'Starman' shines brightest among latest Blu-ray releases

by Doug Nye

McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

11 August 2009


A gentle science-fiction romance, “Starman” (Sony, 1984, $28.95), leads this week’s list of okay but not necessarily spectacular new titles arriving on the Blu-ray high-definition format.

“Starman” is a welcome break from those sci-fi films filled with gigantic machines smashing across the countryside, exploding buildings and slimy grotesque beings. Karen Allen plays Jenny Hayden, a young widow who lives alone in rural Wisconsin. She spends much of her time smoking cigarettes and watching old movies of her dead husband.

One night a spacecraft crashes nearby and a glowing blue light emerges from it. The light floats into Jenny’s cabin and clones into a dead ringer for her husband. Naturally, Jenny is a bit startled by the sight of this and fears the lookalike. The alien persuades Jenny to drive him to Arizona where he is supposed to be picked up by the mothership in three days.

Meanwhile, the government has learned of his existence and is hot on his trail. During their adventurous journey, which includes a stopover in Las Vegas, Jenny’s fear of the alien begins to turn into affection.

Richard Jaeckel plays the military officer in charge of hunting down the spaceman, Charles Martin Smith is the sympathetic scientist who, much to Jaeckel’s dismay, manages to lend the alien and his companion a hand.

Director John Carpenter turns in one of his best efforts. While there are some humorous moments in the film, he never lets it get silly and manages to make us care about Jenny and her friend. Jeff Bridges brings just the right touch to the part of the alien. A really good movie. Highly recommended.

Other Blu-ray releases:

“Blue Thunder” (Sony, 1983, $28.95) Roy Scheider plays Vietnam veteran Frank Murphy who is now flying surveillance helicopters for the Los Angeles police department. He is given an opportunity to try out a new powerful high-tech copter that can hear conversations a block away. When he learns that some members of the government plan to it use it as the ultimate weapon, Murphy discovers that such knowledge could lead to his demise. The action-film features a lengthy, hair-raising helicopter showdown over the city. Malcom McDowell plays his enemy.

“I Love You, Man” (Paramount, 2009, $39.99) Paul Rudd plays someone who is engaged to be married to his dream girl. The only problem is he doesn’t have one friend to ask to be his best man. Then he meets Jason Segal and the two begin hanging out. It’s the ultimate in male bonding with the duo enjoying all sorts of outings together, making for an often funny “bromantic” comedy.

“St. Elmo’s Fire” (Sony, 1985, $28.95) Recent college graduates attempt to make their way in the world and find there are plenty of obstacles to overcome. Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez are among the star. This features some cast members from “The Breakfast Club” which was written and directed by John Hughes who died last week. Unfortunately, Hughes had nothing to do with this one.

“About Last Night…” (Sony, 1986, $28.95) Rob Lowe and Demi Moore are reunited for this comedy/drama. Here they play a couple who head off for a one night stand and discover it’s going to be more than that. They want to see each other again and again. They eventually find out that making love and being in love are two distinct different things. Also in the cast are James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Collector’s Edition Box” (Warner, 1990-2007, $84.99) Certainly this is the most unusual and unlikely set of super heroes. Michaelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo and Donatello are four turtles who mutate into hard-fighting ninja turtles after being exposed to something that looks like toxic waste. Somehow the quartet caught on with the younger set and blossomed into an industry of its own. This set includes four movies: “Teenage Mutant Turtles: The Movie” (1990), “Secret of the Ooze” (1991), “Turtles in Time” (1993) and “TMNT” (2007). The latter is a computer effort. Packed in a pizza box (the turtles love pizza), among the extras included are a comic book, character cards and a TMNT beanie. For Ninja Turtle lovers only.

“17 Again” (Warner, 2009, $35.99) Mike O’Donald (Mathew Perry) has seen his marriage break up and much of the rest of his life go sour. He longs for those days of 20 years ago when he was a 17-year-old and the star of his high school basketball team. He gets his wish (Perry turns into Zac Efron). The only problem is he’s 17 again, but he has remained in the present. So much for re-living the good old days.

“Replicant” (Lionsgate, 2001, $19.99) Jean-Claude Van Damme takes on himself in this sci-fi action film. He plays a serial killer whose DNA is used by a secret government agency to make a perfect clone (also Van Damme) of the murderer. Now, it’s up to the clone to track down the original before he kills again.

“The Class” (Sony, 2008, $35.95) This docudrama follows the year in the life of a French school teacher (Francois Begaudeau) working in a tough Paris neighborhood. It was an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

“Alien Tresspass” (Image, 2008, $27.98) In the 1950s, a spaceship crashes in the Mojave desert and a villainous alien called Ghota escapes. Fortunately, the good alien Urp was also on board and promises to help the earthlings track down the baddie. Eric McCormack stars. Billed as a science-fiction comedy.

“See No Evil” (Lionsgate, 1999, $19.99) A group of delinquents are assigned to do community service by cleaning up the old, dilapidated Blackwell Hotel. What they don’t know is Glenn Jacobs (played by the WWE’s Kane), a psychopath who likes to pluck out victim’s eyeballs, is living there among the debris. The group, along with a cop (Steven Vidler) who once put a bullet in Jacobs’ head, soon find themselves at war with killer.

“Cutthroat Island” (Lionsgate, 1995, $19.99) Geena Davis and Matthew Modine set sail in search of a treasure located on Cutthroat Island. They’re not the only ones. Davis’ uncle, played by Frank Langella, is also after the gold. This was an attempt to revive the swashbuckler genre. It didn’t.

“Chaos” (Lionsgate, 2006, $19.99) Suspended detective Quentin Connors (Jason Statham) is called back to duty to help with a hostage situation during an apparent back robbery. The thieves escape but carry no money with them. Why? Because they planted an account-raiding virus in the bank’s computer system. Wesley Snipes co-stars.

“The Ninth Gate” (Lionsgate, 2006, $19.99) Johnny Depp plays rare book dealer Dean Corso who is hired to hunt down the only two other known copies of a 17th century book called “The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows.” The stranger who hired him has the third copy of the work that was supposedly written by Satan.

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