If you think September was a fine month for Blu-ray and DVD, with 'Citizen Kane' and 'Star Wars,' wait until October: there's a bevy of releases coming soon that will take your breath away. You can look forward next month to Blu-rays of 'The Lion King,' 'Pulp Fiction,' 'The Conversation,' 'Jackie Brown,' and the 'Jurassic Park' trilogy, as well as a massive Laurel and Hardy DVD set. While you wait for those, this Friday brings us a no-frills version of 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon.' Read on.
'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'
What It's About: The Autobots and Decepticons are back at it, fighting each other as the Earth trembles beneath their massive feet (this time Chicago gets its fair share of destruction). In a pretty cool rewriting of history, the U.S. and Soviet space race in the 1960s wasn't about "one giant leap for mankind," but about getting to a crashed Cybertronian space craft on the dark side of the moon. This is the nub of the story, as the nasty Decepticons are planning on using that ship to wreak revenge on the Autobots and subjugate all of humanity as slaves to rebuild Cybertron. Naturally Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) -- with his new girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) -- comes to the aid of his robot friends to save the world again.
It's Kinda Like: 'War of the Worlds' meets 'The Terminator'
What We Say: After a disappointing sequel, Michael Bay and company have bounced back with this third homage to robotic destruction, weaving a complicated plot with plenty of twists and turns and betrayals. And they haven't skimped on the special effects; Chicago gets overrun by the Decepticons and destroyed in some of the best Apocalyptic scenes since '2012'. The robot-to-robot battles are what you would expect, except for the new worm robot -- a cross between a 'Dune' sandworm and a Roto-Rooter -- that chews up a skyscraper with the good guys inside. One thing hasn't changed: dorky LaBeouf. (Actually make that two: John Turturro has returned).
• Extras: This is a bare bones DVD/Blu-ray edition with just the film. Paramount has promised deluxe Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD sets in the near future.
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Why the Release?: Paramount has a remake of 'Footloose' hitting theaters Oct. 14 (with a cast that includes Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid), so it made sense to re-release the original on Blu-ray and DVD. The 1984 film -- about a hip young city guy (Kevin Bacon) stranded in a town that has banned dancing -- was a surprise hit, with infectious music and terpsichorean delights. It was a simplistic story of good vs. bad, old vs. young, freedom vs. dogma -- just what the doctor ordered to fend off the conservatism of the Reagan era.
Special Features: The studio has added in a couple new featurettes on the success of the film and its characters: "Let's dance! Kevin Bacon on Footloose," "From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview With Sarah Jessica Parker"; as well as vintage featurettes and commentary.
Is It Worth Upgrading?: If you haven't ever seen 'Footloose,' rush right out and rent or buy a copy -- especially if you're planning on seeing the remake. Though predictable and manipulative, 'Footloose' is wonderful entertainment and features plenty of toe-tapping music. If you already own a copy, you can skip this DVD and Blu-ray, since the new transfer isn't much of an improvement over previous versions.
Also see: 'Footloose' Star Kenny Wormald on Updating a Classic '80s Soundtrack With the White Stripes
'Ben-Hur 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition'
Why the Release?: This is the third release of William Wyler's epic 'Ben-Hur' in the last 10 years, which certainly says something about the lasting popularity of the film and its story. Basically a tale of faith and redemption, 'Ben-Hur' revolves around a Jewish prince (Charlton Heston) who is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend (Stephen Boyd), but regains his freedom and comes back for revenge ... a revenge that is eventually tempered when he witnesses the crucifixion of Christ. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film, Warner Home Video has put together an impressive package that includes a superb restoration of the film with bonus discs and two hard bound books housed in an 8-inch by 11 1/2-inch gift box. In Blu-ray and DVD versions
Special Features: In addition to the expected audio commentary, there's more than eight hours of bonus material here: A music-only track showcasing Miklos Rozsa's score; "Charlton Heston: A Personal Journey" (78 min), a new high-definition feature-length documentary chronicling Charlton Heston's life while filming 'Ben-Hur'; several behind-the-scenes and retrospective featurettes; "Charlton Heston: The Ben-Hur Diaries," a reproduction of Charlton Heston's private and insightful diary from January 1958 through April 1960, documenting his time before production of the film all the way through his Oscar win; a 64-page hardcover art production book; and much more.
Is It Worth Upgrading?: Warner has meticulously restored -- cell-by-cell from an original 65 mm camera negative -- 'Ben-Hur' at 6K resolution at a reported cost of $1 million -- and it shows. The sound and image are just stunning -- this 50-year-old film looks like it was printed yesterday. This set is a must buy for serious movie lovers and collectors. If you have any of the earlier editions and love this film, then by all means upgrade to this new version. You'll thank me.
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Other New September 27 DVD Releases:
- 'Good Neighbors': (2010) Set in Quebec, this thriller follows three apartment building neighbors as they bond over a recent string of murders taking place in their community. As the trio learns more about each other and the horror of what lies outside escalates, dark secrets unfold and they soon learn that nowhere is safe. Stars Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire and Jay Baruchel.
- 'L'Amour Fou': (2011 -- France) Documentary on fashion icon Yves Saint-Laurent. Pierre Thoretton's directorial debut follows the indelible icon through the eyes of lifetime love and business partner Pierre Berge -- from his early days as a design prodigy for Christian Dior through his decades as the face of a fashion empire.
- 'The Ledge': (2011) Thriller about a man (Charlie Hunnam) threatening to jump off the ledge of a building and the cop (Terrence Howard) who tries to talk him down. Both the cop and the jumper have relationship problems that pop to the surface during their interactions; there's even a theological issue as the jumper is at odds with his fundamentalist Christian neighbor (Patrick Wilson), who may or may not be forcing him to jump.
- 'The Stool Pigeon': (2010 -- Hong Kong) Director Dante Lam's latest actioner stars Nicholas Tse as an ex-convict street racer nicknamed Ghost who unwillingly works as an informant for police detective Don Lee (Nick Cheung) in order to clear debts left by his late father and to rescue his only sister from prostitution. The film revolves around the two men from opposite sides of the law, and the guilt each has for their past and present actions. There's plenty of fast-paced action and downright nasty violence.
Check out more September 27 DVD releases at OnVideo.