'Moon,' "Cliffhanger' hover above latest Blu-ray releases

by Doug Nye

McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

12 January 2010


A science-fiction drama, “Moon” (Sony, 2008, $37.95), and a tense adventure, “Cliffhanger” (Sony, 1993, $24.95), top this week’s parade of new titles on Blu-ray.

“Moon” explores the melancholy loneliness that can come from being alone in space. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has spent nearly three years by himself living at a base on the dark side of the moon. His job has been to mine a key source of energy for use on Earth. Well, Sam is not completely alone. He has the computer Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey), which sees to Sam’s every needs and tries to comfort him.

Sam has grown increasingly antsy during his stay and suffers bouts of paranoia. Even knowing that his contract with Lunar Industries will soon end and he will be going home doesn’t cheer up Sam. Three years with no human contact — except for video messages from his wife and daughter via satellite — have taken their toll.

When an accident occurs at the base, Sam makes a stunning discovery that would jolt any of us. Will Sam be able to keep his sanity long enough to make it back to Earth? It is inevitable that those who watch “Moon” will be reminded of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” To be sure, some of the sets and a computer as a “friend” smack of “2001.”

But “2001” focused on the discovery of a mysterious power that seemingly was present whenever mankind made a big advancement. “Moon” focuses directly on the human spirits and how it reacts to the monotony of isolation from civilization. Highly recommended.

“Cliffhanger,” which stars Sylvester Stallone, has one of the cinema’s most terrifying opening sequences ever — especially for those who have a fear of heights. While a rescue helicopter races to the scene, rock jock Gabe Walker (Stallone) climbs to the top of mountain peak where pal Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) and his girl friend Sarah are trapped. The helicopter lands on a nearby peak and, using a cable, Gabe will shuttle Hal and Sarah to safety. To say things don’t go quite as planned is an understatement.

Gabe manages to get Hal to safety. Then he tries to help Sarah, who already is frightened out of her wits. As she moves across the cable, a strap breaks and Sarah finds herself dangling over a deep gorge. Gave hurries out and grabs her hand. “I don’t want to die,” a horrified Sarah cries just before she loses her grip and plunges to her death. It’s something for which Tucker will never forgive Walker.

Months later, however, Hal and Gabe are thrown together on the job because of a distress signal from five supposed mountain climbers. Gabe and his girlfriend Jessie (Janine Turner) set out to find them. What they discover is a gang of terrorists, led by a wonderfully evil John Lithgow, who have stolen millions of dollars. Then the suspense really begins. A fine action film. Recommended.

Other Blu-ray releases:

“The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season” (20th Century Fox, 2008-09, $59.99): Creator Matt Groening’s animated classic continues to roll along. This past fall, it became one of the longest continuous-running shows in prime-time TV history, passing the 20-year record if “Gunsmoke.” Using a middle class family in an offbeat town as its anchors, the series has managed to serve up numerous satiric moments while providing plenty of laughs. Here’s to Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and the rest of the town; may they hang around for another 20. This collection includes 21 episodes on two discs. Recommended.

“Post Grad” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $39.99): Alexis Bledel plays Ryden Malby, recently out of college and looking for a job. While searching, she moves in with her loving but zany family, which includes dad Walter (Michael Keaton), mother Carmella (Jane Lynch), little brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman) and grandma Maureen (Carol Burnett). A pleasant film that has a lot in common with the sitcoms of 30 years ago.

“The Burning Plain” (Magnolia, 2008, $29.98): This is supposed to be a complex film from writer-now-turned-director Guillermo Arriaga. And it is so complex that it’s hard to follow or even care about the characters. That’s a shame because Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger do the very best they can with the material handed them. Theron is an unhappy woman who runs a restaurant in Oregon and jumps in bed with just about any man who comes along. Meanwhile, not only in another state but also in another time period, Basinger is an unhappily married woman who is having a love affair with a guy named Nick. The film jumps back and forth between the two time periods without warning.

“Fame” (MGM, 2009, $39.99): This remake of the fine 1980 film falls way far short of the original. It begins with the auditions and then follows the teenagers from freshman year to graduation. However, every year seems the same. There is no sense of growth of the characters. Worth mentioning in this mess is Naturi Naughton, who plays a girl who spurns the classical piano for rock, much to her father’s chagrin. There is some life when she’s on screen. When she’s not, forget it. Advice? Wait for the original on Blu-ray.

“Halloween II” (Sony, 2009, $38.96): Director Ron Zombie serves up this sequel to his 2007 remake of the original which now considered a near classic. Again from Zombie what we get is a vivid marathon of blood and gore. Such scenes have been done so many times before that the only fear is that audiences have become numb to violence.

“Last Action Hero” (Sony, 1993, $24.95): Young Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) has seen every Jack Slade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) movie ever made. Something stunning happens when he goes to see the newest Slade film. While Danny is sitting in the theater, a bomb is hurled out of the screen and lands near him. It explodes and suddenly Danny finds himself in the movie with none other than Jack Slade. Danny’s biggest problem? Trying to convince Slade that it is only a movie.

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