This week: Michael Bay's latest giant-alien-robot opus improves on its predecessor, Kevin Bacon cuts loose on Blu-ray, and Guillermo Del Toro's squelchy horror show is even scarier in high definition.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Megan who? The good news is that this third installment of Michael Bay's bombastic Transformers trilogy is a marked improvement over the last installment, Revenge of the Fallen. Not only are there no obnoxious jive-talking Autobots, but Dark of the Moon has the coolest opening of any of the three films by seamlessly blending real footage and audio of President Kennedy and Walter Cronkite during the space race of the '60s with new footage of the Apollo 11 astronauts discovering a crashed Transformers ship on the moon.
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is back, but instead of Megan Fox (who probably wasn't invited back to the party after calling Bay a "Nazi") he is shacking up with another gorgeous woman, played by Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The Decepticons have tricked Optimus into resurrecting Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), who has made a deal with the Decepticons to enslave humanity and activate a space bridge that will bring their home planet of Cybertron to Earth. The ensuing battle in Chicago between Autobots and Decepticons features jaw-dropping CGI effects that are blended with real footage of skydivers zipping between the skyscrapers.
It is impossible not to be blown away by the level of detail in the effects, especially when our heroes are sliding through crumbling skyscrapers in Chicago that are being torn apart by Decepticons. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are back, and newcomers Frances McDormand and John Malkovich bring some Oscar cred to the giant-robot movies with their roles as director of national intelligence and Sam's boss, respectively. Despite the movie's excessive 154-minute runtime, Bay keeps the action moving along and it's exciting to see the series back on track.
Best extras: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is yet another movie on disc that is getting a special Friday release date. Both the DVD and Blu-ray are barebones affairs with only a digital copy included. All the extras as well as a Blu-ray 3D version are being saved for a future combo pack, and a coupon is included for $10 off that version when it is eventually released.
Verdict: Buy Me
It's no coincidence that Paramount is releasing Footloose on Blu-ray for the first time weeks before the remake opens in theaters. Kevin Bacon stars as Ren McCormack, a Chicago teen who moves with his mother to the small town of Bomont. The repressed Christian town seems to be under the spell of Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow)—a rousing orator who has convinced his rural white-bread community that rock music is the Devil's work and that dancing should remain banned in Bomont. Ren has eyes for the reverend's wildcat daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer), and before long he is sneaking out of town with her, her friend (Sarah Jessica Parker) and his bud Willard (Chris Penn) to dance up a storm in a neighboring town. Ren wants to bring some music back to Bomont, so he petitions the city council to cut loose and let his senior class hold a prom during which many of the movie's hit ditties—including the indecipherable-but-maddeningly-catchy title song by Kenny Loggins—are played for the dance-starved teens.
We're not sure how successful the new movie will be in capturing the spirit of a generation, but we're pretty certain the remake won't contain the totally awesome '80s montages that the original had. In the first montage, Bacon whips himself into a herky-jerky dance frenzy in a barn out of sheer frustration—complete with flashbacks of all the images haunting his head. The second montage—an extended sequence in which Bacon takes the late Penn all over the countryside to teach his best bud how to dance—is true bromance and comes from an innocence the remake will be hard-pressed to replicate.
Best extras: This Blu-ray debut contains an interview with Bacon, "From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker," "Remembering Willard: A Tribute to Chris Penn," "Kevin Bacon's Screen Test," "Kevin Bacon's Costume Montage," "Footloose: A Modern Musical," "Footloose: Songs That Tell a Story" and audio commentaries.
Verdict: Rent Me
Mimic: The Director's Cut (Blu-ray)
Until now, only a barebones, non-anamorphic DVD of director Guillermo Del Toro's underrated 1997 horror show Mimic was available on disc. Now Del Toro's choice creature feature makes its Blu-ray debut in an extended version that will have you crawling out of your skin.
After a deadly disease spread by cockroaches has killed many children in New York City, the CDC's Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northman) and entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) genetically engineer an insect—the Judas breed—whose secretions kill off the killer cucarachas. Fast forward a few years and the good doctors—who are now a couple and national heroes for ending the plague—learn that their Judas breed has mutated and developed into man-sized insects that, when stationary, mimic the look of a man dressed in a dark trench coat. These urban monsters have bred into a huge colony under the streets of New York and are snatching unsuspecting citizens for meat, so it's up to Peter and Susan to descend into the city's long-abandoned subway tunnels to destroy the nest before the Big Apple is crawling with gigantic insects that are the stuff of nightmares.
This gooey, gory thriller has some DNA of Frankenstein and Alien mixed in with Del Toro's signature fantastical look. The film was followed by a few cheap straight-to-disc sequels, but none of them compare to this flesh-crawling flick that will have you reaching for a jumbo-sized can of Raid.
Best extras: A video prologue by Del Toro as well as an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, a gag reel, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, plus "Reclaiming Mimic," in which Del Toro talks about restoring the film back to his original vision.
Verdict: Buy Me
Also New This Week: Ben-Hur (BD), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2&3 (Blu-ray), Hung: The Complete Second Season, Basket Case (BD), The Blood Trilogy (BD), Torso (BD), Bad Boys II (BD), The Kennedys and Never Been Kissed (BD)