Blu-ray Reviews: Denzel, Stanwyck, Bruce, Zombies, Woody and Dick
Holidays, vacation, and illness prevented me from getting many of these out on time. But I'm here now and have forgiven the Time and Flu Demons for making me late.
Click the link for purchase and in no particular order…
Flight (2012) Two-Disc Combo: Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy + UltraViolet
After a decade wasted on three completely forgettable CGI films, director Robert Zemeckis returns to live-action with the dramatic and engrossing tale of what happens to a commercial airline pilot after he miraculously saves a plane filled with over a hundred "souls." I highlight the world "souls" because John Gatins Oscar-nominated (and impeccably structured) screenplay is filled with almost as much Christian symbolism as the Bible.
Also Oscar-nominated is leading man Denzel Washington, who proves himself once again to be among the greatest movies stars of all-time.
If all you know about "Flight" is the trailer, you’re in for a surprise. It's not the movie you expect.
Looper (2012) UltraViolet Digital Copy, Blu-ray
After delivering the unexpected and highly original high-school noir "Brick" in 2005, writer/director Rian Johnson returns with one of the most intelligent, original, engaging, and moving time travel thrillers in years. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe, an empty, soulless, drug-addicted hit-man for the mob living in 2044 and coldly dispatching those sent back to him from 2074.
Smarter than your average hit-man, Joe hordes his money in preparation for retirement in a foreign country filled with hookers and drugs. The plan's coming together perfectly, too, until his next hit arrives in the form of Bruce Willis.
Great characters, great action, terrific plot turns, and a time travel fable with no plot-holes.
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) UltraViolet Digital Copy, Blu-ray
My favorite ongoing franchise has just released its fifth chapter (plans are for one more) in the ongoing story of Alice (a magnificent Milla Jovovich), the astonishingly capable and sexy heroine battling the evil Umbrella Corporation in a post-apocalyptic world filled with flesh-eating zombies.
Paul W.S. Anderson returns as writer/director, and while the story is lacking (especially compared to the last two entries), the beautifully choreographed and filmed violence and overall concept are top-notch. I had to watch this twice to appreciate it, and now can't wait for a third go-around.
Fans of the series will appreciate the return of a number of beloved characters thought dead.
Titanic (1953) Bluray
No, no, this isn't James Cameron's Oscar-winner, but a lesser-known but just as fictionalized telling of the most famous ship sinking in history.
The Mighty Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb play a married couple who have spent years knifing one another, especially him to her. On the fated voyage, a final dose of poison is hurled that decimates the family, especially the children, until an iceberg delivers a healthy dose of perspective.
Ultimately, this is a very moving story told against an epic backdrop and with the kind of dark themes movies of this era receive no credit for. The performances are superb, Stanwyck looks stunning, and a very young Robert Wagner arrives to court the eldest daughter.
If it looks as though the 22 year-old Wagner is more smitten with the 45 year-old Stanwyck than the daughter, there's a reason for that. During the filming, Stanwyck and Wagner fell in love. The May-December romance would remain a secret for 50 years. Lucky bastard.
I want to thank 20th Century Fox for giving this underrated and underappreciated near-classic the release it deserves. Not only is the transfer gorgeous, but the extras are superb, including two feature-length commentaries featuring film critic Robert Schickel and Wagner.
Dick Tracy (1990) Blu-ray + Digital Copy
Twenty years and a Blu-ray transfer have done nothing to improve director/star Warren Beatty's big-budget dud.
The cinematography is gorgeous, the plentiful gathering of stars (Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, William Forsyth, Mandy Patinkin, Dick Van Dyke, Seymour Cassel, Paul Sorvino, Henry Silva, etc.) all seem to be having a blast, and Madonna looks and sounds great. But the story is impossibly dull.
Warren Beatty will insist a $162 million worldwide take proves he crafted a hit. But this was supposed to be the next Batman, not a tent-pole that ate up a ton of time, talent, and energy only to make a little profit.
Sleeper (1973) Blu-ray
Writer/director/star Woody Allen was still in his Bob Hope mode in 1973, and this sci-fic comedy is by far Allen's best entry in an impressive canon of what's become known as his "early, funny films." We're light years away from 1978's "Interiors," but also from 1969's "Take the Money and Run." "Sleeper" is zany and filled with zingers, to be sure, but Allen still has a lot to say about society, politics, and relationships.
Like all of Allen's home video releases, the transfer looks great but there are no freakin' extras.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Blu-ray
One of about a half-dozen outright Woody Allen masterpieces, and by far his most accessible and sentimental. Allen's absolutely perfect screenplay won him a no-brainer Oscar, and stars Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest the same for their exceptional support work.
This engaging, funny, and ultimately old-fashioned story of the complicated relationships between three sisters would mark the first collaboration between Allen and Michelangelo Antonioni's longtime cinematographer, Carlo Di Palma. And the result is one of Allen's most lush and warmest-looking films. If you’re going to buy one Allen Bluray and don’t care for "Manhattan," this is the one.
Again, there are no extras, but with a film this good it's hard to complain.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC