience in its more sympathetic characters. Except for their love of '40s fashion and nocturnal hours, vampires behave humanly enough. The few remaining humans are farmed for their blood by a corporation controlling the supply, under vampire CEO Charles Bromley (Sam Neill). Keeping vampires upright and cash flow streaming, depends upon inventing a human blood substitute. Ethan Hawke plays dour hematologist Edward Dalton. He works for Bromley, but is sympathetic to the human cause. Subsisting on animal blood, Dalton is perilously close to becoming a monstrous bat-like creature prone to kill and consume other vampires. Willem Dafoe appears as the only vampire to retake his human form and the only actor to infuse the film's dime store novel dialog, rife with social commentary, with the appropriate camp tone. The entire film is bathed in eerie greenish-blue, giving it a surreal quality. DVD or Blu-Ray features: Making of featurette, commentary with the directors and special effects creator Steve Boyle, poster gallery, theatrical trailer, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Blu-Ray exclusives: extended feature-length version of the Making of Daybreakers that spans the filmmaking process, a short film from the directors entitled "The Big Picture," Bonus View Storyboard, Animatics film comparison, digital copy.

Legion

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Scott Stewart

Starring Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Kevin Durand, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton, Tyrese Gibson, Kate Walsh, Willa Holland, Jon Tenney

Screen Gems//Rated R//Horror//100 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

When God orders his angels to destroy mankind, archangel Michael believes the supreme being is just having a tantrum. Michael declares "I will give God what he needs, rather than what he wants." Played by a straight-faced, no-nonsense Paul Bettany, Michael is more than proficient with a variety of human weapons that he will need to protect mankind's savior. In the middle of nowhere, a young man (Lucas Black) has visions of the devastation to come. He confesses his anxiety and feelings for a pregnant waitress (Adrianne Palicki) who admonishes him not to concern himself with her plight. These potential lovebirds aside, the script is lousy with disposable players. Dennis Quaid appears as the diner's grumbling owner, Charles S. Dutton plays a God-fearing short order cook, and diner patrons include a quarrelsome family (Kate Walsh, Willa Holland, Jon Tenney) and a good-hearted thug (Tyrese Gibson). The film displays a talent for humorous special effects -- a plague of flies and exploding boils -- but the story gives us no one to care about beyond Michael, and he's exasperating. He alone knows what must be done, but is reticent to share that information with his handful of cohorts at the diner. Gung-ho archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) fights Michael every step of the way, but in this film largely overflowing with dull action sequences, their climactic showdown is snoozefest designed to set up a sequel. DVD and Blu-Ray features: Creating the apocalypse - behind the physical effects, Humanity's last line of defense - the cast and characters, From pixels to picture - a look at the visual effects, English or French language tracks, widescreen. Blu-Ray Exclusives: Bringing Angels to earth: Picture-in-picture, Movie IQ sync and BD-Live for real-time information on the cast, music, trivia during the movie.

Edge of Darkness

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Martin Campbell

Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, Ray Winstone, Damian Young

Warner//Rated R//Thriller//117 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

Mel Gibson appears as the proverbial loner determined to set things right in this paranoid thriller that squirms uncomfortably. He's Boston police detective Thomas Craven, out for revenge after his adult daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is gunned down. Fixated on punishing the guilty, Craven barely notices the innocents harmed by his clumsy investigation. He sees and speaks to Emma's ghost and relives his memories of her childhood in flashbacks that help him to cope. Underlying Emma's murder is a conspiracy represented as plausible, but the plot slowly spins out of control. Danny Huston appears as a greedy CEO producing illegal nuclear weapons with help from his partner, an unscrupulous U.S. Senator (Damian Young). We never understand their reasons for running the operation, but the pair quickly eliminate anyone posing a threat. Remaking a 25-year-old BBC mini-series, the slapdash update fails to complete an underwritten plot. Some of the film's weaknesses are less noticeable thanks to Ray Winstone's performance as government agent serving as judge, jury and executioner. He carries out his job so thoughtfully you wouldn't mind having this pleasant killer for a neighbor. DVD features: additional/alternate scenes, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-Ray Combo Pack features: Past and Present of Edge ofDarkness, 9 Focus Point video pods: Scoring the Film, Revisiting the Edge ofDarkness Mini-series, Edge of Your Seat, Making a Ghost Character Real, Adapting the Edge of Darkness Mini-series, Director Profile of Martin Campbell, Boston as a Character, Mel's Back, Craven's War of Attrition, Additional Scenes, DVD Version of film, Digital Copy, widescreen.

PENN & TELLER: BULLSH*T!: Season Seven

(2009)

* * * (B)

Created by and Starring Penn Jillette, Teller

Showtime Entertainment//Not Rated//Comedy//251 minutes

Available on: DVD or Blu-Ray

Season seven find Las Vegas magicians, Penn and Teller, continuing to debunk myths, scams, and bad science. Nine episodes examine subjects ranging from the bad rap given to stress, and the falsehoods surrounding pricey organic foods. Always provocative, the pair look into charlatans claiming to know the secrets of orgasm, the reasons we're drawn to astrology, and the belief that playing violent video games is a precursor to becoming a killer. Penn narrates documentary footage incorporating talking heads, science geeks, puns galore and boatloads of profanity. Meanwhile, silent partner Teller, acts out his award-winning portion of the message. The pair invariably sneak topless women into each show, while dispensing information you are free to regard as pure B.S. 2-Disc DVD set features: English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

DEADLIEST WARRIOR: Season One

(2009)

* (D)

Created by Gary Tarpinian, Paninee Theeranuntawat

Starring Max Geiger, Dr. Armand Dorian, Geoffrey Desmoulin

Narrated by Drew Skye

Paramount//Rated TV-14//Documentary//387 minutes

Available on: DVD

A program designed for Spike TV, each 1-hour episode attempts to determine which of two warriors, from different eras, would prevail in a match up. Contests occur between an Apache warrior and a Roman gladiator, a pirate against a knight, and Braveheart's William Wallace versus Shaka Zulu. Combatants' fight cultures are discussed and occasionally depicted by experts of various fight disciplines. Weapons demonstrations are carried out on raw meat, liquid-filled plastic skulls, and torsos made from ballistic gel. A physician assesses what the damage to a living person would be, though the destruction is obvious. Finally, based upon the test data that uploaded to a computer by young Max Geiger, a climactic CGI clip generates a fight to the death between the two warriors. It's a drawn-out process meant to celebrate fighting skills, but it unintentionally makes the fights dull. 3-Disc DVD Features: 9 episodes, The aftermath: 5 post-fight analyses, Producers' roundtables, Season one wrap-up, English language tracks, widescreen.

 RAISING THE BAR: Season Two

(2009)

* * (C)

Created by Steven Bochco

Starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar, J. August Richards, John Michael Higgins, Gloria Reuben, Teddy Sears, Jane Kaczmarek, Melissa Sagemiller

Lionsgate//Not Rated//Drama//654 minutes

Available on: DVD

This middling TNT series was created by Steven Bochco, revered for his ground-breaking work on "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law." Here he follows the lives of public defenders, prosecutors and judges as they wrangle the legal system, their clients, and one another. Each show features one or two cases, the debate surrounding it and personal relationships between the players. The characters exhibit quirks meant to make them more interesting. Gosselaar is somewhat disheveled and prefers wearing hippie hair, Sears rejects the big bucks of daddy's corporation in favor of meaningful public service, Richards plays a zealous prosecutor criticized for colorblindness by some who believe he shuns his own minority status, and so on. This season is made better by a pistol-packing judge (Higgins) giving attorneys no quarter for tardiness, delays, or lapses in courtroom decorum, including dress. This makes for interesting social commentary as the series wonders whether any portion of American tradition should remain sacrosanct, or be altered by the changing times. 4-Disc DVD features: Deleted scenes. English language tracks, widescreen.

THE EDGE

(1997)

* * * * (A)

Directed by Lee Tamahori

Starring Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, Kathleen Wilhoite, Harold Perrineau, Jr., L.Q. Jones, Elle Macpherson

Fox//Rated R/Action//117 minutes

Available on: Blu-Ray

An aging billionaire (Anthony Hopkins), suspects his beautiful young wife (Elle McPhearson) of having an affair with her photographer (Alec Baldwin). Nevertheless, he accompanies the interloper on a photo shoot in the remote Alaskan wilderness. They are both lost and unarmed when their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. The billionaire retrieves survival knowledge from his eidetic memory that they will need to survive the onslaught of a man-eating Kodiak bear. This film successfully incorporates the elements of both a thriller and an action adventure yarn, delivering heart-stopping scenes of bear attacks. Hopkins is brilliant as the reserved eccentric while Baldwin paints a colorful portrait of a deceitful rival, in this David Mamet screenplay. Blu-Ray features: English, French or Spanish language tracks, Cantonese or Korean subtitles, widescreen.