CATEGORIES DVDsAs we segue into summer, two major remakes come to the fore on DVD. First up is Tim Burton's spectacular 'Alice in Wonderland' which, despite quibbles by the purists among us, takes the old 'Alice' adventures and makes something new and exciting. Not so for the remake 'The Wolfman,' which attempts to reconfigure the wolfman legend but only succeeds in slowing us down though the moors of England. A third remake, the successful Steven Spielberg 'War of the Worlds,' comes to Blu-ray this week. 'Alice in Wonderland'
What It's About: Director Tim Burton has rounded up his usual suspects: actors Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, composer Danny Elfman, editor Chris Lebenzon and costume designer Colleen Atwood, adding in the talents of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Robert Stromberg ('Avatar') and visual effects guru Ken Ralston ('Return of the Jedi,' 'Men in Black II') for this incredible and glorious reimagining (yes, we know 'reimagining' is an overused word but it really fits here) of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass.' Burton and writer Linda Woolverton add in their own plot points, transforming this 'Alice' into one that is definitely not your parents' version. It roughly follows Alice's adventures as she revisits her friends and foes in "Underland" -- 12 years after the two books, opening up all sorts of glorious set pieces (so to speak).
It's Kinda Like: Walt Disney meets Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg for after-dinner libations
What We Say: Factor in Tim Burton's subversive wit, spectacular special effects, over-the-top acting by Depp and Bonham Carter, a touch of feminism and impressive CGI action scenes, and you have an 'Alice' like no other. Purists have scoffed at this version, but Burton has used Lewis Carroll's stories as a springboard for his own imagination and created a true work of art. And one that has sold more than $1 billion of tickets worldwide. Though both DVD version of the film are a joy to behold, the Blu-ray version is mind-blowing. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
What It's About: Here's another remake of a classic, but one that went just a tad too far. Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, desperately (but unsuccessfully) trying to channel Lon Chaney Jr. from the 1941 'The Wolf Man'. Like the original, Talbot returns home (to Blackmoor from London, though in the original it was from America to Wales) after the death of his brother, to confront his estranged father, delve into his past, fall in love with his brother's fiance, and face the inner beast within him -- the latter which is the result of getting bitten by a strange creature, making him a werewolf. From there it begins to deviate from the original, but with not-quite-so-successful results.
It's Kinda Like: 'The Howling' meets 'The Silence of the Lambs'
What We Say: Though the special effects are spectacular, especially on the Blu-ray version, the film plods along, at times imitating the 1941 original, at other times burnishing the story with plot points clearly chosen solely to titillate modern audiences. Director Joe Johnston brings in a surrealistic sequence of gory events in a London insane asylum and in the streets of that city, then adds in a bit of a dysfunctional father-son relationship between Talbot and his dad (Anthony Hopkins in aging 'Hannibal Lecter mode). Worse, the acting is listless at best. In the end, this version just leaves us howling at the moon. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
Watch a clip from 'The Wolfman' DVD
Read the Horror Squad's interview with Rick Baker, the legendary makeup maestro responsible for 'The Wolfman.'
'War of the Worlds' Blu-ray
Steven Spielberg's 2005 vision of H.G. Wells' 'The War of the Worlds' also deviates from the original -- both the novel as well as the 1953 film version, but with better results than expected. The effects are spectacular and the sound has enough impact to make your hair stand on end. The excursions from the original are believable and, in fact, successfully modernize the story line. And the bonus features give extra insights into the production as well as Wells' legacy. Try to ignore some weak, wide-eyed acting by Tom Cruise.
Other New June 1 DVD Releases:
'Clint Eastwood Blu-ray Collection'
'The Man With No Name Blu-ray Trilogy'
Check out other new June 1 DVD releases at OnVideo.