Moon Nazis invade; Fenway Park honored
Owls Head — Iron Sky (eONE, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 93 min.). The set-up is the Nazis made a super-secret escape to the dark side of the moon, where they have been flourishing and developing the Gotterdammerung weapon to use to invade the Earth. The premise may sound weird, but for the most part -- I think the ending strays quite a bit -- the film pulls it off, with lots of well done, green screen computer special effects.
Udo Keir plays the current Mondfuhrer, Wolfgang Kortzfleisch, while Gotz Otto plays Klaus Adler, his overly ambitious second in command. Adler’s girlfriend, Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), teaches school to the young Nazis. Renate’s father, Dr. Richter (Tilo Pruckner), is trying to develop a more efficient way to run the Gotterdammerung. Into this sort-of idyllic Aryan existence on the moon comes a United States moon landing mission, sent by the President (Stephanie Paul) as a re-election gimmick. When the Nazis learn that their swastika-shaped base and Helium 3 mining operation have been stumbled upon, they kill one of the astronauts and capture the second (Christopher Kirby as James Washington), not realizing the astronaut is an African-American. When the Nazis realize that the mini-computer in Washington’s cell phone can power the Gotterdammerung -- until it runs out of power -- Adler is sent to Earth, with Washington (who has been bleached white -- talk about a bad racial joke), to find more computing devices. Renate stows onboard. In a take-me-to-your-leader scenario, Adler captures Vivian (Pita Sergeant), the President’s campaign manager. However, Vivian sees Adler as just the thing the President needs for her campaign. Even better is when the Nazis invade, making the President a sitting war president!
The special effects then take over and there are some marvelous fights between Earth defense and the invading Nazi space zeppelins. Plus, you get a meteor blitzkrieg. The ending is weakened by two silly turning points, but there is fun to be had here. Extras include a making-of feature (17:22; the film was made in 37 days in Frankfurt, Germany and Australia) and 18:13 of behind-the-scenes looks. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.5 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 95 min.). Co-written by Josh Whedon (“The Avengers,” TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and director Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”), this fun scare film turns the genre upside down and shakes the results for unexpected delights. It starts in the usual fashion, with five college friends headed for a weekend of fun in the cabin in the woods. The five are played by Chris Hemsworth (pre-”Thor,” “The Avengers”), Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz (playing the stoner who first catches on to what is going on), Anna Hutchinson and Jesse Williams. However, even before we meet them, we see banter between Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) in some kind of vast control structure.
After the five students ignore the always strange guy operating the gas station/convenience store -- but his warning and creepy appearance/behavior of his own, they arrive at the cabin, which, it turns out, is situated above that control center we saw, and that control center is manipulating the students’ experience, both by drugs and unleashing of monsters. The monster release is related to the dark, filled-with-strange-stuff cellar, which, of course, the students have to investigate. The item they pick up unleashes a family of zombie killers. Strap in, because you are in for one heck of a ride that takes you to unexpected places, with lots of references to other horror films for the true fans and a cameo by Sigourney Weaver. The real fun begins once the students try to escape.
Extras include audio commentary by Goddard and Whedon; a bonus view version with picture-in-picture commentary that is very good (we see actor Kranz’s encounter with a bear when he only had shorts on) on the Blu-ray only; a making-of feature (28:33); a Whedon tour of the set and Marty‘s (Kranz‘s character) stash (13:07); a look at the mostly-practical make-up and animatronics (12:10); a look at the visual effects (12:07); and a question-and-answer session with Goddard and Whedon at Wonder-Con. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 3.5 stars
Marvel’s The Avengers (Paramount/Marvel, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 143 min.). What “The Avengers” has going for it is a bunch of likable super heroes, who have been introduced in their own films. They are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who has had two films with a third on the way; Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, see “The Cabin in the Woods” above) and The Hulk (although played by Mark Ruffalo for the first time). Joining the team are film newcomers Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) back as the guy who brings them together as a team. The object is to prevent an alien attacked engineered by Thor’s adopted brother Loki (also back from the Thor film). Under the guiding hands of director Josh Whedon, the characters are allowed to interact as the personalities who already know and there are some darn good action sequences. What I like most about the film is its best-ever presentation of The Hulk. The Blu-ray version comes with the first gag reel for a Marvel film; a second screen experience that allows the viewer to access S.H.E.I.L.D. database to be immersed in the Marvel cinematic universe, The Avengers’ comic book history and more; an original Marvel short film; a look at the sets, visual effects and cinematography; deleted scenes; and a Soundgarden music video. Both Blu-ray and the standard DVD editions have audio commentary by Whedon and a feature about bringing the team together, with interviews with each star. Grade: film and extras 3.5 stars
Fenway Park Home of the Boston Red Sox: 100th Anniversary Collector’s Set (A&E, 12 DVDs, 26 hours). The 100th anniversary year for the venerable ballpark, which coincidentally opened just days after the sinking of the Titanic, was a memorable one on the field for all the wrong reasons, as the team sank itself. However, the ballpark itself has never looked better and this classy box set celebrates it in outstanding fashion. The DVDs are housed in the 28-page book with classic and rare photos from throughout the years. (This type of box is similar to the complete “Smallville” and the Dave Tennant “Doctor Who” years sets, if you have seen them.)
The centerpiece of the DVDs is the first disc, which contains the new documentary, “Fenway Park: 100 Years as the Heart of Red Sox Nation” (93:52). It opens with a poem and scenes from throughout the years, then a reenactment of the founding of the ballpark Among those interviewed are Sox co-owner John Henry, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and those Red Sox heroes who are still alive. The first season at the park was a brilliant one, with Smoky Joe Woods turning in a 34-win season, including 10 shutouts, as the Red Sox won their first of four World Series in seven years. We get to see Babe Ruth, who pitched for the team for five years starting in 1914, before being sold to the Yankees. The history recounts the two fires at the old ballpark, Tom Yawkey buying the ballpark in 1933 and renovating it, including building the Green Monster in left field (interestingly, the original left field was sloped upward toward the wall that was in place then). We get quite a bit on Ted Williams’ career, with Bobby Doerr commenting. The bullpens were added in right field to help shorten the field so Williams could hit more homeruns. The ever-so-close 1967 and 1975 World Series appearances are well covered and then finally the two World Championships that ended the 85-year drought. Curiously, Theo Epstein is never mentioned once. This documentary often is quite thrilling, especially for someone such as myself, a lifetime Red Sox fan who used to attend games in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a child (back when there were plenty of available seats and single-admission doubleheaders).
There are also nine season highlight films, covering the years 1955, 1957, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986 and 1990. Disc three also covers the rivalry with the New York Yankees, while disc four is the 2004 highlight film and official World Series film, Disc five covers 2007 and its official World Series film. Disc six covers the greatest moments in Red Sox history. Then come the discs dedicated to special games: Sept. 30, 1967 of The Impossible Dream team; game six of the 1975 World Series; game seven of the 1986 American League Championship Series (ALCS); the wonderful, memorable 1999 All-Star Game; game four of the 2004 ALCS; and game seven of the 2007 ALCS. I cannot think of a better gift for a Red Sox fan. Grade: 4 stars
Doctor Who DVD releases: The fall season of the latest Doctor Who season was way too short at only five episodes, and the loss of Rory and Amelia Pond was way too sad. However, over the past three months, BBC has released nine more classic Doctor Who stories on DVD. Patrick Troughton as The Doctor appears in both “The Krotons” (1968-69, 88 min.) and “The Seeds of Death” (1969, 146 min., 2-disc special edition). In the first, The Doctor and companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Zoe (Wendy Padbury) try to free the Gonds from enslavement by the Krotons. Extras include audio commentary with actors Phiullip Madoc (Eelek), Richard Ireson (Axus) and Gilbert Wynne (Thara), assistant floor manager David Tilley, make-up designer Sylvia James, costume designer Bobi Bartlett and special sounds designer Brian Hodgson. There also is a 52-minute documentary on Troughton’s tenure as the Second Doctor; a 17-minute interview win Hines; and other bonus material. For “Seeds,” the setting is the late 21st century, when mankind has become dependent on the now crippled T-Mat transport system. It turns out the Ice Warriors have hijacked the system. Extras on “Seeds” include audio commentary by actors Hines and Padbury, director Michael Ferguson and script editor Terrance Dicks. There is a 28-minute history of the Martian Ice Warriors, and a 24-minute behind-the-scenes look, as well as several other extras.
The Jon Pertwee years are represented by a special edition of “Spearhead from Space” (1970, 96 min.) and “Death to the Daleks” (1974, 98 min.). In “Spearhead,” the newly-regenerated Doctor has been banished to Earth by the Time Lords. At the same time. A swarm of meteorites crash into the English countryside, bringing the Nestene, a plastic facsimile race. The Doctor is supported by UNIT and scientific advisor Liz Shaw (Caroline John). The disc has two audio commentaries: one with Shaw and Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier); the other by producer Derrick Sherwin and script editor Dicks. There is a 22-minute making-of feature and an 18-minute look at the show going from black-and-white to color. In “Death to the Daleks,” a power failure sends the TARDIS off course and The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (the late Elizabeth Sladen) end up on the bleak planet of Exxilon. The audio commentary s by actor Julian Fox (Peter Hamilton), Dalek operator Cy Town, director Michael E. Briant, assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, costume designer L. Rowland Warne and special sounds designer Dick Mills. There is a 26-minute making-of feature, a 23-minute look at the studio recording and other bonus features.
Tom Baker plays The Doctor in “Nightmare of Eden” (1979, 100 min.). The Doctor, Romana (Laila Ward) and K-9 help two spacecraft fused in a hyperspace collision, but a ferocious animal has clawed one crewmember to death. Audio commentary is by actors Ward and Peter Craze (Costa), writer Bob Baker, effects designer Colin Mapson and make-up designer Joan Stribling. Other extras are Baker talking about writing the episode solo, a behind-the-scenes look and others. Peter Davison plays The Doctor in the special edition of “Resurrection of the Daleks” (1984, 93 min., 2 discs). In it, the Daleks resurrect their creator Davros. Audio commentary on one track is with Terry Malloy (Davros), writer Eric Saward and visual effects supervisor Peter Wragg; the second audio commentary is by actors Davison and Janet Fielding (Tegan) and director Matthew Robinson. Also included is an alternate four-part version; a 56-minute Fifth Doctor retrospective presented by David Tennant; 32 minutes of actor interviews; isolated music; and many other short extras.
Sylvester McCoy plays The Doctor in three releases. “Dragonfire” (1987, 73 min.) has The Doctor and Mel meet Sabalon Glitz at the Iceworld Space Trading Colony, where Sabalon wants to find the Dragonfire treasure buried underneath the planet’s surface. Audio commentary is by actors Sophie Aldred (Ace, the teenage waitress who loves explosives) and Edward Peel (Kane, the planet’s overlord), writer Ian Briggs, script editor Andrew Cartmel, composer Dominic Glynn and director Chris Clough. There is a 35-minute making-of feature, 10 minutes of deleted scenes, an isolated score and other short extras. In “The Happiness Patrol” (1988, 74 min.), those who appear unhappy on Terra Alpha disappear. The Kandy Man is planetary leader Helen A’s psychotic henchman. Extras include audio commentary by Aldred, writer Graeme Curry, script editor Cartmel, composer Glynn and director Clough. There are 23 minutes of deleted scenes, a making-of (23 min.), an analysis of the story’s political ideologies (43 min.), isolated music and other shorts. Finally, in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” (1989, 96 min.), The Doctor and Ace visit the Psychic Circus on Segonax. The audio commentary is by actors Aldred, Jessica Martin (Mags) and Christopher Guard (Bellboy), writer Stephen Wyatt, script editor Cartmel and composer Mark Ayres. A 30-minute making-of, 11 minutes of deleted scenes. A music video and other short extras.