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Sunshine (Blu-Ray)

20th Century Fox
Movie A
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.75 (out of 10)

This is one of the best sci-fi films to come along in years, and it makes my personal Top 20 for the genre. Director Danny Boyle created a visually arresting and emotionally compelling film from writer Alex Garland's script.

The sun is dying, and a crew of plain-clothes astronauts is on a long journey through space to reignite the star with a humongous bomb. Among the crew is scientist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy), who helped create the bomb that could save mankind. Their ship is called Icarus II, the second attempt to reignite the sun after a previous mission vanished.

When orbiting Mercury, they hear a distress beacon from the prior mission and, after some heavy deliberating, decide to rendezvous with the ship, thinking that two bombs are better than one. A series of events jeopardizes their mission--and the fate of the world.

Boyle is one of the great directorial genre-hoppers. None of his films are alike, and this one is his best (a nice accomplishment, considering he made Trainspotting and 28 Days Later). The film came out last July and was surprisingly ignored--one of last year's great cinematic shames. It was quite a treat on the big screen.

The movie goes a little nutty in its final act, but Boyle even handles that well, and the film loses none of its power. By the time Icarus II reaches the sun, it is evident that we've been witnessing a cinematic achievement in line with the best that Kubrick, Spielberg and Scott had to offer.

As far as Blu-Ray goes, this is a terrific-looking and -sounding, disc. The soundtrack, by Underworld, is one of last year's best, and the surround sound just pops. If you got a Blu-Ray player over the holidays, this is a great disc to christen it with.

If you are looking to invest in a high-definition DVD player and are unsure which format to choose, Warner Bros. just announced that they will be siding with Blu-Ray, joining the likes of Fox and Disney. That's huge.

Special Features: Boyle talks about his major influences during his commentary, including Ridley Scott's Alien and Kubrick's 2001. Deleted scenes are good and could easily be reinstated into the film. There are some Web production diaries and features special to Blu-Ray, including enhanced-viewing mode (for picture-in-picture TVs only). Most of the features are available in both the standard and Blu-Ray DVDs.


Joshua

20th Century Fox
Movie B+
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 6.7 (out of 10)

Another one of the nominees for the Best 2007 Film That Nobody Saw award (along with Sunshine) would be this thriller from writer/director George Ratliff, in which an upscale Manhattan family disintegrates after the birth of their baby girl. The catalyst for this disintegration would be son Joshua, a deceptively mannered little boy played by promising young actor Jacob Kogan.

Ratliff wisely cast Sam Rockwell against type as Joshua's dad, and he delivers heartbreaking work as a man who just wants things to be well with his family. When his wife (Vera Farmiga, in an incredible performance) starts showing signs of postpartum depression, he does everything he can to help her out. What he doesn't know is that his seemingly innocent son is manipulating events to push his mom and dad to the edge.

The film is both scary and a little funny. Kogan deserves a spot in the Bad Child Hall of Fame alongside Damien from The Omen and Rhoda from The Bad Seed. What's also impressive is that the little guy, normally a guitar player, learned to play piano for the production.

Still, the driving force behind the movie is Rockwell, who makes some ingenious choices with his part. By the time of his final confrontation with his son, Rockwell's character is a great tragic figure. I don't know how much praise I would be giving this film if it didn't have Rockwell in it. He and Farmiga make it abundantly clear that they know what they are doing in front of a camera.

Special Features: While Ratliff's commentary is good, the other features are a little weak. There are staff and director interviews, but they are edited into annoying short segments that can't be played all at once. I would've preferred to see the interviews in their entirety.


Hairspray: 2-Disc Shimmy and Shake Edition

New Line
Movie B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

Last year was a great year for movie musicals, and this was one of the reasons. While the music itself is somewhat forgettable, the movie is stacked with memorable performances--too many to list in this space.

John Travolta, in his first true musical since 1978's Grease, is terrific as Edna, mother of Tracy (Nikki Blonsky), who is looking to be the next TV dancing sensation in 1962. Travolta works a fat suit like nobody's business, and it doesn't hinder his ability to dance. Also excellent in the film are Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and James Marsden.

Special Features: Many of the film's stars participate in behind-the-scenes segments. There's also a sing-along with the movie lyrics track.

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