Monday, February 18, 2013

Feb. 19 Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Anna Karenina 

The combination of director Joe Wright and actress Kiera Knightley usually translates to Oscar gold, as it did in Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, but it meets its Waterloo here in tackling the stiff, surly prose of Leo Tolstoy. The meandering Russian tale of forbidden aristocratic love — Knightley's character spurns her stiff, high-ranking husband, played by Jude Law for military man Aaron Taylor-Johnson — fails to ignite. Sumptuous visuals and passionate performances can't save the lead-footed tale. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo features deleted scenes, a featurette on the story, several background featurettes and Wright's commentary.


Ben Affleck continues to thrust himself into the top echelon of directors with this masterful espionage tale about a daring CIA rescue of Americans caught in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Affleck pulls double duty, starring as the agent who dreams up a caper of masquerading as a filmmaker scouting locations in Iran in order to make off with the would-be hostages. Vigorous pacing, heavy suspense and authentic performances sell the captivating drama. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes Affleck's commentary, picture-in-picture insights and a look at the story that inspired the film.

Atlas Shrugged: Part 2

The determined, if questionably talented, cast and crew of Ayn Rand devotees continue to hack their way through the lionized author's obtuse prose, spinning a laborious tale of an economy torn asunder by socialist tendencies. Preachy and unafraid of schmaltz, the material will either annoy you or tell you exactly what you want to hear, depending on your political leanings. Deleted scenes, a close-up with Sean Hannity, who makes a cameo in the movie, and a behind-the-scenes featurette fill out the package.

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

Apparently frustrated that its Battlestar Galactica reboot has run its course and came to a definitive end, Syfy seems determined to milk spinoffs out of its franchise. Following the interesting but unsuccessful deep prequel series Caprica comes this movie, which could well serve as a pilot for a new prequel series. Taking over for Edward James Olmos, Luke Pasqualino plays the younger Adama, a hotshot fighter pilot who is moving up the ranks as humanity is slaughtered by the Cylon menace. Impressive effects and an intriguing roundup of surely doomed characters lend color and heft to the production, but the movie — while fun — probably isn't enough to hook me on another full-blown Galactica series. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes an unrated cut of the film, deleted scenes and a look at the effects.

Fun Size

Victoria Justice makes a rickety transition from Nickelodeon star to movie lead in this droll, Halloween-themed comedy. Justice plays a teenager who juggles an out-of-control social life with the desperate chase to track down her lost little brother. Lifeless dialogue and predictable plotting make the movie insufferable, not allowing the talented Justice to rise to her capabilities. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, a Carly Rae Jaepsen video and a making-of featurette.

Hats Off to Dr. Seuss Collector's Edition Blu-ray

Previous Warner Bros. efforts to package short-form adaptation of Seuss's beloved stories individually were questionable values, but that's not so with this anthology. The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who all appear in this roundup, which makes for an excellent impromptu Seuss animation festival. Two hours of special features, including other miniature adaptations of Seuss books, are also here.

On the Waterfront Blu-ray

Criterion deliver a long-overdue tribute to Elia Kazan's astounding 1954 drama, which boasts one of moviedom's game-changing performances with Marlon Brando as a longshoreman who suffers a crisis of conscience when he's placed under the thumb of a mobster. The vivid black-and-white cinematography pops with theatrical glory, giving the movie a sheen I'd seen many times before but never witness. Extras abound, including new interviews with actors from the movie, including Eva Marie Saint, a new documentary on the making of the movie, commentary from movie historians and an impressive tribute book. 


Blending the off-kilter sensibilities of Korean and Japanese horror along with back-to-basics frights reminiscent of 1970s American fright flicks, director Scott Derrickson's film never fails to impress. Ethan Hawke plays a true crime author and beleaguered family man who unwisely moves his brood into a small-town home that served as a setting for an unsolved mass murder. Predictably, the family ends up int he crosshairs of the intrigue, but the story takes many twists that harken back to The Shining and the original The Amityville Horror. Derrickson checks in on a pair of commentary tracks, and featurettes fill you in on the story's creepy facets. Deleted scenes with Derrickson's commentary are also there.

The Terminator (Remastered) Blu-ray

The previous Terminator Blu-ray looked pretty good, and it takes an eye trained better than mine to notice any relevant upgrade in this remastered cut of the 1984 sci-fi stalwart. The film's effects are hit and miss, with the seams more noticeable in HD than they were in the fuzzy VHS days. That's not to say I'd be so silly as to recommend a VHS or DVD version above this spectacular-looking transfer. Seven deleted scenes, a retrospective on the film and a making-of featurette fill out the extras. 

Top Gun 3D Blu-ray

The unashamedly goofy 1986 dogfighting classic flips on the afterburners to make yet another pass on Blu-ray, this time soaring into the third dimension, for anyone who actually has one of the TVs equipped to display the fading fad. The inclusion of the 2D Blu-ray and a digital copy ups the value proposition, but the extra features have remained unchanged from the 2011 25th anniversary edition Blu-ray release. 

Screeners were provided by the studios for review.

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