CONAN THE BARBARIAN
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
I remember when the original “Conan the Barbarian” came out about 30 years ago, though I was too young to actually see it. But the legend is definitely epic, and it was one of those movies that became famous for its raw nature, even to the people who never saw it. It also launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career into superstardom.
WEST SIDE STORY
So does this new “Conan the Barbarian” work the same way? Not exactly, and I wouldn’t expect this movie to be the one to launch star Jason Momoa’s career, though I think he shouldn’t be written off either. While this new “Conan” was soft at the box office, it’s still one hell of a fun movie. In some ways, I even liked it better than the original because it didn’t take itself so deathly seriously.
Not exactly a remake but more of a new take on the Conan legend, the film follows a barbarian warrior who was born on the battlefield and mastered the art of war. After his village is destroyed by an evil cult, he grows up to hunt down those responsible.
Momoa is fantastic as Conan, offering a level of badassery that his fans have come to expect from his television work in “Game of Thrones” and “Stargate Atlantis.” However, Momoa also brings a level of empathy and cuddliness to the character. In this film, Conan isn’t all about driving your enemies before you and hearing the lamentation of their women. He’s a sword and sandals superhero, trying to do what’s right for the right reasons. He’s not just out for revenge, but also for justice.
The special effects are fun, though obviously CGI, and the villains are top-notch, featuring a bizarre-looking Rose McGowan who only needs a wacky haircut to make her look creaturish, thanks to too many years of plastic surgery on her young face.
I wouldn’t call “Conan the Barbarian” a new classic, but it fit the bill in my book. There’s boobs, blood, gore and monsters. That’s what I expect from a Conan movie. To expect anything else is foolish.
The film is available in a variety of format, including the 3D Blu-ray, which is also playable in 2D players. The battle sequences are good for the 3D format, as well as the effects, which bring the viewer into the movie. The 3D Blu-ray is also packaged with the DVD of the movie and an option for Digital Copy.
Bonus material on the 3D Blu-ray includes two feature-length audio commentaries by director Marcus Nispel and also with the stars Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan. Featurettes include “The Conan Legacy,” “Robert E. Howard: the Man Who Would Be Conan,” “Battle Royal: Engineering the Action” and “Staging the Fights.”
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
Can you believe it’s been 50 years since the Broadway musical “West Side Story” made the leap from the stage to the big screen? I can’t, and this new Blu-ray release of the movie certainly makes me feel old. Being the first time on Blu-ray, the film is cleaned up considerably, and some gaffs in the original production have been fixed, like a shimmy on the opening helicopter shot that is considerably smoothed out.
BONES: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON
The film also looks beautiful in the new transfer, making all other versions substandard, especially if you’re talking about the old VHS transfers. The VHS lovers out there can adore the past, but this new hi-def release makes the film look as good as new. Like Robert Wise’s other recent Blu-ray release, “The Sound of Music” from last year, this new format lends itself to widescreen hi-def televisions more than most other films from its era.
The movie is a modernization (or at least a 50s modernization) of the “Romeo and Juliet” story, telling the tragic tale of two kids from rival gangs in New York as they fall in love. Featuring some of the most famous musical numbers in Hollywood history, this lengthy film keeps the interest throughout the story. It’s obvious as you watch it, even today, why “West Side Story” took home so many Oscars half a century ago.
Sure, the movie is goofy at times, bordering on camp, especially when you compare it to reality and the way films are made today. These are the most clean-cut and polite street gangs you’d ever see. But it was made in 1961, so for mainstream Hollywood, these were the dregs. Let’s forget the white actors made up to look Puerto Rican and the flinging of ridiculous insults like “you loud-mouthed crud head!” “West Side Story,” for all of its silliness for today, is still an epic film.
The Blu-ray comes with three discs, including an in-movie viewing mode of the feature “Pow! The Dances of West Side Story” and a song-specific commentary by Stephen Sondheim. A second Blu-ray disc includes a long-form documentary “A Place for Us: West Side Story’s Legacy” as well as storyboard-to-film comparisons and the featurette “West Side Memories.”
Finally, there is also an enclosed DVD which features the standard definition of the film along with the “Music Machine” feature.
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
It has been said that imitation is the best form of flattery, and this becomes alarmingly evident when you look at some of the series on television today. Recently, I had a chance to slag through the first season of “Body of Proof” with Dana Delaney, a poorly-written, haphazard show by ABC Studios. Just as “Grey’s Anatomy” was a painful and less humorous rip-off from “Scrubs,” it’s clear to see the “Body of Proof” is desperately trying to be a new “Bones.”
But it only takes a few minutes of watching “Bones” to realize how far superior it is to “Body of Proof” in every way. With the sixth season of “Bones” on DVD and Blu-ray, the show is clearly in a groove with its audience. At its core, “Bones” is nothing more than another procedural, only taken from the point of view of the murders after the fact. Literally looking at the bones of a victim, Dr. Temperance Brennen (Emily Deschanel) works with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) to solve the murder.
By the time a series reaches its sixth season, it really hits a stride, and “Bones” does so. It doesn’t waste any time out of the gate of the season to get everyone back into place, with some characters working overseas and Booth back in the military. But like any good series, things are back to normal within an episode or two. There are some continuing storylines to offset the week-to-week procedurals, like Booth finding a new girlfriend from the war front, but the bulk of the season rests on the interpersonal chemistry of the characters.
“Bones” is a fine show and fun to watch. It strikes a balance between the grim aspect of a murder-of-the-week and the whimsical fun of the characters. Now, if Fox could just find a way to cross over this show with the new hit comedy “New Girl” (starring Emily Deschanel’s little sister Zooey), I’d be fully content.
The season six Blu-ray comes with two extended episodes, a gag reel, audio commentary on select episodes and the featurettes “Breaking Down: The Blackout in the Blizzard” and “The Visual Effects of Bones.” In addition to the in-series back-door pilot of the quite dreadful-looking “The Finder,” the Blu-ray also includes the pilot for the AMC series “The Killing.”
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