Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and like many of the skeptics out there, I was nervous when I heard it was getting a prequel. However, I was also a little excited. While I knew it wouldn’t hold a candle to Carpenter’s vision, I was still eager to see it. When it finally came out, I got pretty much what I expected. And in a world with disappointing films, this is the best you can hope for sometimes.
This movie follows the tragic story of the Norwegian camp that originally finds the Thing in the ice. It follows pretty much the same story as the Carpenter’s version, only with more Norwegians and a couple ladies in the mix. There’s a little too much use of CGI, and the film isn’t the slow build suspense that Carpenter’s is. It’s definitely cobbled a bit by modern filmmaking styles and set-up. However, in many ways, it’s true to the 1982 film, including offering Easter eggs that show how iconic images were set up and keeping in line with the nihilistic view of the events.
It’s not the best version of the film out there, but it’s better than it could have been. And I’ll take that.
The Blu-ray includes a commentary track with director Matthijs van Heihningen and producer Eric Newman, as well as a set of deleted and extended scenes. Some of these scenes are better than those of most films because it shows a variety of effects moments that were left out. There’s also the featurettes “The Thing Evolves” and “Fire & Ice,” which examine the development of the film and the use of practical fire effects.
Additionally, the Blu-ray comes with plenty of networked features that have become common on Universal discs. These include U-Control for picture-in-picture features, BD-Live features and the pocketBLU app access.
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
A disturbing trend in movies recently (and I suppose it’s been going on for decades, though it just seems more prevalent now) is to spoil much – or all – of the plot in the trailers. Without watching the trailers for “Dream House,” you’ll have a better experience simply because the trailer gives away 95 percent of the film – including critical plot twists and surprises.
Watching it again with a more sober eye, already knowing what’s coming from seeing the film before, it’s not terrible. The story follows a man named Will (Daniel Craig), who is coming home to work on a book. He discovers there’s some mysterious people stalking the house, which leads him to dig into some uncomfortable areas of his past.
Taken as a direct-to-DVD thriller, “Dream House” works. It wasn’t necessarily worthy of a wide release in theaters, but with the all-star cast, it needed to go there. Like I said, “Dream House” is best experienced completely cold. There are some nice, thrilling moments. However, much of the story – including all the spoiled plot twists from the trailer – are still pretty doggoned predictable.
The Blu-ray comes with limited bonus content, mainly in the form of behind-the-scenes featurettes. These include “Burning Down the House” about the climactic fire moments, “The Dream Cast” about the actors, “Building the Dream House” about the set construction and “A Look Inside” which is a basic making-of mini-doc. There is also access to BD-Live and the pocketBLU app.
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
The idea of a “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” movie seemed so silly to me months ago, and even though “Real Steel” is based on a Richard Matheson story (which was actually made into an episode of “The Twilight Zone” a half-century ago), it didn’t seem any more than that. But watching the film is an absolute fun time.
ANOTHER HAPPY DAY
Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, and ex-boxer who has thrown his career into the sport of robot boxing. He gets saddled with his estranged son for the summer, and together they take an unlikely sparring bot and make him a champion.
“Real Steel” is a relatively simple movie that builds on a basic father-and-son story. I’ve watched it with my kids, and it’s a great bonding experience. Director Shawn Levy blows hot and cold with his films, but he always brings a child-like sense of wonder to them. Such is the case with “Real Steel,” and on that level, it’s just a fun action movie. It’s not out to change the world, but it gives us a film with real heart and a lot of fun. Plus, the robot effects are quite brilliant and, at times, almost unbelievable.
There’s a nice assortment of bonus content on the Blu-ray and the enclosed DVD. Both discs include bloopers, an audio commentary with Shawn Levy and two featurettes: “Making of Metal Valley” and “Building the Bots.” Exclusive Blu-ray features include more deleted and extended scenes, the fake in-character documentary “Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story,” a spotlight on fighting advisor Sugar Ray Leonard and the “Real Steel Second Screen” which includes picture-in-picture bonus content.
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: * (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
I really should be more cautious when I watch direct-to-DVD relationship dramas. “Another Happy Day” is one of those minor releases with a fantastic cast that falls down dead with idiocy and awfulness. It tells the story of Lynn (Ellen Barkin) who is coming to the marriage of her eldest and estranged son. She has to deal with a slate of family tensions – from her ex-husband’s new wife (Demi Moore) and her daughter (Kate Bosworth) who has a habit of cutting herself to escape emotional pain.
I’ve always been hypercritical of movies that have a set of characters that are thoroughly unlikable throughout the film. Such is the case with this movie. It’s a trap that writers get into. They want to add humanity to characters to show real struggle and conflict. But to me, there’s a difference in a flawed person who is basically good trying to overcome problems and just an asshole. Everyone in this movie is an asshole. And in the end, I felt like I had just attended a caustic family reunion with these assholes, and I never wanted to go back.
Supposedly, “Another Happy Day” is meant to be a dark comedy, as this fact is pointed out at least twice on the DVD cover box. Unfortunately, demanding it is comedic on the box does not make the actual film so.
The more “Another Happy Day” wore on, the more I hated it. It wasn’t enough to push it into the Top 10 Worst Films of 2011, but it’s down there on the list.
The DVD does not have any bonus content to augment this otherwise dismal film. Unfortunate.
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