Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Written by Pirata Hermosa

Just in time to coincide with Ridley Scott's new feature film based on the story of Robin Hood, 20th Century Fox has released the Blu-ray version of the Mel Brooks’ comedy spoof based on the famous swashbuckler. Robin Hood: Men in Tights was originally made in 1993 right after the big-budget Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner as the lead character. That is why a lot of the jokes and the basic storyline pokes fun directly at that version as well as some of the earlier Errol Flynn films.

While not nearly as good as some of his well-known classic comedies, it does contain its share of laughs and has the usual plethora of Hollywood stars rounding out the cast: Cary Elwes as Robin Hood, Dave Chappelle as his sidekick Ahchoo, and Richard Lewis as the completely inept Prince John, just to name a few.

As this film was released 17 years ago, most people have already made up their mind in regards to whether they plan to watch it or whether or not they like the type of humor Mel Brooks is known for. So the most important new information regarding this current release is whether or not it’s worth buying the Blu- ray.

For the Blu-Ray version the video is in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and the audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Since I also have a copy on regular DVD it was fairly easy to compare the two. The original DVD is pretty grainy and it’s very obvious that the film was recorded before the advent of DVDs. The sound quality was adequate, but felt more like you were watching something on television as opposed to the quality you might have in a theatre. The Blu-ray still showed a little bit of the grain from the original, but from the quality of the DVD and what they obviously had to work from, I would have been surprised if it didn’t. The DTS-HD Master Audio track was worlds better than the original and was just as good as if you were sitting in the theatre during its initial premiere.

It contains two special features, “Funny Men in Tights: Three Generations of Comedy,“ and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights - The Legend Had it Coming,” which is an HBO special. And finally there is a commentary by Mel Brooks. The original DVD contains only the first feature.

If you were just buying your first copy Robin Hood: Men in Tights and had to choose between the DVD and the Blu-ray, there’s no question that you should get the Blu-ray as it is the superior product. But if you already have the DVD, it’s not necessary to run out and buy the new version because the film focuses more on jokes than it does on visual effects or a grand audio track.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Robin Hood: Men in Tights on Blogcritics.

EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010) (Blu-ray)

Written by Pirata Hermosa

Originally written in 1985 and aired as a mini-series on the BBC network, Martin Campbell has resurrected his original idea and transformed it into an American feature-length film. While the original story was meant to be a political statement of government affairs, the newest film has been stripped down and rewritten so that only the father/daughter relationship remains from the original premise.

Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is a Boston police officer whose daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) has come back to town for a visit. But before he can begin to enjoy her company, she starts to get sick and is suddenly vomiting blood. As he rushes her to the hospital, he is confronted by a man in a black ski mask on his front porch who shouts “Craven!” and opens fire with a shotgun at point blank range killing Emma.

Still numb from losing his daughter, Craven begins searching through his old cases trying to figure out who would want him killed. The more he searches, the more confused he becomes as he has no enemies that would match the profile. It isn’t until he searches Emma’s belongings and finds a gun, that he realizes she was the intended target.

Ultimately his search leads him to her place of work, a top-secret government facility that may or may not be dealing with nuclear weapons. Her work becomes the focus of his investigation as he spends the rest of the film trying to put the pieces together and determine who killed his daughter and why.

The Blu-Ray disc is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.4:1 with DTS-HD Master Audio. The beginning of the film is particularly dark, which causes some odd shimmering around some of the borders. Overall, the picture quality is well detailed and during close-ups you can see every wrinkle and mark on Mel’s face. The sound quality is very good and during those sudden action scenes you are more surprised by the sound that suddenly seems to be attacking you from different angels. In one scene when someone is struck by a car you could swear that the vehicle just came through your own living room.

The bonus features run about five minutes each and break apart what might have been done better as one long feature, as they discuss the different aspects of the film such as scoring, director Campbell's profile, Mel’s return to film, and the city of Boston as a character. There’s a "deleted scenes" extra that wasn’t even needed. The only interesting thing about it is that one of the scenes that was cut was a great decision. Not only was it weak, but the scene was replaced by one with a little more action that was desperately needed.

After having watched the film, it makes more sense that this started as a mini-series. It seemed like there was a lot of questions that were too quickly wrapped up or just completely ignored. We never learned what happened to Craven's wife or why there seemed to be a breakdown in the relationship between him and Emma.

The characters also lacked development as a lot of their logic appeared flawed. If you know you are being watched and about to be killed, it would make sense to run or hide. Several characters made this same error in judgment, including Emma who seemed more worried about keeping her confidentiality agreement than saving her own life. And the bad guys were just as bad as they would poison someone and then go out and hunt that person down with a gun.

If you’re looking for a big action film, then you are going to be disappointed. The action scenes are few and far between. But when they do come, they are gritty quick and unexpected, giving it a very realistic feel. Most of Edge of Darkness is more of an internal journey as Craven copes with the loss of his daughter and keeps in control long enough to solve the mystery.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Mel Gibson Finds Himself on the Edge of Darkness (2010) on Blogcritics.