DVD Corner: “Transformers: Special Edition” Blu-ray

Posted Aug. 30, 2008, at 2:45 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

“The Brotherhood of the Wolf: 2-Disc Director’s Cut”: Not your typical horror movie — not even close — and that’s what sells it. Loosely based on French legend, the director’s cut of this 2001 film can best be described as an 18th century version of “The Matrix” shot through with the moves of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” It isn’t for everyone, but for those seeking a kung-fu period masquerade drama and horror film about the search and murder of a blood-hungry wolf (and who isn’t?), this is it. Rated R. Grade: B

“Cirque du Soleil: Corteo” Blu-ray:It’s between heaven and hell that this terrific show by the famed French Canadian acrobats takes place. Men whirl on wheels, angels descend from the sky, a man on a bicycle floats gracefully off stage. All are central to a show that’s built around a funeral procession, the Italian word for which is “corteo.” That the funeral is for a clown gives all of the ensuing leaping, tumbling and juggling its dramatic, colorful punch. Grade: A-

“Desperate Housewives: Season 4”: Desperate? Oh, you could say they’re desperate. Still, if it were just desperation that drove the women of Wisteria Lane, “Desperate Housewives” would have been just another soap opera and not the hit ABC television show it became. In this fourth season of the show, Wisteria Lane and the “ladies” who lunch there remains a place where friendship and neighborly love don’t exactly go down like spoonfuls of sugar. Saccharine, yes, and a few heaping helpings of bitters — but rarely sugar. Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman and Nicollette Sheridan go to the ends of the Earth to mix it up this time (they had to, really, if only to keep this baby rolling), and so they are more salacious than ever. This season is, after all, the one in which a tornado rips through town (who lives? who dies?), and also the season in which Dana Delany is introduced as the secretive Katherine Mayfair. Grade: B+

“Heroes: Season One” Blu-ray; “Heroes: Season Two” DVD, Blu-ray: The first season of this superhero sensation is the one to watch — it showcases the most promise and ingenuity, and it generates the most interest in its tormented characters, all of whom discover they have superpowers, and all of whom are faced with the ramifications of what it means to have those powers. Now that the series is available on high-definition Blu-ray disc, it looks and sounds just as good as you’d expect. As for the second season, what in fresh superhero hell happened? The initial shows are a disaster, and while the series does improve as it goes along, it doesn’t improve enough, which makes for a frustrating experience, to say the least. The trouble with this season is that it doesn’t go anywhere. Plots thicken — and stall. Characters appear — and are stymied by the writing. Entertaining moments ignite — and then fizzle, with irritating frequency. At the time, it was in vogue to blame the second season’s pitfalls on the writers strike, but please: It stunk because it stunk. As for its crisp Blu-ray release, here’s what can be said for it — it’s amazingly clear how they screwed this one up. Grades: Season One: B; Season Two: D+

“The Office: Season Four”: Examines what happens when your boss isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the office. This fourth season of the show mocks and skewers authority with the same verve of the previous three seasons, with Steve Carell once again pitch perfect as the geeky moron nobody respects. The supporting cast — including Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski — is excellent, and while the show never has bested its BBC counterpart (it’s tough not to miss Ricky Gervais), it can be beautifully cutting in its damning observations of who’s in charge, why they’re in charge, and the sad realization that they have no business being in charge. Grade: B+

“Son of Rambow”: A children’s movie with loneliness at its core, at least for Bill Milner’s young Will Proudfoot, and how sheltered, creative kids, when introduced to the likes of something larger than themselves (in Will’s case, Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character, Rambo), can break free from their shells and realize the person they never knew was inside them. Helping Will to that end is his polar opposite, Lee Carter (Will Poulter), who is fearless and, in the movie’s quirky way, also kind of dangerous. Their budding friendship is the catalyst for a movie that’s an odd, appealing mix of religious strife, lively ’80s music, the love of moviemaking, the discovery of cinema as entertainment and as an art form, and the hipness and happiness that can come along with it all. Rated PG-13. Grade: B

“Supernatural: Complete Third Season”: Delivers what its title promises and then it goes a step farther — it improves upon the very good season that came before it. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles return as Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers working through a traumatic past — their mother was viciously killed by a monster, depicted in grisly fashion in the first season. Now, the family business is in hunting down ghosts, particularly the elusive one who killed their mother. What ensues is supernatural at every turn, with this season focused on the ramifications of what it meant for Dean to sell his soul to the devil at the end of the previous season in an effort to save Sam’s life. The consequences prove dire, with hell initially held at bay until — that’s right — all hell breaks loose. Grade: B

“Transformers: Special Edition” Blu-ray: Clocks in at nearly 2½ hours but greases by without ever feeling as long. Shia LaBeouf is Sam Witwicky, a genial nerd caught in a plot that finds Earth under attack by the Decepticons, huge robots in search of the Allspark, a giant cube that, if found, will allow these beasts the devastating powers of evil they seek. Working against them are the Autobots, who also are seeking the Allspark but who instead want to use its power for good. Since neither the Decepticons nor the Autobots know where the Allspark is located on Earth, anything goes in their efforts to find it. Though Megan Fox, Anthony Anderson Jon Voight and John Turturro co-star, the real stars of the show are the Transformers themselves, whose incorporation into the film’s real-life surroundings is as seamless a feat as you could imagine. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

Also on Blu-ray Disc: Rounding out the week are several new Blu-ray offerings, with the standout being the celebrated 1989 Western miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” with Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston and others nailing an engrossing adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel. Golden Globes and Emmy Awards followed. Oliver Stone’s “Nixon: The Director’s Cut” is recommended, albeit with reservations — it’s overly long (what Stone film isn’t?), but Anthony Hopkins does get to the core of Nixon’s corruption, his brilliance and his ultimate self-destruction. Finally, there’s the rich, stop-action animated world of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector’s Edition,” which is the week’s best new Blu-ray release. The film is alive with sorrow, evil, humor and menace, not to mention some beautifully macabre songs, all wrapped around a story that involves the kidnapping of Santa.

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of hundreds of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on http://www.bangordailynews.com . He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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