A different twist on an old legend, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” (Universal, 2008, $39.98), and an energetic musical that drew mixed reviews, “Mamma Mia! The Movie” (Universal, 2008, $34.98), top the parade of this week’s new Blu-ray titles.
The creatures in every previous Mummy movie dating back to the 1932 original arose from the sands of Egypt. “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” unfolds in China and the new locale gives the franchise a fresh boost. The high definition Blu-ray images and the stirring soundtrack make for a great home-theater viewing experience.
It seems that more than 2,000 years ago, a great army led by Emperor Han (Jet Li) who was bent on conquering all of Asia. But because he killed the man she loved, sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) put a curse on Han and his army, turning them all into the mummies.
Flash forward to 1946 London where Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (played this time by Mario Bello) live a most comfortable life. The two have “retired” from searching for artifacts of the past. Everything is perfect, right? Not really, because both are bored stiff with their unexciting routine.
Meanwhile, their son Alex (Luke Ford), now an archeologist himself, has uncovered the tomb of Han. When the British government asks Rick and Evelyn to take the ancient Eye of Shangri-Li to China, they jump at the chance to add more spice to their lives. Once there, they meet Rick and they also learn that the Eye is capable of bringing the evil Han back to life.
That, of course, happens and sparks a breathless thrill ride that includes spectacular epic battle sequences, encounters with legendary Yetis, the discovery that Zi Juan still lives, a visit to the beautiful Shangri-Li and a whole lot of fun. It comes with a digital copy and numerous entertaining extras. Highly recommended for lovers of adventure.
The highlight of “Mamma Mia” is an exhilarating performance by Meryl Streep, who happily dances and sings her way through the movie. She seems to be enjoying herself immensely, which makes her a joy to watch. She plays Donna Sheridam, who lives on a Greek island with her daughter Sophie (Amanda Setfried), who is about to get married.
Unknown to Donna, Sophie has invited her mom’s former lovers Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Forth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) to the wedding because she wants to find out which one is her father.
A slim story thread, perhaps, but who cares? The music is the star of this film. Of course, if you’re one of those people who don’t like ABBA, then you might want to pass on the film. But if you are fond of their sounds, then you’re in for a treat. The “Dancing Queen” number alone is worth it all.
Most everyone is in fine voice with the exception of Brosnan, who gives it a valiant try but obviously is no Sinatra. Fortunately, Brosnan has only a limited number of songs to perform. There are plenty of extras here as well as a digital copy. And don’t miss the closing credits. Recommended.
Other Blu-ray titles this week:
“Coach Carter” (Paramount, 2005, $39.99): Samuel L. Jackson is great as Ken Carter, who agrees to take over as basketball coach for his old school, providing the players buy into his emphasis on keeping their grades up and his brand of discipline. They do for a while and the team seems on its way to an undefeated season. But when the players’ attitudes begin to change toward classwork, Carter shuts down the gym and is prepared to ditch the season. That sparks an uproar among the parents and the community. Based on a true story. Recommended.
“Into the Wild” (Paramount, 2007, $29.99): In this absorbing film, Emile Hirsch plays Chris McCandless, a graduate of Emory University who decides to abandon modern conveniences for a life in the wilderness. He hitchhikes his way to Alaska, where he encounters a number of adventures and a variety of characters. The experiences have a lasting impact on him. Another film based on a true story. Recommended.
“The Heartbreak Kid” (Paramount, 2007, $39.99): Here’s another Ben Stiller comedy that has some humor but not enough. Stiller plays Eddie, who falls for Lila (Malin Akerman) and is so taken with her, he marries her. Turns out to be a big mistake. During his honeymoon with Lila, Eddie meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) and realizes she is really the one for him.
“Hot Rod” (Paramount, 2007, $39.99): Andy Samberg plays wannabe stuntman Ron Kimble, who will do just about anything crazy on a bike that is asked of him. Then comes the day when he decides to attempt to jump over 15 buses to raise money for his stepfather’s (Ina McShane) heart operation. The kicker? Ron despises his step-father.
“Tommy Boy” (Paramount, 1995, $39.99): Chris Farley plays Tommy, a slow-witted lazy lout who suddenly is thrust into the role of saving the family auto-part business after his father dies. Aided by his equally goofball friend Richard (David Spade), he travels the country trying to sell parts to just about anyone. Also in the cast are Brian Dennehy, Bo Derek, Dan Aykroyd and Rob Lowe.
“Old School” (Paramount, 2003, $39.99): This raunchy comedy stars Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughan and Will Ferrell as three guys who decide leading adult lives is boring and disappointing. They long for their old wild and crazy college days and try to relive them, proving what we already know: Them days are gone forever. Only for those who find lame dirty jokes funny.
“In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” (20th Century Fox, 2008, $29.99): “Lord of the Rings” this ain’t. A man named Farmer (Jason Statham) sets out to rescue his wife from the animal-like warriors known as the Krugs. Would-be epic falls way short.
“Death Proof” (Genius, 2007, $29.95): Here’s a film that mainly will appeal to fans of director Quentin Tarantino. Stuntmen, driving their supposed death-proof cars, stalk a pair of women. Kurt Russell stars.
“Planet Terror” (Genius, 2007, $34.98): An experimental chemical weapon is released that turns hundreds of people into zombie-like creatures. A group of un-infected people fight to save the world and find out who released the stuff into the air. An example of why the fast-forward button was invented.
“The Cheetah Girls: One World” (Walt Disney, 2008, $29.99): Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Dirinda (Sabrina Bryan) and Aqua (Kiely Williams) travel to India to make a movie. Among the various songs performed by the girls from Disney are “Dance Me If You Can,” “One World” and “I’m The One.” Pre-teens and teens should like it.
“The House Bunny” (Sony, 2008, $39.95): Ana Faris stars as a former Playboy bunny who pumps new life into a sorority made of girls who lack self-esteem. Farris takes care of that. Also in the cast are Beverly D’Angelo and Hugh Hefner.
All prices listed are the suggested retail price and can be purchased cheaper for those who shop around.