Media

Movie Renter's Guide - March, 2009

ARTICLE INDEX

"Midnight Meat Train" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-meat-train.jpgSynopsis

Leon Kaufman (Cooper) is a New York City photographer preparing to exhibit his work of night photography atSusan Hoff's (Shields) art gallery. One evening, he helps a girl who is being harassed by thugs in asubway, getting some photos at the same time. He watches her board the night train, and she is never seen again.

He becomes obsessed with what happened, and discovers that there are many people who have been disappearing on that train since the 1800's.

Someone named Mahogany (Jones)has been doing some very bad things to passengers, andthe color is red. Leon stalks the serial killer on the train, and his girlfriend Maya (Bibb) is afraid Leon will end up a victim himself.

Specifications

  • Lions Gate
  • 2008, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Vinnie Jones, Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart
  • Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Although classified as "Unrated", you can tell by the cover art and the synopsis that this is no PG-13 film. As slashermovies go, this one is pretty good, and you may not want to eat steak for awhile after watching it. The movie is based on a short story by Clive Barker.

Technical

The image is razor sharp, and the surround envelopment is terrific.

Extras

These include Clive Barker: The Man Behind the Myth, Anatomy of a Murder Scene, Mahogany's Tale, and Director's Commentary.


"Donnie Darko" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-donnie-darko.jpgSynopsis

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an adolescent with borderline schizophrenia, who lives in his own world, separated from his parents and school teachers.

He is plagued by visions that frighten him, and he tries, with the help of a friend named Frank, who takes the shape of a rabbit, to save the world before it ends in 28 days.

Part of his activities include committing crimes.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2001, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 53 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 18 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jake Gyllenhaal,Mary McDonnell, Jena Malone, Holmes Osborne, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Directed by Richard Kelly
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Most of us probably know someone or have a relative who suffers from schizophrenia. It is a terrible disease that destroys their lives. This film shows us the points of view of both the sufferer and those around him.

Technical

The image is not quite as sharp as it could be, partly because they used a relatively low bitrate, and there is only a modest surround environment.

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.


"Milk" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-milk.jpgSynopsis

Harvey Milk (Penn) was the first openly gay man to be elected to a major public office, and the story chronicles his move, along withhis partner, Scott Smith (Franco),from New York to San Francisco in 1970, where he opens a camera shop in the Castro District.

He quickly realizes that the local shop owners don't want him there, so he begins an activist campaign to change the ways gays are treated.

After several attempts to be elected to the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors and to the State Assembly, he finally is elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1977, with his district being the Castro and Haight areas of the city.

State Senator John Briggs (O'Hare) along with anti-gay activist Anita Bryant attempt to get laws that give gays rights in other states repealed, with some success, and they set their sights on California. Briggs puts forth the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which fails.

Supervisor Dan White wants Harvey to support his bills, but Harvey turns him down, so Dan does not support Harvey's bills.

White resigns as Supervisor, and then changes his mind, and neither Harvey nor Mayor George Moscone (Garber) support his re-instatement.

As a result, Dan White assassinates both Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone. (Note: Anita Bryant's career was very successful until she started her anti-gay activisim, and it went downhill from there with a divorce and three failed stage shows that she started in three different cities, with unpaid taxes that amounted to nearly one million dollars. Her obsession with anti-gay activism basically destroyed her life.)

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Sean Penn,Josh Brolin, James Franco, Diego Luna, Denis O'Hare, Victor Garber
  • Directed by Gus Van Sant
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I remember the assassination, but I did not realize that Milk was a major cornerstone in jump starting a national trend for passing laws that would givegay Americans the rights they deserve along with every other American citizen. Although Anita Bryant is shown as a major bigot in the anti-gay movement, there were and still are many others who continue trying to take their rights away.

Technical

The image is a little soft here and there, and the surrounds are not used very much.

Extras

Only a few extras, including Remembering Harvey, Hollywood Comes to San Francisco, and Marching for Equality.


"What Just Happened" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-what-just-happenedSynopsis

Ben (De Niro) is one of Hollywood's most powerful producers, and is trying desperately to get his latest movie ("Fiercely") finished so it can be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Unfortunately, the director, Jeremy Brunell (Wincott), has put an ending in the film that the test audiences don't like. Not only is the hero (Sean Penn) killed, but his dog is shot also. Ben and a studio executive force Jeremy to change the ending so that the dog is not killed, and Jeremy goes wild with frustration.

A second film is held up because the actor (Bruce Willis) does not want to shave his beard, and he practically tears the studio set apart as an expression ofhis anger. Unless Bencan get him to shave the beard, the production will be cancelled.

In the meantime, Ben has to deal with two former wives, who are not exactly cooperative or supportive.

Specifications

  • Magnolia
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 44 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Robert De Niro, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Michael Wincott
  • Directed by Barry Levinson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The movie is based on a book by a former Hollywood producer, and I suspect that much of what is shown actually happened to him personally. It makes me glad I am not in that business.

Technical

The image is razor sharp, and there is good use of the surround channels.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Casting Sessions,The Making of, and other things.


"Australia" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-australiaSynopsis

It is early 1942, and Lady Sarah Ashley (Kidman) travels to Darwin, Australia to reach their ranch, Faraway Downs, because she believes that herhusbandis wasting his time.

When she arrives, she finds that he has been killed.

So, there she is, with a ranch and cattle, and a foreman named Fletcher whom she fires because apparently he has been moving cattle to a competitor's (King Carney - Brown) ranch across the river.

She decides to take the cattle to Darwin, to sell them tothe Army for food. She hires a drover (Jackman) to help her.

Once they get to Darwin, King Carney doesn't like the idea of her underselling his cattle price to the Army.

Then, the Japanese attack Darwin, in their quest to conquer Australia.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 22.5 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, David Winham, David Gulpili
  • Directed by Baz Luhrmann
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The basic story is good, and Kidman and Jackman are terrific in their roles (it was amusing to watch Kidman, who is Australian, deliver a British accent in her home country), but the movie just goes on and on, and the sceneryis not exactly majestic (basically just desert and sagebrush). It should have been cut to about 2 hours.

Technical

The image is very sharp, and the surround envelopment is excellent.

Extras

These include Australia, The People, the History, the Location, Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes, Costume Design, Locations, and other things.


"JCVD" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-jcvdSynopsis

After working on a movie, Jean-Claude Van Damm goes home to Belgium for some rest.

He goes into a bank, and suddenly shots are fired at a policeman standing across the street. The policeman thinks it is Jean-Claude robbing the bank. He is holding some hostages, and the local SWAT team is brought in to solve the problem.

Negotiators are sent in, but it does not help.

What has happened is that Jean-Claude walked into the bank at the wrong time, when a robbery is taking place, and the bank robbers use Jean-Claude to negotiate with the police.

So, Jean-Claude has to use not only his martial arts skills, but all the tricks that he has learned while making movies to get the hostages out alive.

Specifications

  • Peace Arch Home Entertainment
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 37 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring Jean-Claude Van Damm, François Damiens, Zinedine Soualem, Karim Belkhadra
  • Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

It is an interesting idea, but the strory just does not have enough to hold it together for even just the hour and a half running time. Jean-Claude does some of his best acting here though. It's worth a rental.

Technical

The image is not as sharp as it should be, andthe surround envelopment is modest.

Extras

These include only some deleted scenes and the trailer.


"In the Electric Mist" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-electric-mistSynopsis

New Orleans Police Detective Dave Robicheaux (Jones) begins an investigation into the murder of a young woman who was found carved into pieces and her body dumped in a swamp.

The investigation leads him to a local, Julie Balboni (Goodman) and a sugar manufacturer, Twinky LeMoyne (Beatty), who have invested in a movie that is being produced in New Orleans about a Civil War battle.

Another body is found, but it is the bones of a black man who disappeared in the 1960's. Detective Robicheaux thinks there is some connection, but can't quite remember what it is.

In the meantime, he is battling alcoholism, and has hallucinations of speaking to a Civil War general, who advises him.

Finally, he remembers that he witnessed the killing of the black man, and knowing who killed him, closes in for the arrest.

Specifications

  • Image Entertainment
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • StarringTommy Lee Jones, Ned Beatty, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen,Peter Sarsgaard
  • Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

If you have never been to New Orleans, you have missed something, because it is a fantastic city. It's also a great setting for scary movies that have lots of night scenes clouded in the mist of humidity, like this one. Unfortunately, the story just seems to meander, without any anchor, so it is hard to understand what's going on.

Technical

The image has noticeable edge enhancement, and there is really not much use of the surround channels.

Extras

Only the trailer.


"The Robe" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-the-robeSynopsis

The story takes place in Rome during the reign of Emperor (Caesar) Tiberius. Marcellus Gallio (Burton) is a Tribune.

Jesus has been tried and sentenced to be crucified. Marcellus witnesses the crucifixion and wins Jesus' robe when the soldiers are gambling for it.

When Marcellus holds the robe, he is suddenly overcome with fear. One of his slaves, Demetrius (Mature), takes the robe away. Diana (Simmons), who loves Marcellus, tries to sooth him, but to no avail.

Over the next few months, Marcellus has nightmares and keeps shouting, "Are you out there?" Tiberius orders him to find the robe and destroy it as the only way that Marcellus can heal himself.

While Marcellus searches for Demetrius, Emperor Tiberius dies and Caligula (Robinson) replaces him at the throne. Marcellus finds Demetrius, and in the process, becomes converted to Christianity when he realizes there is nothing to fear.

Caligula hears that Marcellus has put Jesus as his king, rather than Caligula, and brings both Marcellus and Diana before him, and orders Marcellus to declare Caligula as his king, and disavow Jesus.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1953, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 14 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 21 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie, Jay Robinson, Dean Jagger
  • Directed by Henry Koster
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This was the first movie filmed in CinemaScope (widescreen). It was during a time when people started watching the new gadget called television rather than going to the theater. So, Hollywood came up with this new format. Adding stereo sound to the wide image made it vastly superior to any TV viewing, and people came back to the theaters.

CinemaScope was basically a prism that was placed in front of the main lens, and it compressed the image sideways. The first CinemaScope pictures were shot at 2.55:1 instead of the current 2.35:1, so they were really wide. Secondly, they were also filmed in conventional 1.33:1 just in case audiences didn't like the wide images. They couldn't do it by just having two cameras going at the same time, because the props had to be rearranged to fit into the smaller 1.33:1 image space. You can imagine the expense of filming the movie twice!

Technical

The image has been superbly restored, but the sound, although stereo, does not convert well to 5.1.

Extras

These include The Making of, The CinemaScope Story, From Scripture to Script, A Comparsion of the Widescreen Version with the Standard Version, and other things.


"Transporter 3" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-transporter-3Synopsis

In part 3 of this series, Frank Martin (Statham) is contracted to deliver a package in the trunk of his car to Odessa, on the Black Sea. He is told that a young woman named Valentina must go with him.

There are some very nasty people who try to disrupt his trip, but that is why Frank was chosen for the job. He is, after all, The Transporter.

He discovers that the package in the trunk is not the real item that is to be transported. It is Valentina, daughter of a French official who is responsible for monitoring any dangerous substances that might be carried into the port of Marseille, and she has been kidnapped so that a terrorist organization can force him to sign a contract that will allow toxic waste material to enter the port on several ships.

Specifications

  • Lions Gate
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 44 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, François Berléand
  • Directed by Olivier Megaton
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

If you are a fan of this series, you will like this one, as it has plenty of Statham-style martial arts action.

Technical

The image is reasonably sharp, but it is the sound (7.1) that is truly outstanding. All channels are producing sound during the action sequences.

Extras

These include The Making of, Director's Commentary, Behind the Scenes, and other things. There is a second disc (standard definition) that you can upload to your Video iPod.


"Quantum of Solace" (Blu-ray)

movie-march-2009-quantum-of-solaceSynopsis

A man named Dominic Greene (Amalric) is head of a secret organization that wants control of the world's oil supply.

He makes a deal with a general in Bolivia to help him take over the government if he will sign over a piece of land where Dominic claims there is oil.

Bond's job is, of course, to stop this from happening.

In the meantime, the American CIA is working with Greene, and in return for some of the oil, the USA will not interfere with the coup.

Along the way, he picks up a woman named Camille (Kurylenko), who has plans of her own. It turns out that the general who wants to take over the Bolivian government murdered her mother.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric
  • Directed by Olivier Megaton
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Craig is certainly the best Bond of all time. He was great in Casino Royale, and he continues to be a terrific Bond in Quantum of Solace. However, the story is hard to follow, and it is not clear who is the baddest of the bad guys. The camera is too close in the fight sequences, so you can't really see who is hitting or kicking whom.

Technical

The image is sharp, and there is very good surround envelopment.

Extras

These include Another Way to Die, Bond on Location, Behind the Scenes, Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase, and other things.