The absorbing drama “Doubt” (Miramax/Disney, 2008, $34.99) and a makeover of the science-fiction classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (20th Century Fox, 2008, $39.99) top a heavy list of Blu-ray titles this week.
“Doubt,” based on the play by John Patrick Shanley, is set at a Bronx Catholic school in 1964 and features superb performances by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Streep plays Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the school’s principal, who has long ruled her domain with a strict hand. She clings to tradition and rejects any changes such as ballpoint pins or the idea of including secular songs such as “Frosty the Snowman” in the school Christmas pageant.
Her opposite is Father Brendan Flynn, played by Hoffman, who embraces new ideas and encourages a more gentle and understanding approach to teaching. It is quickly obvious that Sister Aloysius resents Father Flynn and his progressive attitude. She enlists the help of a young and still-learning nun Sister James (Amy Adams) to spy on Flynn.
That spying leads to the suspicion that Father Flynn has become improperly involved with Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), the school’s only black student. The evidence? There really is none, but Sister Aloysius has convinced herself that it is true and is intent on bringing Flynn down.
This is an actor’s movie, the kind where you just sit back and enjoy the likes of Streep and Hoffman excelling at their craft. Also giving a moving performance is Viola Davis as Donald’s mother. The film’s script was written by Shanley, who also directed. It was nominated for five Academy Awards. You won’t forget the end. Highly recommended.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” as to be expected with today’s technology, is a film that looks and sounds terrific. Generations raised on dazzling special effects probably will enjoy it, but the movie leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It lacks the soul and heart of the original 1951 version directed by Robert Wise.
Keanu Reeves plays an unemotional, almost robotic Klaatu, an alien vistor who has come to save Earth. The key is that he and his associates want to save the planet by eliminating its human inhabitants. Other alien ships have landed in a various parts of the world awaiting Klaatu’s command to get the job done.
In the original, Klaatu, as played by the sophisticated Michael Rennie, has more warmth and a desire to understand the people of Earth. His mission is to warn them to put aside their petty differences and find peace or eventually face annihilation.
As in the original, the invincible robot Gort has accompanied Klaatu. In the new version, however, Gort seems as big as a 10-story building and has the ability (why?) to change into a swarm of fearsome insects. Jennifer Connelly takes on the Patricia Neal role as a woman who attempts to persuade Klaatu that not all human are bad.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“Bedtime Stories” (Walt Disney, 2008, $39.99): Adam Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, a repairman at a hotel, who babysits his sister’s two children. To help get them to sleep, Skeeter spins a variety of stories with him always in the center of them. The audience gets to share his imaginary adventures. Then something magical happens; Skeeter’s fantasies get mixed up in his real life. This edition comes with Blu-ray, digital and regular DVD copies. Kids should love it. Recommended.
“No Country For Old Men” Collector’s Edition” (Miramax/Disney, 2007, $39.99): Originally released on Blu-ray last year, this is a new edition of the film that won the 2007 Best Picture Oscar. Texas hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds some murdered drug runners in the woods and makes off with their $2 million. On his trail is psycho Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who brutally murders anyone who gets in his way. Meanwhile, Sherriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) gets involved in the tense, edge-of-the-seat situation. Highly recommended.
“Yes Man” (Warner, 2008, $35.94): Jim Carrey stars as a man who decides to say “yes” to everything throughout an entire year. Suddenly good things start to happen to him. But is it enough to bring him complete happiness?
“Fly Away Home” (Sony, 1996, $28.95): Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin star in this story of a 13-year-old girl and her father who adopt an orphaned flock of geese and teach them to fly.
“Not Easily Broken” (Sony, 2009, $39.95): Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson star in this drama about a long-time marriage that suffers through several trying situations.
Also being released this week:
“2010: The Year We Make Contact” (Warner, 1984, $28.99): Roy Scheider, Joh Lithgow; “Gettysburg: The Battle and The Address” (Genius, 2007, $21.95): Documentary; “Mars: The Quest for Life” (Genius, 2008, $21.95): Documentary; “The Last Word” (Image, 2007, $35.98): Winona Ryder, Ray Romano; “Above the Law” (Warner, 1988, $28.99): Steven Seagal; “American History X” (Warner, 1998, $28.99): Edward Norton, Beverly D’Angelo; “Collateral Damage” (Warner, 2001, $28.99): Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Final Destination” (Warner, 2000, $28.99): Devon Sawa; “John Q” (Warner, 2002, $28.99): Denzel Washington; “Point of No Return” (Warner, 1993, $28.99): Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne; “Taking Lives” (Warner, 2004, $28.99): Angelina Jolie, Kiefer Sutherland; “Tango & Cash” (Warner, 1989, $28.99): Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell; “The Wedding Singer” (Warner, 1998, $28.99): Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore.