5/26/09 Edition
Memorial Day Edition
Eastwood's GRAN TORINO Reviewed

The “Terminator” franchise may not have gone in the direction that James Cameron, the writer-director of the first two films in the series, originally envisioned, and perhaps he’s sitting somewhere on the set of “Avatar” wondering how in the world someone like McG (“Charlie’s Angels,” “We Are Marshall”) ended up taking over the reigns of what was once his baby.

That being said, the big-budget TERMINATOR: SALVATION (***) is actually a pleasant surprise: a large-scale sci-fi action film that picks up from the end of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and presents fans of the series with a post-apocalyptic future where mankind battles the automatons of Skynet with only a few survivors being lead by the charismatic John Connor (Christian Bale).

Bale’s boisterous performance seems to be a mix of grandstanding and check-cashing indifference, but fortunately most of the movie is carried by Sam Worthington as the mysterious Marcus Wright -- a man we see being sentenced to death in the movie’s prologue (set in 2003), and who oddly appears after Connor and his men attack a Skynet outpost in the film’s opening. Marcus can’t recall what year it is and is shocked to see a bombed-out metropolis being overrun by terminators, but he’s saved by a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, deftly channeling some of Michael Biehn’s performance from the original film), who’s hoping to find John Connor and join the resistance.

The script by Michael Ferris and John Brancato (who wrote “Terminator 3") lays the groundwork for a series of exciting set-pieces, which the movie provides in spades: in fact, the picture’s dizzying array of chases and F/X make for fun, popcorn-munching summer entertainment, especially if you’re a “Terminator” fan. From a motorcycle/truck pursuit to a fairly memorable climax involving a terminator assembly line (with a most-amusing, and surprisingly well-executed, digitized cameo appearance from a familiar terminator), “Salvation” clicks as a better-than-average futuristic action film, while Danny Elfman’s satisfying, mostly-atypical score works Brad Fiedel’s original theme into the mix quite effectively. The cast, meanwhile, does what it can in the few moments of respite the film allows, but despite Bale’s top-billed performance, it’s Worthington (soon to be seen as the lead in both Cameron’s “Avatar” and the remake of “Clash of the Titans”) who really carries the show here, providing a compelling, fresh original character to blend with the mix of protagonists viewers will recognize from prior installments.

While the movie could have used more breathing room -- with co-stars like Jane Alexander and Bryce Dallas Howard (in the Claire Danes “T3" role) each reduced to a few lines -- the picture’s story is engaging enough to satisfy long-time “Terminator” fans while being commercial enough to lure in younger viewers perhaps unfamiliar with the prior entries in the franchise. Yes, the movie is PG-13, but most of the violence is robot-oriented, meaning the big difference here between this picture and its predecessors is a lack of profanity (and nudity, in the case of “Terminator 3"’s lovely Kristanna Loken).

“Terminator: Salvation” doesn’t have the vision of James Cameron supporting it nor does it have the freshness that his original 1984 classic offered, yet that’s to be expected. McG has done a serviceable job producing a sequel that’s unlikely to appeal to anyone but sci-fi/action fans, but if you’re looking for an entertaining enough summer diversion along those lines, “Salvation” packs more of a punch than you might’ve anticipated. (130 mins., PG-13).

Coming on Blu-Ray

If there was any justice, Clint Eastwood’s
GRAN TORINO (***½, 116 mins., 2008, R) would have at least been nominated for Oscars in the primary filmmaking categories of last year. As it stands, this will end up being yet another case of the Academy almost completely neglecting a film that is likely to endure through the years more than most of the pictures it honored.

Certainly this absorbing, humanistic film is another work that enhances Eastwood’s legacy as both an actor and director: a memorable study of Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a hardened, beer-guzzling Korean war vet coping with the passing of his wife, saddled with uncaring children who can’t connect to him, and alone in a tough Michigan neighborhood where gangs patrol the streets. Walt’s racist tendencies crop up early on in his run-ins with his Asian neighbors, but we quickly learn there’s more beneath the surface there, as he strikes a relationship with the family’s teen daughter Sue (Ahney Her) and her brother Thao (Bee Vang), who’s being recruited by a local Asian gang. Thao is reluctant to get involved with their activity but attempts to steal Walt’s prized Gran Torino one night, leading to a confrontation that develops, however unlikely, into a friendship that changes both of their lives. 

Nick Schenk’s screenplay enables Eastwood to craft memorable characters and equally fine performances. The relationship between Walt and his Asian neighbors starts off with both parties illustrating their prejudice towards one another (perhaps the reason why the politically correct Academy voting block chose to ignore the picture), but it’s clear there’s more underneath the surface of their actions than either side is letting on. Walt’s progression from prejudice to grudging respect and eventual friendship is believably portrayed as he quickly figures out he has more in common with his neighboring family than he does with his own, embracing them ultimately with a gradually opening mind and, indeed, heart -- even if it’s in his own unique way.

The film’s messages are strong, the film mixing drama and humor effortlessly with excellent performances by all, while Eastwood is on-target both in his direction and his performance: if this is indeed his swan song to acting, it’s a terrific way to go out, and the project is technically graced by Eastwood’s usual team of craftsmen, including atmospheric cinematography by Tom Stern.

Even if the Academy chose to basically ignore the film (in favor of inferior films like “The Wrestler,” “The Reader,” “Milk” and even “Frost/Nixon”), audiences embraced it, making “Gran Torino” the highest-grossing film of Eastwood’s entire career -- a fitting tribute to a picture that deserves a place among the star’s finest.

Warner’s Blu-Ray edition of “Gran Torino” will be available on June 9th and boasts a terrific AVC-encoded 1080p transfer with Dolby TrueHD audio. Extras on the disc (which also includes a digital copy) are slim, including a Blu-Ray exclusive 20-minute Making Of featurette and two other segments more focused on the car than the movie. Other features are supposed to be available via BD-Live but had not been issued as of this writing.

New This Week on DVD

Hugh Hudson’s 1984 film "Revolution" was one of the biggest flops of the ‘80s: a high-profile box-office bomb with a big-time director (Hudson, coming off the success of “Chariots of Fire” and “Greystoke”) and a major star (Al Pacino), and which was almost universally panned by critics. 

This tale of a Hudson Valley trapper (Pacino) who gets swept up in the American Revolution during the summer of 1776 was ridiculed for a number of elements, ranging from Pacino’s oddball accent to its English locales. No matter how you slice it, it’s a movie with a number of glaring problems, but Hudson and Pacino have tried valiantly here to restructure the movie in a new version dubbed REVOLUTION: REVISITED
(**, 115 mins., 1984, PG-13; Warner). Reworked by Hudson last year with Pacino’s participation, this new edit adds ample narration by the star in an attempt at making sense out of the theatrical version, which the director laments was rushed to theaters without enough time spent in post-production.

It’s an admirable try, but the effect only works to a degree. While the narration straightens out some aspects of the film’s plot, clarifies Pacino’s character and his internal motivations (which the theatrical version barely did), it also turns the film into a bit of a half-baked Terrence Malick picture, which is no surprise as Hudson admits to being a fan of “Days of Heaven” in the disc’s sole extra: a conversation between Hudson and Pacino, reflecting on the troubled production.

Even in its abbreviated, reworked form, “Revolution” is still something of a misfire, but it’s nevertheless a great-looking one: the Bernard Lutic cinematography, Assheton Gorton production design and superb dramatic score by John Corigliano transport you back into the Colonial era thanks to a vivid technical presentation. If you can overlook the movie’s muddled story and uncertain Pacino performance (clearly not one of the star’s best), there are enough artistic flourishes in “Revolution” for buffs to appreciate.

Warner’s “Revolution: Revisited” DVD boasts a gorgeous 16:9 (Super 35, 2.35) widescreen transfer of the new, shorter version (which runs about 11 minutes shorter than the theatrical release), along with a potent, highly satisfying 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The trailer is also on-hand, as well as the before-mentioned talk with Hudson and Pacino, who discuss the film’s drawbacks and how the new cut tries to rectify them.

It’s an improvement even if it’s only, ultimately, a marginal one.

Also New on Blu-Ray

TAKEN (**½, 91 mins., 2008, PG-13 and Unrated; Fox): Liam Neeson’s determined performance as a former espionage agent who heads to Paris after his daughter (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped became one of the year’s highest-grossing films earlier this spring, taking in nearly $145 million in domestic receipts.

It was a major surprise, especially considering that the movie looked on the surface to be little more than another “Transporter”-like Euro action-thriller from producer Luc Besson and his frequent writing partner, Robert Mark Kamen.

The film’s plot is fairly routine (and clocks in at just over 90 minutes with credits), but director Peirre Morel’s action sequences are crisp, the film is quickly-paced and edited, and Neeson’s terrific performance anchors the movie -- so much that it stands to reason a typical “action star” (i.e. Jason Statham) likely would have cut down on the film’s commercial appeal.

“Taken” isn’t any classic but it’s an efficient action piece all the way around, and Fox’s Blu-Ray disc delivers the goods one would expect: a finely-detailed AVC encoded transfer, DTS Master audio sound, a digital copy disc, and terrific extras including both the PG-13 and Unrated cuts of the movie (I suggest sticking with the already-violent theatrical version), commentary from Morel and other crew members, another commentary with Kamen, a field manual and other featurettes.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (***½, 161 mins., 1966, R; MGM/Fox): Long-awaited HD edition of the seminal Sergio Leone ‘60s Spaghetti Western offers an impressive AVC-encoded transfer of this 1966 classic. Although it’s not flawless, all the nuances of the film’s scope cinematography and its numerous visual riches are magnified by MGM’s 1080p transfer, with only a bit of that devilish “noise reduction” cropping up from time to time, smoothing over the image instead of preserving the film’s inherent crispness. The DTS Master Audio sound is also pleasing, with the original mono soundtrack (and a slew of foreign mixes) also on-hand.

Since the Blu-Ray is a basic HD reprise of the prior 2007 DVD, it goes without saying all the extras from that edition are on-hand here: commentaries from Richard Shickel and Christopher Frayling, the “Leone’s West” documentary, deleted scenes, other featurettes (including a look at Ennio Morricone’s classic score), the trailer and the proverbial “more.”

BIG (***, 130 mins. [extended cut] and 104 mins. [theatrical cut], 1988, PG; Fox): “Big” was Tom Hanks’ first big success as a leading man outside the purely comedic realm, even if writers Anne Spielberg and Gary Ross’s 1988 fantasy about a teenage boy --whose wish to become older is magically granted -- has plenty of comedic moments in it.

That said, I found director Penny Marshall’s movie to be a bit more saccharine on this viewing than I initially did, with Hanks carrying the film single-handedly. It’s still a gentle fantasy but -- perhaps because of all the other body-switching/aging reversal films that came out in the wake of “Big” and through the years since -- it doesn’t seem as fresh as it did at the time, in spite of some memorable moments and fine performances (I always liked Elizabeth Perkins in this film, as well as Robert Loggia, who performs on the giant piano keyboard with Hanks in the film’s most indelible image).

The extended version of the movie (26 minutes longer than the released version) is on-hand in Fox’s Blu-Ray disc, along with deleted scenes and other extras. The AVC encoded transfer is solid but “Big” isn’t a film that’s going to take great advantage of the benefits of HD, with the cinematography appearing fairly ordinary. Also, the added scenes in the extended version are noticeably softer than the rest of the transfer. The DTS Master Audio soundtrack is likewise acceptable. Additional extras include an audio “documentary” by writers Spielberg and Ross that’s on-hand during the theatrical version, plus deleted scenes with optional Penny Marshall commentary (offering some, but not all, of the scenes from the extended version) and several featurettes, including an AMC Hollywood Backstory documentary on the film’s production.

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (***, 119 mins., 1998, R, Fox): Blu-Ray edition of the Farrelly Brothers' masterwork (at least by their standards) offers some tasty extras for fans, in a virtual HD presentation of Fox’s 2003 two-disc DVD. In addition to the standard theatrical version, Fox's new Blu-Ray offers a longer cut of the movie with 15 minutes of extra footage -- including the optional use of its excised Claymation title sequence. A writers' commentary is included, along with the original DVD’s Farrelly commentary that’s here amended by the brothers' additional 2003 comments, clarifying and updating what they said on the first disc's commentary track! The additional goodies are pretty much limited to typical promotional filler (a Comedy Central special, featurettes, the AMC Backstory episode), but all of it should be worthwhile for fans. The AVC encoded transfer and DTS Master Audio soundtrack are both top-notch, though this isn’t a movie you’ll be reaching for to show off the benefits of HD.

FARGO (****, 98 mins., 1996, R; MGM/Fox): The Coen Brothers’ most satisfying film, starring Frances McDormand in her Oscar-winning role as a pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating a kidnapping/murder gone awry, also hits Blu-Ray this week.

The movie is one of my favorite Coen films (along with "The Big Lebowski" and “No Country For Old Men”), mainly because of its potent mix of humor and mayhem, strong dialogue and fantastic performances from McDormand, William H. Macy, Harve Presnell and Steve Buscemi. It's a funny, incisive, suspenseful piece that ranks right up there with the Coens' finest work.

Previously available from Polygram in a no-frills DVD package and a later MGM Special Edition DVD from 2003, the Blu-Ray basically reprises the latter while enhancing the visuals with an AVC encoded transfer and DTS Master Audio soundtrack. Roger Deakins’ cinematography gets a major jolt from the HD presentation, though there’s a bit of processing involved with the at-times glossy transfer. The soundtrack is effective when called upon, but isn’t appreciably different than its prior, standard 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, offering just a slightly broader stage for Carter Burwell’s haunting score.

Extras culled from the 2003 release include a decent though not especially comprehensive documentary, "Minnesota Nice," highlighted by then-recent interviews with the Coens, McDormand, and Macy. The brothers prefer not to give audio commentaries, so the spotlight is here turned over to cinematographer Deakins, who gives an occasionally interesting talk about the production of the film. A pop-up trivia track is also included, along with an advertising gallery, a segment from the "Charlie Rose Show" that aired prior to the release of the movie, trailers, and TV spots.

SETH MacFARLANE’S CAVALCADE OF COMEDY (54 mins., 2009; Fox): Direct-to-video assemblage of blackout sketches from “Family Guy” creator-producer Seth MacFarlane plays like a succession of failed and/or raunchy bits that wouldn’t have made the cut on his network series. There are a couple of undeniably funny moments (such as Fred Flintstone relieving himself), but for the most part this not-quite hour-long program will likely rank as a one-shot viewing experience for “Family Guy” fans and quickly forgotten thereafter. Fox’s Blu-Ray disc includes a 4:3 AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS Master Audio sound, and very little in the way of extras (a “red carpet” feature and character models).

S.DARKO (103 mins., 2009, R; Fox): Richard Kelly’s cult fave has spawned a bizarre sequel in the form of this straight-to-video tale starring Daveigh Chase, the now-grown sister of Donnie, who finds herself on the run with her buddy Briana Evigan from the same time vortex that plagued her brother’s existence. This workmanlike affair fails completely to reproduce Kelly’s visuals and isn’t likely to satisfy that film’s hardcore fanbase, either. Fox’s Blu-Ray disc boasts an okay AVC encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio sound, commentary with director Chris Fisher and others, deleted scenes and two Making Of featurettes.

LICENCE TO KILL (***, 133 mins., 1989, PG-13; MGM/Fox)
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (**½, 125 mins., 1974, PG; MGM/Fox): Two more terrific Bond Blu-Rays are on the docket this month courtesy of MGM and Fox.

Once again using the outstanding Lowry Digital remasters utilized for the last group of “Ultimate Edition” 007 DVDs, both the underrated 1989 Timothy Dalton thriller “Licence to Kill” and the mediocre 1974 Roger Moore effort “The Man With the Golden Gun” have been treated to razor-sharp, potent AVC-encoded transfers and remixed DTS Master Audio soundtracks (both films also have their original audio options [stereo in the case of “Licence to Kill,” mono for “Golden Gun”] available as well). 

As far as the films themselves go, “Licence to Kill” breaks with the standard Bond formula and gives us a determined 007 seeking vengeance for a brutal attack on CIA pal Felix Leiter (David Hedison, who essayed the same role in “Live and Let Die”) by a ruthless drug lord (Robert Davi). Many hard-core Bond fans disliked this swan song for Dalton, series director John Glen and veteran co-writer Richard Maibaum, but it’s amusing how this film was taken to task for breaching the series’ formula when the two recent Daniel Craig films have gone even further in that direction. As it stands, this is one of the more interesting Bond movies of the ‘80s, with several excellent set-pieces, a pair of attractive leading ladies (Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto), an overlooked, strong title song from Gladys Knight (though only a mediocre score by Michael Kamen), and some goofy elements as well (Wayne Newton?).

“The Man With the Golden Gun” has always been one of my least favorite Bond outings: a rather lifeless tale of Bond pursuing lethal assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) through the Far East with Britt Ekland as the female lead and Herve Villechaze (“Fantasy Island”) as The Man With the Golden Gun’s diminutive henchman. A rather unsuccessful mix of a standard Bond framework with some of Tom Mankiewicz’s campy humor (the script is credited both to him and Richard Maibaum), this final series directorial outing for Guy Hamilton is easily his weakest, and even John Barry’s score is something of a disappointment.

Both Blu-Rays sport all the extras from their respective Ultimate Edition packages, including commentaries, documentaries, vintage featurettes and all the publicity material you can imagine.

VALKYRIE (**½, 120 mins., 2008, PG-13; MGM/Fox)
MAN HUNT (***, 102 mins., 1941; Fox): Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie” surprised box-office prognosticators last winter, managing to perform fairly well in spite of well-publicized production delays and the off-camera gossip surrounding star Tom Cruise.

Granted, Cruise’s uncertain accent and performance end up being two of the weaker aspects of “Valkyrie,” but Singer’s taut WWII tale of a German plot to assassinate Hitler makes for exciting home video, with an involving (if somewhat clinically-told) story and a terrific supporting cast (Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wiklinson) supporting its star.

Fox’s Blu-Ray disc serves up an exquisite AVC encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio sound and a load of extras: two commentaries, numerous historical and production featurettes, and a bonus digital copy of the film for portable media players.

To coincide with the release of “Valkyrie” Fox has released, for the first time on DVD, Fritz Lang’s 1941 thriller “Man Hunt,” with Walter Pidgeon as a British hunter trying also to assassinate Hitler. This is a taut, exciting thriller filled with familiar faces (Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine, Roddy McDowall), a fine score by Alfred Newman and numerous extras: commentary bu author Patrick McGilligan, a Making Of, the trailer and numerous still galleries. The full-screen transfer looks quite pleasing and is backed by mono and slightly rechanneled stereo offerings.

Lang aficionados who have clamored to see “Man Hunt” should be highly pleased with this long-awaited release.

DRIVEN TO KILL (98 mins., 2009; Fox): Steven Seagal’s latest direct-to-video tale is at least an improvement on his last couple of small-screen offerings, with Steve as a former Russian mob member who’s brought back into the game after his daughter is attacked by underworld foes. “Driven to Kill” is no great shakes but for Seagal addicts the movie is at least watchable, which is more than you can say for what the star has turned in recently. Fox’s Blu-Ray disc offers a fine AVC-encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio sound and nothing in the way of extras.

THE ARRIVAL (***, 115 mins., 1996, PG-13; Lionsgate): Underrated sci-fi sleeper from writer-director David Twohy finds Charlie Sheen as a radio astronomer (it works better once you get past this point) who uncovers a transmission confirming extraterrestrial intelligence....only to find that those aliens might actually be here now, and a lot closer than he thinks!

Taut, compelling and quite entertaining, “The Arrival” boasts strong work from Sheen, Ron Silver, Lindsay Crouse and Teri Polo (sporting a severely cropped ‘do) in a movie that’s plagued a bit by only mediocre special effects, but since this is more of a character-driven piece than most of its genre brethren, the movie makes up in imagination what it lacks in its budget. Forget the terrible made-for-video follow-ups and give “The Arrival” another chance.

Lionsgate’s basic Blu-Ray disc offers a satisfying 1080p transfer with DTS Master Audio sound. Considering the limitations of the film’s appearance this is likely as crisp as the movie will ever appear in HD, and fans of the movie should be satisfied on that level. Sadly, none of the special features from the old Pioneer Special Edition laserdisc have been included here (the alternate ending, Twohy’s commentary, the trailer and Making Of featurette).

DEXTER: Season 2 (11 hours, 2007; Showtime/Paramount): Showtime-produced series recently gained more fans through its first-season episodes being aired (in edited form) on CBS network TV. Paramount’s Season 2 Blu-Ray box-set, meanwhile, sports the complete, uncensored second season of the oddball series about a serial killer (who’s the good guy) in 1080p HD transfers and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. Extras include podcasts, a “Blood Fountains” featurette, other goodies and two bonus episodes from the Showtime series “The United States of Tara” with Toni Collette.

New on DVD

FANBOYS (**, 90 mins., 2008, PG-13; Weinstein/Genius): Kyle Newman’s comedy about a group of friends (one of whom has a terminal illness) who attempt to crash Skywalker Ranch in an effort to screen “The Phantom Menace” before it’s released is more interesting for its behind-the-scenes history than the film itself.

“Fanboys” was scheduled for release in 2007 but the Weinstein Company purchased the film, hired Judd Apatow and his associates to re-cut the movie, axed the movie’s cancer subplot and added other scenes including Seth Rogen’s multi-part cameo. After a long tenure in post-production, and much online ranting from fans (as well as co-producer Kevin Spacey), the Weinsteins restored the cancer aspect to the story, but the final version of “Fanboys” plays like something of a hodgepodge between Newman’s original cut and the Weinstein’s re-edit. As it is, the film has some sporadic laughs and cameos (plus Kristen Bell), but is too uneven to really work.

Genius’ DVD (a Blu-Ray edition is only being released in Canada) sports a fine 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack plus deleted scenes, commentary and numerous featurettes.

ARMY WIVES: Season 2 (811 mins., 2008-09; Buena Vista): One of the higher-rated dramatic series on cable currently, “Army Wives” is back on DVD next week in a five-disc set courtesy of Buena Vista.

The series offers a higher-class prime-time soap opera than most similar offerings on network TV, with protagonists who tend to resemble real people more than, say, the over-the-top antics of “Desperate Housewives.” Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell headline the series’ ensemble cast, and while I’m not a regular viewer of “Army Wives,” it’s a series that has a huge fan base and those aficionados will certainly enjoy Buena Vista’s Season 2 DVD offering here.

The 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks are both first-rate, while extras include deleted scenes, bloopers, and various featurettes that examine the series’ support from the Army and a segment on the cast appearing at Fort Bragg. Having a number of friends in active duty, I appreciated the latter segments and the fact that the show tries hard to offer a balanced, accurate portrait of military life on the homefront.

RAISING THE BAR: Season 1 (420 mins., 2008; Buena Vista): David E. Kelley’s TNT legal drama with Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Gloria Reuben and Jane Kaczmarek also hits DVD early next month in a complete first season set, offering 16:9 (1.78) transfers, 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks, and numerous extras: commentaries from the cast and the show runners, bloopers, a round table with the cast, and a look at the series production.

WEEDS: Season 4 (362 mins., 2008; Lionsgate): The wacky tale of a suburban mom who deals pot and (this time) gets involved with a Mexican drug cartel, “Weeds” gets a bit more somber in its fourth season, though fans generally seemed to like the changes. Lionsgate’s fourth-season DVD of this Mary-Louise Parker series includes fine 16:9 (1.78) transfers, 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks and extras including cast commentaries, a gag reel, assorted featurettes and more.

BOSTON LEGAL: Season 5 (557 mins., 2008; Fox): David E. Kelley’s legal series with James Spader and William Shatner finishes its five-season run with this four-disc DVD box-set from Fox. “Boston Legal” aficionados will enjoy the 16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfers, 2.0 Dolby stereo soundtracks, and numerous extras: deleted scenes with introductions from series director Bill D’Elia and three behind-the-scenes featurettes, including a final goodbye to the ABC series. It’s interesting to note that “Boston Legal” is signing off at the same time Kelley won’t have a series on the fall network TV schedule for the first time in what seems like forever.

THE DEVIL’S TOMB (90 mins., 2008, R; Sony): As direct-to-video horror outings go, this surprisingly watchable second feature from director Jason Connery (Sean’s son) is one of the better genre tales to come down the pike of late. Cuba Gooding, Jr. leads a military group escorting a CIA operative to an ancient tomb where all kinds of evil dwells. Gooding may be better than this material but he gives this short, effective action/horror hybrid some credibility, along with co-stars Ron Perlman and Ray Winstone. In spite of its recycled story and brainless aspects (to be expected since we’re in “Event Horizon” territory here), this is an efficient enough flick that, if nothing else, genre fans are likely to get a kick out of. Sony’s DVD boasts a 16:9 (1.85) transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, commentary with Connery and Gooding, outtakes, alternate scenes, and one Making Of featurette.

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