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Published on October 28th, 2011 | by Greg

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Recent Releases: Pirates, Xperiments, and A Different Top Gun

Oc­to­ber is al­ways an in­ter­est­ing month for movie re­leas­es. Sure, there are plen­ty of hor­ror firms that see a big push close to Hal­loween (ap­proach­ing rapid­ly, we note with some trep­i­da­tion). But plen­ty of oth­er films try to get a jump on the busy hol­i­day re­lease cal­en­dar- in­clud­ing this edi­tion’s big Hol­ly­wood block­buster. Re-re­leas­es are al­ways pop­u­lar as well, bring­ing us the oth­er three-quar­ters of to­day’s quar­tet.

We’ll start with the big gun- Pi­rates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. De­spite a clear­ly lav­ish bud­get and the con­tin­ued en­thu­si­asm of John­ny Depp play­ing a role he was meant to play, this one didn’t sit well with most crit­ics. It’s easy to see why the se­ries keeps on go­ing, and why au­di­ences still show up: this is fun, pop­corn-munch­ing ex­cite­ment that can wave Hol­ly­wood mag­ic around and man­age most of the plot holes. But some of the ro­mance and chem­istry is gone, and it feels large­ly rote, which is why de­spite the ad­di­tion of Pene­lope Cruz and the Foun­tain of Youth, the ab­sence of Or­lan­do Bloom and Keira Knight­ley are def­i­nite­ly not­ed.

Our Blu-ray was the pop­u­lar Dis­ney com­bo pack, fea­tur­ing a DVD as well. And enough about the movie- the trans­fer was su­perb. Video qual­i­ty is ex­cep­tion­al, as it the au­dio- ev­ery­thing is well bal­anced, di­a­logue clear and crisp while ex­plo­sions sound re­al and three-di­men­sion­al. Col­ors pop, and nary a cue is wast­ed. Ours was not the ver­sion with 3D, nor did we try or re­ceive a dig­i­tal copy, but we did find the ab­sence of most of the spe­cial fea­tures a bit per­plex­ing. They are on­ly avail­able on the larg­er spe­cial edi­tion pack­age, so we can­not speak to them. Au­dio com­men­tary is in­clud­ed, and seemed fine, as is a set of bloop­ers, which were fun if short. Over­all, it’s a sure-fire hol­i­day gift for the Pi­rates or Dis­ney fan in the fam­i­ly, but the choice be­tween the $25 edi­tion and pay­ing the ex­tra $5 for 3D as well as the re­al bonus fea­tures is a tough call. Avail­able now.

On­to the three DVD re­leas­es from MGM , and we’ll start with the best. The Quater­mass Xper­i­ment (aka The Creep­ing Un­known, which was the Amer­i­can re­lease ti­tle) is a nice­ly spooky British 1955 sci­ence fic­tion film. Black and white and based on a TV se­ries, it nonethe­less in­spired a host of im­i­ta­tors, se­quels, and re­makes, and is one of the clas­sic Ham­mer films from the era. Ev­ery­one liked this one, in spite of or more like­ly be­cause of it’s za­ni­ness and slight corni­ness. Con­spir­a­cies, aliens, as­tro­nauts, para­noia, the mil­i­tary- you’ve got it all. Sev­er­al writ­ers had seen one ver­sion or an­oth­er, but the orig­i­nal holds up well- ac­tors and di­a­logue are sol­id, and the spe­cial ef­fects aren’t laugh­able for the most part. The score is mem­o­rable, if a lit­tle over­pow­er­ing at times, and the trans­fer im­pres­sive- it’s a 1955 film that ap­pears to have un­der­gone some spe­cial treat­ment, ap­par­ent­ly thanks to an HD mas­ter trans­fer a few years ago. Is this a must see? No, but Quater­mass is sol­id, en­ter­tain­ing, and even thought­ful. The on­ly spe­cial fea­ture is the trail­er, which was a bit too in­for­ma­tive.

The oth­er two from this crop are a bit more un­for­tu­nate. Top Gun- not the one with Tom Cruise- is an­oth­er 1955 film, this time a black and white West­ern. Star­ring Ster­ling Hay­den, the plot is sim­ple- bad guys, a town, and on­ly one man who… you get the idea. But in a world filled with ex­cel­lent West­erns, from many eras, none of us were quite sure what to make of this one. There wasn’t much of a sav­ing grace here- mediocre mu­sic, poor di­a­logue, even some bad di­rec­tion made for a com­plete­ly unessen­tial ex­pe­ri­ence. Usu­al­ly, there’s some­thing we can hold on­to and en­joy, or even make a fun drink­ing game out of, but this one wasn’t ter­ri­ble- just a bit pre­dictable and bor­ing. The trans­fer wasn’t ster­ling, sound and video qual­i­ty on­ly so-so, and the cov­er it­self is supreme­ly un­con­vinc­ing. Skip this one.

Fi­nal­ly, what’s there to say about Beer. Rip Torn, the 80′s, and off-col­or hu­mor fo­cused on com­mer­cials? Yeah, it’s that sort of movie- a no-apolo­gies guy’s flick, from be­fore po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. This one made a bunch of us laugh, and of­fend­ed about half of the plan­et, but fea­tures a cou­ple of rec­og­niz­able faces (David Allen Gri­er). Oth­er come­dies from this pe­ri­od are fun­nier, or bet­ter made, but the act­ing is ac­tu­al­ly sol­id and it’s nev­er bor­ing. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll get plen­ty out of Beer- just go in ex­pect­ing emp­ty calo­ries and not some fan­cy craft brew. Col­ors are dim, trans­fer on­ly so-so, mu­sic a mixed bag and a few def­i­nite sound is­sues, no re­al spe­cial fea­tures. What did you ex­pect? Avail­able soon for $20 or so, like­ly in line with the oth­er re-re­leas­es.

 

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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