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Alice in Wonderland (Three-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)





(OUT OF 10)

Tim Burton's little 3-D excursion earned more than a billion dollars worldwide, and now it's come to Blu-ray—sans the third dimension. That's OK, because Burton applied the 3-D effects in postproduction, even though he knew he was filming a 3-D movie.

In any case, this is one of the more boring Burton efforts. He basically takes the iconic character and "Burtonizes" it, throwing in Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, getting Danny Elfman to do the soundtrack, and making sure there are lots of gnarled trees and crazy topiaries.

This time out, the pale-faced girl with circles under her eyes—a role played in past Burton films by Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci and Helena Bonham Carter—is played by Mia Wasikowska. Her Alice is constantly moping, and since she's onscreen for the majority of the film, it just puts a damper on the party. Carter shows up in the role of the Queen, and she's the complete opposite, constantly screaming and squawking to the point of annoyance.

Depp employs a silly lisp and a wild orange wig as the Mad Hatter, a role that allows him to look bizarre—but do little else. Crispin Glover is, for once, one of the least-bizarre entities in a film, scoring some good, nasty points as the evil Stayne.

The movie looks terrific on Blu-ray, and the 3-D isn't missed. The colors pop a little better without the funky glasses on your face, and the CGI work isn't half bad.

Still, the movie is a yawn fest, and I'm hoping that Burton departs from his norm with future projects. I loved his sense of style in the past, but he's starting to repeat himself.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are two sections of features: One deals with film elements like the score and stunts, and the other features the actors discussing their characters.

Shutter Island





(OUT OF 10)

I loved Martin Scorsese's horror-thriller the first time around, and consider it one of the year's very best films. Even though I knew all of the secrets, the film was just as engaging the second time around.

Leonardo DiCaprio is gangbusters as Teddy Daniels, an anxiety-ridden, frustrated U.S. marshal investigating the disappearance of a mental patient from a hospital located on a creepy island. With the help of his partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy tries to unravel the mystery of the disappearing woman. Unfortunately, the island seems to be stirring up some bad memories about his wife (Michelle Williams) and his tour of duty in World War II.

I'm not saying it's hard to figure out the film's mystery, but I will say that Scorsese does his usual masterful job of keeping viewers interested all of the way to the heart-wrenching conclusion. Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer all rock in supporting rolls. Watch out for Ted Levine as the island warden; his main scene with DiCaprio is a barnburner.

This one got pushed into 2010—and, consequently, out of end-of-the-year Oscar contention—because the studio claimed it couldn't afford to market it properly. Scorsese and friends need to be remembered in six months when it is time to pick this year's best. The way things are going so far in 2010, the movie has a decent chance at some nominations.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The DVD is devoid of features. (The Blu-ray has a couple of behind-the-scenes segments that include talks with Scorsese, but since I received the DVD version, I can't grade the Blu-ray features.) I don't know if there are future plans for a "Special Edition" DVD; for now, DVD watchers will just have to settle for the excellent movie by itself.

War of the Worlds (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I started to not hate Dakota Fanning with this movie. Leave it to Steven Spielberg to get that kid to calm down and act like a real kid instead of some sort of freaky alien in a kid's body.

And leave it to Spielberg to come up with some nasty, killer aliens, instead of the touchy-feely kind that have occupied his prior science-fiction epics. His adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic novel is a winner in every department: It looks great; the acting is fantastic; and it will scare the shit out of you.

Tom Cruise delivers one of his best performances as Ray, a lousy dad who must take his kids (Fanning and Cruise lookalike Justin Chatwin) for a few days. Not only do the kids cramp his style; their visit is complicated by an invasion by aliens who drive massive tripods and who either want to vaporize humans or suck their blood.

This unrelenting film is the most ruthless Spielberg thrill ride since Jaws.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some extensive making-of features.

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