April 07, 2020

DVD Corner

“Batman Beyond: Season Two”: The Dark Knight, but without Bruce Wayne behind the mask. Instead, in this well-done animated series, it’s teen Terry McGinnis moving within Gotham’s shadows in an effort to save the day. He has a lot to learn. The show gives him and his enemies – The Jokerz, Shriek, Cuare, others – a look that recalls elements of Japanese anime. Fans might balk at the animation, but it can be beautiful, with unusually strong story lines and fine voice work following suit. Grade: B+

“Bewitched: Complete Fourth Season”: Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), Darrin (Dick York) and Endora (Agnes Moorehead) generate their share of bombast. In this fourth season, the writing remains tight, with Moorehead matching Montgomery’s clever asides with her mere presence alone. Don’t miss “Allergic To Macedonian Dodo Birds,” in which Endora’s powers are transferred to Aunt Clara (the terrific Marion Lorne) with predictably disastrous results. Grade: B+

“The Brothers Grimm: Blu-ray”: Imagine the Grimms not as the influential German folklorists who put to paper some of the best tales of their day, but as two con men in French-occupied Germany who are falsely exorcising village demons in an effort to rob the villagers of their money. If the real Grimms were alive today, they’d have a libel suit on their hands. It’s this messing with history that assists in ruining the film, cheapening what the Grimms created while dumbing down their legacy for the masses. Lead actors Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are no help. Bamboozled as the Grimms, they join a cast of village idiots, with the knee-jerk acting, stunted dialogue and lack of a coherent story forming a noose that hangs them all. Rated: PG-13. Grade: D-

“Facts of Life: Complete Third Season”: A television show filled with good intentions and life lessons. That either will make you smile or it will make you gag. The show hasn’t aged as well as some. It was for another time and its naivete can be a bit much. Still, for parents of pre-teens, there is something to be said for the issues it tackles, all of which remain relevant today – adoption, divorce, race, wealth, poverty, body issues, sexuality, drug use. The neat conclusions undermine it, though the likeable cast does carry you through. Grade: C

“Humphrey Bogart: The Signature Collection, Vol. 2”: A solid boxed set from Warner, the standout of which is the three-disc special edition of digitally restored “The Maltese Falcon,” one of the best detective movies ever, with Bogart as Sam Spade. Four other films complete the formal collection – 1942’s “Across the Pacific,” with Bogart again teaming with “Falcon” director John Huston and co-star Mary Astor; the 1942 comedy “All Through the Night,” with Jackie Gleason and Peter Lorre; the 1943 World War II film “Action in the North Atlantic,” with Raymond Massey; and 1944’s “Passage to Marseille,” with its unfortunate echoes of “Casablanca.” The extras are expansive – really expansive – including the full 1931 version of “Falcon,” with Bebe Daniels and Ricardo Cortez, and the 1936 version of the same story, “Satan Met a Lady,” with Warren William and the inimitable Bette Davis. Grade: A-

“Justice League Unlimited: Season One”: Features Superman paired with Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, J’onn J’onnz, Supergirl and Black Canary, all of whom join forces to fight the likes of Lex Luthor and other assorted creeps. Fans get their money’s worth, with the loose animation capturing the look and feel of a comic book. Grade: B+

“Mission: Impossible III”: Shoots blanks, then shoots itself. Few will care. This time out, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is locked in a plot that revolves around the abduction of Hunt’s new bride, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), at the hands of the evil Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is determined to pay Hunt back for stealing a nuclear device called the “rabbit’s foot.” Hustling along the periphery are Billy Crudup, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Ving Rhames and Keri Russell, each wasted in a movie more concerned with whatever slim intensity Cruise can manufacture for the screen, which isn’t much. Some of the film’s action scenes are well conceived, but not one of them is fresh. Shouldn’t a $150 million budget buy more than just another bridge being blown apart? Cruise leaping between Shanghai skyscrapers? Maybe next time – though not with Paramount. Rated: PG-13. Grade: C-

“Scrubs: Season 4”: Smart, well-balanced lunacy with an undercurrent of romantic tension that cuts through the laughs. In the halls of Sacred Heart Hospital, the joke is that nothing is as sacred as it should be. Everything here is free to be lampooned – hypochondriacs, love, cancer, you name it – but the writers know that there are consequences to such behavior, and they deliver the fallout. The show is consistently trying for something new, and while it doesn’t always succeed in its leaps of faith, it does try, which on television is becoming something of a rarity. With Zach Braff, Donald Faison and Sarah Chalke, the characters and the show play like a bizarro version of “E.R.” It courts the genre, appreciates its elements, and then turns the lot of it on its side. Grade: A-

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: HD DVD”: High-definition surrealism, with Gene Wilder’s Wonka tempting a selfish, sour gaggle of children within his toxic, sugar-coated world of doom. Wonka is a trick and a treat, systematically allowing these little brats to ruin themselves. The only child with a measure of hope is poor, polite Charlie Bucket. Thirty-five years after its initial release, this excellent, devilish movie remains an out-of-body experience, something that very well could have come from the mind of Chuck Avery if it hadn’t come from the quintessential Roald Dahl. Grade: A

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