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'Batman Begins' wings its way over to Blu-ray

Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

Over the years, the movies have given us only sketchy vignettes of how Batman came to be. All that changed when we were given the full details of his origin with the coming of "Batman Begins" (Warner Home Video, 2004, $28.99), which tops the list of titles to be released Tuesday in the Blu-ray high-definition format.

Christian Bale is excellent as Bruce Wayne, who has to overcome his childhood fear of bats and the horror of seeing his parents murdered on the back streets of Gotham City. He leaves Gotham and travels thousands of miles to Asia, where he eventually finds "himself" and realizes what he wants to do with his life. Unfortunately for the bad guys, Wayne returns to Gotham City, where he has decided to fight crime and corruption as Batman.

This is arguably the most relentlessly serious superhero movie ever made. You'll be hard-pressed to find any light moments during its 140-minute running time.

Michael Caine is fine as Alfred the butler. Also in the cast are Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Tom Wilkinson. The movie is being released on Blu-ray obviously in anticipation of "The Dark Knight," which arrives in theaters July 18. Bale returns in cape and cowl and the late Heath Ledger, in his final role, plays the Joker.

Warner Home Video also is releasing on Blu-ray a "Batman Begins" Limited Edition Gift Set at $49.99. It includes 12 featurettes, a 32-page "Dark Knight" comic book and five collectable postcards.

Other Blu-ray titles to be released Tuesday include:

"Batman - Gotham Knight" (Warner, 2008, $34.99): An animated effort that follows Bruce Wayne's journey to becoming the Dark Knight. The extras include, among other things, bonus episodes from "Batman: The Animated Series."

"The Ruins" (Paramount, 2008, $39.98): Two college couples head to Mexico for a fun getaway in an unrated edition of this horror tale. Before their vacation ends, they are invited to explore the ruins of a Mayan temple. Ooops, bad move. What they find is an evil lurking there. They also learn that you shouldn't swing on the vines growing all around. Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone and Laura Ramsey head the cast.

"Roy Orbison: A Black & White Night" (Image, 1997, $24.99): Orbison is spotlighted in a terrific concert filmed at Los Angeles' Cocoanut Grove. Offering Orbison backup is the all-star lineup of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, k.d. Lang, Bonnie Raitt, T Bone Burnett, J.D. Souther, Jennifer Warnes and Tom Waits. Among the songs are "Only the Lonely," "Pretty Woman," "Running Scared," "Blue Bayou" and "Crying."

Also recently released on Blu-ray:

"Drillbit Taylor: Extended Survival Edition" (Paramount, 2008, $39.99): In this comedy, Owen Wilson becomes a bodyguard for two kids who are being harassed by the school bully.

All prices listed are the suggested retail price, but titles can be purchased for less by shopping around or going to www.amazon.com.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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