[28 July 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Director Robert Redford’s lyrical ode to life, “A River Runs Through It” (Sony, 1992, $38.96), and a science-fiction TV favorite, “Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5” (Universal, 2007, $69.98), lead this week’s appealing list of Blu-ray releases.
“A River Runs Through It” is a leisurely paced slice of early-20th century America that is a sharp contrast to the many fast-paced, special effects-laden films that seem to dominate today’s movie screens. Set in Montana between 1910 and 1940, the film is like a nostalgic journey back through time as it perfectly recreates the period.
It was shot on location and is noted for its stunning scenes of the Montana countryside. Not surprisingly, cinematographer Philipp Rousselot won an Oscar for his work. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray.
Tom Skerritt plays Reverend Maclean, a Presbyterian minister who believes the next best thing to being in the pulpit is standing in a river and fly fishing. He has taught his boys Norman (Craig Sheffer) and Paul (Brad Pitt) that such an outing is probably the closest thing to heaven on earth.
The boys grow up and their dad grows older, but their love of fly fishing never changes. After graduating from high school, the more studious Norman, the older of the two boys, decides to attend Dartmouth, which is some 3,000 miles away from Montana. When his time comes, the wilder Paul decides to stay in Montana and work for a newspaper.
Six years pass before Norman, who wants to be a teacher, returns home to Montana. In one of the best scenes, Norman, with rod in hand, finally returns to the old fishing spot at the river. There is more to this movie that just fly fishing, but the sport serves as something of an allegory for the two boys’ lives.
“A River Runs Through It” is based on the writings of the real-life Norman Maclean. Redford stands in for Maclean by serving as narrator of the film, which comes packaged in a 32-page booklet. Those who are willing to sit back, watch and listen will find “A River Runs Through It” a rewarding experience. Highly recommended.
“Battlestar Galactica” is a reimagining of the 1978 TV show that was rushed into production to take advantage of the success of the then-new “Star Wars” craze. The new effort is far better than the original. It begins in a distant part of the galaxy where humans live on a series of planets known as the 12 Colonies. When their enemy the Cylons attack, the colonies are laid to waste.
The surviving humans board the Battleship Galactica and take off on a long journey in hopes of finding out that a legendary 13th colony actually exists. Along the way they encounter many harrowing adventures. In Season 4.5, they finally make their destination and the series concludes with a “Twilight Zone”-like twist. The Blu-ray set includes 20 episodes, many of them in extended versions, on 3 discs
Among the key characters are Edward Olmos James as Admiral William Adama, Mary McDonnell as Laura Roslin, Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, James Bamber as Apollo and James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar.
Also being released is “Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series” (Universal, 2004-08, $349.98), a mammoth 20-disc set with all 73 episodes. Both Season 4.5 and the complete series are recommended.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“This is Spinal Tap” (MGM, 1984, $34.99): Director Rob Reiner’s satire on the pop-music scene is just as funny and timely now as it was 25 years ago. Shot in documentary style, the cameras follow the fictional British heavy metal group Spinal Tap on a comeback concert tour through America with plenty of behind-the-scenes sequences. The band doesn’t seem to know just how bad they are. Away from the stage, the musicians (Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer) talk about their hopes and dreams of a successful tour. Recommended.
“Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead” (BBC, 2009, $14.98): The longest running sci-fi show in TV history has gone through several transformations since those black-and-white video days of the 1960s. There is no better example of that than this high-def feature-length special. The Doctor (David Tennant) is joined on a London bus by Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan) who has just stolen a valuable gold cup from a museum. Much to her surprise and the other passengers as well, the bus bolts through a wormhole and “lands” on a desert planet that seems uninhabited. But while trying to figure out how to get back home, the passengers discover to their horror that there is much more to the planet than meets the eye. Also on standard DVD. Recommended.
“Torchwood: The Complete Second Season” (BBC, 2008, $79.98): An unusual sci-fi series that follows the exciting adventures of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and his team of Gwen (Eve Myles), Owen (Burn Gorman), Tosh (Naoko Mori) and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) as they fight aliens and investigate a variety of strange phenomena. The set includes 13 episodes on 4 discs. The Complete First Season is still available. Recommended.
“Torchwood: Children of Earth” (BBC, 2006, $34.99): This five-part series had its British premiere in early July and then began a run on BBC America July 20. An alien race known as the 456 is set to invade earth. Strangely, children around the world began chanting as a way of announcing the aliens’ coming. The invaders are here to take several of the children with them as they did during a similar trip to Earth in 1965. Jack and the Torchwood crew investigate and ... well ... why spoil it. Recommended.
“12 Monkeys” (Universal, 1995, $29.98): In the year 2035, what is left of mankind lives underground. Much of the population was wiped out when a deadly virus was unleashed in the last decade of the 20th century. James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to the 1990s where he hopes to either stop the virus or find a cure for it. When he tells someone of his mission, Cole winds up in a hospital mental ward. After all, who is going to believe his story that he is from the future? Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer also star in this sci-fi thriller. Recommended.
“Fast & Furious” (Universal, 2009, $39.98): Dominic Toretto (Van Diesel) returns to the United States when he learns his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) has been murdered. During his search for the killer, Toretto forms an uneasy alliance with Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) who is now an FBI agent on the trail of a drug lord. As with the previous entries in this franchise, there are plenty of dazzling car chases and action. The first three “F&F” films also are available.
“Green Lantern: First Flight” (Warner, 2009, $29.99): A nifty animated version of the DC Comics character’s origin. Pilot Hal Jordan is pulled to a site where a dying alien’s space ship has crashed. Jordan is given a green ring that transforms him into a Green Lantern, one of many who patrol the stars under the guidance of the Guardians of the Universe. He soon finds himself at odds with Sinestro, a rogue Green Lantern bent on overthrowing the Guardians.
“Miss March” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $39.98): After spending four years in a coma, a young man (Zach Cregger) goes in search of his high school girlfriend (Raquel Alessi). He also learns that while he was in limbo, she became a Playboy playmate. This alleged comedy is filled with crude and downright repulsive jokes.
“Dragonball Evolution” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $39.98): A young warrior named Goku (Justin Chatwin) goes on a mission to find a set of seven magical dragonballs that have enormous power. He needs them to stop the evil Lord Piccolo’s plans of world conquest.
“Dollhouse: Season One” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $69.99): In the future, the Dollhouse is a place where the memories of its “employees” are erased then they are reprogrammed to become whoever a wealthy client wants them to be. Included are 13 episodes on three discs.