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Monday, June 7, 2010

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

Releases for the Week of 06/01/10 - 06/06/10 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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The Wolfman

(2010)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Joe Johnston

Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Geraldine Chaplin

Universal Pictures//Rated R//Horror//119 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

This remake is faithful in setting and tone to the 1941 original. One sure indication are forests shrouded in a crawling mist. The new storyline adds a twist, and features more werewolves, but is remarkably uninspired. Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his family's English estate in the wake of his brother's murder. Anthony Hopkins portrays Lawrence's estranged father, Sir John. Gwen (Emily Blunt), the dead brother's bereft fiancée, has stayed on at the cobweb-draped mansion that is also inhabited by a faithful, turbaned servant who keeps a rifle, loaded with silver bullets, at the ready. The men go hunting for the beast that killed Lawrence's brother and encounter a gypsy (Geraldine Chaplin) who issues prophetic warnings. Like Lon Chaney from the original, Del Toro comes across as a big lug in a bowl-cut wig. The filmmakers recast the dapper Sir John as a deranged patriarch, topping Hopkins with long white hair and a beard. Hugo Weaving appears as a Scotland Yard Detective, making the most of an underwritten role. More special effects provide some fun, but do little to help the film create a sense of dread, or to distract from a vision of the wolfman reminiscent of the "Star Wars'" wookie. More killings, more blood, and more of man's vain self-interest are more over the top, but are no more frightening than the original. DVD features: Unrated Director's Cut of feature film, Deleted and Extended Scenes, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-Ray features same plus: Alternate Endings, Return of The Wolfman, The Beast Maker, Transformation Secrets, The Wolfman Unleashed, My Scenes, U-Control: Legacy, Legend, and Lore, The Wolf Man - full-length 1941 Feature Film, Digital Copy of The Wolfman Unrated Version, pocket BLU App, social BLU App.

Life

(2009)

Written by Paul Spillenger

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough (* * * *, A)

Narrated by Oprah Winfrey (* * *, B)

BBC Video//Not Rated//Documentary//484 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

The strength of this BBC/Discovery Channel production lies in documenting wildlife behavior never before captured on film. Over a period of four years, nine crews spent more than 3,000 days planning, traveling and patiently waiting for the occurrence of each rare event they hoped to film. The show, broadcast on the Discovery Channel, is now available as a DVD set containing 11 episodes. The first chapter, an overview of the series, is more preview than program, but the last episode consists of 10 making-of featurettes that detail the dedication and nerves of steel and required to film under extreme conditions. Wildlife chapters consist of Reptiles and Amphibians, Mammals, Fish, Birds, Creatures of the Deep, Hunters and Hunted, Insects, Primates, and one of my unexpected favorites, Plants. As befitting a series entitled "Life," some portion of each episode is concerned with death, including the adaptations and behavior of carnivorous plants. On the flip side, no effort is spared to document the extreme reproduction strategies plants employ. Also engaging, the insect episode depicts reproductive and parental behavior -- rarely seen. Each hour consists of about 15 vignettes that spotlight unexpected events, even among frequently studied species. The Discovery Channel hired Oprah to narrate, forsaking the BBC's superior narration by naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Oprah's delivery, and the silly remarks she's required to make, are a mismatch for this subject matter. Fortunately, the Attenborough version is readily available. 4-Disc DVD features: Making of "Life": Ten Behind the Scenes Video Diaries, deleted scenes, Music Only Viewing Option, English language tracks, French or Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

Burn Notice: Season Three

(2009)

* * * (Grade B)

Created by Matt Nix

Starring Bruce Campbell, Gabrielle Anwar, Jeffrey Donovan, Sharon Gless

Fox//Not Rated//Action, Comedy//550 minutes

Available on: DVD

Jeffrey Donovan plays Michael Westen, a talented spy whose "burn notice" forces Westen to remain in Miami cut off from his money and government contacts. He pays the bills by performing unlicensed private investigation work, but he only takes jobs for clients getting a raw deal. Westen gets help from Fiona (Anwar), a sexy explosives expert seeking a permanent future with Michael, and from his ex-Navy SEAL buddy Sam (Campbell). Sharon Gless rounds out the cast as Michael's fretful mom. Westen narrates the action, imparting tips on running con games, making gadgets and explosives on the cheap, and other spy stuff. The ongoing story arc follows his efforts to learn who burned him and why. Each one-hour episode effectively blends action and humor. Note: Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, former stars of "Cagney and Lacey," appear together in one episode. 4-Disc DVD Box Set features: DVD features: Smash, Crash, Boom: Inside the Burn Notice Stunt Unit, 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International Panel, English language tracks, Spanish, French or Portuguese subtitles, widescreen.

Space Cowboys

(2000)

* * * (B)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane

Warner//Rated PG-13//Action//130 minutes

Available on: Blu-Ray

Clint Eastwood plays air force pilot Frank Corvin, leading a trio of senior citizens on a space mission to repair a 35-year-old Russian satellite. Eastwood's direction develops the character of his aging astronauts at an unhurried pace. Tommy Lee Jones shines as a brusque, romantic hero pursuing the NASA engineer (Marcia Gay Harden) in charge of clearing the crew for flight. Ulterior motives for the space mission unfold too rapidly, although the strong characters and persuasive special effects nearly make up for this sleight of hand. Blu-Ray features: Back on the ranch: On location with cast and crew and Nasa consultants, The effects: Meet visual effects supervisor Michael Owens and his collaborators, Tonight on Leno: Expanded version of the tonight show with Jay Leno sequence, Up close with the editor: A conversation with Joel Cox, Theatrical trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

The Stranger

(2010)

-Bomb- (F)

Directed by Robert Lieberman

Starring Steve Austin, Adam Beach, Erica Cerra

Anchor Bay//Rated R//Action//90 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

Ex pro wrestler Steve Austin appears as a shadowy character known only as The Stranger. Chased by both the Russian mob and the FBI, he attempts to cure his amnesia with help from a pretty and very brave psychologist (Cerra). Romantic bells don't ring for the pair, but the Stranger's head must ring from the many violent confrontations and disturbing flashbacks he endures. Adam Beach plays an FBI Agent hoping to learn the secrets locked inside the Stranger's head, but implausible characters, dumb plot twists, and overly-darkened scenes ensure that learning the telegraphed truth isn't worth the effort. DVD or Blu-Ray features: The Stranger: Behind the Scenes, Theatrical Trailer, English language tracks, widescreen.

Undisputed III: Redemption

(2010)

Directed by Isaac Florentine

Starring Scott Adkins, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Mark Ivanir, Hristo Shopov, Marko Zaror

Warner//Rated R//Action//96 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack

Eight incarcerated brawlers fight to win their freedom in matches funded by a powerful gambling ring. Fighting to the death, Boyka (Scott Atkins) works his way through the ranks, squaring off against increasingly tough opponents. After he discovers that no one is getting out alive, Boyka seeks a means of taking down the crooked syndicate. DVD features: English language tracks, Spanish or French Canadian subtitles, widescreen. Blu-Ray Combo Pack features: Feature film on both Blu-Ray and DVD, Digital Copy on Disc.

Bare Knuckles

(2009)

Directed by Eric "Kaos" Etebari

Starring Jeanette Roxborough, Chris Mulkey, Martin Kove, Louis Mandylor, Miranda Kwok, Joanne Baron

Available on: DVD

Image//Rated PG-13//Action//95 minutes

Girl fighting goes extreme in this film exploring illegal, bare-knuckle fighting. Samantha Rogers (Roxborough) is a cocktail waitress drawn into the ring by down-and-out fight promoter Sonny Cool (Kove). Samantha's pugilistic efforts earn money she needs to provide a better life for her young daughter, but Samantha knows it's a matter of time until her luck runs out. Winner at the Downbeach Film Festival for Best Picture and Best Actress for Jeanette Roxborough. DVD features: Behind the Ropes featurette, "American Girl" Music video, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

Ghost Hunters International: Season 1, Part 1

(2008)

Starring Dustin Pari, Robb Demarest, Barry FitzGerald, Brandy Green

Image//Not Rated//Reality TV//481 minutes

Available on: DVD

Four paranormal investigators search for evidence of the ghosts overseas. This set, from a SyFy Channel series, collects 11 episodes that explore Medieval ruins, Castles, Victorian mansions and Dungeons fabled for their supernatural activities in Great Britain, Germany and New Zealand. 3-Disc DVD features: deleted scenes, English language tracks.

Killer Swarm

(2008)

Directed by Michael Karen

Starring Janin Reinhardt, Stephan Luca, Paula Schramm, Sonja Kirchberger

Maverick//Not Rated//Horror//90 minutes

Available on: DVD

A German flick originally entitled Killer Bees,"this 2008 film gets an English dub for its U.S. release. When a swarm of aggressive, highly venomous black bees attacks a densely populated city, the race is on to develop an antidote that will stave off mass casualties. No special DVD features.

Small Town Saturday Night

DVD

(2007)      

Directed by Ryan Craig

Starring Chris Pine, Bre Blair, Perry Anzilotti, Seth Ayott, Reggie Bannister, Brent Briscoe

Lionsgate//Rated R//Drama//94 minutes

Available on: DVD

Aspiring country singer/songwriter Rhett (Pine), is torn between the small town life preferred by his girlfriend Samantha (Blair) and pursing a music career in Nashville. This first effort from writer/director Ryan Craig finds the lovebirds grappling with issues having consequences for both themselves and their families. DVD features: Trailer gallery, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

The Complete Musketeers (1974 - 1975)

Directed by Richard Lester

Starring Oliver Reed, Michael York, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee, Faye Dunaway

Lionsgate//Rated PG//Comedy//214 minutes

Available on: DVD

D'Artagnan arrives in Paris determined to become a king's musketeer. He encounters three men who join him as friends and allies. Soon the foursome is humorously entangled in court intrigues, and is compelled to take on the dastardly Cardinal Richelieu. In England they attempt to prevent a scandal involving the Duke of Buckingham, diamond studs and the Queen of France. The tongue-in-cheek comedy extended over two films: "The Three Musketeers" and "The Four Musketeers." DVD Multipack features: Saga of the Musketeers: part 1 and part 2, Making-of featurette, Theatrical trailers, TV spots, English language tracks, widescreen.