New on DVD and Blu-ray Disc: October 27, 2009

10/24/2009 Posted by Admin

Clicking each title will bring you to Amazon.

"The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" DVD, Blu-ray
Following the 1974 original, Tony Scott’s brisk remake takes place mostly in the bowels of New York City, specifically its subway system, which long has carried its share of baggage, particularly with terrorists, who have gone on record to say that one day, they would target it again. Scott understands the fear underlying this notion and he employs it with jolts that aren’t much of a stretch. Well, not too much of a stretch. The film begins with a crazed faction of American terrorists led by the mysterious Ryder (John Travolta). Together, these men hijack a subway train, take their share of hostages, and demand $10 million for their release within one hour. If the mayor (James Gandolfini) can’t come up with the money in time, Ryder promises that one passenger will die for every minute that passes beyond the one-hour limit. Their point man is Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a transit officer whose bad luck is that on this particular day, it’s he who’s in charge of the route taken by Ryder’s hijacked train. And so when the train fails to move along its path, Garber reaches out to speak to its conductor, finds himself connected with Ryder, and suddenly is in the position of hostage negotiations. Assisting him to that end is John Turturro as one of the city’s key hostage negotiators. Scott long has been a director who relies on slick, quick-cut editing to drive his films, and that’s no exception here, particularly in the opening credits, which are so hyped up, they’re annnoying. The good news is that eventually the busy work being done in the editing bay is taken over by movie, which absorbs the false sense of momentum rapid editing provides with real momentum propelled by the story, the fine acting and the characters themselves. Rated R. Grade: B

"Air Force One" Blu-ray
Harrison Ford is the President of the United States and Glenn Close is his Vice President in a movie that features an engaging script and genuinely gripping scenes. When Air Force One is taken hostage by a group of terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman), the president is thought to have slipped through a special escape pod. He hasn’t. Hiding on board, the presient finds himself fighting to keep himself, his family and his country safe. A former Vietnam Vet, he proves a formidable opponent to Oldman’s equally formidable terrorist, who relishes killing off hostages in an effort to get what he really wants--the release from prison of General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow), a powerful man who will threaten a Communist return to Russia if he is set free. Who has the power to free Radek? The president, of course. In this fine, high-definition transfer of the film, audiences likely will have a grand time watching this particular war between terrorist and president play out. Rated R. Grade: B+

"Love Actually" Blu-ray
It's "the absolute torture of love" that this romantic comedy has in its sights, and the net it casts over the whole sprawling affair is about as broad as it gets. This busy, relentlessly shameless comedy also is funny, with an expert cast on hand to help smooth over the rough spots. The movie doesn't so much star anyone as it co-stars everyone. Some of the highlights including Hugh Grant as England's disco-dancing prime minister who falls for a foul-mouthed tea girl (Martine McCutcheon); Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as a couple facing a marital impasse; Laura Linney as a woman torn between her love for the smoky-eyed office stud (Rodrigo Santoro) and her mentally ill brother; and Colin Firth as a famous crime writer who falls hard for his Portuguese cleaning woman (Lucia Moniz). Adding to the laundry list of subplots are a wheelbarrow of other characters, too many to list here, though the hilarious Bill Nighy must be singled out for his outrageous performance as Billy Mack, a has-been pop singer who launches a holiday comeback. He is the best part of the movie. Rated R. Grade: B+

March of the Penguins/On the Wings of Penguins
It's their bodies you notice first. Not made for flying, not particularly well made for walking, the emperor penguins of the Antarctic are awkwardly built, their rotund heft, stunted limbs and gnarled feet creating a curious waddle that's at once comical and endearing. It's only when they swim in the freezing waters of the Antarctic that these creatures realize a ballet of physical release that seems beyond their capabilities. There, in the electric blue of a faraway deep, they become tuxedoed missiles--as slick as dolphins, as graceful as seals, faster than you could imagine, able to dart with ease to the feast of fish fretting along the fringes of the icebergs that sustain them. Still, on land, where these penguins spend most of their lives, they are designed in ways that appear completely wrong for the process that takes up so much of their lives--breeding. Pegged to a life of almost impossible difficulty, these driven, nearly 4-foot-tall birds must walk more than 70 miles through the most treacherous terrain and weather in order to come to a place in which they feel safe to hatch their chicks. And then, to find food, they must walk those 70 miles again. And again. And again. Meanwhile, starvation is a thief that has its way with them. Morgan Freeman narrates their moving journey--the lives that spring from it, those that fall because of it. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary, the film has been re-released in a limited-edition giftset that includes the feature-length documentary “On the Wings of Penguins,” an African penguin toy and collectible postcards. All are fine, but it’s the core movie that resonates. Rated G. Grade: A

"Star Trek: The Original Series Complete Second Season" Blu-ray
It never gets old. That’s the thing about the original episodes of “Star Trek,” which prickly old Paramount refused to share with us (you’d think they were going belly up), and so we bought it for review. The high-definition print is so bright and clear, Trekkies likely will faint at the quality of the print. Also enhanced are the special effects, which have been updated, though not at the cost of the show’s tongue-in-cheek charm. The 1967-68 season was memorable, featuring such iconic episodes as “The Trouble with Tribbles,” surely one of the series’ funniest, as well as everything from “The Doomsday Machine” and “Mirror, Mirror” to “The Immunity Syndrome” and “Amok Time.” Set your phasers to stun, because that’s pretty much the effect these remastered episodes will have on its legions of fans. Grade: A

"Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, The Complete Story" DVD, Blu-ray
Stop the madness! If there was going to be an “Ultimate Cut” of this dog, it should have involved scissors, trumpets, a marching band and the celebrated cutting of this movie to shreds. But no. In its new, longer incarnation, Zack Snyder’s unfortunate take on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ popular graphic novel, “Watchmen” is even more pretentious and long, so much so that it collapses under the weight of its own bloated ideas. This pseudointellectual superhero mess is self-indulgent, self-important and, worst of all, boring. The film--and this is a review of the film, not the novel, a distinction some of the novel’s more passionate fans nevertheless will overlook--is such a misfire, it’s no wonder Moore himself removed his name from the project. He didn’t want to be directly associated with something he knew wouldn’t translate well onto the screen. Turns out he was right. While Snyder achieves a dark, beautiful-looking movie that complements Gibbons’ surreal illustrations, the dense storyline, while fleshed out, still remains made for the page, where one’s imagination can take root and fill in the corners--and where layers can not only deepen, but thrive. Rated R. Grade: D

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