Media

Movie Renter's Guide - April, 2009

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Wrestler" (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-the-wrestlerSynopsis

Randy "The Ram" Robinson is a professional wrestler, past his prime, but he can't afford to retire, so he lives in a trailer and continues his trade.

Other wrestlers are in awe of his career, but they don't cut him any slack in the ring. He has to take his knocks the same as if he were still a young man.

The only person he can confide in is a cocktail waitress, Cassidy (Tomei), who is very concerned about him.

Finally, it is just too much, and he has a heart attack, and retires, taking a job in a deli. He also tries to reconcile with his daughter Stephanie (Wood), who is angry that her father was never there for her.

 

Specifications

  • Fox Searchlight
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
  • Directed by Darren Aronofsky
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Rourke did a fantastic job in his role as the aging athelete. This is the guy who should have won Best Actor at the Oscar ceremony this year.

Technical

The image is sharp, and DTS-HD Master Audio does well, although this is not a movie that really needs surround sound.

Extras

These include a Bruce Sprinsteen music video and Within the Ring.


"Slumdog Millionaire" (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-slumdog-millionaireSynopsis

Jamal Malik (Patel) is a teenager who, by chance, ends up on the television show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" in India.

No one thinks he will get very far, but he goes all the way to 10 million rupees, with the final question to be for 20 million during the next day's show.

In the meantime, the show's director (Zutshi) thinks Jamal is cheating somehow and calls the police. The inspector (Khan) resorts to torture in order to get Jamal to tell him how a boy from the slums knows so much. Through flashbacks, he recounts his youth and the circumstances that led to his learning such an odd variety of things that were answers to the questions on the show.

These include his becoming an orphan, being taken by a group of people who train children to be beggars, and meeting Latika (Pinto), whom he falls in love with.

 

Specifications

  • Fox Searchlight
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan, Rajendranath Zutshi
  • Directed by Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is an interesting tale, but in my opinion, there is no way this should have won Best Picture. Some of the acting is very amateurish, and it seemed to just go on and on, with me wondering, "How long is this movie?"

Technical

The image is razor sharp, and the surrounds are used quite a bit, although it is mostly for the music.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, The Director's Cut of the Movie, Production Diary, They Made Me Do it Too, # 1 Fan: A Darkomentary, Storyboard-to-Screen Featurette, and other things.


"Marley & Me" (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-marley-and-meSynopsis

John (Owen) and Jennifer (Aniston) Grogan move from Michigan to Florida as news reporters. John gets a job with the Sun Sentinel and Jennifer with The Palm Beach Post.

John is asked to substitute for one of the columnists for a few weeks instead of reporting news, and he reluctantly accepts.

In the meantime, they get a Golden Retriever puppy and name him Marley, after Bob Marley the singer, when John is driving the puppy back to his house.

Marley chews on everything in the house and doesn't obey any commands. Both John and Jen become very frustrated with this, and then, she becomes pregnant with their first child.

Taking care of the baby and keeping a leash on Marley's destructive behavior is quite a job.

Following a second and third child, they decide to move to Pennsylvania where John takes a job as a reporter for the Philadelphia Enquirer, because he always felt he was out of place as a columnist and really wanted to be a reporter, not a columnist. Jen stays home to take care of the kids and Marley.

The kids are growing up, and Marley is slowing down. And, ultimately . . . .

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 55 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Kathleen Turner, Alan Arkin
  • Directed by David Frankel
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Based on the book by John Grogan, it appears this is basically a true story. John put his exploits with Marley into his news columns, and they were very popular with readers. The last 20 minutes will break your heart though, so be prepared.

Technical

The image is sharp, and the surround sound is pretty good.

Extras

These include Finding Marley, Breaking the Golden Rule, On Set with Marley, Animal Adaptation, Deleted Scenes, and two separate discs containing the SD DVD version and a Digital Copy for your Video iPod.


"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008) (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-earth-stood-stillSynopsis

Dr. Helen Benson (Connelly) answers a knock on her door to discover the FBI is taking her into custody.

She is taken to a secret meeting place where there are scientists from many different fields, and they are told that an asteroid will strike the earth, specifically Manhattan, in about two hours.

No one can figure out a way to stop the asteroid, but when it is time for the object to strike, it slows down, and lands. It is a spacecraft rather than an asteroid.

A creature emerges, but the military shoots him. Then, a robot, named Gort and about 20 feet tall, comes out of the craft and shuts down all the military weapons there.

The wounded creature is taken to a lab, where a shell of protein falls off, leaving what appears to be a human. He tells him his name is Klaatu. The military interrogates him, but he escapes, and Helen takes him to meet a scientist, Dr. Barnhardt (Cleese), for possible solutions.

In the meantime, the military is hunting Klaatu down with every tool they have. His message is that the earth will be destroyed unless they change their violent ways of behavior.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 44 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 26.4 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese
  • Directed by Scott Derrickson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is a remake of the original 1951 version of the same title and characters. Unfortunately, the 2008 version is just another giant monster movie with lots of CG. Not much different than The Hulk or Spiderman series. The 1951 version had real character and depth. The 2008 version does not, but it is still entertaining and worth the rental.

Technical

The image is very sharp with no visible edge enhancement, and the surround sound is good.

Extras

These include Klaatu's Unseen Artifacts, Build Your Own Gort, Deleted Scenes, Re-imagining the Day, Watching the Skies in Search of Extraterrestrial Life, a Digital Copy for your Video iPod, and the original 1951 version in Blu-ray format.


"Valkyrie" (2008) (SD DVD)

movie-april-2009-valkyrieSynopsis

In Hitler's Germany, during WW-II, Valkyrie was the code name for a document that was to be executed in the case of emergency. It involved calling up Army reserves and securing important areas of Berlin.

Several high ranking German officers and businessmen wanted to see Hitler assassinated, but they needed the right man to pull it off.

Col. Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) comes along at just the right time, and he agrees to do it. He is promoted to Reserve Army Chief of Staff so he will have access to Hitler.

Two packages of C4 explosive, with pencil style detonators, are placed in Stauffenberg's briefcase, and at a July 20, 1944 meeting at Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair - a secret place in the forests of Rastenburg, East Prussia), where Hitler held staff meetings, he puts his briefcase next to Hitler in the meeting room, and has one of the attending soldiers call him to the phone when the explosives are supposed to go off.

An explosion occurs, and Valkyrie is activated. Stauffenberg and many others assume that Hitler has been killed, and SS men are arrested.

Unfortunately, someone moved the briefcase to the outside of one of the table's legs, and Hitler was protected from the main blast, so he survived.

The perpetrators are rounded up and executed, including Stauffenberg.

 

Specifications

  • United Artists
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 1 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 480p
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp
  • Directed by Bryan Singer
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Cruise should not have been cast as the main character, because he is so recognizable, one is constantly thinking that here is Cruise with an eyepatch, rather than being immersed in Stauffenberg's character and actions. However, it is an interesting tale, and a true story. There were 16 attempts on Hitler's life during his reign of power, and 15 of them failed, including this one. The 16th was successful, but Hitler had to do it himself.

Technical

For an SD DVD, the image is amazingly sharp, and I had to look close to make sure I wasn't watching a Blu-ray version (review copies are often sent to me as "Screeners" in plain envelopes with no cover art or details). DD 5.1 does a good job as well.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Journey to Valkyrie, the Valkyrie Legacy, and other things.


"Frost/Nixon" (2008) (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-frost-nixonSynopsis

In 1977, following Richard Nixon's resigning his presidency, a mediocre talk show host, David Frost (Sheen), whose shows had been cancelled, decided that the way to redeem himself was to pull off the interview of the decade. He contacted Nixon's staff and proposed the interview.

The people who still supported him recognized that this might be the way to Nixon's own salvation, with the opportunity to really explain the rationale for his actions during his presidency, not just Watergate, but everything, at least some of which were positive accomplishments.

So, the interview was arranged to occur in two hour segments, on four different days: March 23, 25, 28, and April 22.

Nixon (Langella) would be paid $200,000 for the interview, and the contract called for the discussion of Watergate only on the last day.

Well, Frost underestimated Nixon, and on the first three days of shooting, he got the better of Frost by a huge margin. Nixon's staff was delighted.

One evening before the last day of shooting, Nixon called Frost and told him he would come at him with everything he has.

It was still several days before the last interview, so Frost had his staff go to libraries where Nixon material was open to the public. They found evidence that proved Nixon knew about the coverup long before he said he did.

So, on that last fateful interview, Nixon had to admit he was part of the coverup.

The interview saved Frost's career, but pretty much put the last shovel of dirt on the Nixon/Watergat saga.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon
  • Directed by Ron Howard
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Although the movie received five Academy Award nominations, in my opinion, the movie was boring except for when Langella was on the screen. His portrayal of Nixon was brilliant. In no way did this movie deserve to be awarded Best Picture, and it didn't win. But Langella vastly outperformed Sean Penn in Milk.

Technical

The lighting director did a miserable job with dim interiors. The human eye does not see a dimly lit room this way. Whoever the lighting director was, he should have studied The Godfather to see how to set up a room to look dimly lit, but still appear realistic. The picture was out of focus several times as well, which is inexcusable.

Extras

These include The Nixon Chronicles, The Making of, The Real Interview, The Nixon Libraries, and other things. The disc is also BD-Live.


"Punisher: War Zone" (2008) (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-punisher-war-zoneSynopsis

Frank Castle (Stevenson) and his family are the victims of an attack by organized crime, and his wife and children are killed, but he survives.

Now, revenge is probably human nature, but Frank takes it to the extreme, eliminating all those involved in his family's murder. But he doesn't stop there. Now he is a vigilante permanently.

His current person of interest is Billy Russoti (West), who is the head of a group of mobsters dealing in large amounts of illegal drugs.

At a dinner meeting where Billy is giving instructions to his thugs, Frank goes in and kills everyone except Billy, who escapes. Frank locates him at the mob's front, which is a glass processing company. Frank pushes Billy into a vat of broken glass. Billy survives, but is horribly disfigured, and now calls himself "Jigsaw". He gets his brother Jimmy (Hutchison) out of an asylum for the criminally insane, and together, they set out for their own brand of revenge.

Specifications

  • Lions Gate
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Doug Hutchison, Wayne Knight, Colin Salmon
  • Directed by Lexi Alexander
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I think everyone, deep down inside, loves the idea of revenge against those who have transgressed against them. That is why revenge movies are successful. Remember Death Wish and its sequels? They were made on a low budget, but audiences loved seeing the bad guys shot.

Technical

The image is sharp, but it is the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that shines. I wish more movies had 7.1 sound, as it really makes a difference. I suppose it may be simply that, if the producers go to the trouble of adding two more channels, they plan to use surround sound in a big way. This disc would make nice demo material for 7.1.

Extras

These include Training to Become the Punisher, The Making of, Creating the Look, Meet Jigsaw, Weapons of the Punisher, and other things. A digital copy (SD DVD) is also included for uploading to your Video iPod.


"Sin City" (2005) (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-sin-citySynopsis

In surrealistic Basin City, Marvin (Rourke) is in love with a prostitute named Goldie (King) who is murdered by a crazy man named Kevin (Wood), who never seems to blink. He tries to find Kevin so he can apply a special kind of pain to the one who killed his true love.

In the meantime, Detective Hartigan (Willis) saves a young girl named Nancy (Alba) from a child molester, Roark Jr (Stahl), and in the process, he is shot by his partner, Bob (Madsen). Hartigan is framed for the child molestation and put in prison, because the child molester is the son of Senator Roark, a corrupt politician.

Years later, when Nancy is a young woman, Hartigan searches for her, because she was the only one who wrote to him in prison, and she knew that he was innocent.

The third story, going on at the same time as the other two, is about Jackie Boy (Del Toro), a gangster who likes to beat up prostitutes.

Towards the end of the film, all three storylines come together to show how the characters are all dependent on each other.

Specifications

  • Dimension Films
  • 2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 4 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke
  • Directed by Robert Rodriguez
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The movie is in black & white, with certain items, such as cars, lips, shoes, and other things, colored red, green, blue, or yellow. It is very high contrast, with every scene at night or in dark buildings.

The characters all have heavy duty flaws of one sort or another, so the whole thing is reminiscent of the Film Noir movies in the 1940's.

Frank Miller contributed to the direction, and the entire thing is taken from his graphic novels about the same subject matter. Quentin Tarantino also was part of the direction team. Rodriguez was responsible for the cinematography.

Technical

The image is incredibly sharp, mostly because it was shot entirely with the characters in front of a green screen, and the background was added digitally. The sound is explosive, so it's nice to have high resolution audio to show it off.

Extras

These include Cine-Explore, Director's Commentary, Kill 'em Good, 15-Minute Film School, All Green-Screen Version, The Cars of Sin City, The Props of Sin City, Making the Monsters, Costumes, and other things.


"What Doesn't Kill You" (2008) (Blu-ray)

movie-april-2009-what-doesnt-kill-youSynopsis

In Boston, Massachusetts, Paulie McDougan (Hawke) and Brian Reilly (Ruffalo) are friends and partners in crime. Petty crimes for the most part. In and out of jail for short periods.

Then, they start to work for a crime boss, Pat Kelly (Goodman), who takes the idea of criminal activities more seriously. They fall unders his spell, and get into drugs as well as robberies.

Finally, they decide on one last heist, and it is a big one: robbing an armored van during a cash pickup at a shopping center.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD
  • Starring Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo, Amanda Peet, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Goodman
  • Directed by Brian Goodman
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Mostly, this is a story about a couple of young guys living in South Boston, and what it's like to live the life of a petty criminal. No future except an orange jump suit and steel bars.

Technical

The image is sharp, but there is only marginal use of the surround channels.

Extras

These include only the Director's Commentary (he also plays the part of Pat Kelly), Deleted Scenes, Alternate Scenes, and The Making of.