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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangster > Thriller > Kidnapping > Teens > Murder > Assassination > Science Fiction > Romanc > The Big Bang (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray) + Daydream Nation (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray + DVD) + The Hit List (2011/Sony Blu-ray) + I Am Number Four (2011/DreamWorks/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD) + Vanishing On 7th

The Big Bang (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray) + Daydream Nation (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray + DVD) + The Hit List (2011/Sony Blu-ray) + I Am Number Four (2011/DreamWorks/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD) + Vanishing On 7th Street (2010/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray) + Waiting For Forever (2010/Fox Blu-ray)



Picture: B-/B & C+/B-/B- & C+/B/B-     Sound: B/B & B-/B/B & B-/B-/B-     Extras: C/C/D/C-/C/D     Feature: C/C/C-/C-/C/C+



A recent conversation among the writers here has had to do with the straight-to-video market, a side of the business that was always considered cheap and even sleazy and a quick-buck side of the business that rose in the 1980s to feed the home video boom that included VHS as well as Beta tapes and even 12” LaserDiscs at one time.  That has changed lately because so many films that might have been released in theaters by being credible (think The Resident with Hilary Swank and Christopher Lee, for instance) either barley get any screens or are sent right to DVD and now Blu-ray.  Here are six recent Blu-ray releases that show these changes.


Tony Krantz’s The Big Bang (2011) has Antonio Banderas (an actor Hollywood gave up on sooner than they should have despite some very bad films he made at his peak) leading a decent cast (including William Fichtner, James Van Der Beek in rare form and appearances by Delroy Lindo, Sam Elliott and even Snoop Dogg) as a P.I. searching for the missing girlfriend of a Russian Mobster… for $30 Million.  Thinking he might get the money and being in a burned-out position, he goes on the search and gets more trouble than even he expects.  Then this lead sot something else Kiss Me Deadly style, but this ultimately does not work.  What I did like is that it was ambitious and I did not feel like I wasted my time, which is the way bad-to-disappointing films used to be more often.  You might even like it more, so catch it if interested.  Extras include Extended Scenes, feature length audio commentary by Krantz and Co-Producer Recce Pearson and Lex Parsimoniae, a making of featurette.


Mike Goldbach’s Daydream Nation (2011) is another such ambitious film, wanting in part to be another American Beauty, but that does not work out.  Still, Kat Dennings is very effective as a loaner gal who is ridiculed for being what she is not, hated and being an individualist in ways that are not popular.  She falls for a guy her age (Reece Thompson) who likes her even when his father does not, but also becomes involved with her older teacher (Josh Lucas) in ways she knows she should not.  Her mother (the underrated Andie MacDowell) tries to help her out too, but the problems and issues around them are wackier than they can handle and oh no… a serial killer is on the loose.


Too bad the script went overboard because this had the potential to accomplish some of its ambitions and even more with this cast, but it was interesting to see them try and once again, this would have been more of a theatrical release even a few years ago.


William Kaufmann’s The Hit List (2011) is the total opposite, an awful, lame, silly, would-be thriller that things all you have to do is rip off other (read better film) and you still get a good film.  Wrong!  The worst release on this list, the only thing that stops it from being a total bomb is how unintentionally funny it is.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. (wait, stop laughing!  I haven’t even told you what this is about yet.) is (possibly) a former solider that makes an offer to an unbelieving guy (Cole Hauser) to kill off five people he would like to see dead.  Thinking this is a joke (we can’t blame him!), he actually gives the names of five people to this stranger, than is surprised when the people listed are getting killed off.


Form the opening credits that rip off the first two Daniel Craig Bond films (including a terrible knock-off theme song that is easily the worst theme song of the year, or last two) to a goofy scene when Gooding tries to be Heath Ledger’s Joker, this hack job is made of all the bad things straight-to-video releases are known for.  Its 90 minutes seems too long and it never knows when to quit.  You’ll either fall asleep or laugh trying.


Almost as bad and the only title on the list to actually get a major theatrical release is the D.J. Caruso’s inept I Am Number Four (2011) the first Disney/DreamWorks live action release.  Produced by the once fun and now techno-bore Michael Bay, a young man (the up and coming star Alex Pettyfer) moves to a new high school and finds an unfriendly environment, but nothing he cannot handle.  However, he is having nightmares and soon discovers that he is not merely human, but part of an alien group of only nine, all of whom are being hunted down.  Can you guess which number he is?


I ask that condescending question because despite some good acting, that is the tone of this dumbed-down, would-be thriller made for teens (and I guess desperate adults) who leave their brain at the door and then some.  In this case, it is more like a borderline lobotomy.  We get too many clichés, even more bad digital visual effects and a script with a story so thin that a wet Bounty paper towel (regular strength) could hold more of a plot.


Too bad, because if this was not so suburban phony and smug, this could have worked, but the makers wanted to get former child star Pettyfer into a franchise that his young fans could move onto, but they failed here.  He’ll move onto better work and maybe some of his young co-stars will too.  Otherwise, this is a bore and everything you have seen before, but is still less cynical than Hit List.  Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, Blu-ray exclusive Deleted Scenes that would not have helped, a making of featurette and amusing Bloopers also on the DVD included.


Brad Anderson’s Vanishing On 7th Street (2010) is yet another ambitious piece that would have hit more theaters even a few years ago, but is getting most of its exposure on Blu-ray and the like.  John Leguizamo is a cineplex film projectionist who is surprised by a sudden blackout and then shocked when everyone in the theater has disappeared.  Hayden Christensen has the same experience and also finds himself alone, with both near light sources that happened to not have gone out.  From there, it becomes a mystery and thriller, but does not know where to go after an interesting set of set-ups and even with the highly underrated Thandie Newton also showing up.  The result is like an incomplete episode of the original Twilight Zone or Outer Limits without a point or ending, though the imitation of the Will Smith I Am Legend is overdone.  At 91 minutes, it was again not a waste of my time, but I wished they could have pulled this one off.  Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, four making of featurettes, HDNet program promoting the film, Alternate Endings, feature length audio commentary by Anderson and Fangoria Magazine interview with Anderson and Actor Jacob Latimore.


James Keach’s Waiting For Forever (2010) may at first seem like a Benny & Joon knock-of, but this romantic teen comedy is a little better than expected as Rachel Bilson (Jumper) and Tom Sturridge (who has a big career ahead of him if he keeps getting good roles) as the teen versions of childhood friends.  She is about to maybe marry a guy with serious problems, but he is actually following her to meet her again and tell her he loves her.  His brother thinks he is off his rocker, but maybe not. 


Though this has many things we have seen before, there are some nice moments and nice moments of acting, including nice turns but some unknowns, Blythe Danner, Richard Jenkins and Nikki Blonsky that might turn this into a cult favorite or belated hit, but once again, it did not get the theatrical release it might have a few years ago.  See this one for yourself to find out.  There are no extras.


All have 1080p digital High Definition playback With Daydream (at 1.78 X 1, including its somewhat lesser anamorphically enhanced DVD version) and Street (at 2.35 X 1) looking the best, even when the image has been slightly tampered with.  That leaves the rest of the Blu-rays with detail issues and even motion blur, but some of that is from too much digital work so at least they are clean.  Bang (at 2.35 X 1) has more overly fancy editing than it needed, List (at 1.78 X 1) has some of that same fancy, self-impressed editing that is annoying (but not as much as the content of the release!), Four (at 1.85 X 1, including its somewhat lesser anamorphically enhanced DVD version) easily has the most digital plastering of all of them, maybe more than all the others combined (!) and Forever (AVC @ 25 MBPS at 1.85 X 1) is the third best with a nice look throughout that if it were any sharper would have had demo moments.


Street should have the best sound mix with it DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix, but it is too much towards the center channel like the DTS-MA 5.1 on Forever.  That leaves a four-way draw between the DTS-MA 5.1 on List and Four (24/48) and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Bang and Daydream.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on the DVDs of Daydream and Four are about as good as that old codec can get, but are no match for their Blu-ray counterparts.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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