Commando on Blu-ray disc

by Johnny Bray

There are classic movies, classic 80s movies, and classic Schwarzenegger movies.

While certain films (Predator, for example) could be considered all three, Commando definitely falls only into the final category.

Is it a good movie? Heck no. Is it awesome anyway? Heck yes!

John Matrix (Ahnuld) is a retired commando, trying to live the quiet life. For some reason, some really bad men think it's a good idea to kidnap his daughter and hold her for ransom and blah, blah, blah - it doesn't really matter.

The point is, whatever they've done, Arnold is going to spend the remainder of the film demonstrating exactly how he feels about the whole situation. This means, in layman's terms, that they're all going to die a horrible death, directly before Arnold spouts one of his trademark quips.

At 90 minutes, the whole thing moves along pretty swiftly, and we're never without action for very long. While the movie has certainly not aged well, it's still fun for the same reasons it always was.

If nostalgia is your thing, you'll likely still enjoy Commando. If you think that "old movies suck," you should probably stick with The Matrix.

The Blu-ray presentation is bittersweet. The picture quality looks better than pretty much any DVD you're likely to see, but doesn't come close to matching the quality of better Blu-ray fare. Detail is pretty good, but there's still that overlying trace of grain, and the print is very obviously 20+ years old. The audio, presented in dts HD 5.1, is also about average. Surrounds are used often and effectively, but the track never "booms" quite like we feel it should. Again, though, it's probably due more to age than neglect.

Commando (Blu-ray), from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
90 minutes, 1080p 1.85:1 HD, dts HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong
Directed by Mark L. Lester

First KnightFirst Knight (Blu-ray)

by Johnny Bray

First Knight is a classic example of the whole being considerably less than the sum of its parts.

Take Hollywood's favorite plot backbone (the love triangle), add three charismatic lead actors, and sprinkle in a dash of a compelling historical tale and you'd think you have the recipe for a pretty sure-fire crowd pleaser.

So why isn't it that good?

Clearly more fantasy than history lesson, First Knight is an epic-ish film with great production values and a solid but somewhat miscast cast.

Arthur (Sean Connery) has fought many battles, and the war is finally over. Now all he wants to do is retire in Camelot and find himself a humble bride with whom to carry on his name. Guinevere (Julia Ormond) answers. While en route to Arthur's home, her carriage is attacked by some really nasty dudes.

To her rescue comes Lancelot (Richard Gere), a charming, fearless drifter with some stellar sword skills. She falls in love with him, even though she's too proud to admit it this early in the film.

Of course, there's the bad guy, too. Ben Cross plays Malagant, a former Round Table Knight who wants to overthrow Arthur and rule with his own law. He's gloriously evil, and has the resources to back it up.

If you've ever seen any movie that involves a love triangle, you can probably write the rest of the movie yourself. It's not especially bad; it's just kinda boring and too cheesy when it shouldn't be. Not to mention the fact that Camelot looks like it came straight out of Lord of the Rings.

The cast does its best, with Ormond stealing the show as the strong yet vulnerable Guinevere. Sean Connery seems like a perfect choice for Arthur, until you actually see him do it. Something about it just doesn't seem quite right. Then there's Gere, who's not a bad actor by any means, but is too much of a charming pretty-boy to be right for this character (it's not his fault; it's just how it was written).

We're glad we saw First Knight. We always wanted to, but never did. Now we can let the desire drift away, as this is not the kind of film that warrants multiple viewings.

The Blu-ray ranges from great to not-so-great. Most of the scenes are excellent, with vibrant colors and no traces of grain and whatnot. Other scenes showcase a little bit of grain and under-saturation, while others still are downright unacceptable. It's almost as if they ignored many of the quicker shots hoping we wouldn't notice.

Well, we did.

The audio is more consistent, but still doesn't "wow" us in any way. The dialogue is crystal clear and the battles are well-mixed, but it seems to be lacking some overall depth. The whole audio track didn't seem to "fill" the room like it should have.

Extras include an audio commentary by director Jerry Zucker and producer Hunt Lowry, an "Arthurian Legend" commentary, three featurettes, and some deleted scenes (which further the theory that the movie is already too long).

First Knight (Blu-ray), from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
134 minutes, 1080p 1.85:1 High Definition, Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Julia Ormond, Ben Cross
Directed by Jerry Zucker

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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