DVD Corner: “Dawn of the Dead (2004)” Blu-ray

Posted Oct. 04, 2008, at 1:09 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:02 a.m.

“Dawn of the Dead (2004)” Blu-ray: Zack Snyder’s excellent, often darkly hilarious remake of George Romero’s 1978 horror classic is exactly the movie it should it have been. It respects the first film, it builds upon what was there, it takes elements of the story and makes them its own. It works so well, it stands — or, in this case, it slithers, bleeds and crawls — as one of the best zombie films in years. The good news is that the film, now available on Blu-ray disc, isn’t the joke it could have been in less-careful hands. It’s spot on, well-crafted and brisk, absurdly gory but cartoonishly so. As the film unfolds, so do the entrails, which spill in such great red tonnage, the mall under attack in this movie never will see another white sale. Rated R. Grade: A-

“Daredevil” Blu-ray: A superhero movie that forgot to be super. When it was released in 2003, it’s true that the film was darker and more violent than most comic tales given the big-screen treatment (“Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” have since changed all that), but it’s also true that the interlocked double D’s sewn into Daredevil’s costume might as well have stood for Dumb and Dumber. This is one of the stupidest superhero movies ever, with Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Michael Clarke Duncan doing themselves no favors in a movie better left forgotten. Rated: PG-13. Grade: Double D.

“The Happening” DVD, Blu-ray: Oh look, it happened — a good M. Night Shyamalan movie. It might not be a full return to form for the director of “The Sixth Sense,” but certainly it’s a vast improvement over the long run of disappointments he has delivered since. The movie opens in New York, where people start taking their lives in all sorts of creative ways — hair pins to the throat, lawn mowers mulching bodies, bullets to the head, people leaping off skyscrapers. What gives? That’s for the movie to answer. But where the film goes next can be explored. In Philadelphia, science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is addressing his students about the death of honeybees when word comes that Manhattan is being evacuated because of a potential terrorist threat. Has a gas been released into the atmosphere that’s making people take their own lives? Since anything is possible in the wake of Sept. 11, fear erupts, particularly when the suicides ripple across the Northeast and stretch into Philadelphia. Though the weak dialogue undermines the film, “The Happening” nevertheless is spare, satisfying and suspenseful. Shyamalan is having fun with this B-movie nonsense, and he gives the genre a polish it often doesn’t have. Rated R. Grade: B

“Mission Impossible: Fifth TV Season”: Well, not impossible, though each mission certainly is a challenge. Since each show begins with the lighting of a fuse, it’s up to the writers, the director and the cast to sustain the excitement and tension inherent within. In the fifth season of this influential espionage show, that proves true once again, with the writing as tight and as inventive as ever. Here, the world is reduced to the size of a postage stamp and we’re all over it, with Peter Graves, Martin Landau, Greg Morris, Barbara Bain and Peter Lupus smoothly washing their hands of their share of criminals. Entertainment is key here — gadgets abound — but so is credibility. The show comes through with each. Grade: B+

“The Munsters: Complete Series”: It lasted only two seasons (difficult to believe, isn’t it?), but my, how that wreck of a family has endured. Includes all 70 episodes, along with three hours of bonus features, one of which is a must-see for fans of the series — ”America’s First Family of Fright” — which gets to the heart of why the show has mattered for four decades. The antics are what drive “The Munsters,” but it’s the characters that sell it. Fred Gwyne’s Herman, Yvonne DeCarlo’s Lily, Al Lewis’ Grandpa, Butch Patrick’s Eddie and Pat Priest’s Marilyn balance each other while the stories worked hard to throw them off kilter. Four shows are not to be missed: “Lo-Cal Munster,” “Bronco Bustin’ Munster,” “Cyrano de Munster” and the priceless, “Will Success Spoil Herman Munster?” It didn’t, but it might have had that effect on us. Grade: A

“Psycho: Special Edition”: When it appeared in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was precisely the jolt audiences needed to prepare for less timid times. It appeared in theaters during a period when Doris Day was considered sexy in bubble-bath repose, “Father Knows Best” was popular on television, and the idea of flushing a toilet onscreen — as “Psycho” was the first film to do — was more cause for concern with censors than the brutal butchering of a naked woman (Janet Leigh) by the unsteady hand of a psychotic man (Anthony Perkins). Still, art always has found ways to press against the boundaries, to shake the foundation with a firmly pushed envelope, and Hitchcock’s film pushed by taking risks — both thematically and stylistically. His film isn’t great because of that infamous shower scene, but because of these risks, his close attention to character, and the idea that his movie really is about the ramifications of rejection and disconnected individuals unable to connect. Grade: A

“Simpsons: Complete Eleventh Season”: Plenty of tongue planted firmly in cheek. Eleven seasons out, this enduring series continues to give audiences exactly what they want — Homer making a fool of himself, Bart up to no good, Marge overwhelmed, Lisa taking matters into her own hands, Maggie coolly stealing her share of scenes. This isn’t the series at its best, though the laughs do flow easily in the set’s best episodes — ”Take My Wife, Sleaze,” “Missionary: Impossible,” “Faith Off” and especially “Saddlesore Galactica.” Grade: B+

“30 Rock: Season 2”; From Tina Fey comes this Emmy Award-winning series about a sketch comedy show in which pretty much everything goes wrong. Once again, the series underscores Fey’s ear for dialogue, which now has been honed to a point that’s even deadlier than her impersonation of Sarah Palin. Beyond the writing, what makes the series work as well as it does, is the obvious insight Fey brings to each script she either co-writes or oversees — this woman knows network television. In each episode, you can smell the authenticity in the behind-the-scene dramas, even if they are heightened beyond reason. Disaster is a mainstay here — particularly thanks to co-starring roles with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan — but so are the laughs. Grade: B

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 bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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