“Miracle” released on Blu-ray

Posted June 12, 2009, at 8:10 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

“Miracle” Blu-ray: Now available on Blu-ray disc, “Miracle” is based on the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s spectacular 4-3 win over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. If you saw the game, you probably haven’t forgotten it. It featured the United States as the underdogs, the Russians as the team to beat, and a fight on the ice that was charged with passion and meaning. The movie opens with a brief montage that shows images of the Vietnam War, a nation in the throes of economic uncertainty, the Watergate hearings, the fall of a president, the rise of another, the gas crisis of the late ’70s, and the general emotional malaise of the country. Cutting away from this, the film focuses on the one man who would fight to overcome the odds stacked against him: Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), the sharp, ill-tempered coach from the University of Minnesota whose job it was to take 20 young men from various backgrounds and turn them into a team that could defeat the best of the best. How did he do it? It was no miracle. Instead, it was hard work and cunning, with Brooks studying the Soviets’ strategy, learning from it and doggedly training his team to beat them at their own game. Most of the cast are first-time actors and all are convincing. They manage to get under your skin and deliver a movie that, not unlike the game, captures the essence of the time and leaves an impression that’s far more lasting than you might expect. Rated PG. Grade: B+

“Fracture” Blu-ray: With the exception of its twisty ending, very little about Gregory Hoblit’s courtroom suspense thriller is remarkable or reproachable. Anthony Hopkins is sociopath Ted Crawford, a wealthy engineer who begins the movie with a taste for murder. Aware that his wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz), is having an affair with a detective, Lt. Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), Ted puts a bullet through her head — and then several more bullets through a few surrounding windows. He confesses to the shooting, which didn’t kill Jennifer but left her in a coma. Enter Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), an ambitious young lawyer in the DA’s office who takes a case that leads to his gradual unraveling, with the slyly evil Crawford enjoying the implosion — at least until it starts to affect him. Scenes between Hopkins and Gosling have a clipped edge that recalls scenes between Hopkins and Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs.” But by courting comparisons, Hopkins’ performance becomes at once disappointingly self-referential and, curiously enough, the best part of the show. Watching a first-rate actor like Hopkins do a second-rate riff on his most famous character can’t help but generate at least some energy and interest, which is the case here. It’s just a shame that it isn’t enough. Rated R. Grade: C

“Saving Grace: Season Two”: For now, forget about Grace — it’s the show that needs saving. This uneven yet promising second season stars Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko, an unlikable, self-destructive Oklahoma detective who has her share of issues, not the least of which is her messy bout with booze, her obnoxious mouth and her penchant for sleeping with any man who will share her bed. In a show that employs an angel (Leon Rippy) to help guide Grace to her salvation, it’s Hunter’s scrappy performance that gives “Grace” its jolt — and which saves it from some pretty sloppy writing. Grade: C+

“Sling Blade” Blu-ray: In this rich, deeply moving and Academy Award-winning film, director Billy Bob Thornton is Karl Childers, a man released from an Arkansas mental institution 25 years after he committed two violent, bloody crimes. Now, having done his time, Karl is forced to face his freedom with enormous trepidation — how can he possibly survive in a world he knows so little about? With the help of Frank (Lucas Black), a young boy he befriends by accident, as well as the boy’s kind-hearted mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), and her gay friend, Vaughan (John Ritter), Karl finds his way. But he also finds himself thrown in the middle of Linda’s abusive relationship with Doyle (Dwight Yoakam), a raging alcoholic who beats and threatens this family that Karl loves — and will protect at any cost. With strong performances from all members of the cast, “Sling Blade” is a triumph of humanity over evil. It shakes by stripping away the bones of society and exposing the rotting marrow at its core. Rated R. Grade: A-

On DVD and Blu-ray disc:

On television are several new offerings, beginning with the fast-moving second season of “Burn Notice,” in which Jeffrey Donovan’s Michael Westen fights crime in Miami in a show that’s obnoxious to the point of being glib. Still, wit and energy are its strong points — as is a good performance by Donovan — so for those reasons, it’s worth a look on DVD and on Blu-ray disc. Also consider Warner’s fierce legal drama “The Closer: Complete Fourth Season” with Kyra Sedgewick in full bristle, as well as the Victorian period thriller “Murdoch Mysteries: First Season” and, for children, the first season of “The Transformers: 25th Anniversary Edition,” which offers at once a throwback and a fine primer for the coming movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Those seeking solid options on Blu-ray should begin with HBO’s “Generation Kill,” a seven-part miniseries about the first 40 days of combat in Iraq; the 45th anniversary edition of “Dr. Strangelove,” which features a 32-page graphic booklet and the Blu-ray exclusive featurette, “The Cold War: Picture-in-Picture”; and the first and second seasons of “Lost,” which follow the bizarre adventures of the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815. By far, these episodes are the series at its best — not long after, the show lost its way in misguided later seasons. Each set includes exclusive Blu-ray content, but none is as compelling as the high-definition transfer itself. Finally, from the BBC, look for several recommended series, including the fifth season of the comedy show “Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1979”; the complete series of “Roy Clarke’s Open All Hours”; a very good Kenneth Branagh taking the lead in the three-part detective series “Wallander”; and the first volume of “Mistresses,” which essentially is a cross between “Sex and the City” and “Desperate Housewives,” though set in London and not as slight or cheeky.

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

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