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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 10, 2013

by Ethan Alter September 10, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The rebooted Star Trek series heads Into Darkness... and not in a good way.

Star Trek Into Darkness
In hindsight, J.J. Abrams's 2009 reboot of Star Trek seems like the happiest of accidents. Handed the reins of a sci-fi franchise he had no real affinity for, the brain behind Alias and Lost relied on his terrific eye for casting and flair for dreaming up (if not necessarily shooting) blockbuster set-pieces to distract from a convoluted storyline and an overall tone that was really more Star Wars than Star Trek. The gambit mostly worked: his Trek was a big ol' blast of fun, enlivened by an ensemble of charismatic young actors who slipped into their iconic roles barely breaking a sweat. But lightning didn't strike twice with Into Darkness, Abrams's second attempt piloting the Enterprise and the film where his general disinterest in the spirit of Trek became all too clear. Straining to come up with a more serious story this time around, the director and his team of regular collaborators (namely the trio of Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof) raided the finest Trek feature ever made -- The Wrath of Khan -- and rewrote many of those same plot points in head-scratchingly stupid ways and with a disappointing emphasis on mass destruction. Worse still, the faux-solemnity of the title puts a damper on the cast's good-natured charm and enjoyable interplay, an integral element of the first film. Only the new Kirk and Spock, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, maintain the strong impression they made in the previous film, while poor Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and particularly Anton Yelchin are essentially glorified cameos. As for Tumblr darling Benedict Cumberbatch, he'd be adequate if his character's name was Generic Bad Guy, but he's a terrible Khan… not that the script gives him much help. Based on Into Darkness, it's just as well that Abrams is moving onto Star Wars; the franchise deserves a director who'll allow Trek to be Trek going forward.
Extras: The bonus features vary depending on where you buy the film from, but the disc we received came with several behind-the-scenes featurettes covering the movie's revamped Klingons and a making-of look at the best set-piece where Khan and Kirk space-jump between ships.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see the darkest moments of the Star Trek film franchise
Click here to see how J.J. Abrams spent his entire career preparing to direct a Star Wars movie

Love is All You Need
Taking a break from the morose (but usually gripping) melodramas she generally makes, Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier tries her hand at a considerably lighter romantic tale, one that's still not an out-and-out comedy, but has more chuckles than, say, After the Wedding. In a role that's not entirely dissimilar to his Mamma Mia! turn (minus the belting of ABBA tunes), Pierce Brosnan plays a stick-up-his-butt businessman who makes the trip to his long-abandoned Italian villa to attend his son's wedding. The kid is getting hitched to the daughter of a cancer-stricken Danish hairdresser (Trine Dyrholm), whom Brosnan meets for the first time when they almost rear-end each other's cars at the airport. From those inauspicious beginnings, a spark of romance ignites between the middle-aged parents, one that inevitable bursts into flame even as their children question the long-term future of their own relationship. The rustic Italian setting is lovely and both Brosnan and Dyrholm are charming together, but Love Is All You Need is ultimately too slight and insubstantial to really linger in the memory. It's less a romance for the ages than a romance for maybe five minutes.
Extras: A commentary track with Brosnan and Bier, a cast and crew Q&A, additional cast interviews and a making-of featurette.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
Alex Gibney's documentary factory cranks out another dense, thorough piece of investigative cinematic journalism, this one tackling the timely topic of whistleblower website Wikileaks and its enigmatic founder Julian Assange. (The film's relevance isn't only owed to the ongoing Edward Snowden situation, but also the fact that Assange is getting the biopic treatment this fall in The Fifth Estate, where he'll be played by Khan himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.) Denied a sit-down with the man himself, Gibney reconstructs his story through interviews with various friends and colleagues (both present and former) and also an extensive amount of what seems to be privately-shot footage. The director also fleshes out the evolution of Wikileaks via the story of Bradley Manning, the soldier who gave Assange the leaked material that put the website on the map… and in the target sights of the U.S. government. Perhaps because the story is still so fresh in our minds (and due to Assange's absence), We Steal Secrets doesn't deepen or enhance our knowledge of the subject in the way that Gibney's best films do, but if you've somehow managed to avoid reading up on what this whole "Wikileaks" thing is about, this is a solid primer.
Extras: Deleted scenes and testimony from Bradley Manning.

Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection
A staple of '80s horror cinema, the Friday the 13th franchise gets the deluxe box set treatment, which collects all nine installments in the original run -- which spanned 1980-1993 -- plus the 2002 futuristic sequel Jason X and, last but not least, the Michael Bay-produced 2009 reboot. Four of these eleven films – including The Final Chapter, Jason Lives, Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason X are making their high-def debuts, as well. (Nice to see that the underrated crossover franchise mash-up Freddy vs. Jason, also made the cut.) Watch the series gradually evolve from the original no-budget Halloween-at-summer camp knock-off in which Jason isn't even the central boogeyman (his mother did the bloody work instead) into a franchise with an elaborate mythology that comes to involve mystical deaths and resurrections, telekinetic victims, trips from Camp Crystal Lake to New York City and a journey to the Underworld. Frankly, in a death match between '80s franchises, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies handily defeat Friday, but there are some solid installments in this 11-movie run (I'm particularly fond of Jason Takes Manhattan) that perfectly encapsulate the beautiful simplicity (and, sometimes, abject stupidity) of the '80s slasher era.
Extras: Though the set boasts eleven hours of extras ranging from behind-the-scenes featurettes to deleted scenes, there is one caveat: all of this material has been made available on previous editions. The lone new extra here is a booklet that excerpts the book Crystal Lake Memories, a comprehensive history of the series, and a Crystal Lake counselor patch.
(Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection streets -- when else? -- on Friday, September 13.)

Also on DVD:
The idea of Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington as a couple sounds like a promising set-up for a comedy, but by most accounts the Tyler Perry-presented Peeples didn't exactly live up to its potential. The legend of Frankenstein's Monster gets a Nazi-makeover in the found footage alt-history horror movie Frankenstein's Army. The flourishing subgenre of Viking movies gets a new addition with Hammer of the Gods, a bloody silly period romp about an inexperienced soldier who learns what it means to be a real warrior. (Hint: Lots of brutal killings.) The documentary Evocateur remembers the controversial life of '80s talk show host and reality TV pioneer, Morton Downey, Jr. Paul Bettany headlines the detective drama Blood, which also stars Low Winter Sun star, Mark Strong. Before David Cronenberg brilliantly re-imagined the idea of a scientist who turns into a fly as a mid-'80s AIDS metaphor, David Hedison simply swapped heads with a buzzing insect in the '50s creature feature The Fly. Ask yourselves: is it safe to buy Marathon Man on Blu-ray? A career high point for Matt Damon and Jude Law, Anthony Minghella's terrific version of the Patricia Highsmith classic The Talented Mr. Ripley is newly available in high-def. Also making its Blu debut is the Sharon Stone/Billy Baldwin early '90s "classic" Sliver, her follow-up to Basic Instinct and the first sign that her career was probably not built to last.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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