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Vintage Bond films, ‘Hulk' top latest Blu-ray titles

Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

Agent 007 swings back into action with six vintage James Bond movies appearing on Blu-ray for the first time to top the list of titles arriving this week in the DVD high-definition format.

It's obvious Blu-ray and Bond were made for each other. It is also obvious that these films from MGM and released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment never grow old.

That's apparent with "Dr. No" (1962), the first to be based on writer Ian Fleming's creation. The film seems as fresh and entertaining now as it did when it was first released theatrically more than 45 years ago. In the hands of Sean Connery, still considered by many to be the best of the Bonds, 007 is a suave and sophisticated figure with a dash of humor who is cool and cunning when it comes to tracking the enemy.

Joseph Wiseman plays the title role, a man bent on sabotaging the U.S. space program. Ursula Andress becomes the first "Bond girl." This is the film in which Connery first utters the words "Bond, James Bond" as John Barry's 007 theme plays softly in the background.

"From Russia With Love" (1963) features Connery in his second outing as Bond. Here he becomes involved with a beautiful Rusian spy (Daniela Bianchi) while trying to find a Soviet decoding device. Meanwhile, the worldwide criminal and terrorist organization SPECTRE is trying to bump off the British agent. Desmond Llewelyn makes his debut in the 007 series as Major Boothroyd, who thereafter would be known as Q.

"Thunderball" (1965): Connery as Bond is in the Bahamas trying to get back two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). The underwater action looks spectacular in Blu-ray. Tom Jones performs the title song.

"Live and Let Die" (1973): Roger Moore's first outing as Bond is a good one as he heads to New Orleans to go on the trail of a ruthless drug lord name Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). Moore plays 007 with a certain suaveness but also with a lot more tongue-in-cheek humor. The film serves as an introduction to Jane Seymour, who plays Kananga's mystical advisor. Paul McCartney and Wings perform the title song.

"For Your Eyes Only" (MGM, 1981, $34.98): When a British spy ship containing a secret communication device is sunk, Moore as Bond is sent on a mission to find it. Sheena Easton performs the title song.

"Die Another Day" (MGM, 2002, $34.98): Pierce Brosnan's fourth and final outing as 007. Here he goes up against a North Korean terrorist who is behind the building of a space weapon. Halle Berry co-stars. The title song is performed by Madonna. Brosnan's Bond was sort of a cross between Connery's and Moore's interpretations.

Each title, packed with extras, is priced at $34.98. The films also are available in a pair of Blu-ray three-packs ($89.98 apiece). Volume One contains "Die Another Day," "Live and Let Die" and "Dr. No." Volume Two has "For Your Eyes Only," "From Russia with Love" and "Thunderball."

Other notable Blu-ray releases this week:

"Casino Royale" (Sony, 2006, $38.96): Daniel Craig stars as the latest James Bond, marking a shift in the 007 franchise. As played by Craig, the British agent doesn't have the flair of Connery, Moore or Brosnan and the film has an almost overbearing serious tone. The lighter, more fun approach of the previous Bonds is sorely missed. Still, moviegoers liked it, which is why Craig headlines the newest Bond effort, "Quantum of Solace," to be released theatrically Nov. 11.

"The Incredible Hulk" (Universal, 2008, $49.98): This is a fine version of Marvel comics' green creature, much better than the 2002 effort. Edward Norton is first-rate as Dr. Bruce Banner, whose tainted blood changes him into a raging monster when his anger reaches the boiling point. Banner is desperately trying to find a cure with the help of Dr. Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). Meanwhile, the government is trying to hunt him down so they might channel his power as a weapon of war. Universal has cleverly packaged the case for this Blu-ray release with a green border.

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks, 2007, $39.99): You don't want to get a haircut from this man. Johnny Depp is the barber whose anger over the fate of his wife and child eventually lead him to become a murderous butcher. It's not all for naught, however. His friend, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), uses the bodies to make her famous meat pies.

"The Strangers" (Universal, 2008, $39.98): Here's a horror movie from director Bryan Bertino that doesn't attempt to scare viewers by splattering the screen with buckets of blood. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are staying in a summer home haunted by masked figures that appear and then disappear. There is a real creepiness here but the unsatisfying ending might leave some saying "Huh?"

"Diary of the Dead" (Genius, 2007, $29.95): A group of young filmmakers run into real-life zombies. Haven't we had enough of these zombie flicks? Obviously, somebody likes this stuff or George Romero wouldn't keep making them.

"Halloween" (Genius, 2007, $34.95): Director Ron Zombie's re-working of the 1978 original has it moments but not enough of them. Plenty of stabbings, though, to satisfy to the blood-and-gore crowd.

All prices listed are the suggested retail price and can be purchased cheaper for those who shop around or go to www.amazon.com.



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