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The Return of Six Degrees of Show-Offs

July 6, 2009 By Dennis Burger



Connecting even more dots between today’s hottest movies and games

Longtime readers of Home Entertainment may remember a handful of old columns in which I riffed on the popular six degrees of separation meme: the notion that every person in the world can be connected to every other by no more than six connections—in other words, you know someone who knows someone who’s related to someone who... you get the picture.

You may also recall that the last time I did a Six Degrees of Show-Offs, I said it would, indeed, be the last. But just like horror movie villains, comic book heroes and soap opera siblings, no good Show-Offs concept can possibly remain dead forever. And neither can this one. So, once again, let’s have fun tracing the tenuous connections between the most sensational, inspirational and celebrational movies and video games on the shelves today.

Body of Lies (Blu-ray)
Best Chapter: 6

Body of Lies (Blu-ray)

It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that Ridley Scott’s latest post-9/11 thriller is a whirlwind world tour of delicious imagery, from the hot golden hues of the Middle East to the cool greens and blues of D.C.’s suburbs.

From beginning to end, the film shines with bold contrasts, beautiful black levels and details so sharp they threaten to split pixels right in two, not to mention a delicious Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that obviously ate its Wheaties this morning.

But no scene will push your home theater to the max quite as well as the safe-house raid early in the film. It kicks off with bullets ripping the air in your room to shreds and grenades trying to take the pictures off your walls. It doesn’t let up until it’s thrown everything at you, from pounding chopper blades and the air-sucking whoosh of rocket-propelled grenades to a couple of big, bad earth-shattering kabooms.  

After all of that, you might be forgiven for blinking and missing the all-too-brief appearance of the criminally underappreciated character actor Michael Gaston later in the film. But you can see more of Gaston in the post-apocalyptic head-scratcher Jericho, which also starred Alicia Coppola, whose most recent big screen appearance was in National Treasure: Book of Secrets. That action-packed sequel also featured the talents of Demetri Goritsas, who lends his voice to the latest blockbuster PlayStation 3 first-person shooter...

Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3)

Killzone 2If watching the action isn’t enough to get your heart pumping, jump right into the middle of it with this rough-and-tumble action epic—perhaps the finest audiovisual video game experience of this console generation thus far.

Every environment in the game feels like a part of a living, breathing world, from the destructible buildings to the subtle touches, like flags and banners that flit and flutter in the wind.

But let’s not ignore the real star of the show: the raucous 7.1-channel audio mix, which brings the action of this war-torn world right into your living room, whether you want it there or not.

The sound springs forth from the chiaroscuro world with such verisimilitude that you’ll swear you can feel the puff of hot air coming off of every spent shell.

And in between all the explosions and gunplay you might also recognize the voice of Noah Lee Margetts, who co-starred in the Stephen King spook-fest 1408 with Mr. Monk himself, Tony Shalhoub. Shalhoub also appeared, nearly unrecognizably, in Men in Black II alongside Tommy Lee Jones, who lays down the law in...

No Country for Old Men: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Best Chapter: 8—“On All Night”

No Country for Old Men: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)On the surface, this gritty crime drama seems an unlikely candidate for Show-Offs. Its action scenes are few and far between, and the imagery—though razor sharp and beautifully composed—isn’t exactly a candy-colored kaleidoscope of super-saturated hues.

But the film boasts a brilliantly crafted DTS-HD Master Audio surround soundtrack that, with its deft mix of subtle ambiance and hair-raising dynamism, simply beats the pants off of more bombastic soundtracks..

Chapter 8 is a perfect example of the film’s aural flexibility. It begins with the sounds of passing cars, painted in the air like a sonic hologram and with such authenticity you can almost smell the lead-laden exhaust. But the real highlight of the sequence is a little later, when Chigurh is stalking Llewelyn in the ratty hotel.

The sound goes from 0 to 90 in naught-point-nothing—from strain-to-hear-them creaks and groans that serve double-duty building both the tension of the scene and the room that contains it, to air-piston blasts and shotgun reports that will leave you, your guests and your speakers gasping for air.

You might also gasp when you realize that this film's twisted mop-topped psychopath, Javier Bardem, is the same suave Spaniard who seduced Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Christina Barcelona. One of Bardem’s costars in that film, Kevin Dunn also appeared in Only the Lonely with Anthony Quinn, who shared credit in the forgotten 1941 boxing B-movie Knockout with Cliff Edwards, whom you probably know best as Jiminy Cricket in...

Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Best Chapter: 20—“The Undersea Search for Geppetto”

Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)If ever time machines are invented and we can go back to 1940 and witness the world premiere of Pinocchio on the silver screen, allow me to state for the record that I’ll eat my shorts if it looks any better than it does in this awe-inspiring Blu-ray release.

Don’t believe me? Take a gander at Pinocchio and Jiminy’s underwater adventures late in the film and tell me you ever thought 69-old celluloid could look so good.

Thanks to Disney’s painstaking restoration, you’ll swear the paint on the animation cels is still a little damp—the scenery springs off the screen with gorgeous depth of field, lavish colors and a stunning aquatic shimmer that’ll you’ll find yourself wishing you could dive right into.

Few people know that Pinocchio also featured the vocal talents of a young Mel Blanc (of Looney Tunes fame), who went on years later to share the animated screen with Vernee Watson-Johnson in Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (the episode "Playing Footsie with Bigfoot" for the terminally curious).

Watson-Johnson later appeared in the episode "Return to Sender" of the disturbingly hilarious serial killer dramedy Dexter with the lovely Julie Benz, who lights up the screen in the otherwise stygian...

Punisher: War Zone—2-Disc Special Edition (Blu-ray)
Best Chapter: 3—“Fallen Soldier”

This third stab at translating the Frank Castle mythos from comic-book page to screen may not be overflowing with intellect or layers of character development, but it certainly does excel at capturing the four-color aesthetic of its inspiration in a way that neither of its predecessors could.

Every frame practically drips with black levels so cavernous that you’ll swear your display has opened up a portal to some unholy dimension, along with a plenteous panoply of neon colors that practically leap out of the shadows and off the screen.

The film is also jam-packed with vigilante violence and mayhem, but its most stunning sequence is an early one, in which the titular Punisher slinks back to his subterranean lair—probably the only continuous minute of footage in the entire film that doesn’t contain at least one cracked skull, compound fracture or gaping chest wound. It begins with a cityscape bathed in secondary hues: hot orange highlights slicing through a violet haze; then the soul-sucking blackness of subway tunnels pierced by the thinnest slivers of almost gamma-like green.

And tying it all together is a throbbing, loping score that’ll have your subwoofers hopping and begging for more.

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