Media

Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2009

ARTICLE INDEX
"Seven Pounds" (Blu-ray)

Seven PoundsSynopsis

Ben Thomas (Smith) is an IRS Agent who feels empathy for those who are having trouble paying their taxes, so he seeks out special cases and tries to help them.

Even a blind man (Harrelson) that Ben speaks to on the phone evokes deep feelings.

One of the cases, Emily Posa (Dawson), is especially painful for him, because she needs a heart transplant.

He falls in love with her, and ultimately, he makes an unusual choice to save her life.

 

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 3 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper
  • Directed by Gabriele Muccino
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Will Smith movies are nearly always successful because he is such a likeable guy. But, in this case, the story is boring, and our likeable guy just trudges along through the film.

Technical

The image is sharp, and the audio is clear, but it does not make much use of the surround channels for ambience. It seems most movies just use the surrounds for the music instead of environmental sounds in the scene.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Creating the Perfect Ensemble, Seven Views on Seven Pounds, Emily's Passion, The Box Jellyfish, and other things.


"Doubt" (Blu-ray)

DoubtSynopsis

Father Brendan Flynn (Hoffman) is the pastor at St. Nicholas Catholic Church and its associated school in the Bronx, New York. Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep) is the Principal of the school, and she runs it so sternly, the children are very afraid of her.

Sister Aloysius becomes suspicious of Father Flynn when she notices that he is paying special attention to one of the students, Donald Miller (Foster). She thinks Flynn may be molesting the boy.

So, she confronts him, and demands an explanation of why he called Donald to the rectory one afternoon, only to have the boy return to his class with alcohol on his breath. He denies any wrongdoing, and says Donald had consumed some of the wine that he uses during church services.

She still does not believe him and remains firm in her attempt to get him removed from St. Nicholas.

One of the other nuns, Sister James (Adams), is young, a newcomer to the parish, and she cannot understand why Sister Aloysius persists in light of Father Flynn's explanation.

 

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Joseph Foster
  • Directed by John Patrick Shanley
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The movie is just as much about the harsh treatment of all students in Catholic schools of the 1960's as it is about sexual molestation of little boys by priests, and how the church ignored the problem, simply moving guilty priests to other parishes. It's a brilliant motion picture, and the fact that it was passed over for Best Picture, with the mediocre Slumdog Millionaire winning that award, is why the Academy Award Ceremony continues to lose audience numbers on TV.

Technical

The image is as sharp as I have ever seen on Blu-ray, but the surrounds are used just for the music.

Extras

These include Scoring Doubt, The Cast of Doubt, the Director's Commentary, Sisters of Charity, and From Stage to Screen.


"Incendiary" (Blu-ray)

IncendiarySynopsis

In London, a young woman (Williams) is having an affair with someone she met in a bar, Jasper Black (McGregor). Her husband works for the London Police, defusing explosive devices.

During a soccer game, terrorists set off several bombs, and her husband is a casualty.

Jasper's job gives him access to video tape of the people in the stands during the game, and he discovers one of the bombers there.

It turns out the police have known about the bomber for some time, and Jasper helps her in an effort to find out why the police had not done something about the terrorist before. However, the police are resistant to uncover their true motives, and they will go to extremes to keep their secret hidden.

 

Specifications

  • Thinkfilm
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ewan McGregor, Michelle Williams, Nicholas Courtney, Alibe Parsons, Stewart Wright
  • Directed by Sharon Maguire
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Explicit
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The title is exciting, the cover art looks like it will be a good movie, but it's not. In fact, this "action" film is one of the most boring I have ever seen.

Technical

The image is reasonably sharp, but the surround envelopment is not very impressive.

Extras

These include only the Still Galleries and the Trailer.


"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Blu-ray)

The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonSynopsis

In New Orleans, 1918, the day WW-I ends, the wife of a man who owns a button factory gives birth to a son who is terribly disfigured. He looks like an old man.

He leaves the baby on the doorstep of a retirement home, and the housekeeper takes him in and raises him, naming him Benjamin (Pitt).

As he grows to a seven-year old, he is in a wheelchair and looks like he is eighty.

At the retirement home, he meets Daisy (Blanchett), who is an adolescent girl. Daisy is somehow attracted to Benjamin.

A few years later, Benjamin has grown younger rather than older, and he leaves home. Daisy makes him promise to write often.

Benjamin takes a job on a tugboat, and during WW-II, the tugboat is used to tow damaged ships into port for repair.

By that time, Daisy has become a ballet dancer.

Benjamin meets Daisy again, and they become lovers, being about the same age now. But as time goes on, Daisy grows older, while Benjamin turns into a teenager.

Ultimately, Daisy, who is now an old woman, has to care for Benjamin as a baby.

All of this is contained in a diary given to the daughter (Ormond) of a woman in a hospital, dying of cancer.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring  Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Elias Koteas, Phyllis Somerville, Jason Flemyng
  • Directed by David Fincher
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The movie is based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It reminds me of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), in which a painting of a man grows old, while the man stays young. Button is beautifully filmed and acted, but it is far too long.

Technical

The image is perfect (the disc was produced by The Criterion Collection), and the surrounds give occasional ambience, but they are mostly for the music.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Interviews with Pitt and Blanchett, The Makeup, Behind the Scenes (special effects making Brad Pitt look like a shriveled old man), Storyboard, and Still Galleries.


"Taken" (Blu-ray)

TakenSynopsis

Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a retired CIA agent, divorced, and living close to his daughter Kim (Grace) because he cares so much about her.

Kim and her friend Katie want to go to Paris, and Bryan, knowing how dangerous Europe is with the current terrorist situation, at first refuses to let her go, but finally changes his mind.

So, off the two girls go to Paris. They stay in an apartment.

After meeting a nice looking young French boy on the street, they are invited to a party and tell him where they are staying.

That evening, they are both kidnapped, but Kim is able to make a cell phone call to Bryan during the kidnapping when she is hiding under the bed. After dragging her from beneath the bed, one of the kidnappers puts his ear to the phone. Bryan says that if they let her go now, that will be the end of it, but if not, he has certain skills, and he will find him and kill him. The kidnapper says, "Good luck."

Bryan flies to Paris and discovers to his horror that the girls are being trafficked for prostitution and will be sold to the highest bidder.

He locates the gang of kidnappers and makes good on his promise, taking out so many bad guys, the tourists in downtown Paris are probably wondering why the streets are so empty.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 34 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring  Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries
  • Directed by Pierre Morel
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The movie is fast, action-packed, and is extremely satisfying. It leaves you with the feeling, "Nobody ***** with the USA".

Technical

The image is very good and there is plenty of surrround sound.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, The Making of, Inside Action, Black Ops Field Manual, and a Digital Copy (SD DVD) for uploading to your iPod.


"The Matrix 10th Anniversary Edition" (Blu-ray)

The Matrix 10th Anniversary EditionSynopsis

Tom Anderson (Reeves) is a software programmer who sits by his computer at night, as a hacker. He thinks something strange will happen, but does not know what it is.

A stranger named Trinity (Moss) shows up and invites him to meet a friend of hers, named Morpheus (Fishburne).

It is there that he is introduced to The Matrix, where humans are placed in a dream-like state by computers who are, in fact, in control of the planet. In that dream state, humans live what seems to be normal lives, while the computers use the humans to maintain their own survival.

Tom is given the name "Neo", and the team believes he is "The One" who will lead them from the dream state back to reality. Agent Smith (Weaving) is part of the computer system, and he seeks to destroy Neo before Neo can destroy them.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1999, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 16 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring  Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
  • Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This film took years from the planning stage to completion, and it set standards that others have attempted to copy ever since that time. The visual effects are stunning.

Technical

The image is sharp and there is good use of the surrrounds.

Extras

These include Cast and Crew Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg, and John Gaeta, The Making of, Composer Commentary by Don Davis, The Matrix Revisited, Behind The Matrix, The Bathroom Fight, The Code of the Red Dress, Agent Down, Take the Red Pills, Follow the White Rabbit, a booklet commemorating the 10th Anniversary, and other things.

These include the Director's Commentary, The Making of, Inside Action, Black Ops Field Manual, and a Digital Copy (SD DVD) for uploading to your iPod.


"Driven to Kill" (Blu-ray)

Driven to KillSynopsis

Rusian Drachev (Seagal) is a retired enforcer who used to work for the Russian Mafia in New York City. He is divorced and living in California.

His former wife Catherine (Korobkina) calls him and asks him to come to his daughter's wedding. He flies to NYC, meets the new husband, and greets his daughter Lanie (Mennell). He notices that the husband-to-be is part of the Russian Mafia himself, and Rusian warns him, fearing for his daughter's safety.

After he goes back to his hotel, Russian gangsters murder his former wife and put his daughter in critical condition.

So, arming himself with enough weapons to fill the trunk of his car, he sets out for revenge, Seagal style.

 

Specifications

  • Insight Film Studios
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 23 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Steven Seagal, Laura Menell, Ina Korobkina
  • Directed by Jeff King
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I can't help comparing this movie to Taken, reviewed in this month's set, which also involves a father protecting his daughter. It's like comparing a meal at a fine restaurant with what you might step on if you walk across the yard of someone who owns a dog. The film is so poorly directed, and with a script that seems like it was written by someone who took a screenwriting course from K-Mart, I simply cannot recommend this disc for anything but the garbage can.

Technical

The image is a bit soft, but there is reasonable use of the surrrounds.

Extras

There are no extras.

These include the Director's Commentary, The Making of, Inside Action, Black Ops Field Manual, and a Digital Copy (SD DVD) for uploading to your iPod.


"The Uninvited" (Blu-ray)

The UninvitedSynopsis

Anna (Browning) and Alex (Kebbel) are sisters in a home where their ill mother dies mysteriously.

Their father Steven (Strathairn) then becomes sexually involved with the mother's former nurse, Rachel Summers (Banks).

The sisters are very suspicious of their mother's death and try to discover what really happened.

In the process, ghostly events begin to occur, turning suspicion into horror, especially since Anna was recently in a mental hospital.

 

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 27 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring David Strathairn, Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Massar
  • Directed by Charles and Thomas Guard
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is an Indie film that is pretty good, nothwithstanding the obvious reminders that it is a low budget project.

Technical

The image is nice and sharp, and of course, since it is a scary movie, there is good use of the surrounds.

Extras

These include Unlocking the Uninvited, Deleted Scenes, and the Alternate Ending.