New to DVD and Blu-ray Disc January 12, 2010

1/10/2010 Posted by Admin

By Christopher Smith

Note: If one day you plan on making the switch from standard-definition DVDs to high-definition Blu-ray discs but aren’t quite ready to commit, some studios have recently started to make it easier for consumers with “Combo Packs,” which includes the movie’s DVD and Blu-ray versions, and in some cases, a digital copy of the film for your computer. Several of the latest titles are reviewed below. Since Warner recently jumped on the trend and are gearing up for their roll-out, expect many more to follow.

“The Marine 2” DVD, Blu-ray
On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss a movie such as this, but in 2009, Hollywood pumped out a lot worse than "The Marine 2,” even if it didn’t receive a theatrical release. The story, which has almost zip to do with the 2006 original, is filled with assembly-line nonsense set in tropical locales, but few coming to it will give a hoo-rah that it offers nothing new. What will matter most to its target audience are whether the ammo, action and attitude are in good supply. The short answer is yes. The film comes from World Wrestling Entertainment, with Vince McMahon serving as the movie’s executive producer. That either will excite you or leave you wanting to spend a long time surrounded by art and books, as will the idea that the Marine in the title is played not by John Cena, as in the first film, but by Ted DiBiase Jr., the WWE superstar known for his swagger and, well, other attributes. The movie is a cartoon, but it’s reasonably entertaining, it accomplishes its low goals with a measure of menace and humor, and DiBiase and company work hard to infuse the film with its likeably cheap, movie-of-the-week feel. Hardly great, but also hardly awful. Rated R. Grade: C

“Doom” Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Trash sci-fi that achieves a lean center and final act that’s admirable in the tension it creates. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is Sarge, a tattooed beast leading an elite core of Marines on a rescue mission to Mars, where a mysterious 24th human chromosome is wreaking havoc on what’s left of the planet’s residents. Should one come in contact with it, the results are monstrous. With the film’s genesis steeped in computer code--the movie is based on the popular video game, which started a revolution--“Doom” predictably lacks soul, but it does generate the raw, sketchy rhythm of a B-movie, which gives it its modest gross-out jolts. Rated R. Grade: C+

“8 Mile” Blu-ray/DVD Combo PackThe title of Curtis Hanson's "8 Mile” comes from the stretch of highway that divides the racially mixed inner-city of Detroit from its predominantly white, middle-class suburbs. On a map, it’s an area about the size of a postage stamp, but economically, it might as well be a continent away. On the surface, "8 Mile" seems to promise a story that will transcend that gap, but it doesn’t, at least not completely. This is a rap movie designed to appeal to a specific demographic--the white, suburban audience on the privileged side of the tracks. As such, it’s generic and unthreatening without being boring, a slick, claustrophobic drama that pretends to be edgy but actually isn’t. It homogenizes the rap scene and offers zero insight into hip-hop culture. That it goes out of its way to push as few buttons as possible is the film's biggest surprise and its greatest shortcoming, especially since it was billed as the semi-autobiography of its once-controversial star, Eminem. Here, he's a poor, scrappy twentysomething nicknamed Bunny Rabbit who aspires to get away from his boozy mother (Kim Basinger) and become a rap star. As unlikely as that seems, and as angry as Bunny Rabbit is at his situation, the movie oddly fails to mine the intensity of Eminem’s best songs. As an actor, Eminem has presence to spare, but the film doesn’t allow him to fully capture the rage that defines so much of his early work. It makes him almost approachable, which proves especially disappointing, sort of as if Madonna had released her “Sex” book without the sex. Rated R. Grade: C

“End of Days” Blu-ray/DVD Combo PackProtect your daughters! Break out the chastity belts! Get thee to a nunnery! Set on the eve of the millennium, this 1999 throwback finds Satan popping the Viagra and going on the prowl for sex, particularly between the hours of 11 p.m. and midnight, when the great horned one himself will rise from hell to have sex with a woman who not only will give birth to the anti-Christ, but who also will bring about the end of days. The movie pits Arnold Schwarzenegger against the devil (Gabriel Byrne), with director Peter Hyams delivering tense moments of action amid not-so-subtle choices for character development. To wit: In an effort to strike the big bell of masculinity early on, Hyams has his suicidal police detective, Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger), begin his day with coffee, a piece of moldy pizza pealed off a filthy floor and other unmentionables liquefied in a grimy blender. Delicious! So yes, Jericho is a butch, action-adventure stereotype, but he’s also a sensitive softy, as revealed when he clutches a ballerina music box and weeps openly for his dead wife and daughter while the box warbles its thin ribbon of treacly music. If these decisions push “End of Days” straight to the brink of cinematic hell, Hyams eventually settles down to the real business at hand: Satan is randy and he wants a mate. The unlucky soul chosen at birth to bear his child is Christina York (Robin Tunney), a neurotic yet likable piece of work who, as an infant, was suckled with snake’s blood in one of the film’s more bizarre sequences. Now aware of her fate, Christina fights Satan with Cane, a man whose faith was once shattered but which suddenly is renewed--rather predictably--just when he needs it most. Rated R. Grade: C+

ER: Complete Twelfth Season”The melodrama escalates to a fever pitch, but then it had to, didn’t it? This is the twelfth season of "ER," and the producers aren't willing to allow fans to move away from the water cooler quietly. As such, we get 22 episodes laced with chaos and disorder, with romance and broken hearts hurtling through the doors of Chicago's County General Hospital almost as frequently as the injured and the dying. In this season, with Noah Wyle’s Dr. Carter now off the show in the maelstrom of moist melodrama that ended the eleventh season, “ER” there’s a whiff of desperation about the show, which features those in suddenly waking from comas, people getting struck by lightning, others getting knifed, burn victims abounding. And so on. With this show, it’s all becoming rinse and repeat, especially since Wyle himself makes a return. Grade: B-

“Jarhead” Blu-ray/DVD Combo PackTakes us back to a past that feels oddly like the present. In the film, we’re in the Middle East and we’re fighting a war that few seem to understand. The difference? It’s the Gulf War that’s being fought, the senior Bush is in office, and Saddam Hussein is in power. Jake Gyllenhaal is Swofford, who is recruited by Sykes (Jamie Foxx) to become a sniper along with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), his sketchy partner with the unfavorable past, and a group of other men. With no action to be had on the ground in Saudi Arabia, the men find themselves fighting the war unraveling in their heads. The Gulf War was fought mostly by air and these men are on foot. It’s the mounting frustration that comes with the dawning realization that their time in the desert may have been for nothing that gives “Jarhead” its greatest, ugliest complexity in ways not to be revealed here. Rated R. Grade: B

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