Welcome to my first column, of what I hope to make a weekly occurrence. It’s something different, a way to deviate from individual reviews, bits of news and the occasional contest. Each week I will look at two or three current or upcoming Blu-ray releases and give my two cents. This week I take a look at Point Break, Drillbit Taylor, and WrestleMania 24, a strange threesome that’s for sure.
Fox Home Entertainment / 1991 / 122 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: July 01, 2008
(Buy it at Amazon)
It’s been some time since I last sat down to watch Point Break. Just how long? Definitely years before action junkie Edgar Wright referenced it in his movie Hot Fuzz. Watching it again on Blu-ray I can honestly say that you aren’t likely to find a better spiritual-thrill-seeking-bank-robbery movie. Keanu Reeves, who picks his roles based on the names of the characters he plays (see Neo, Ted “Theodore” Logan, Jack Traven or Johnny Mnemonic), is Johnny Utah a clean cut FBI newbie who’s good with a gun but can’t surf worth a lick. What’d you expect, the dude’s from Ohio. When he goes undercover to foil a syndicate of surfers who rob banks he is able to befriend Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), the Mr. Miyagi of surfers. Soon Utah is drawn to Bodhi’s lifestyle of spiritual happiness, doing activities that provide the ultimate rush (surfing, skydiving). The more he immerses himself in the lifestyle the more his moral compass becomes a liability. He must take down Bodhi and his gang of presidential mask-wearing bank bandits – strangely, all the masks are of former Republican presidents – if he wants to stay on the right side of the law.
In some ways Bodhi is comparable to that of Tyler Durden in Fight Club. They have their own pseudo-philosophical ideals. Durden believes that you must first lose everything before you’re free to do anything. Bodhi, talking to Johnny about the upcoming robbery and the aftermath, tells him, “You can do what you want, and make up your own rules. Why be a servant to the law, when you can be its master?” Yet, with all this talk about spirituality and philosophy, is Point Break really about obtaining peace through anarchic means? Not really. It’s just a way to give Kathryn Bigelow’s (Strange Days) action film some range. But let’s be honest, it’s all about the action; and for a 1991 film there’s some entertaining sequences. Nothing like seeing a distraught Utah rolling around on the ground and shooting his gun up in the air erratically (I don’t think this is FBI protocol) after Bodhi eludes capture, or the breathtaking skydiving sequences as they parachute to the ground.
A movie of borrowed parts, Point Break is a nostalgic trip. As the extras point out, Charlie Sheen and Johnny Depp were considered for the Utah role, but Bigelow was convinced that Keanu Reeves was her guy even when studio execs were not. Must have been a wise decision on Bigelow’s part, as Reeves would go on to star in two action films that redefined their respective genres. And seeing Patrick Swayze post-Road House with the long, grungy hair, it just adds to the testosterone-heavy actioner. The only estrogen comes in the form a shorthaired Lori Petty, who’s been under the Hollywood radar for quite some time. All three do well in their roles, especially Reeves and Swayze as the leads.
This Blu-ray has some of the best audio you’re likely to find with a catalog title. From the opening credits, the DTS HD Master Lossless Audio engulfs your surround speakers with the sound of pounding surf and crashing waves. The bank robberies also up the dynamic sound with reverberating gunshots and squibs exploding. All the extras from the previous DVD release, labeled the “Pure Adrenaline Edition,” are here, and include deleted scenes, trailers, a still gallery and four featurettes. The best of the bunch is It’s Make or Break, a 23-minute making-of that is a simple overview of the production with new interviews with Swayze, Petty, and screenwriter W. Peter Iliff, who did the script (as he points out) for only six thousand dollars.
Paramount Home Entertainment / 2008 / 109 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: July 01, 2008
(Buy it at Amazon)
Owen Wilson has finally come full circle. In 1996, he was on the wrong end of a bathroom brawl with a mentally disturbed cable guy (Jim Carrey). Now, in 2008’s Drillbit Taylor, Wilson gets his posterior handed to him by two teenage bullies. Talk about sad. This comedy failed miserably earlier this spring, and it proved that producer Judd Apatow doesn’t always have the magic touch. But in this case he really isn’t to blame; Taylor was an original idea by John Hughes – written using a penname – but it hadn’t been developed until now. Through numerous rewrites, including help from Apatow alum Seth Rogen, the story is updated for today’s audience. The reason the film was never made in the ’80s is because the premise was too similar to My Bodyguard, starring Matt Dillon and Adam Baldwin. And you could probably lump Three O’ Clock High with it too.
The problem with this Apatow production is that it plays like Superbad: The Early Years. The three high schoolers that are being bullied are incoming freshmen. Wade (Nate Hartley) is lanky and four-eyed, Ryan (Troy Gentile) is fat, and the last of the trio, Emmit (David Dorfman), is a small and has braces. Their goal is to not be viewed as nerds. But when Wade stands up for a kid who’s being picked on, he, Ryan and Emmit become targets of two bullies. I believe it was Richard Roeper who said these two bullies were but a hair away to being at the level of the Columbine teens.
Owen Wilson, prominently displayed on the cover art and posters, is just a supporting star as the former US Army ranger / beach bum who keeps changing his story as to why he’s called Drillbit. He has his moments, but the performance is just another amalgamation of characters he’s played in Shanghai Noon and You, Me and Dupree. The real stars are the three teens. They provide most of the laughs in a comedy that’s more of a miss than a hit.
The Blu-ray, billed as the “Extended Survival Edition,” has features that were most likely shot as an afterthought or on a whim while on location. Their inclusion here, and the way they are presented, makes the extras seem larger than they really are. Most of the features are around the three-minute mark and look at a particular character goofing off behind the scenes (“Kids on the Loose,” “Super Billy,” and “Bully”). Seth Rogen provides a phone-in, 14-minute commentary with co-writer Kristofor Brown. Brown sort of coaches Rogen on his comments, probably because Rogen is working on a number of different projects and his memory is fuzzy. Of the extras, worthless they may be, seeing the extended scenes for Bodyguard “D” and Bodyguard “Frank” are probably the best of the bunch. Actually, the scene in the movie where the three boys are auditioning bodyguards is the best scene, because we get cameos by Chuck Lidell, Pulp Fiction‘s “What? guy” Frank Whaley, and My Bodyguard‘s own Adam Baldwin.
World Wrestling Entertainment / 2008 / 480 Minutes / Not Rated
Street Date: May 20, 2008
(Buy it at Amazon)
Word Wrestling Entertainment has been hosting WrestleMania for 24 years now. This “Super Bowl of Wrestling” is a grand spectacle that attracts thousands of fans from around the world. They converge on the stadium and soak up the three-plus hour atmosphere. WrestleMania 24 wasn’t one of the better WMs, but it has one match that every fan of the sport needs to see: Ric Flair’s final match against Shawn Michaels. Other than this, the only other match-up worth seeking out is The Undertaker getting his revenge on the “Rated R Superstar” Edge. But back to Flair / Michaels. From Flair’s intro – the pyrotechnics and him walking that aisle look beyond good on Blu-ray – to the fleeting moments, you will be on the edge of your seat watching greatness.
With this being the first Blu-ray disc released by WWE I was a bit skeptical on how good it could look. The first few matches, which take place with daylight still visible, look alright, but when the dark falls on Miami everything is “upped” a notch. Unlike the DVD release, the entire event fits on a single Blu-ray disc. No need to get up and switch from disc 1 to disc 2.
Sadly, no new features are included with this Blu-ray. All nine matches and the 24-man battle royal match that preceded the event are here, as is the entire Hall of Fame 2008 introduction ceremony. The ceremony and Flair’s last match are enough to warrant a purchase. Not only do you get to see Flair go out on a high note, you get to see his good friend Triple H sing his praises while inducting him into the Hall of Fame. And then there’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s involvement with the ceremony, inducting his father (Rocky Johnson) and grandfather (High Chief Peter Maivia). Since his involvement with WWE is stagnant because of his active Hollywood schedule, this is one of the few times we’ll be able to revel in “The Great One.”
Tags: Hot Fuzz, Judd Apatow, Keanu Reeves, Owen Wilson, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, The Rock