He’s older and sporting a bit of grey, but Harrison Ford proves he can still deliver in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (Paramount, 2008, $39.99), which tops a stellar lineup of Blu-ray releases this week.
It’s the same kind of fast-paced thrill ride we enjoyed when Ford first donned the fedora in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and followed that up with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989). Returning to work on the new outing are Steven Spielberg as director, George Lucas as writer/executive producer and John Williams with his exciting music score.
This time, it’s the Cold War 1950s and the Soviets are the dastardly enemies, led by the chillingly sinister Col. Dr. Irina Spalko, played with relish by Cate Blanchett. Jones is still a professor/archeologist and is still on the trail of rare artifacts. He heads to Peru in search of a mysterious skull. The Soviets also want it because they believe it possesses some mysterious power.
Accompanying Jones on the journey is a rebel of a young man named Mutt Williams (Shia LeBouf) who wonders if the “old man” is really up to such a challenge. After Jones dispatches some of the bad guys in a terrific fight in a cave, the surprised Williams looks at Jones. “You’re a teacher?” he says, wide-eyed.
Also back from the original “Raiders” is Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood. The film is filled with hair-raising chases, a memorable trip over a waterfall and the usual pulsating showdowns between good (Indy) and evil (the Russians). The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic.
Pay close attention to the opening sequence in a huge warehouse. During the chase inside, one of the big crates is accidentally cracked open. The characters don’t notice it, but inside the case is the Lost Ark, which has been stored there for nearly 20 years.
The two-disc edition includes a slew of extras, most of all of them in high definition, including “The Return of a Legend” featurette, “The Effects of Indy” and so much more. A must-own Blu-ray.
Other noteworthy Blu-ray releases this week:
“The Ultimate Matrix Collection” (Warner, $129.95): Are we living in a real world or a world of virtual reality? Maybe both, as “The Matrix” (1999) attempts to convince us after Neo (Keanu Reeves), a software expert/hacker, encounters the rebel Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). The cyberspace adventure soon evolves into an epic battle between good and evil, enhanced by some spectacular special effects. This terrific Blu-ray set not only includes the sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003) and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003), but also the animated “The Animatrix” (2003), made up of nine shorts that offer background on the Matrix world. There are nearly 36 hours of extras including the feature-length documentary “The Matrix Revisited.”
“Poltergeist” (Warner, 1982, $34.99): Here’s one of the most famous horror films of the 1980s. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams play husband and wife who, along with their three children, live in what seems to be the perfect house. The only drawback is it is haunted. The spirits seem pretty harmless at first but soon it’s obvious that the forces of evil are at work. The film is known for little Heather O’Rourke’s spine-chilling words “They’re here.” The Blu-ray edition contains a behind-the-scenes special, a two-part documentary about the spirit world and a 44-page booklet. A sad postscript: O’Rourke died of cardiac arrest at age 12 after working on “Poltetrgeist III.”
“Romancing the Stone” (20th Century Fox, 1984, $34.98): This is a fun piece of action and adventure that doesn’t pretend to be anything less (or more). Kathleen Turner plays romance writer Joan Wilder, whose life hardly matches the exciting the stories she authors. When her sister is kidnapped and held for ransom in Colombia, Joan flies to that country to her rescue. Once there, she runs into soldier of fortune Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). He agrees to help her connect with sis for a price. Soon, Wilder begins to feel as if she has been trapped in one of her own thrilling novels. Danny DeVito co-stars as a bumbling “bad guy.” The Blu-ray print looks great.
“The Jewel of the Nile” (20th Century Fox, 1985, $34.98): Turner and Douglas return for another adventure filled with peril every step and swing of the way. This time they head to the Middle East, where a precious jewel is supposed to be hidden. DeVito also is back for this one. It’s fun, too, but doesn’t quite have the energy and freshness of the first one.
“Constantine” (Warner, 2005, $28.99): It’s heaven against hell for Keanu Reeves, playing detective John Constantine, who possesses supernatural powers that enable him to see the demons and angels that walk the earth. Because of an incident in his past, Constantine’s mission is to track down demons and send them back to Satan’s lair. He eventually finds himself in situations that will decide the fate of mankind. Rachel Weisz co-stars. Peter Stormare plays Satan.
“American Gangster” (Universal, 2007, $29.98): How could you pass up a film starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe? Washington plays ruthless crime leader Frank Lucas, who rules a drug empire in the 1970s. Crowe is Richie Roberts, the cop who sets out to bring down Lucas. Tough, absorbing crime drama with first-rate performances. Directed by Ridley Scott
“Casino” (Universal, 1995, $29.98): Crime, corruption, murder, the mob and more in the glitzy would of Las Vegas. A steller cast make this a film to see. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Frank Vincent and Kevin Pollack lead the performances. Also making appearances are Don Rickles and Alan King. Directed by Martin Scorsese.
“Eastern Promises” (Universal, 2007, $29.98): The diary of a dead girl leads London midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) into a dangerous world where the Russian mafia seems to rule. She also finds herself in an unsual relationship with one of the mobsters. Directed by David Cronenberg.
All prices listed are the suggested retail price and can be purchased cheaper for those who shop around or go to www.amazon.com.