[21 July 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
The offbeat superhero movie “Watchmen” (Warner, 2009, $35.99) is among the less-than-stellar lineup of Blu-ray releases this week.
Based on the 12-issue DC comic book series from the 1980s, “Watchmen” isn’t a film for kids. It’s filled with four-letter words, nudity and blood-drenched violence. Like the comic book, the film takes itself way too seriously in an attempt to show us superheroes have problems, too, while at the same time it tries to deliver some kind of message to its audience.
Released theatrically with a running time of two hours and 45 minutes, the DVD (both Blu-ray and standard) gives us the director’s cut. That means now there are more than three hours to wade through.
“Watchmen” is set in an alternate 1985 where Richard Nixon, evidently riding a wave of popularity that came after America won the Vietnam War, has been elected president for a fifth term. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the Soviet Union are on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. In another twist, costumed superheroes have been banned from their vigilante ways.
When one of the retired superheroes, The Comedian (Edward Blake), is murdered, other former supposed fighters for justice — Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman) and the faceless Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) — want to find out who did it and why. Then there is the almost god-like Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), who possesses many incredible powers but sometimes seems reluctant to use them.
Many of the superheroes’ stories are told during the numerous flashbacks that are sprinkled throughout the film. For example, we learn the cigar-chomping Comedian wasn’t very funny. In one sequence he guns down a pregnant Vietnamese woman carrying his child. We also learn that that the blue and very naked Dr. Manhattan gained his powers by a scientific experiment gone wrong.
Unfortunately, despite its lengthy running time, director Zack Snyder never gives us a reason to really care about the characters or even the story (what there is of it). Most superhero movies are fun and leave a satisfied smile on your face by the time the closing credits roll. “Watchmen” does neither. Recommended only for those who were fans of the comic book
Other Blu-ray releases:
“300: The Complete Experience” (Warner, 2006, $39.99): One thing you have to say for this film; the CGI special effects are spectacular. In fact, CGI so dominates the proceedings, it often feels as if you’re watching a video game. It is based on a graphic novel that was inspired by the actual Battle of Thermopylae that took place in 840 B.C. Supposedly, 300 Spartan soldiers took on the whole Persian army in what turned out to be a suicide mission. The truth is the Spartans didn’t fight the Persians alone and, unlike the half-naked men swinging swords in the film, the Spartans also wore armor. Directed by Zack Snyder.
“Midnight Express” (Sony, 1978, $38.96): Brad Davis plays Billy Hayes, an American who is arrested in Turkey for trying to smuggle dope out of the country. Since that is a crime in Turkey, Hayes is thrown into prison. Playing fellow convicts are Randy Quaid and John Hurt. This true story is based on Hayes’ book.
“Echelon Conspiracy” (Paramount, 2009, $39.99): A man (Shane West) receives several mysterious phone messages that promise him great wealth. Instead, he finds himself involved in a deadly international plot. This is still another techno-action thriller, as if we needed one. Also in the cast are Edward Burns and Ving Rhames.
“Prison Break: The Final Break” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $29.99): In this supposed wrap-up of the Fox TV series, Michael (Wentworth Miller) and Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) get married but hardly have time to settle down. Sara is arrested for murder and put behind bars. That’s when Michael gets the old team back together to spring one final breakout.
“Coraline” (Universal, 2009, $39.98): Coraline (voice of Dakota Fanning) is a bored little girl after she moves into a new home with her busy mom and dad. Then she discovers a portal to an alternate world where everything seems terrific. She must decide which world she wants to live in. A 3-D version of this stop-motion animated film is included.
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” (Universal, 2007, $29.98): Firefighter Larry (Kevin James) is a widower with children and worries that he might lose medical insurance for his two kids. So he ends up living with his pal Chuck (Adam Sandler). They pose as a gay couple so they can qualify for benefits. Filled with plenty of lame gay jokes.