Welcome to our latest DVD & Blu-Ray reviews. Home video is still going strong because of the growing appetite among consumers for digital media of all kinds. With Blu-ray high definition video players now available for well under $100.00 there's no end in sight, and studios are often including copies of regular DVDs for use on portable devices with those new Blu-Ray discs. The explosion of streaming movies and TV programs from cable, satellite TV, and over the Internet means more media is being consumed than ever before. iPods, iPads, iPhones, and other devices mean users can watch movies whenever and wherever they like. We're excited to share some of the wonderful DVD's and Blu-Ray discs now available.
Shot with a handheld camera, Quarantine tells the story of a female reporter for a local TV station who's doing a fluff piece on a firestation. Things are going pretty much like every feel-good news story when a call comes into the station. The reporter and her cameraman hop on board the firetruck as they speed off to the apartment building where the tenants reported an old woman locked in her room had been making odd noises. When the firemen break down the door, they find the frail woman cowering in her darkened apartment, obviously terrified of the large men, the flashlights in her face, and the loud noises. She also happens to be foaming at the mouth. Meanwhile, the firemen are called upstairs to another disturbance. Yes, you guessed it. It's starting to spread. The tenants start to crowd the lobby and stairwell, which forces the lone patrolman inside the building to take charge. As the initial commotion starts to die down, the tennants discover that they can't leave the building. The doors have been barred from the outside. Then the lights go out and, of course, our intrepid reporter has to follow the cop into locked rooms in the basement. At least I think it was the basement.
I love a good thriller, and I put up with this nonsense for over an hour before I couldn't take it anymore and fast-forwarded to the last scenes just to see if there was a redeeming ending. Sadly, there wasn't. "Quarantine" tried to be the 21st Century's "Blair Witch Project", but it falls flat on its face. We never get to know the reporter, the firemen, or the tennants well enough to care anything about them. And the endless scenes of following this hapless woman down corridors using the night vision scope on the handheld video camera just get to be obnoxious. The beasties are neither terrifying or interesting in any way. Top it off with an ending that has no real pay-off for the viewer's stamina and you've got a movie that is fantasically disappointing.
Will Smith brings his usual charm to a fairly dark role in this tongue-in-cheek adventure thriller about a superhero named John Hancock who's fed up with the gig. He's bored, lonely, and socially inept. When we first see him in action, he picks up a car full of thugs who are fleeing a robbery and, after smashing them against several LA skyscrapers and threatening to drop them from several hundred feet, impales the car on spire atop a convenient building. Did I mention he was drunk and toting a very large bottle of whiskey? As you'd expect, the citizens are in an uproar, and the city has indicted him regardless of the futility of trying to arrest - much less confine - a super-being.
Enter our true hero, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a shlub of a public relations guru whose just lost his job. But he has a beautiful and understanding wife, named Mary (Charlize Theron) and a cute little boy named Aaron. When he sees Hancock's latest misadventure on TV, Ray sees it as an opportunity. He convinces Hancock to turn himself in and serve his time in jail in order to restore his image as a defender of truth, justice, and the American Way and to generally turn his life around. Mary seems to think Hancock is a jerk, but Aaron adores him. Hancock does try to do the jail thing, but it's tough to relate to the other prisoners in his therapy sessions when you don't have any social skills and nobody else is an alcoholic superhero.
The plot twist arrives at the end, and while it surprised me, it didn't help lift this plodding script off the ground or lead to a satisfying ending. Overall, Hancock is a fun little movie, but we expect better from Will Smith, Jason Bateman, and Charlize Theron. Worth a rental on a cold evening, but make sure you have another movie to round things out.
Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a young man who has yet to find himself and is biding his time when he receives a mysterious call on his cell phone. He doesn't recognize the female voice which threatens him that his loved ones will be killed if he doesn't follow her orders. Thinking it a prank or just some nut, he goes on about his life only to discover thousands of dollars have suddenly been deposited in his previously- overdrawn bank account and that enough guns and ammunition have been delivered to his apartment to start his own army. Meanwhile, a young single mother named Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is similarly being blackmailed, only her orders are decidedly on the side of evil. The plot moves along swiftly to Washington DC for the President's State of the Union address is imminent. The FBI Agent (Billy Bob Thornton) who was investigating the arms sent to Jerry is starting to see the threads come together.
For all of the flack this movie has taken, it's actually a pretty decent little thriller. We don't see five steps ahead. We don't see two steps ahead. Except for the paralells to other conspiracy thrillers, if you just sit back and enjoy the ride, "Eagle Eye" delivers a very satisfying evening of entertainment.
Bringing the hit stage play to the big screen... Okay, if you hate cliche's then this movie isn't for you. "Mama Mia!" is a full-blown movie musical like they made in the haydays of MGM like "Singin' In The Rain" that had a thin premise of a plot. The story's sole function here is to simply string together the stars performing the greatest hits of the 70's Swedish rock group ABBA. And all of the stars here obviously had a blast, starting with Meryl Streep who plays Donna Sheridan, a single mother who owns a hotel on a small Greek island. Her daughter, Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, has grown up never knowing who her father was. Shortly before she gets married, Sophie discovers her mother's diary from twenty years ago which includes the names of three candidates with whom her mother had affairs with dot... dot... dot... Anxious to have her father give her away, Sophie invites the three unsuspecting gentlemen to attend her wedding, and the hilarity ensues as it would in any musical comedy.
The cast is truly amazing here, starting with Meryl Streep, whose vocal talents I discovered only recently when she performed in "A Prairie Home Companion" with Lindsay Lohan, Lily Tomlin, and Kevin Kline, and was superb then and now. She has a sweet voice with amazing control that shines when she sings the intricate ABBA melodies. Another treat was Christine Baransky, who plays Donna's old friend Tanya, and is the complete package when it comes to singing and dancing and shows she still has what it takes to wow an audience. Full marks to Pierce Brosnan for having the guts to sing here. He gives it all he has, and holds his own. His physical graces that were apparent in the Bond movies show up here in the dance numbers - especially the finale' during the closing credits when the stars vamp it up in a big production number like rock stars. Be sure to wait for it when you see this video. Amanda Seyfried is as cute as a button, and reminds me of Kate Hudson, but Seyfried is either a better actress or she's just so perfectly cast here as the wide-eyed young girl that it seems so. If you love musicals, this is the movie for you. The vistas of the Greek island are spectacular in Blu-ray, of course, but it also makes the movie seem more like you're watching a stage show. All in all, "Mama Mia!" is a joyful two hours of all-out fun and fantasy.
"The Dark Knight" is the second Batman movie starring Christian Bale as The Caped Crusader. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Gotham's new District Attorney is on a crusade to wipe out the crime rings that are strangling the life out of the city. Faced with a police force and city bureacracy that is riddled with corruption, Dent turns to Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and together they put the pressure on, with the help of the mysterious masked crime fighter. Faced with this new triple-threat, the crime bosses accept The Joker's (Heath Ledger) offer to kill Batman.
It's a whirlwind adventure that speeds along the streets of Gotham to the skies over Hong Kong. The story keeps a firm grip on reality while allowing us to marvel at Batman's spectacular vehicles and devices. We watch as Bruce Wayne cringes when the object of his affections, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), starts to date Harvey Dent. The simmering rivalry that brews between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent is a source of constant tension that climaxes when Rachel is kidnapped and Batman must choose to save her or throngs of innocent civilians.
The Blu-ray version presents all of the glory of the theater experience with special cuts of widescreen scenes, such as the breathtaking view of the Hong Kong skyline and the exciting scenes of Batman riding the Batcycle through the dark city of Gotham. The second disc in the set includes two "making of" documentaries, as well as several featurettes - the most notable of which is the one that showcases composer Hans Zimmer. The Blu-ray version also includes a digital copy that you can download to your PC, iPod, or other portable player.
The movie is spectacular, and the bonus features are a treat for fans. All in all, it's a treasure.
Meek geek Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) plods along in his hum-drum life as an accountant who is constantly berated by his overbearing boss and whose girlfriend is sleeping with his best friend, when he is suddenly thrust into the topsy-turvy world of a brotherhood of super-powered assasins. It's a story often told, but with the benefit of the luscious Angelina Jolie who plays "Fox", his tutor/mentor, and the embodiment of gravitas Morgan Freeman who plays Sloan, the leader of the brotherhood. The movie starts at a snail's pacee until 20 minutes in when Wesley is saved by Fox from being assasinated himself by an agent of a "competing firm". Fox whisks poor Wesley back to the brotherhood's headquarters where she teaches him to use his dormant abilities.
Based on the comic book series of the same name, "Wanted" is a bubble-gum version of a Kung-fu thriller. You won't be uplfited, but you will be entertained.