DVD Corner Oct. 18: “Casino Royale: Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray

Posted Oct. 17, 2008, at 5:34 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:02 a.m.

DVD Corner

“Casino Royale: Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray: Daniel Craig isn’t just the best Bond since Sean Connery, he in fact creates a richer, more complex Bond, bringing to the character the sort of depth and nuance that Connery never mined. That isn’t a criticism of Connery, whose genius as Bond is one of pop culture’s great pleasures. Instead, it’s an observation of the way Bond is handled here. Now on Blu-ray in a collector’s edition, “Casino Royale” is an origins movie that considers the brash, younger Bond. It’s designed to infuse him with a back story meant to explain how, in this case, Bond became Bond. The result is enormously gratifying, with the evolution of the film’s relationships giving the final third its fierce (and surprising) dramatic pull. The superlative action scenes don’t hurt, either; nor do the performances or the writing, all of which are smart and compelling, as is this new Bond himself. Rated PG-13. Grade: A

“The Incredible Hulk” DVD, Blu-ray: Now this is how you go green. Unlike “Hulk,” Ang Lee’s disappointing 2003 film based on Stan Lee’s 1962 Marvel comic book series, Louis Leterrier’s version gets it right. Lee’s mistake was that he gave audiences an interminable first hour that was so dull, they needed their own nanomeds gamma-rayed just to get through it. Here, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) begins the movie already zapped with enough juice to turn him into the towering Hulk whenever he becomes angry or, in one potentially disastrous scene, sexually aroused by his girlfriend and fellow scientist, Betty (Liv Tyler). Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is the greasy special-ops fighter who agrees to be similarly zapped by Betty’s father, the evil Gen. Ross (William Hurt), so he can become The Abomination, a humanoid lizard giant with a roar that could jump-start the Earth’s core. Key to his film’s success is that Leterrier allows you to feel Banner’s isolation without sacrificing the main reason audiences want to see the film — its terrific fight scenes between Hulk and the Abomination, and the very real bond shared between Banner and Betty. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“Incredible Hulk: Season Five”: The fifth and final season of the popular television show finds Bill Bixby back as David Banner, an emotionally detached research geneticist whose blood is so temperamental, it reacts disastrously when he’s accidentally zapped with a lethal dose of gamma radiation. Instead of dropping dead, as one would expect, David becomes a ticking time bomb waiting to erupt into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) the moment he gets ticked off, which is often. Beyond the acting, which is questionable, the downside is that this abbreviated season includes only a few episodes. Grade: C+.

“Partridge Family: Third Season”: With the show now more than three decades old, there remains something comfortingly surreal about watching Shirley Jones riff out on an electric keyboard while her television family (David Cassidy, Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, that forgotten little blond girl) joins her on drums, guitars, tambourine and vocals. Better yet, there are those little family melodramas that pick away at the Partridges while they’re on tour. Here, we get all of the third season’s episodes remastered, thus allowing the viewer to delight fully in the complexity of all those Peter Pan collars. Highlights include appearances by Jodie Foster and a flash flood. I think I love it. Grade: B+

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” Blu-ray: Bloody, yes — and also bloody excellent. Based on Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s long-running musical, Tim Burton’s excellent film thrums with menace, mischief and malice. In the title role is Johnny Depp, who gives a meaty performance (sorry) as Todd, the gifted, 19th century barber who begins the movie armed with revenge against the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman, wonderful), who wanted Barker’s wife for himself and who set about getting her by devising a plan that sent Barker to prison. Fifteen years later, Barker has escaped, assumed the name Sweeney Todd and now is in London, where he meets the not-so-lovely Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), a glowering frump famous for her rather worrisome meat pies. Together, they make music — literally — and a mutually beneficial pact that involves murder, revenge, plenty of slicing and dicing, and which creates such a beautiful bruise onscreen, it’s a delight to enjoy all the sins ground within. Rated R. Grade: A

“The Unit: Season Three”: This off-beat hybrid from David Mamet melds elements of “The Shield” and “24” with flashes of “Desperate Housewives.” And for the most part, it works. Dennis Haysbert is Jonas Blane, the head of the Army’s Delta Force, a top-secret Special Forces unit that enlists in all sorts of bullet-biting bravery. Scott Foley is Bob Brown, who takes on terrorists while his wife, Kim (Audrey Marie Anderson), takes on a few of her own—the wives of the other Unit members. The dialogue can be very good — it has energy. So do the storylines, which are swift. The problem? Sometimes, those qualities come at the cost of developing the characters, which must be fleshed out if this series is to flourish. Grade: B-

Also on DVD and Blu-ray Disc:

The History Channel’s smart, insightful series “The Universe” continues with the new release of its second season, a five-disc set that uses science and computer imagery to reconstruct our galaxy in an effort to better understand it. The singer-songwriter Jewel recently released “Jewel: The Essential Live Songbook,” which takes audiences into the ether by a voice that can reach unexpected peaks in the two concerts presented here. Two anniversary sets are recommended — the 30th anniversary edition of “Animal House” from Universal, and the 15th anniversary of “Chaplin” from Lionsgate, the latter of which finds Robert Downey Jr. nailing Charlie Chaplin’s complexities onscreen and off. Also from Lionsgate is “Speed Racer: The Complete Classic Series Collection,” which tucks within collectible car packaging every animated episode of that popular, 1960s oddity.

Several new DVD boxed sets of television shows are available, with highest marks going to the third season of “My Name is Earl,” the second season of the comedy “Rules of Engagement,” the animated powerhouse “Silverhawks, Vol. 1” and especially “Dynasty: Season Three, Vol. Two,” which finds Krystal and Alexis caught bickering in a burning cabin in the smoldering finale. Less successful on DVD is the first season of “Nash Bridges,” with Don Johnson and Cheech Marin mainly here to trade so-so asides, but making up for that are several British television shows from Acorn Media, the best of which are “Midsomer Murders: Set 11,” “Mobile,” “Foyle’s War: Set 5” and “Trial and Retribution: Set 1.” For fans of the new wave of British mysteries, which are darker than what came before them, each set offers enough manners and cut-throat murder to lift your heart.

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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