[16 October 2007]
Detroit Free Press (MCT)
Transformers (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The week’s DVD blockbuster will, to the surprise of no one, be Michael Bay’s live-action “Transformers” (3 stars, Paramount), in single-disc form ($29.99), as a two-disc “Special Edition” ($36.99) and on HD-DVD ($39.99). Along with all the extras included on the two-disc edition, the HD disc contains Web-enabled features that, according, to the distributor, will continue to expand and evolve “for months, even years” into the future.
“Transformers” is far more entertaining than any movie based on a revived 1980s toy fad has any right to be. It’s also far more engaging than any film masterminded by special-effects and action-movie maestro Bay has any right to be.
“The Transformers” DVD provides further proof, as if we needed it, of the allure of high-definition reproduction and home theater capability. Remasters of “Lawrence of Arabia” and Kurosawa movies aside, this technology is at its most impressive in the reproduction of loud and elaborately conceived and produced spectacles.
Very quietly, be it as a result of choice or audience demand, Richard Gere has changed himself from an `80s movie star to a superior actor with a preference for offbeat character roles. In the unjustly ignored “Hoax,” (3 stars, Miramax, $29.99), Gere gives an Oscar-caliber performance as the talented but marginal writer Clifford Irving.
Irving was a charming hustler who, in the 1970s, was somehow able to convince the publishing world that mysterious zillionaire Howard Hughes had chosen him to tell his fascinatingly secretive story to the world.
That task accomplished, Irving then had the nerve-jangling job of actually writing Hughes’ phony memoirs with the help of a researcher pal (Alfred Molina), making various forgeries authentic enough to pass multiple challenges and tests and getting away with it all while dealing with the skepticism of his employers, his wife and his mistress.
Also new this week:
On the heels of the extended version of Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” segment “Death Proof” comes director Robert Rodriguez’s less ambitious but more successful half of that feature’s faux, Z-movie double bill, “Planet Terror” (3 stars, Genius, $29.95), an action-horror zombie movie spoof starring Rose McGowan as go-go dancer Cherry Darling and Freddy Rodriguez as her former boyfriend. They find themselves leading an unlikely resistance band of a barbecue-loving Texans against flesh-eating zombies.
Making “Planet Terror” longer than it was in the commercially disappointing “Grindhouse” does not make it better, but it doesn’t make it worse, either. It’s strictly for fans of indefensibly entertaining bad movies that offer more gore and goofiness.
Anyone fond of documentaries that take us to places unexpected will be left with mouth hung open by director Dan Klores’ “Crazy Love” (3 stars, Magnolia, $26.98). It’s about the twisted relationship of a beautiful young New Yorker and her ardent, duplicitous suitor that didn’t end when he was convicted of a heinous crime.
The long-unavailable, soul-restorative 1989 art-house hit “Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?” (4 stars, Milestone, $29.95) has itself been meticulously digitally restored, appended by 10 minutes of new footage and outfitted with improved subtitles.
TV on DVD:
If ever there was a series whose potential was painfully obvious but painfully unrealized, it was last season’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (2 stars, Warner, $59.98), Aaron Sorkin’s attempt to make backstage crises at a “Saturday Night Live”-type TV show seem as eventful as the corridor decisions of the White House-set “West Wing.”
Despite good performances from the ensemble cast and the best of intentions, this was a noble failure.
Also boxed this week: “That `70s Show - Season 7” (Fox, $49.98); “Absolutely Fabulous: The White Box” (BBC, $14,98), a 2004 Christmas special that reunited Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders yet again; “Medium - The Third Season” (Paramount, $59.98); and “Ironside - Season 2” (Shout! Factory), further adventures of Raymond Burr’s police detective.
Family pick of the week:
Early shoppers can get a superior holiday bargain with “MGM Holiday Classics Collection” (MGM, $29.98), a bargain-priced, three-disc collection offering something for everybody in the family. Grown-ups and teens will undoubtedly warm to 1947’s “The Bishop’s Wife” (4 stars) with David Niven as the Episcopalian whose stressful task of overseeing the completion of a new cathedral threatens both his faith and his marriage until a helpful angel (Cary Grant) brings him back down to earth. Meanwhile, the tots (and their parents) should find much to laugh about in 1934’s “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (3 stars) with Laurel and Hardy. It has been previously released in public domain and colorized editions, but was digitally restored by Turner Classic Movies for the version included here. Everybody save Grump will have a soft spot for 1961’s “Pocketful of Miracles” (3 stars), Frank Capra’s sentimental but enduring remake of his own “Lady for Day” with Bette Davis as the apple seller who is turned into a lady by Glenn Ford.