WWII in HD
SHOW A-SPECIAL FEATURES B-
(OUT OF 10)
This extremely detailed march through World War II is one of The History Channel's more amazing feats, utilizing spectacular color film that has never before been seen by the public.
The three-disc presentation includes interviews with surviving veterans of World War II. Sometimes they tell their own stories, and sometimes they are voiced by the likes of Josh Lucas, Steve Zahn and L.L. Cool J. The voice substitution seems awkward and unnecessary early on, but you get used to it.
The footage is incredible, striking and very graphic. Most unbelievable is full-color, pristine footage of Hitler driving through Berlin and waving to his deluded country. You also see astonishing air- and sea-battle footage, with enemy planes attacking American bombers and the devastation of Pearl Harbor. There are many shots of soldiers dead, their bodies rotting. It's a blunt and honest depiction of a grisly, devastating war.
One of the more amazing stories includes a firsthand account of a U.S. battleship being disabled—not by an enemy torpedo, but a large whale crashing into the side and knocking off a propeller. And for sheer fierceness, the story behind the Marines and their battles at Guadalcanal is incredible. It's unbelievable what they had to endure.
The program also provides a nice history brush-up. If you are feeling rusty on your World War II knowledge, just watch this one. It's the equivalent of reading an encyclopedia on the subject. Gary Sinise provides a competent and comfortable narration for the entire program.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Some behind-the-scenes featurettes about finding and restoring the footage, and some detailed profiles on the real-life characters in the program.
Law Abiding Citizen (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 5
(OUT OF 10)
Gerard Butler plays a man who witnesses the death of his wife and child, and then must sit by as the judicial system allows the main perpetrator to be set free due to a technicality. Jamie Foxx plays the lawyer who cuts the deal—which turns out to be ill-advised, because Butler turns out to be the perfect killing machine, and he seeks revenge in a very bloody way.
This plays like a bad Death Wish sequel. It starts off fine enough, but by the end, things have gotten way out of hand. Butler's character tortures people Saw-style, and the film's final big reveal is a preposterous joke.
While this could've been a scary statement on the state of our judicial system, it winds up being nothing more than another stupid slasher movie. It's also further proof that Butler can't pick a good script to save his life.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A two-disc set offering both theatrical and unrated cuts. You get a producer's commentary on the theatrical version and some behind-the-scenes stuff. This purchase is worth it if you happen to like the movie.
You, the Living
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8.5
(OUT OF 10)
Swedish film director Roy Andersson has concocted one of the strangest films you will ever see, a sad, comedic hodgepodge of sketches designed to show how mundane life can be, and how fragile it actually is. He does this with a series of dreams and vignettes that are so absurd, you can't help but laugh. It's one of the more unique viewing experiences of the last year.
There's no real plot to be discerned here; this is just a series of sketches on various set pieces, some of them outlandishly bizarre, and others quite typical. I especially liked a newlywed couple sitting in their kitchen, with the groom playing guitar as the world goes by outside their window, as if they were aboard a traveling train (they actually are, sort of).
Other sequences include a man saying the wrong thing to his barber and paying the price, a woman who can't help but ruin every situation she is in with her whining, and, most hilariously, a man given the death penalty for doing the old tablecloth-pulled-out-from-under-the-china trick. He's not a very good magician.
It all adds up to a glance at life that is both melancholy and humorous. The storytelling technique will not be to everyone's liking, but I found it quite engrossing—and just a little bit crazy. The ending is a rather profound statement that no matter how mundane or sad you might find life to be, it could get a whole lot worse.
SPECIAL FEATURES: They include director's commentary and a look at the studio that produced the movie. If you watch with commentary, you'll discover that the film's river runs a whole lot deeper than things first appear. There's also a beautiful video that reveals many of the complex sets that were built for the film. It's quite surprising to see what was actually shot on set, including the stuff that appeared to be outdoors.