Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week
"X-Men: First Class" (Fox) is both reboot and prequel to the "X-Men" movie franchise. Call it a preboot, with James McAvoy as a flirtatious, precocious Professor X and Michael Fassbender as a dark, vengeful "Magneto" in the groovy atmosphere of the cold war 1960s. Videodrone's review is here.
Saoirse Ronan is "Hanna" (Universal), a girl raised to be a survivor and a warrior, the better to take on the agency that "created" her, in the adolescent assassin thriller from the otherwise literarily inclined director Joe Wright. Will Ferrell puts aside his buffoon persona for a more everyman role in the tragicomic "Everything Must Go" (Lionsgate), a small but lovely film adapted from a Raymond Carver short story.
On the import front comes a couple of Asian action films -- the Hong Kong gangster drama "Triad Underworld" (Palisades Tartan) and Malaysian historical spectacle "Clash of Empires" (Image) -- plus Amos Gitai's "Carmel" (Kino Lorber) from Israel and "The Colors of the Mountains" (Film Movement) from Colombia.
TV on DVD:
"Fringe: The Complete Third Season" (Warner) shows that the series simply gets better as the story bounces between two dimensions and actors go through the looking glass to play in an alternate reality. Videodrone crosses over here.
You can revisit most of the best from NBC's Thursday night comedy block with releases of "The Office: Season Seven" (Universal), "Parks and Recreation: Season Three" (Universal) and "Community: The Complete Second Season" (Sony), covered on Videodrone here.
"The Good Wife: The Second Season" (Paramount) earned nine Emmy nominations, including "Outstanding Drama Series" and six acting nods (reviewed here) and "Police Story: Season One" (Shout! Factory) is the classic TV release of the week (reviewed here).
Plus the orphaned "No Ordinary Family: The Complete First Season" (Lionsgate) and "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior – Season One" (Paramount) and the continuing "Criminal Minds: The Sixth Season" (Paramount) and "Two and a Half Men: The Complete Eighth Season" (Warner), aka "the last hurrah of Charlie Sheen."
Cool, Classic and Cult:
"Genevieve" (VCI) is a beloved 1953 British comedy about a pair of competitive buddies who resort of dirty tricks and practical jokes when they race their classic cars to London. Fredric March is "Christopher Columbus" (VCI) in the 1949 British drama.
And, catching with a couple of last week's releases that arrived too late for review, "The Complete Jean Vigo" (Criterion) celebrates the poet laureate of French cinema (reviewed here), and there a new edition of Jean Cocteau's 1949 "Orpheus" (Criterion).
Say hello to my little Blu-ray! "Scarface: Limited Edition" (Universal) delivers the Blu-ray debut of Brian De Palma's urban gangster classic, with Al Pacino as the Cuban thug who shoots his way to the top of the Miami drug trade, in a special edition with a documentary and a limited edition SteelBook case. And for the high rollers, a deluxe edition with a handcrafted humidor (a steal at a mere $1000 retail). Videodrone's review is here.
You can make it a De Palma double feature with "Dressed to Kill" (MGM), his signature thriller and one of his best films ever. Videodrone's review is here. Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" (MGM), one of Sam Peckinpah's most uncompromising portraits of the human animal under pressure, arrives in advance of the new remake, and "United 93" (Universal) is here for the anniversary of 9/11. All this and "Blood Simple" (Fox), the feature debut of the Coen Bros., too.
The complete calendar of releases this week is after the jump:
|Tags:||Week in review|
The prequel finds the mutant superheroes in the swinging sixties
"X-Men: First Class" (Fox)
Note: The DVD and Blu-ray editions are due for release on Friday, September 9.
How did screens, both large and small, become so swamped with superheroes? One major reason is the success of the "X-Men" films. Where Spider-Man and Batman were familiar popular culture icons, The X-Men were huge comic book franchises (with multiple titles and spin-offs, not to mention animated shows and merchandising) but far less known to the average moviegoer. The first two features changed all that and proved that a major film franchise could be built on a strong superhero story without universal characters recognition.
Now reboot is the chant all over the Hollywood and in some ways you could say that "X-Men: First Class" is a series reboot, but it turns to a prequel to introduce new, younger models of the series elders Charles "Professor X" Xavier (James McAvoy as a flirtatious, precocious incarnation of Patrick Stewart's more professorial figure) and Erik "Magneto" Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender, bringing a dark anger to the part created by Ian McKellan). Call it a pre-boot.
Though it opens in World War II, the story proper unfolds in the early sixties. Future enemies Charles and Erik are initially friends and colleagues, bonded by a dedication to protect others of their kind as they build the first incarnation of the mutant superteam to take on a Nazi war criminal turned supervillain (Kevin Bacon as the arrogant Sebastian Shaw) with a plot to take the world. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Okay, it's not really that cheesy and its sixties setting and sleek retro-designs gives it the zing of an early Bond film. I'd like to say that the casting of "Mad Men"'s January Jones as the icy Emma Frost adds to the atmosphere but she does little more than model fetish gear and strike dramatic poses with all the humor and engagement of a mannequin.
Your guide to our coverage of the new DVD/Blu-ray releases
Here's what's new on DVD and Blu-ray this week as featured on Videodrone
"Prom" - High School Non-Musical
"Cell 211" – Men Under Pressure
TV on DVD:
"Nikita" - The Next Generation
Burning down the "House" in Season Seven
"Wonders of the Universe" Never Cease
The Cool and the Collectible:
Coming up next week:
"X-Men: First Class" (Fox)
"Everything Must Go" (Lionsgate)
"The Entitled" (Anchor Bay)
"Triad Underworld" (Palisades Tartan)
"Police Story: Season One" (Shout! Factory)
"Fringe: The Complete Third Season" (Warner)
"Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner)
"The Good Wife: The Second Season" (Paramount)
"Parks and Recreation: Season Three" (Universal)
"The Office: Season Seven" (Universal)
"Community: The Complete Second Season" (Sony)
"No Ordinary Family: The Complete First Season" (Lionsgate)
"Two and a Half Men: The Complete Eighth Season" (Warner)
"Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior – Season One" (Paramount)
"Criminal Minds: The Sixth Season" (Paramount)
"Diana Rigg at the BBC" (BBC)
"Scarface Limited Edition" (Blu-ray) (Universal)
"Straw Dogs" (Blu-ray) (MGM)
"Dressed to Kill" (Blu-ray) (MGM)
|Tags:||Week in review|
Plus "Good Will Hunting" debuts on HD
"The Twilight Zone: Season 5" (Image) presents the complete final season of Rod Serling’s brilliant series of the fantastic, where social politics and barbed human dramas were slipped in behind the façade of fantasy: 36 episodes (including "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," the only episode not produced for the series) plus hours of commentaries, interviews and other supplements. Videodrone's review is here. The Blu-ray release of Lindsay Anderson's "If…" (Criterion) did not arrive in time for review.
Maverick naval air force pilot Tom Cruise flies into the danger zone in "Top Gun" (Paramount), Tony Scott’s macho adventure of hot-shot pilots. With his best friend and wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards), he plays daredevil games with Russian jet pilots and lands a spot in the Naval Air Force Top Gun program, where he proceeds to romance his gorgeous instructor (Kelly McGillis). Produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, this became a smash hit, a cultural touchstone of the era, and the best recruitment ad the Naval Air Force ever had. Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty reflects on the film at 25: "Whether you love "Top Gun" or hate it — or hate yourself for loving it — the fact is that when it became the top-grossing film of 1986, Hollywood in its infinite wisdom took all of the worst lessons from its success and overlooked what made it so...fun. Which is, sadly, where we find ourselves 25 years down the road."
The 25th Anniversary edition basically repackages the 2008 version in a new slipsleeve, complete with the same supplements. The highlights are commentary by director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-screenwriter Jack Epps Jr., real life instructor Captain Mike Galpin, technical advisor Peter Pettigrew, and Vice-Admiral Mike McCabe, and the comprehensive six-part documentary "Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun," which runs almost two-and-a-half hours. It is quite comprehensive. Also includes multi-angle storyboards with optional commentary by Tony Scott, a gallery of vintage interviews and featurettes, music videos, TV spots and trailers. But there is one new element to this edition: a bonus digital copy of the film on a second disc.
"Good Will Hunting" (Lionsgate) won two Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay for tyro writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also star as blue collar genius Will Hunting and his best friend and co-pilot. The performances are terrific all around (Robin Williams won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) and the screenplay sound – perhaps a little too smart for its own good. Which is where director Gus Van Sant comes in, injecting that necessary element of spontaneity, helping shape real people out of the characters on the page, capturing the working class Boston milieu. Features commentary by director Van Sant and writers/actors Damon and Affleck, 11 deleted scenes and a production featurette, all from the DVD special edition. New to this edition is a bonus digital copy.
Plus Hong Kong martial arts classics and George C. Scott as 'The Flim-Flam Man'
Based on a manga and subsequent anime series, the Japanese live-action "Gantz" (New People) is gonzo sci-fi fantasy that combines video-game aesthetics, gladiator games and classic Japanese monsters with a metaphysical mystery. Reviewed on Videodrone here. Two Criterion editions due this week -- "The Complete Jean Vigo" (Criterion) and a new special edition of Jean Cocteau's 1949 "Orpheus" (Criterion) -- did not arrive in time for review, but look forward to reviews next week.
"Strike" (Kino), the landmark debut feature of Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein, is the story of a worker’s strike in pre-Revolutionary Russia as an experiment in revolutionary cinema, with “the masses” as the hero and intricate montage sequences to illustrate the collision of capital and labor. His mix of avant-garde effects and striking images are edited into a series of chapters that teaches its Marxist lesson with all the energy of a Hollywood gangster film. In between his action sequences are quiet, poetic observations of street life and weekend idylls. Think of it like a piece of celluloid jazz: the familiar story of proletariat struggle is simply a melodic structure for stylistic soloing. In 1925, it was revolutionary.
The new Kino edition is newly mastered for DVD and Blu-ray from a recent restoration by the Cinemateque de Toulouse (though it has replaced the original intertitles with English language titles) and features a newly-recorded score by the Mont Alto Orchestra, plus Eisenstein's first film "Glumov's Diary" (1923), a short film long thought lost, and the 2008 documentary "Eisenstein and the Revolutionary Spirit," a Russian production featuring film historian Natacha Laurent.
Also new from Kino this week (on DVD only) is the much more lighthearted Russian silent "The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom" (Kino), a comedy about love, movies, American decadence and the cigarette girl who wins the heart of everyone. It's perfectly entertaining and completely inconsequential, a minor production with a sense of humor that one doesn't often see in Soviet silents. No overt political lessons (at least not apart from the fat cat American on display here) or montage exercises, and not much shape to the meandering tale, just a silly little romance on the streets of Moscow. Charlotte Castellat and David Lefebvre trade off on a variety of instruments in their jazzy original score.
Liv Ullmann is a dedicated psychiatrist who slips into depression and attempts suicide in Ingmar Bergman's 1976 "Face to Face" (Olive). Ullman goes through a primal regression to her childhood to dredge up the fears and guilt and shame of her past, delivering a harrowing and vulnerable performance in what is her film.
Erland Josephson (who co-starred with Ullman in Bergman's "Scenes From a Marriage") plays a fellow psychiatrist who flirts with her and then looks after her devotedly during her recovery (her husband and daughter tellingly remain peripheral figures). It was nominated for two Academy Awards -- for Best Actress (Liv Ullmann) and Best Director (Bergman), a rarity for foreign language film -- but is not what you might call one of his more viewer friendly movies. Think of it as Freudian psychodrama as cinema therapy: demanding, austere, emotionally confrontational. It debuts on DVD in an edition that appears to be a pre-HD master of an unrestored print, with soft image, weak colors and a harsh, lo-fidelity soundtrack. It is adequate but hardly definitive. Swedish with English subtitles, no supplements.
Shaolin Martial Arts of Liu Chia-Liang:
The Weinstein Company continues rolling out remastered editions of classic Shaw Brothers martial arts movies under it "Dragon Dynasty" banner. Four more arrived earlier this month, top-lined by "Martial Arts Of Shaolin" (ARC Entertainment), the 1986 feature from director Liu Chia-Liang (of "36th Chamber of Shaolin" fame) featuring the up-and-coming young fighter-turned-screen star Jet Li. Liu also directs "Mad Monkey Kung Fu" (ARC Entertainment), which takes a more comic approach to martial arts spectacle, and "Executioners From Shaolin" (ARC Entertainment) and featuring Lo Lieh as the white-haired priest Pai Mei, a characters resurrected by Quentin Tarantino in "Kill Bill 2." Chang Cheh's 1974 "Five Shaolin Masters" (ARC Entertainment), starring David Chiang and featuring fight choreography by Liu Chia-Liang, completes the releases this round.
Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak directs "A River Called Titus" (Facets), a 1973 adaptation of an autobiographical novel by Advaita Malla Barman about life in a poor fishing village in the 1930s each Bengal. In Bengal with English subtitles. This edition comes to the U.S. via the BFI.
George C. Scott is "The Flim-Flam Man" (Twilight Time), a con man working the rural South with a protégé (Michael Sarrazin), in the 1967 comedy directed by Irvin Kershner. The Twilight Time release (available exclusively from the Screen Archives website) is limited to a run of 3,000 units and features Jerry Goldsmith's score on an isolated audio track and a booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo.
Gene Barry is a nuclear physicist whose son is kidnapped in the 1952 thriller "The Atomic City" (Olive). His ransom is the secrets of the H-bomb.
And the rest:
Francesco Rosi directs Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson in "Carmen" (Olive), the lavish 1984 big screen treatment of the Georges Bizet opera. Available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Rachid Bouchareb directs "Little Senegal" (Cinema Libre), a 2001 drama of immigrants in the Senegalese community of Harlem in New York City.
Robert Patrick stars in "Red Faction: Origins" (Universal), a direct-to-DVD science fiction thriller based on the popular video game. Panna Rittikrai, stunt coordinator of "Ong-Bak" and "Chocolate," directs the Thai action thriller "BKO: Bangkok Knockout" (Magnolia). Stephen Rea stars in the SyFy original monster movie "Roadkill" (Vivendi).
Submitted for your approval: the fifth and final season of Rod Serling’s masterpiece
"The Twilight Zone: Season 5" (Image) - Submitted for your approval: the fifth final season of Rod Serling’s brilliant series of the fantastic, where social politics and barbed human dramas were slipped in behind the façade of fantasy.
After Season Four's misguided attempt to revamp itself in the hour-long format, the show returned to the familiar and more effective half-hour format and the quality of the shows improves along with it. The season opens with a trio of highlights: "In Praise of Pip," a classic Serling tale of remembrance and redemption; "Steel," a Richard Matheson-scripted drama with Lee Marvin as the manager of a broken down android boxer; and Matheson’s "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," a paranoid thriller with William Shatner as a terrified airline passenger who sees a gremlin tearing apart the jet’s wing.
Other highlights include "Living Doll" with Telly Savalas (“I’m Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you”), "The Masks" directed by Ida Lupino; "The Encounter," one of the most overt pieces of social commentary in the series, and the classic "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," the award winning short film directed by Robert Enrico (based on the short story by Ambrose Bierce) about a civil war prisoner’s delirious escape. It was the only program not made for the show and it was only shown once.
36 episodes on five discs in a double-wide case with hinged trays, in superbly remastered editions. The Blu-ray features the supplements of the 2005 DVD release, which include commentary on select episodes by actors Bill Mumy, Mickey Rooney, June Foray, Mariette Hartley, Alan Sues and Martin Landau and historian Mark Scott Zicree, interviews with Mumy and Foray, writers Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson and Earl Hamner Jr., and actors Michael Forest, Terry Becker and Nancy Malone, "Twilight Zone" radio show adaptations of various episodes, isolated music scores on numerous episodes, "The Mike Wallace Interview" from 1959, an excerpt from Rod Serling's Sherwood Oaks College lecture, George Clayton Thomas home movies and Rod Serling's promos for "Next Week's Show."
New to the Blu-ray edition are 20 new commentary tracks (featuring "The Twilight Zone Companion" author Marc Scott Zicree, "Twilight Zone" directors Ted Post, Richard Donner and Robert Butler, writer Earl Hamner, actors George Takei and Peter Mark Richman, film/TV historians Gary Gerani, Martin Grams, Jr., Jim Benson, Scott Skelton, Bill Warren, author Neil Gaiman and others), 22 radio drama adaptations, "Conversations with Rod Serling" (parts 2 and 3), and a vintage audio interview with director of photography George T. Clemens.
New seasons of 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Parenthood' and many, many more
"Nikita: The Complete First Season" (Warner) arrives in time to catch up with the sleek super-spy series, starring Maggie Q as the sultry rogue agent at war with the corrupt rogue government agency that turned her into a killer, before the second season begins in late September. Videodrone's review is here. "House: Season Seven" (Universal) changes things up with a romance for House and the inevitable self-destructive spiral back to his old ways. Diagnosed on Videodrone here. And "Wonders of the Universe" (BBC), the latest in a run of superb BBC natural history documentaries, explores the building blocks of the universe and how they shaped the Earth. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Detroit 1-8-7: The Complete First Season" (Lionsgate) did not get picked up for a second season, which is a terrible shame as the first season of the precinct-style cop show is probably the best of its kind with "NYPD Blue," and the best role Michael Imperioli has had since "The Sopranos." This is a classic-style cop show, every episode focused on the cases divvied up through the partners in the squad with only echoes of personal lives echoing around the edges, well written and tightly directed, which is rare enough on TV these days.
Imperioli stars as a ten-year homicide vet Detective Louis Fitch, the flinty old-school cop who barely speaks to his partner and stares through suspects as if boring through to the truth, and he dominates the squad room and the show as he guides his young partner (Michael Hill), a tyro homicide detective who gets shot on his first day on the job, through the realities of detective work on the streets of Detroit. James McDaniel (of the original cast of "NYPD Blue") co-stars as the squad's most veteran officer, partnered up with Shaun Majumder, Natalie Martinez and D.J. Cotrona fill out the squad and Aisha Hinds commands the squad.
18 episodes on four discs in a standard case with hinged trays. No supplements, but for a show that, despite glowing reviews, got cancelled, the fact that it got a release at all is quite a victory.
SAMCRO takes on the IRA and the FBI in "Sons of Anarchy: Season Three" (Fox), the terribly addictive drama of motorcycle outlaws in a small California town, when the infant son of the club's heir apparent Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is kidnapped by Irish gun runners. That's no mean feat, even for a motorcycle mafia run by aging lion Clay (Ron Perlman) and his wife Gemma (Katey Sagal -- where is this woman's Emmy?), the club's fierce den mother. When a cutthroat FBI agent (Ally Walker) more concerned with covering up her own disastrous missteps than solving cases gets tangled in everything, the choices they make to save the club look like they may tear it apart. Parallel to their story is that of the hospital surgeon (Maggie Siff) feeling out her place in the outlaw culture of the club when she becomes
On the one hand, it's a pulp drama with a desert western sensibility in black leather jackets, but on the other it has Shakespeare-in-a-small-town dimensions thanks to the sense of family and clan that holds the ferocious characters together, and the expansive storytelling that spans the entire season, which ultimately takes them to Ireland and back, complete with a revised version of the theme song to mark the event.
13 episodes on four discs on DVD and three discs on Blu-ray, with three presented in extended versions. Features commentary on three episodes by creator Kurt Sutter and members of the cast and creative staff, a "Writer's Round Table" answering questions submitted by the fans, a table read of the season final script and four scenes from the upcoming season among the supplements.
"The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season" (Warner) - It's the second season of a vampire teen romance melodrama, so you know what that means: time to bring in the werewolves! Yes, the Cain and Abel vampire duo (Paul Wesley as the good Stefan and Ian Somerhalder as the bad, darkly seductive Damon), the doppelganger drama between the good high school girl Elena (Nina Dobrev) and her scheming, ageless vampire ancestor Katherine (also Dobrev) who turned both boys into vampires, and the various witches circling around the edges are joined by a werewolf clan. And apparently, there's a blood feud between the supernatural races. But of course! This supernatural soap opera arrives on both DVD and Blu-ray – something that usually only comes out for shows with passionate (if small) followings anymore – with the commensurate level of supplements. Along with the 22 episodes (on five discs on DVD and four on Blu-ray) is commentary on one episode ("Masquerade"), three featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
"Parenthood: Season Two" (Universal), the second series based on the 1989 family comedy by Ron Howard, stars Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen as the children (and struggling parents) of Braverman clan elders Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia. 22 episodes of the hour-long dramedy on five discs in a fold-out digipak, plus commentary on three episodes, deleted scenes and featurette.
It's official: "Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seventh Season" (Disney) is the penultimate season of the show, which begins its eighth and final season next month, and this season features Vanessa Williams as Wisteria Lane's newest resident. 23 episodes on five discs, plus a featurette on the child actors of the cast, deleted scenes, blooper, outtakes and trivia.
Title aside, the Courtney Cox sitcom "Cougar Town: The Complete Second Season" (Disney) has long stopped being a comedy about older women and younger men and eased into a very funny show about single parenthood and life after divorce, with the trademark humor of adult childishness and rapid-fire ensemble banter of creator Bill Lawrence's "Scrubs." 22 episodes on three discs, plus a featurette, webisodes, deleted scenes and outtakes.
"90120: The Third Season" (Paramount) features 22 episodes of the Beverly Hills high school student soap opera on six discs, plus commentary on three episodes, deleted scenes and featurettes. "iCarly: The Complete Third Season" (Paramount) features 10 episodes of the hit tweener sitcom made for Nickelodeon.
"Running Wilde: Season One" (Lionsgate) is the short lived sitcom starring Will Arnett as a spoiled playboy wooing his childhood sweetheart, an ecological activist played by Keri Russell. Only 13 episodes were made and all are collected on this two-disc set.
"Storage Wars: The Complete Season One" (A&E), one of the top new reality shows on the A&E network, follows four professional buyers as they bid for the contents of abandoned storage lockers, virtually sight unseen. 19 episodes on three discs. "Only In America With Larry The Cable Guy: Volume One" (A&E) is the History Channel's comic travelogue of American landmarks. 10 episodes on two discs.
"Vera: Series One" (Acorn) stars Brenda Blethyn as the hard-bitten (and sometimes hard to work with) DCI Vera Stanhope, an obsessive cop in Northumberland, in the new British detective series based on the novels by Ann Cleeves. The four-disc set features the four 90-minute episodes of the first series and it's reportedly been picked up for a second series, but it has yet to play stateside. Which makes this the rare British mystery series (catnip to PBS viewers!) to debut in the U.S. on DVD.
"Doc Martin: The Movies" (Acorn) presents the two original telefilms that launched the series starring Martin Clunes as the cantankerous Dr. Martin Bamford. "Murphy's Law: Series 4 + 5" (Acorn), starring James Nesbitt as Irish undercover cop Tommy Murphy, brings the series to a close with the final six episodes on two discs.
And the rest:
The original 1973 PBS documentary series is still not available on home video but you can get highlights from the 12-hour show in "An American Family: Anniversary Edition" (PBS), a two-hour special made in 2011. "Royal Wedding Of A Lifetime" (A&E) is the six-part documentary series covering the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton for the Lifetime Network. The programs in "Heifetz: Master Classes" (Kultur) were originally recorded during a series of teaching sessions conducted by Jascha Heifetz at USC in the early 1960s,
Monsters and gladiators and video-game action in a gonzo sci-fi fantasy from Japan
Based on a manga and subsequent anime series, the Japanese live-action "Gantz" (New People) is gonzo sci-fi fantasy that combines video-game aesthetics, gladiator games and classic Japanese monsters with a metaphysical mystery. Two old friends face certain death on the tracks of an oncoming subway and wake up alive, prisoners of a black orb that hands them weapons and exoskeleton combat suits and sets hunting for alien invaders in Tokyo.
It's less science fiction than weird fantasy and more than a little frustrating. These conscripted soldiers are oddly unconcerned with the mystery of their second life and nightly calls to arms and the personal journey of Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya, who you may recognize as the young baker turned boyish soldier Saigo in "Letter From Iwo Jima") from numb college kid to arrogant self-described hero to disciplined leader is elementary at best. And far too many of the battles are simply sloppy in their conception and execution, even if the special effects are wonderfully offbeat.
What this film has to offer is a weird textural authenticity in a surreal situation far different from American FX "realism." Battling a giant statue is different enough, but its herky-jerky movements and lightning-whip reflexes give the behemoth a strange grounding even as the alien guns blast it to liquid cement. The film ends with a "To Be Continued" and at the end of the credits is a trailer for "Gantz: Perfect Answer," a title that suggests some exposition to the situation is in the offing. Stay tuned…
Features original Japanese and English dub soundtracks with optional subtitles and a separate subtitle track for translating signs and written words. Available on two-disc DVD and three-disc Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack, each with a bonus DVD featuring a half-hour interview with director Shinsuke Sato and a collection of trailers.
Click through to see a trailer for the film (fan subtitled) I found on YouTube: