This Is Spinal Tap (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8.5
(OUT OF 10)
Rob Reiner's "rockumentary" is an enduring classic that has lost none of its charm. Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer constitute one of the greatest fake rock bands ever, and their story remains hilarious. With songs like "Big Bottom" and "Stonehenge," Reiner and his cast came up with something that was, and always shall be, extremely funny. The cold-sore scene and the moment when Guest plays his guitar with a violin are personal favorites of mine.
SPECIAL FEATURES: More than one hour of deleted scenes and outtakes, hilarious commentary by the band and a 2007 performance of "Stonehenge."
Watchmen: Director's Cut (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A
DVD GEEK FACTOR 9
(OUT OF 10)
Alan Moore's "unfilmable" graphic novel actually gets an even better treatment than it did in theaters with this meaty director's cut on Blu-Ray.
Director Zack Snyder adds another 24 minutes to his opus, including more stuff with the creepy President Richard Nixon and the death of the first Nite Owl. As an insert in the Blu-Ray's packaging touts, this is only the beginning for Watchmen fans when it comes to home video this year. More about that later.
As I watched the film on Blu-Ray, it became apparent just how faithful Snyder was to the imagery in the graphic novel. Sure, he made some big changes (there's no giant squid in the film's finale), but the stuff he chose to keep in is often shot-for-shot when compared to the novel. It's surprising that Alan Moore refused to participate in the making of the movie, because Snyder, for the most part, gets it right.
The film tells the story of a band of vigilantes existing in a parallel-universe Earth. Richard Nixon gets elected to five terms as president, and the planet is protected by a glowing blue superhero named Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), one of the vigilantes known as The Watchmen, is killed in the opening sequence, and a mysterious masked man named Rorschach (an excellent Jackie Earle Haley) investigates.
The film has a couple of flaws—actually, the same flaws from which the novel suffered: It's a little preachy and perhaps overstuffed. Still, the majority of the film is excellent and trumps the sequences that drag on a bit.
Malin Akerman, who plays Silk Spectre II, is unquestionably the weakest link in the cast. This isn't to say she's bad; she's just not as good as the cast surrounding her. Meanwhile, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II, Haley, Morgan and Crudup are all perfectly cast.
Perhaps the film's greatest feat was Snyder's ability to incorporate Dr. Manhattan into the movie so flawlessly. Reading the novel, and taking in that character, it was hard to imagine how he would look onscreen. However, Snyder and Crudup came up with something that truly honors Moore's creation.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The film is available in many different versions, including standard-DVD director's and theatrical cuts, and both widescreen and full-screen versions. The director's-cut DVD features some of the same supplements found on the Blu-Ray version (including excellent documentaries, video journals and a stupid My Chemical Romance video). The Blu-Ray features something that makes it quite extraordinary: Immersive Maximum Movie Mode goes many steps beyond the average director's commentary. Snyder actually appears in front of a screen with the movie to describe his filming process. At times, he actually pauses the film to talk, which should elate the Watchmen geeks. You also get a trivia track, a timeline and options to watch mini-docs while in "Immersive" mode.
It doesn't end with these DVD versions. A five-disc ultimate collectors' edition is coming out in time for Christmas. Snyder will weave Tales of the Dark Freighter into his director's cut, and buyers will also get the complete Watchmen Motion Comics in the set.
For All Mankind (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A
DVD GEEK FACTOR 10
(OUT OF 10)
One of the greatest documentaries I've ever seen. Al Reinert's film incorporates NASA footage of Apollo and Gemini space missions, and what those folks managed to film boggles the mind. Before seeing this, I thought I had seen all of the moon film footage that mankind had to offer. Boy, was I wrong.
While the film spends a good chunk of time on Apollo 11 and the landing on the moon, Reinert utilizes footage from many of the missions to create one big trip; there's even some footage of Jim Lovell and crew dealing with trouble on Apollo 13.
Most astonishing is the footage of the Gemini space walk, with a magnificent Earth as the backdrop. Reinert and crew assembled an amazing record of history with this one, and you really do need to see it.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary with Reinert and Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon. You also get An Accidental Gift—an excellent making-of doc—and extra footage of astronaut interviews.