This Week in Movies & TV, July 30, 2013: Brothers & Sisters in Arms

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

As if the 2009 blockbuster G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra didn't have impressive enough earnings in grossing $302 million worldwide box office, its follow-up, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, surpassed it with a $320 million take (aided by the surcharges this time for a 3D viewing). At this rate, if G.I. Joe 3 - now in pre-production - keeps raising the stakes, the trilogy (while it is a trilogy) should rack up close to $1 billion worldwide. So you can't just blame Hollywood.

In this installment of the franchise, when Team G.I. Joe, led by Duke (Channing Tatum), are almost completely wiped out, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), the only survivors, must not only contend with threats from their mortal enemy, Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), but also from within the government, being framed for stealing nuclear warheads from Pakistan by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who is presently making himself look like Jonathan Pryce to impersonate the President of the United States.

It took me two attempts to gird my loins to watch this movie based on Hasbro's G.I. Joe characters (the first night I contrarily last-minute switched to Fellini's Roma) but I finally reminded myself that it would at least be good, dopey-action-movie home theater fun and bit the bullet. Even as a pure visceral pleasure, though, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is lacking.

Although there are plenty of drive-bys, fly-bys, and pointy-star-weapon whoosh-bys in the hyperactive mix, the sounds effects are not that panned or accurately placed, they're just in the general vicinity. Atmospherics often immerse you in a war-zone zone with lots pushed to the surrounds for no apparent reason as off-screen choppers whirr around your head, gunshots and ricochets come from different spots all about, and alarms go off beside you, but they're generally not connected with anything visible on the screen, being used instead to just to put you involve you in the hub-bub of battle.

Orchestral drumming, brass, and strings and rock songs similarly come as a wash from all sides without any real separation of instruments - not so much as a wall of sound so much as a sea.

There's plenty of bass in blasts of brass and the electronica noises thrown in to create dread, but many of the many explosions lack true oomph and when Central London is completely destroyed, you expect a bit more earth-shakingness in the LFEs.

Colors tend to be a few rich primary yellows and blues of staircases and costumes and shocking scarlets of the ladies' gowns against a wide range of camouflage-like greys, pale greens, and kakis. The t-shirt of General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis ) and the ninja outfit of Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) are a deep black and shirts inside the Whitehouse are a bright white. Skin tones, though, are rather unnaturally yellow throughout.

Detail and sharpness are disappointing with no facial elements such as pores visible and no individuation in hair. In those blacks everything is lost in the jetness and figures and faces are flat, spaces undimensional. Much clarity and resolution is lost in this soft and blurry picture.

AG.I. Joe: Retaliation 3D edition is also available that comes with 2D Blu-ray, DVD, and UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading.

Video: 2.40:1. Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Extras: commentary by director John M. Chu and Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, deleted scenes, "G.I. Joe: Declassified: Mission Briefing," "G.I. Joe: Declassified: Deployment," "G.I. Joe: Declassified: Two Ninjas," "G.I. Joe: Declassified: The Desert Attack," "G.I. Joe: Declassified: Cobra Strikes," "G.I. Joe: Declassified: The Lone Soldiers," "G.I. Joe: Declassified: The Monastery," and "G.I. Joe: Declassified: Fort Sumter" featurettes; DVD and UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Paramount.

The Devil's Backbone

Before there was Pan's Labyrinth (or for that matter Hellboy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Pacific Rim) Spanish-Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro came to international attention in 2001 with this haunting historical horror-mystery filled with terrible secrets, dread of death, and Gothic ghostliness.

Set in 1939 during the final week of the three-year Spanish Civil War, with General Franco's right-wing Nationalists poised to defeat the democratically elected left-wing Republican government's forces, The Devil's Backbone (El espinazo del Diablo)tells of a 10-year-old boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), who, after his Republican war hero father is killed, is sent to a small rural orphanage.

There, Carlos meets Carmen (Marisa Paredes) the stern but encouraging headmistress who runs the orphanage, kindly Professor Casares (Federico Luppi), and comes across the nasty and violent-tempered caretaker, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), who tries to scare kids away from the storage room that has a very deep well. Carlos also meets a child - in his visions - and learns of an orphan, Santi (Junio Valverde), who went missing on the day the now-diffused bomb in the courtyard landed.

The Devil's Backbone was co-written by Antonio Trashorras and David Muñoz. It was independently produced by Pedro Almodóvar.

New 2K digital film restoration was approved by director Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: Spanish, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with new English subtitles. Extras: director's commentary, video introduction by Del Toro from 2010, new interviews with the director about the process of creating the ghost, Santi, and the drawings and designs made in preparation for the film, ¿Que es un fantasma? 2004 making-of documentary, "Spanish Gothic" 2010 interview with Del Toro about the genre and its influence on his work, interactive director's notebook with his drawings and handwritten notes along with interviews with the filmmaker, four deleted scenes with optional commentary, new featurette about the Spanish Civil War as evoked in the film, feature comparing Del Toro's thumbnail sketches and Carlos Giménez's storyboards with the final film, booklet featuring an essay by critic Mark Kermode. Studio: The Criterion Collection.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 4

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Redemption

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 4

This 6-disc set features all 26 episodes of Season 4 (1990-1991) including fan-favorites "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II," "Reunion," ""Redemption, Part 1," "Final Mission," "Qpid," "The Drumhead," "Brothers" and "In Theory." Other episodes include "Family," "Suddenly Human," "Remember Me," "Legacy," "Future Imperfect," "The Loss," "Data's Day," "The Wounded," "Devil's Due," "Clues," "First Contact," "Galaxy's Child," "Night Terrors," "Identity Crisis," "The Nth Degree," "Half a Life," "The Host," and "The Mind's Eye." All are painstakingly restored and remastered.

From the season premiere - the epic cliffhanger-resolution conclusion of the two-part story "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part" that left Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) as an element in the Borg collective - to its thrilling finale "Redemption Part 1 that set up a new cliffhanger, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 4 proved to be the breakout season that took ST:TNG to a much wider audience, but also one that remains a favorite of long-time fans.

Season 4 episodes were nominated for eight Emmys, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" winning for Outstanding Sound Editing and Outstanding Sound Mixing.

ST:TNG stars Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Diana Muldaur, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton, John de Lancie, and Whoopi Goldberg.

The episodes all come with DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtracks (as well as the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround ones).

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Redemption

Similar to The Best Of Both Worlds Blu-ray released earlier this year, Stark Trek: The Next Generation, Redemption (1991) offers a seamlessly edited, feature-length presentation of the two-part story which whose start was the Season 4 finale and end was the Season 5 premiere.

Written by successful sci-fi screenwriter Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: First Contact, Roswell), its story follows the U.S.S. Enterprise as it travels through the Alpha quadrant to the Klingon home world, where Captain Picard is to attend the installation of Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) as the new Leader of the High Council. Before they can reach their destination, though, the Enterprise is met by a Klingon ship with Gowron on board, who informs Picard that the Duras sisters, Lursa (Barbara March) and B'Etor (Gwynyth Walsh), have discovered a male Duras heir to the throne, Toral (JD Cullum), and so the Duras family are amassing a rebel army for a civil war against the Klingon Empire.

Since Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) has taken leave of absence from the Enterprise to join in the fighting on Gowron's side, seeing it as an opportunity to restore his family's honor, it's up to Captain Picard and his crew to prevent the Romulans from helping their House of Duras pawns win the Klingon Civil War.

The double episode set comes with DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack (as well as the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround one).

Both, Video: 1.33:1. Both, Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. ST:TNG Season 4, Extras: commentary by Rob Bowman and Mike & Denise Okuda on "Brothers" (new), commentary by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Mike & Denise Okuda on "Reunion" (new), "Archival Mission Log: Mission Overview Year Four," "Archival Mission Log: Selected Crew Analysis Year Four," "Archival Mission Log: New Life and New Civilizations," "Archival Mission Log: Chronicles from the Final Frontier," "Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Four: Production," "Archival Mission Log: Select Historical Data," "Archival Mission Log: Inside theStar Trek Archives," "In Conversation: The Star Trek TM Art Department" (new), "Relativity – The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation" (new), 8 deleted scenes (new), gag reel (new), 26 episodic promos. Redemption, Extras: commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Mike & Denise Okuda (new), Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War documentary (new), 2 episodic promos. Studio: Paramount.

God's Little Acre

In God's Little Acre(1958) from director Anthony Mann (Winchester '73, The Glenn Miller Story, Bend of the River), based on the Erskine Caldwell controversial bestselling novel, Ty Ty Walden (Robert Ryan), a poor widower sharecropper in the rural Deep South becomes obsessed with finding the gold supposedly buried on his land by his grandfather.

During the search he constantly moves a marker that designates the land as "God's Little Acre" - 4,000 square metresTy Ty has promised to donate the profits from to do God's work - so as not to lose the gold to the church. Using good ol' Southern logic, he abducts an albino, Dave Dawson (Michael Landon), to help him bring him luck in the search for the gold.

Mann brings to life the seamy, steamy book and the humor and heartbreak of Caldwell's primitive, rustics, dysfunctional South Carolina farming family and their obsession with money and sex. The rest of the brood, also being torn apart by the hunt and the struggle to survive, includes his daughter, Rosamund (Helen Westcott), her husband, Will Thompson (Aldo Ray) - the inflexible in-law who can't accept that the local cotton textile mill has shut down - Ty Ty's unwed über nubile daughter, Darlin' Jill (Fay Spain), Ty Ty's son, Buck Walden (Jack Lord), who's married to the beautiful Griselda (Tina Louise). In addition, getting in on the action, is the candidate for local Sheriff, Pluto Swint (Buddy Hackett). Filled with overblown feelings and small town lust, bigotry, avarice, and self-importance, Mann's movie is a small feast.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. Extras: none. Studio: Olive Films.

The Bronte Sisters

Three of the leading stars of modern French cinema portray three Victorian-era English literary giants in the 1979 film by director André Téchiné (My Favorite Season, Thieves, Wild Reeds). Emily (Isabelle Adjani), Charlotte (Marie-France Pisier), and Anne (Isabelle Huppert), the Brontë sisters, live a lonely, stoic existence in a bleak house in a small Yorkshire village. There, under the stern and watchful eye of their minister father (Patrick Magee) and a rigorous and exacting aunt (Alice Sapritch) along with their troubled brother, Branwell (Pascal Greggory), and Tabby, the maid, the siblings are forced to rely upon each other for companionship.

Branwell is a painter and wants to pursue art as a career. Emily likes to stride across the bleak moors dressed as a man with Anne, the youngest sister, as her companion. Charlotte wants to go to Belgium to learn French and convinces their reluctant aunt to finance her and Emily to move to a school in Brussels. All four have artistic ambitions.

Anne finds employment as a governess, seeing to the education of the daughter of a wealthy family. Charlotte and Emily move to Brussels, where Charlotte immediately falls madly but secretly in love with her married teacher, Monsieur Hager (Xavier Depraz). Although the death of their aunt pulls Charlotte and Emily back to England, unrequited-lovesick Charlotte soon returns to Belgium and her Monsieur Hager. Anne, seeing aimless Branwell struggling, gets him a job teaching the son of her rich employer hoping to get her brother settled, but Branwell ends up in an affair with the wife of his rich employer that, on suddenly ending, leaves him as broken hearted as Charlotte and so he turns to opium.

Their romantic dreams thwarted and their health failing, the siblings focus on their arts. The girls, using male pseudonyms, get their work published, first their poetry and then novels - Emily Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Jane Eyre and Anne Agnes Grey. Branwell doesn't do so good.

Téchiné co-wrote the film with Pascal Bonitzer (Wuthering Heights, My Favorite Season, The Story of Marie and Julien), cinematography was by Bruno Nuytten (Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring, Brubaker) and the score by Philippe Sarde (Tess, The Tenant, Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud).

The Bronte Sisters was nominated for the top prize, the Palme d'Or, at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.

Video: 1.66:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: commentary, feature-length making-of documentary with Téchiné and Bonitzer. Studio: Cohen Media Group.

The Fog

In this 1980 horror thriller by writer-director John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York, Assault on Precinct 13), the sleepy seaside village of Antonio Bay in Northern California, a pleasant fishing community built 100 years earlier over a quaint old leper colony, is disrupted by aging killer zombies. They have come forth from the sea in the darkness of night, deep inside an eerie fog - but seeking what?

The village people are out to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the community's founding. Those involved include local disc jockey Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) who broadcasts from a lighthouse and has a young son Andy (Ty Mitchell) who brings home a piece of driftwood inscribed with the word Dane, trucker Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) who picks up attractive hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis), and local prominent power Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh), the force behind the centennial celebration happening.

When local priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) barely survives being crushed by a falling stone from the ancient church walls, it reveals a space in which an old journal is hidden - his grandfather's - that reveals unpleasant facts about the founding of Antonio Bay. For, it seems, exactly 100 years ago today, a ship - the Dane - was mysteriously wrecked in a thick, fog.

Eventually it is revealed that the ship was intentionally scuttled, the village-to-be's inhabitants having organized the wrecking in order to steal the gold the vessel carried.Now, the long-dead malevolent mariners have returned from their watery grave to exact revenge for their own deaths.

Video: 2.35:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Extras: commentary by writer-director Carpenter and writer-producer Debra Hill, new commentary by Barbeau, Atkins, and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, "My Time with Terror with Jamie Lee Curtis" interview with the actress, "Dean of Darkness with Dean Cundey" interview with the film's cinematographer, "Fear on Film: Inside The Fog" and  "Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog" vintage featurettes, "The Fog: Storyboard to Film," "Horror's Hallowed Grounds: A Look at the Film's Locations," outtakes, special effects tests, photo gallery, storyboards, ABC Sunday Night Movie promo. Studio: Shout! Factory.

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