The comic-book inspired “X-Men Trilogy” (20th Century Fox, $79.98) and the real-life inspired “Frost/Nixon” (Universal, 2008, $39.98) top the latest titles to arrive on the high-definition Blu-ray format.
When Marvel published the first “X-Men” comic book in 1963, it was far overshadowed by the company’s leading superhero titles “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Fantastic Four.” During the ensuing years, however, the comic book and its characters evolved. The storylines became more complex and by the 1990s, it hardly resembled the 1963 model.
It also became one of Marvel’s most popular titles, which is why 20th Century Fox was willing to help bring it to the motion-picture screen. The resulting trilogy turned out to be exhilarating entertainment and is even better than the comic book.
First up in the collection is “X Men” (2000), which shows how Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has set up a school for mutants; humans who each possess a different power.
Xavier tries to help them channel those powers for good and how to cope with the fact that they are different from other humans, many of whom consider the X-Men freaks and outcasts. Among Xavier’s students are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Cyclops (James Marsden), Storm (Halle Berry) and several others.
Opposing Xavier and his band of do-gooders is Magneto (Ian McKellen), who has assembled his own collection of mutants and wants to turn the planet’s population into similar beings. Magneto is bent on fighting society while Xavier desires to see his X-Men become an accepted part of society. The battle lines are drawn and a dazzling array of special effects follow.
A big plus for the movie is that you don’t have to be familiar with the comic book to enjoy it. Long-time X-Men fans probably took great delight in the fact that their heroes made it to the screen two years before Spiderman and five years before a successful version of The Fantastic Four.
“X2: X-Men United” (2003): When an assassination attempt is made on the president, Professor Xavier and his mutants swing into action. New to the group is Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). This time they face a threat that could mean the end of all mankind. Again, great special effects.
“X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006): This is a spectacular finale. A cure for mutants has been found that will turn them into normal human beings. Professor Xavier wants his group to decide for themselves whether they want to make such a change. Magneto is against it and leads his mutants into an epic battle with the X-Men, which now includes Beast (Kelsey Grammer) and Angel (Ben Foster). It’s a non-stop ride, making for about the fastest 104 minutes ever put on film. The sights and sounds are even more stunning on Blu-ray.
The “X-Men Trilogy” is highly recommended. Each of the films is available separately on Blu-ray at $34.98.
“Frost/Nixon” focuses on David Frost’s famous 1977 television interview with former President Richard Nixon. Directed by Ron Howard, the film tells the story of what led up to the interviews and zeroes in on the one-on-one confrontation itself. Giving standout performances are Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon.
Frost, whose television career was on the skids at the time, saw the interview as way of regaining some of his lost fame. Nixon, who resigned as President after the Watergate scandal, saw it as a way to tell his side of the story and. perhaps, clear his name. Frost conducted 28 hours of interviews. They were edited down to six hours for the TV airing. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Highly recommended.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“The Wrestler” (20th Century Fox, 2008, $39.99): Mickey Rourke received the Best Actor Golden Globe award for his performance as pro wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. After 20 years in the ring, Robinson appears to be far over the hill. However, “The Ram” is out to prove that he’s not quite done yet and gets ready for one more bout in Madison Square Garden. Recommended.
“Sin City” (Dimension, 2005, $35.99): This isn’t so much a movie with a story but more of a visual feast for the eyes. Based on Frank Miller’s series of graphic novels, the film features such star as Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy and Clive Owen. Plenty of action and special effects.
“Notorious” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $39.99): This is the story of the life and death of Brooklyn’s Notorious B.I.G. (played by Christopher “Biggie” Wallace) who made it ti the top of the rap music world. Also in the cast are Sean “Puffy” Combs and Damion “D-Roc” Butler. If you are a fan of rap, you’ll probably enjoy it. If not, better stay clear.
“Arctic Tale” (Paramount, 2007, $29.99): A beautiful and sometimes jolting look at life in the arctic. The cameras follow a polar bear and her cubs and a walrus and her calf as they attempt to survive the harsh landscape. Narrated by Queen Latifah. Simply marvelous to look at on Blu-ray. Recommended.