Media

Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2008

ARTICLE INDEX

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (Blu-ray)

movie-october-2008-crystal-skull.jpgSynopsis

It's 1957 now, and Indie is aging. But not enough to keep out of trouble.

Communist spys, led by Col. Dr. Irina Spalko (Blanchett) kidnap Indie and take him to a warehouse where the US supposedly stores all their secrets, including the remains of a space alien. Spalko wants the body because she believes it will lead her to a secret kingdom in Peru, called Akator, where the bodies of other aliens are buried. Supposedly, those in possession of the aliens' remains will hold an unspeakable power over the minds of humans.

Of course, Indie escapes, and when he gets back home, he is approached by a young man, Mutt Williams (LeBeouf), who tells Indie that an old colleague of his, Dr. Harold Oxley (Hurt), has been kidnapped in Peru, and that Mutt's mother went down there to help, and now she is a prisoner as well.

Indie and Mutt go to Peru, find some secret notes left by Dr. Oxley, and digging through some ancient artifacts, discover a crystal skull, in fact, the one that Col. Spalko is seeking.

Indie and Mutt are captured by the Russians, and Indie is forced to talk Oxley, who is now a babbling nut case, into revealing where Akator is located.

Indie escapes again, and everyone makes a mad dash to Akator.

 

 

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The way the movie ends, it implies this is the last of the series. But, I wouldn't count on it.

Technical

The image has an aging color appearance, like an old 1950's movie. It was also shot with a diffuser on the lens here and there, I suppose to make Harrison Ford and Karen Allen not look so old. The sound is top notch in quality. This is a collector's movie, for all sorts of reasons.

Extras

Tons of extras, including Pre-Production, The Return of a Legend, Warrior Makeup, The Crystal Skulls, and many other things.

 


 

"Knocked Up (Blu-ray)

movie-october-2008-knocked-up.jpgSynopsis

Alison Scott (Heigl) is a producer on the television show "E", and has just been promoted to be in front of the camera to interview guests as a TV host.

She and her sister Debbie (Mann) celebrate at a bar. Alison gets very drunk and ends up in bed with a perfect stranger, Ben Stone (Rogen).

The next day, they go their separate ways, but unfortunately, Alison discovers she is pregnant, so she contacts Ben, tells him the news, and they try to see if they can develop a relationship for the baby's sake.

Well, to start off, Ben's job is running a website that publishes embarrassing photos of celebrities, and Alison is host of a show that interviews these same celebrities in a positive light.

Secondly, Alison does not tell the studio that she is pregnant, and does her best to hide her physical changes as she works.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2007, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Katherine Heigl, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
  • Directed by Judd Apatow
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Fresh from the success of The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, the producers followed it with Knocked Up, which was also successful. We are likely to see more of these "real life" situational movies, where, unlike sitcoms on TV, the problems are not only real, they can be heartbreaking.

Technical

This one did not strike me with a sharp High Def look, and the use of surrounds was minimal.

Extras

These include the requsite director commentary, deleted scenes, Kids on the Loose, Finding Ben Stone, Stripper Confidential, and other things.

 


 

"Dawn of the Dead" (2004) (Blu-ray); "Land of the Dead" (2005) (Blu-ray)

movie-october-2008-dawn-of-the-dead-land-of-the-dead.jpgSynopsis

When a virus turns dead people into flesh-eating undead ("Zombies"), everyone takes refuge in a shopping mall where they must do their best to keep the Zombies out.

The only way they can be killed is to shoot them in the head and burn the bodies. (End of Dawn of the Dead.)

And then, just when the human race (at least those in New York City) thinks they have everything under control, the Zombies mutate into much more disgusting-looking creatures and they are tougher to kill (Land of the Dead).

To kill Dracula, you pound a stake through his heart, for the Wolfman, a silver bullet, so how do you kill a mutated Zombie?

Someone forgot to embalm these characters, because the body decomposition is just too much to view them properly in a funeral home.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2004, 2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 50 min, 1 Hr 37 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35: 1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento
  • Directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn), George A. Romero (Land)
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Explicit
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

In 1968, Night of the Living Dead was released, directed by George A. Romero, and it became an instant classic as well as a cult film that has lasted all of the past four decades since its initial release. I am surprised it took this long for sequels to start popping up. Dawn of the Dead was directed by Zack Snyder, but Land of the Dead was directed by Romero, and it shows. Land is much more stylistic and graphic. It is also more humerous, if rotting bodies that walk can be funny.

Technical

The image quality is good on both films, but the use of surrounds is much better on Land of the Dead.

Extras

Dawn of the Dead has only some basic extras, like the feature commentary, while Land of the Dead has lots of things such as Scenes of Carnage, Zombie Effects, and Scream Tests.

 


 

"The Incredible Hulk" (Blu-ray)

movie-october-2008-incredible-hulk.jpgSynopsis

The Hulk series picks up here with Bruce Banner hiding out in Brazil, corresponding with a scientist back in the US about ways of solving his problem, which is that when he gets really upset, he turns into The Incredible Hulk, who obviously has a very bad temper. This was all caused by gamma poisoning when Banner was doing research on ways to protect the human body from radiation.

In the meantime, General Thaddeus Ross (Hurt) has put together a team of special forces, led by Major Emil Blonsky (Roth), to find Banner, capture him, and bring him home alive so they can figure out a way to duplicate his powers and produce an army of super soldiers.

They discover that Banner is in Brazil and the team heads there for the capture. The problem is that General Ross didn't tell Major Blonsky that Banner turns into the Hulk when he is intimidated. Of course, Hulk pretty much trashes Blonsky's special forces.

Bruce, having been discovered, heads back home to Culver University in Virginia, where he connects with his girlfriend, Dr. Elizabeth Ross, who happens to be General Ross' daughter. And of course, General Ross doesn't want Elizabeth to have anything to do with Banner.

Major Blonsky discovers that he has been infected and is starting to turn into his own version of Hulk. When he finds that Bruce and Elizabeth have gone to New York to meet up with the doctor Bruce had been corresponding with, he goes there too and forces the doctor to give him some injections so that the full force of his own Hulk can emerge. When that happens, the two Hulks have it out.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 53 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35: 1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
  • Directed by Louis Leterrier
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

In my opinion, this is the best of the Hulk series, and is sort of like a good James Bond movie.

Technical

The image quality is good, but the sound is even better. Great use of surrounds, and the DTS-HD Master Audio really shines.

Extras

These include Alternate Opening, The Making of, Anatomy of a Hulk Out, and other things.

 


 

"The James Bond Series" (Six Films) (Blu-ray)

movie-october-2008-james-bond-series.jpgSynopsis

Here we go with the first of six James Bond thrillers, and I am sure the rest will eventually come. Why Goldfinger was not in the first group is a good question.

Anyway, let's start with Dr. No (1962), which finds Bond taking a trip to Kingston, Jamaica to find out what happened to a government agent named Strangways. This is the first Bond movie, so when M is telling Bond of his mission, he also mentions that the organization is MI-7, and that the "00" in Bond's agent number means he is licensed to kill.

In Jamaica, Bond discovers that Dr. No is a mad scientist who is bent on destroying the US Space Program. It is in this movie that we see the now famous scene with Ursula Andress coming out of the water onto the beach, in what was then a very small swimsuit. The expression on Bond's face is priceless.

Together, Bond and this first "Bond Girl" (Andress) make a dash through Dr. No's facility to stop whatever it is they are trying to do with all those old fashioned knobs and dials.

In From Russia with Love (1963), we are introduced to a secret organization called SPECTRE, run by a guy whose face we don't see because the camera is focused on a white cat sitting in his lap (this is another famous scene).

SPECTRE's goal is to steal a Russian decoding machine that Bond says he has been wanting for years. But SPECTRE doesn't just want to get the decoder, they want to blame Great Britain in the process.

So, SPECTRE sends a supposedly defecting Russian - actually a SPECTRE agent - to meet with the British in Istanbul to turn over the decoder. The defector is our second Bond girl, Lotte Lenya. We are also treated to a bleached blond Robert Shaw as one of SPECTRE's henchmen.

Thunderball was released in 1965, and the aspect ratio was now 2.35:1 instead of the old 1.66:1 format.

SPECTRE (Number 1 is still shown from the waist down with that white cat in his lap) announces to NATO that they have stolen two nuclear missles and unless they are paid 100,000,000 pounds in uncut perfect diamonds, they will launch one missle into the UK and the other into the USA.

So, Bond is sent to Nassau to track down the people who have issued the threat and stop a nuclear disaster.

For Live and Let Die (1973), we have a new Bond in Roger Moore. It's shot at 1.85:1, but the sound is much better than the previous three discs. Much more depth and clarity.

With the loss of three agents, MI-7 discovers an international drug cartel that is threatening to deliver lots of nasty substances of abuse to the streets.

Bond goes to New York, first to the Oh Cult Voodoo Shop. He finds that the leaders of the drug cartel are immersed in voodoo as part of their plans.

He meets Solitaire (Seymour) who predicts the future, another aid to the cartel. Of course, she becomes a Bond girl, apparently to her own surprise.

On to New Orleans, another city where voodoo is a big thing, and the climax to the story.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) begins with SPECTRE's Number 1, with the white cat still in his lap, taking control of Bond's helicopter in order to crash it and kill Bond. But the tables are turned when Jimmy takes back control of the helicopter and dumps Number 1 into a deep chimney. What I want to know is why didn't the SPCA complain that the cat went down the chimney too.

Anyway, when a British ship that has ATAC (Automatic Target Attack Communicator) installed is sunk before the ATAC hardware can be destroyed, Bond is sent to Greece to infiltrate the underworld and make sure that ATAC does not fall into the wrong hands. It turns out that ATAC can control the complete British fleet of nuclear submarines.

Finally, in this set of six films, we have Die Another Day (2002), with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, and Halle Berry as the Bond girl.

It begins with Bond in North Korea on a secret mission, only to be discovered, imprisoned and tortured for more than a year.

He is exchanged, and M (now played by the inimitable Judi Dench) is not taking any chances, knowing that James had been under severe interrogation for so long by agents in North Korea, so she has James kept under quarantine and close watch.

James is finally back on the job though, and his assignment is to discover and terminate a group of terrorists whose plan is to control their enemies with a powerful laser in space.

The story takes us to an ice castle, where Bond faces his adversary, and soon discovers who he really is.

 

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1962, 1963, 1965, 1973, 1981, 2002, Color, Rated PG and PG-13 (Die Another Day), 1 Hr 50 min, 1 Hr 51 min, 2 Hr 5 min, 2 Hr 2 min, 2 Hr 8 min, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1, 1.66:1, 2.35:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 22-29 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Ursula Andress, Robert Shaw, Jane Seymore, Halle Berry, Judi Dench
  • Directed by Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, John Glen, Lee Tamahori
    Rating
  • Entertainment (Average)
  • Video (Average)
  • Audio (Average)
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: No

Commentary

It is very interesting to watch the progression of the electronic sophistication in the bad guys' secret hideaways, from 1962 to 2002. I used to think Roger Moore played the best Bond, until the latest, with Daniel Craig.

Technical

I am surprised at how good the picture quality is even in the 1962 film. The original camera negative must have been stored away very tightly wrapped. The sound in the early films is mono that has been adapted to 5.1 surround. Of course, the last one, Die Another Day, has a spectacular sound track.

Extras

All six films have lots of extras, with commentaries, historical features, and many other things.