‘Pacific Rim’: A giant robot movie that works
Owls Head — Pacific Rim (Warner, 2 Blu-ray or standard DVDs, PG-13, 131 min.). Through over-narration by Charlie Hunnam, who plays Raleigh Becket, we learn the history of the conflict between mankind and the alien beasts called Kaiju, beasts that have not come from space but rather through a dimensional rift on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. After many huge losses, including whole cities, mankind came up with the Jaeger project, huge, weaponized robots run by humans within that held the aliens at bay for years. Due to the complexity of the robots, it takes two humans to operate them by drifting, a combining of their brains and memories.
Becket and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) were one such team, until Yancy was killed in action, while still mentally connected to Becket. Becket retired after that incident five years ago and has been working on the Coastal Wall project. In fact, the governments have decided to shut down the Jaegers in favor of the Coastal Wall, much to the disappointment of Jaeger Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba of the BBC TV series “Luther”). There are only four Jaegers left, including Becket’s old analog-driven one, and Pentecost has come up with the idea of a last-ditch attempt to nuke the rift, closing it forever. Thus, he recruits Becket back into the program. Becket is eventually paired with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), although Pentecost has reservations (due to his having rescued her as a child and raising her as his own). One of the two Jaeger scientists, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), drifts with a portion of a Kaiju brain and learns some vital information, but he needs a better brain segment to get a more complete picture. This leads him to search for Kaiju parts black market boss Hannibal Chan (played by Hunnam’s “Sons of Anarchy” co-star Ron Perlman).
Director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro presents an often visually stunning movie -- one that demands rewatching and use of the pause button to absorb all the details. The trek to find Chan nods to the rainy future city in “Blade Runner,” and it is always fun to watch giant monsters destroy cities. The battle sequences are tremendous. There are plenty of extras, including audio commentary by the director and 13 focal point shorts (62 min. total) on the first disc. The second disc contains an interactive director’s video journal, containing six video featurettes; a 17-minute look at the digital effects; video and still art galleries; four brief deleted scenes; a blooper reel; and a breakdown of the four drift sequences. Grade: film and extras 3.5 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
Fright Night 2: New Blood (Fox, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 99 min.). Directed by Eduardo Rodriguez, this direct-to-video film overcomes a cheesy opening half hour to become worth watching. The setting is Romania, where Charley Brewster (Will Payne) and obnoxious friend Ed Bates (Chris Waller) have come on a student exchange study trip. Also on the trip is Brewster’s ex-girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Sacha Parkinson), who now wants to have nothing to do with him.
Once in their hotel room on arrival night, Brewster sees two women kissing in the building across the street, but it soon turns bloody. The next day, he finds out that one of the women he saw is their art teacher, Gerri Dandridge (Jaime Murray of Syfy’s “Defiance” and “Warehouse 13”), and, it turns out, she actually is an incredibly old vampiress named Elizabeth Bathory, an actual 16th and 17th century Hungarian who is described as being the most prolific female serial killer in history. The film plays out as you expect it would, with Sean Power playing Peter Vincent, the TV “Fright Night” host, who just happens to be in town (and found at a strip club). Extras include audio commentary by the director and producers Alison Rosenzweig and Michael Gaeta; 11:31 of “Fright Night” webisodes; and a brief historical discussion of Vlad the Impaler and Bathory. Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 2 stars
Curse of Chucky (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR/R,97/95 min.). This sixth Chucky film, in a way, saves the franchise, being scarier than all but the first film, “Child’s Play.” As usual, the film starts with the delivery of an unexpected package, a Chucky doll. It is addressed to Sarah Pierce (Chantal Quesnelle), who dies that same night. Wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) is left alone only briefly after her mother’s death, as the relatives invade: her sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) and long-suffering husband Ian, plus their young daughter Alice and $400-a-month nanny Jill (yup, the two women are an item). The film has a much darker side and the previous, more campy entries, and offers some solid scares. It really comes to life (pun not intended) when we see Chucky in action. The end of the movie becomes an origin tale, as we see Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky) in action as Charles Lee Ray, the Lakeshore Strangler. Be sure to watch through the closing credits for a second unexpected cameo.
Extras include audio commentary by writer/director Don Mancini (he has done all the films), puppeteer Tony Gardner and actress Fiona Dourif; a 16-minute making-of feature; 9 minutes on bringing the doll to life; 25 minutes of storyboard comparisons; six deleted scenes; and a look at Chucky as a horror icon. Grade: film and extras 3 stars
“Curse of Chucky” also is available in “Chucky the Complete Collection,” including all six films -- “Child’s Play,” “Child’s Play 2,” “Child’s Play 3,” “Bride of Chucky” (my favorite) and “Seed of Chucky” being the others. All come with all their original bonus features.