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The Darkest Hour (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Everything you've heard or read about this film sucking is pretty much true.

Some sort of alien energy force comes down to Earth and starts disintegrating people, sort of like lasers wasted people in Spielberg's War of the Worlds. A band of American tourist survivors in Moscow, Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby among them, run and hide from the mostly invisible force.

Director Chris Gorak made a good-looking movie, utilizing real Moscow locations. The problem here is the unseen aliens: They just don't create a true sense of dread. The first couple of times people get blown up, it looks cool, but it gets tired fast. Somewhere around the halfway point, things really start to unravel, and the movie becomes utterly ridiculous.

The alien force can't see us through glass, but it can see our electrical impulses (or whatever) through our clothes. The force will get you if you move just a toe while you are hiding, but characters shoot off machine guns—making a whole lot of noise—without getting killed. It's the little things in movies like this that drive me crazy.

You actually do get a glimpse of the aliens living inside of energy orbs that are going around and eating everybody up. Let's just say that, thanks to crummy CGI, they should've stayed invisible. The exterior and real action shots in this movie look good, but the special effects stink.

I have to admit: The previews for the movie had me intrigued. It looked like it could be fun and original. Such is not the case.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary, deleted scenes and some making-of documentaries.

A Streetcar Named Desire (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Since the DVD special edition of this classic film came out six years ago, I did a little more studying on the life of Vivien Leigh, an Oscar winner for her performance as Blanch DuBois in this film.

She died relatively young of tuberculosis, and she had bipolar disorder and other mental problems much like the ones she was portraying in the film. Knowing this about her makes the movie all the more incredible.

It is still one of the great Oscar oddities that everybody surrounding Marlon Brando in this film (Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter) won Oscars, but Brando—who delivered one of the greatest male performances of all time—got snubbed. His Stanley Kowalski might be one of the most handsome men ever put onscreen, and, boy, is he a creep. Brando does a terrific job of making this guy a monster in one frame, and a total puppy dog in the next. He's the embodiment of how good-looking people in this world get away with bullshit and terrible behavior all the time. He beats on his wife, Stella (Hunter), while she's pregnant, but she lets it slide for a chance to rub her hands all over his muscular back. What a dumbass!

Speaking of Stella: The ending of the Tennessee Williams play is ambiguous, with Stella staying with Stanley after Blanche is carted off. In the movie, her character has a much more determined and liberating final moment.

This film was pretty racy for its time (1951), and it remains quite shocking today. Even Malden's gentleman Mitch is a criminal at heart. Actually, everybody in this movie is kind of awful. I think that's one of the things that make it so great.

As for the Blu-ray transfer, the movie has never looked better.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Carryovers from the previous DVD edition include a commentary that includes Karl Malden, lots of documentaries on the film, and a screen test Brando did for Rebel Without a Cause. As many of you know, he didn't get that gig. It comes in one of those nifty Warner Bros. Blu-ray books. I love those things.

Dark Shadows: The Greatest Episodes Collection—The Best of Barnabas





(OUT OF 10)

The soap-opera saga of sensitive vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid, has to be one of the strangest things that ever came to American television. The original series ran from 1966 to 1971, and it knocked the standard soap-opera formula on its ass.

That's not to say it was the greatest of shows. Just like Doctor Who, this was something I couldn't really get into. I do appreciate its sense of originality, and this collection gathers some of the best episodes, so it cuts away a lot of the fat.

Tim Burton's soon-to-be-released big-screen adaptation starring Johnny Depp might anger fans, because it goes for campy comedy. I say bring it on; I am looking forward to some Burton-type fun with the Barnabas concept.

You can also buy the entire series collection, which will set you back a pretty penny.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Rather bland introductions to each of the nine episodes by cast members.

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