Denzel Washington’s “The Book of Eli” out Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray

Posted June 11, 2010, at 10:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

“The Book of Eli” DVD, Blu-ray: Another post-apocalyptic film from Hollywood, with Denzel Washington as Eli, a man traveling West with a sacred book he believes can rebuild a ruined civilization. Gary Oldman is Carnegie, the evil mayor of a small Western town who wouldn’t disagree with Eli — he knows there’s power in that book. Eli wants to use the book’s power for good — he wants to save humanity. But Carnegie — well, not so much. He wants that book to elevate his own power. And so they come to throes in a derivative movie that is overstylized and, too often, over the top. The film hails from the Hughes brothers (“From Hell,” “Menace II Society”) and what they’ve created is a movie that finds its best moments in some inventive action sequences (an extended tracking shot is particularly well done), but which fails to offer audiences anything new in the genre itself. Even the washed-out look of the movie is a cliche. Washington works hard to create a measure of heat, but he’s sandbagged by a script that runs cold with revelations that ultimately are too much of a stretch to swallow. Rated R. Grade: C-

“Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” DVD: Perhaps now, with the release of this excellent collection from New Line, Harold Lloyd will have his day. It’s overdue. During a time when Chaplin’s Tramp and Keaton’s antics ruled, so did Harold Lloyd, though history hasn’t been as kind to him. Ask most who the former performers are, and you’ll get at least a flash of recognition. Mention Lloyd, and you might get a blank stare. All of this is curious since Lloyd, who appeared in more than 200 films and who found his hook in a pair of round eyeglasses that offset a blanched face, became one of the foremost comedians of the silent era. It’s his inventiveness that grabs you, his physical comedy and the great risks he took (just witness him hanging from a clock in 1923’s “Safety Last!”) that are so compelling — and so funny. Watching Lloyd, you can see how he influenced such actors as Jim Carrey. Filmed mostly in the 1920s, the 13 feature films and seven shorts in this smashing boxed set are all digitally remastered, restored and rescored, with a bonus disc that includes Lloyd’s home movies, as well as several interviews and featurettes. An important collection. Grade: A

“Life” DVD, Blu-ray: The BBC’s latest foray into our world and its nonhuman inhabitants is as terrific as you expect, even if it is narrated by Oprah Winfrey, who sounds as if she talking down to a room of kindergartners. Her phony sense of surprise and canned sense of wonderment are grating — enough to make you long for Sir Richard Attenborough, who usually narrates this fare — but ignore her and just enjoy the visuals. They’re more than enough. The filmmakers weave us into the world’s nooks and crannies — and introduce us to what’s living there — in ways that raise questions (and awe) about how they captured certain shots and reveal just how little we still know about our world. The photography is crisp, often stunning. The links between some species provide depth, surprise and interest. After seeing this, some might reconsider their views on evolution. You watch the series in admiration for all the effort that went into it, and the attention to detail is on par with anything in “Life in the Undergrowth,” “Winged Migration” or the French documentary “Microcosmos.” And yet “Life” is its own masterpiece, offering new views of the world that sometimes are beautiful, other times vicious. Grade: A-

“Supernatural: Complete First Season” Blu-ray: Delivers what it promises, though not much more, with Jared Padalacki and Jensen Ackles featured as estranged brothers Sam and Dean Winchester who are working through a rather traumatic past — their mother was killed by a monster, depicted in the pilot. Now the family business is in hunting down ghosts, though Sam would prefer to have none of it — he’s off to law school. Still, when their father goes missing thanks to “the woman in white,” they team up for a creepy road trip in which they must face the supernatural at every turn. Not great television, though certainly competent. Urban legends abound. Grade: B-

“Youth in Revolt” DVD, Blu-ray: Michael Cera switches things up by tackling Nick Twisp, an awkward teen undone by his virginal status. Even his divorced parents (Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart) are getting more action than he is. Things take a turn for the worse — and for the better — when his stepfather (Zach Galifianakis) loses his financial shirt. Nick and family must move into a trailer park. There he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday, excellent), who changes his world. Though the real Nick enjoys foreign films and prefers art to violence and wrongdoing, he listens to Sheeni when she says that if he’s going to be with her, he needs to be bad. Not wanting to disappoint the potential love of his life, he slips into another personality and becomes Francois Dillinger, who smokes, dons a fake mustache and has one hell of a bad attitude, all of which sweep Sheeni straight into the sun. It’s this dual performance that Cera’s career needs as it allows him to show audiences another side of himself — one that isn’t awkward, and has nothing to do with playing it nice. Instead, there’s evil laced with confidence here. Beyond Cera, look for solid supporting turns from Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi and Justin Long. Rated R. Grade: B

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

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