New on Blu: PLATOON, I AM NUMBER FOUR, GNOMEO AND JULIET, THE BIG BANG, and more
This week brings forth an interesting mix of releases on Blu-ray. The first film to come out of the Full Fathom Five publishing fiction factory from James Frey, an interesting take on a classic Shakespearean tale, a direct-to-video film that marks the return of Antonio Banderas to the action genre and much more...
PLATOON by John Gholson
PLATOON is the case of a movie that’s so good, it’s almost forgivable that Fox has crapped out such a piss-poor 25th anniversary release. If you like the movie, and don’t already own it, this is the best version there is, but don’t expect anything nearly as jaw-dropping as the recent APOCALYPSE NOW release. Expect the same DVD special features as seen on the last DVD release of PLATOON, with a transfer that’s as ho-hum as any 20th Century Fox catalog release. For an anniversary present, the studio should’ve and could’ve handled this much better.
The film is a bonafide modern classic (and 1986 Best Picture winner), that finds young Charlie Sheen trapped in the middle of a morality war between the inhuman Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the humane Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) during the Vietnam War. Oliver Stone’s film is a bit of a marvel, in that it’s bothsketchy with the characters and narrativelyloosewhile packing the kind of emotional wallop that can only come with a truly personal piece of art. Making brilliant use of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings to underscore the tragedy, Stone’s movie isn’t just about the horror of war, but how the male psyche can turn on a dime into something terrible, under the wrong circumstances.
My issues with the disc have to do with spotty picture quality and old features. Blacks often have a bluish, hazy quality, affecting overall contrast. At best, the picture is similar to Fox’s original PREDATOR release, all jungle greenery, presented with noticeable film grain. At worst, it’s a murky, milky mess. Carry-overs from the DVD include standard-def documentaries on Vietnam and the making of the film (all of them worthwhile), and two audio commentaries - one from Oliver Stone and one from military advisor Dale Dye, as well as deleted scenes.
I AM NUMBER FOUR by J.C. DeLeon
Reviewed by me earlier this year, this film is the first to come out of the Full Fathom Five publishing factory run by James Frey. It's got the feel of a CW show full of pretty young people, and fans of Smallville will have a lot to appreciate in this film as it comes from the same writers. That being said, I enjoyed the film very much the first time I saw it, and even more the second time. What really saves the film is the third act, specifically the final battle.
The only important extra in the film is the hand-selected by the director deleted scenes. Altogether they total about 19 minutes, but even then don't really offer a whole lot of backstory. The rest of the official list of extras is as follows:
Deleted Scenes (HD, 19 minutes): Director D.J. Caruso introduces six extended and deleted scenes, among them "Extended Strangers in Paradise," "Sam's Mom," "Worth Mentioning," "Power Prank," "Trying to Connect" and "Extended Warsaw Basement."
Becoming Number Six (HD, 12 minutes): Number Six herself, actress Teresa Palmer, guides viewers through the stunts, powers, visual effects and attitude required to bring her feisty fighter to life on the big screen.
Bloopers (HD, 3 minutes): There isn't much of note in this outtake reel, other than the usual eruption of snickers and gaffes blooper addicts have become well accustomed to.
Trailers (HD, 5 minutes): Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Real Steel top the disc's theatrical trailers.
GNOMEO AND JULIET by J.C. DeLeon
Just when you think you've seen all the ways William Shakespeare's Romeo and Julietcould be done, a new, original take on the classic tale of two star-crossed lovers is told in a format that an entire family could enjoy. What seems like a terrible idea on paper is actually a smart and funny movie featuring a good mix of voice talent. Actors like James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, and Jason Statham turn in great performances of Gnomeo, Juliet, and Tybalt. Among the rest of the cast is Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, and Hulk Hogan. It should be pointed that while this disc is available in 3D, it looks utterly spectacular. It is definitely one of the better looking animated films to be released on Blu-ray this year.
The extras on this disc aren't very plentiful, but there a few entertaining ones, particularly the short yet fun to watch behind-the-scenes video of Ozzy Osbourne as the adorable Fawn. The official list of extras is as follows:
Elton Builds a Garden (1080p, 5:47): A detailed look at Musician Elton John's and his studio's involvement in the making of the movie, with emphasis on the film's score and Elton John's new music that's integral to the story's development.
Alternate Endings With Filmmaker Introductions (480p, 4:05): All's Well That Ends Well and Alternate Dance Routine.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes With Filmmaker Introductions (480p, 42:25): Alternate Opening; Featherstone's Game; First Date -- Alternate Scene; Game On; Gnomeo Exposed -- Deleted Sequence; Wedding Ruse; Featherstone, Shroom & Gnomeo, and Gnomeo Meets the Weathervanes. These are presented in an unfinished "story reel" form.
Frog Talk with Ashley Jensen (1080p, 1:46): A look at the voice performance of Actress Ashley Jensen, who plays the frog character "Nanette."
The Fawn of Darkness (1080p, 1:29): Casting Ozzy Osbourne against type for the part of the lawn deer character "Fawn."
Crocodile Rock music video (1080p, 1:32): Nelly Furtado featuring Elton John.
THE BIG BANG by J.C. DeLeon
This film will make you hate your former or current physics teacher. What starts out as a simple missing persons case turns into a stylistic semi-noirish film full of in-depth discussionsabout physics and above all the "God Particle". Antonio Banderas playsNed Cruz, a private eye who is hired by a hulking former boxer who just got out of prison and would like to meet the woman who had been writing him while he was locked up. Along his journey, he encounters an eccentric yet attractive tattooed waitress who really (I mean REALLY) loves science, and loves talking about it in even while in the throws of passion. She eventually leads him to a wealthy man named Simon Kestral (Sam Elliot) who funded a project that hopes to recreate the "God Particle" and would possibly like to create a new universe utilizing the Big Bang theory.
THE BIG BANG is a very unusual, yet beautifully stylish film that brings a unique look at a private eye story. It isn't anything too original on the surface, but on the whole this is a totally unique premise that was executed very well and absolutely worth the time to seek out. It's got a great cast too. Antonio Banderas leads a cast that features Snoop Dogg, William Fichtner, Delory Lindo, James Van Der Beek, and Autumn Reeser.
As a direct-to-video release, it isn't the most packed disc. THE BIG BANG's Blu-ray release is enhanced by the inclusion of a few extras of note, headlined by an audio commentary track. The official list is as follows:
Audio Commentary: Producer/Director Tony KrantzandCo-Producer Reece Pearson do a fine job of talking up the film, covering all of the basics -- shooting styles, equipment used, the film's score, the history of the production, shooting locations, set designs, homages to previous films and shout outs to the world of physics, character traits, assembling the cast, acting performances, the picture's budget, small nuances that enhance the picture's look and feel, the use of computer-generated effects -- and delivering their comments with a steady enthusiasm that makes this track one that fans should enjoy.
Lex Parsimoniae: The Making of The Big Bang(1080p, 19:56): Cast and crew talk up the production's history, the elements that construct the plot, the meeting of a noir picture and a physics film, the greater ideas behind the plot, the picture's visual style, the work of the cast, shooting on a limited timetable, and more. The piece is assembled through the usual trio of behind-the-scenes footage, clips form the film, and static interviews.
Extended Scenes (1080p, 4:11).
Also on Blu-ray Disc (1080p): Trailers for additional Anchor Bay titles.
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