Media

Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2009

ARTICLE INDEX
"Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" (Blu-ray)

Underworld: Rise of the LycansSynopsis

It is somewhere around the 11th century, with plenty of vampires running around, and whose master, Viktor (Nighy), rules with no mercy in his castle.

They have enslaved the lycans (werewolves), but one in particular, Lucian (Sheen), is determined to free his race from the vampire domination.

He does this with the aid of an unlikely accomplice, Sonja (Mitra), who is Viktor's daughter.

They enlist the help of humans, who have to fend off other vampires and lycans at the same time.

 

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Michael Sheen, Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux
  • Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Among the series, this film is my favorite. Viktor seems to ooze more evil, and the characters Sonja and Lucian emote more empathy .

Technical

The image is not really very sharp. It was shot with the Panavision Genesis HDTV camera, and the picture just doesn't have any snap to it.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Behind the Castle Walls, Lycanthropes Around the World, Recreating the Dark Ages, From Script to Screen, and other things.


"Direct Contact" (Blu-ray)

Direct ContactSynopsis

Mike Riggins (Lundgren) is a US Special Forces soldier who was captured by the Russians and is in prison.

An American arrives and tells Mike that he can get out of prison if he will agree to rescue an American woman, Ana Gale (May), who has been kidnapped by Russian gangsters.

Of course, Mike agrees, as the Russion prison is a terrible place to be.

When he breaks into the compound where Ana is being held, she resists him, saying that she wants to stay there. Mike isn't about to go back to prison, so he forces her to go with him in the escape.

Now confused, Mike drives Ana away from the compound, but then finds several military organizations attempting to capture Ana, and Mike must find out why, soon discovering that the American who first approached him had not told the entire truth about why they wanted Ana out of the compound.

 

Specifications

  • First Look Studios
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 30 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring Dolph Lundgren, Gina May, Bashar Rahal
  • Directed by Danny Lerner
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The movie is OK as an action film, and it is too bad that Lundgren keeps getting cast in B-grade flicks. He is a good actor and deserves better.

Technical

The image is sharp, and there is plenty of action to keep the surrounds busy.

Extras

No extras.


"Ronin" (Blu-ray)

RoninSynopsis

After the Cold War was over, there were plenty of mercenaries looking for work. (Samurai were assigned to protect their "liege masters", and when that was finished, they roamed the country looking for opportunities to use their special crafts of fighting. They were then called "Ronin".)

An Irish woman, Deirdre (McElhone) gathers a handful of mercenaries in Paris, including Sam (DeNiro), Vincent (Reno), and several others, to steal a briefcase from someone who is protected by many armed guards.

So, the group sets up an ambush to get the briefcase, but unfortunately, the Russians want the item as well, and are prepared to do whatever it takes to get it.

 

Specifications

  • United Artists
  • 1998, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-2 @ 18 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd
  • Directed by John Frankenheimer
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is an older movie, and although made by a good action director, films were not quite so explicitly violent in those days, so the action is mostly car chases, shooting, and some explosions, without the carnage so prevalent in today's motion pictures. So, you actually might be a little bored by comparison, but the combination of Frankenheimer's direction, and the inclusion of Robert DeNiro makes it worth an evening of viewing.

Technical

The image is very sharp, and there is modest use of the surrounds.

Extras

No extras.


"Defiance" (Blu-ray)

DefianceSynopsis

In 1941, Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union. It was a stupid move, because it opened his war on two fronts, but he had been so successful in marching across Europe, he thought Russia would fall into his hands within a couple of months.

In Belorussia, Germans murdered 50,000 Jews before a small group of survivors, headed by Tuvia Bielsky (Craig) and his brothers Zus (Schreiber) and Asael (Bell), escaped into the Lipiczanska forest. There, they met with other survivors and formed an armed resistance, attacking German offices that were being set up, and killing the Nazis who worked there.

They eventually built a large camp in the Perelaz forest and survived for several years, continuing to fight the Nazi invaders.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 17 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell
  • Directed by Edward Zwick
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

As Americans, we need to realize that Germany was already losing the war before we joined the Allied Forces by declaring war on Japan in December, 1941. Hitler's stupidity in opening a second front in the east (Russia) was the cornerstone of Germany's downfall. Yet, we were fighting on two fronts as well: one was in Europe via the Atlantic Ocean, and the other with Japan, via the Pacific. Lucky for us that the enemy was not just right next door like it was in Europe and Japan. There was never really any serious attempt to attack the US mainland.

And yet, it still took four more years for the Allies to bring down the Nazis. How the world could have allowed this one country, with its worthless piece of Nazi hundescheiße in charge, a man who didn't even graduate from high school, to ultimately cause the death of some 67,000,000 people, 40 million of whom were civilians, is a subject that keeps the History Channel, and other channels, showing program after program on various aspects of WW-II. I suspect there will be no end of documentaries that show us new aspects of this most terrible part of human history. There are several magazines on WW-II that you can subscribe to, and I just finished reading the book Auschwitz by Laurence Rees (MJF Books, New York, 2005), and if you think you know pretty much what happened in the death camps, read this treatise and discover the true depth to which humankind can sink.

Technical

The image is sharp, but there is not much use of the surrounds. A shame. War movies are perfect for the use of sound envelopment.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, the Making of, and other things.

 


"Confessions of a Shopaholic" (Blu-ray)

Confessions of a ShopaholicSynopsis

Rebecca Bloomwood (Fisher) wants a job with a fashion magazine, but starts out writing for a different publication on personal finance.

The problem is that her own personal financial situation is terrible because she is addicted to shopping. All her credit cards are maxed out.

One day, she buys a green scarf that she knows she really doesn't need and can't afford, and writes about it in her column.

The column becomes a huge success, she falls in love with her boss, Luke (Dancy), and eventually gets what she wanted in the first place.

 

Specifications

  • Touchstone
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Hugh Dancy
  • Directed by P.J. Hogan
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The plot is simple, harmless, and amusing because we all know someone who just can't resist that scarf they see in the window.

Technical

The image is sharp, but there is not much use of the surrounds (not much need for them, but why not use them at least once in a while?)

Extras

These include Wardrobe, The Green Scarf, New York Fashion Central, Bloopers, Deleted Scenes, and other things such as a Digital Copy (SD DVD) that you can upload to your video iPod.


"The Code" (Blu-ray)

The CodeSynopsis

Keith Ripley (Freeman) is one of the most successful art thieves around, and he is in New York. Lt. Weber (Forster) of the NYPD would love to catch him.

In the meantime, Ripley meets another would-be thief, Gabriel Martin (Banderas), and asks for his help in stealing two priceless Faberge eggs, in fact, two that almost no one knows about. That is, except for Romanov Jewelers, Ltd.

The difficulty is that someone else wants them too, a Russian mobster who is very dangerous. He turns out to be the grandson of a man named Petrovich, who made the eggs in 1917.

To make sure he gets them, the mobster kidnaps Ripley's god daughter, Alex (Mitchell), so between the two of them, Ripley and Gabriel must get the eggs and save Ripley's god daughter at the same time.

 

Specifications

  • Touchstone
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Morgan Freeman, Antonio Bandera, Robert Forste, Radha Mitchell
  • Directed by Mimi Leder
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is a reasonable action film, but Freeman plays it so cool, the movie's blood pressure never seems to get very high. He's too likeable to be a bad guy. Having Freeman and Banderas play off each other is really the only thing that makes it worth watching.

Technical

The image is sharp, but alas, as with most movies, there is not much use of the surrounds, and this film could use some surround to liven things up. However, for some reason, there are some very, very deep bass sounds in certain places.

Extras

These include Behind the Scenes and Cast Interviews.