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Grumpy Old Men,' Knowing' top short list of new Blu-ray releases

July 7, 2009 at 2:07 a.m.


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By Doug Nye

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

(MCT)

A comedy showcasing two legends, "Grumpy Old Men" (Warner, 1993, $28.99), and a compelling science-fiction thriller, "Knowing" (Summit, 2009, $34.98), lead this week's lineup of new titles arriving on Blu-ray.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are simply a joy to watch as the two "Grumpy Old Men" living in the snowy neighborhood of Wabasha, Minn. Widowers John Gustafson (Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Matthau) are next-door neighbors who once were childhood buddies. But that friendship seemingly vanished long ago as they now spend each day throwing verbal insults at each other.

Gustafson enjoys calling Goldman "moron" and hiding fish in Max's car. Of course, it takes a couple of days for the smell to kick in and for Max to realize where it's coming from. Max has his own ways of getting even with Gustafson.

When they're not feuding, the two spend much of the wintry days ice fishing on a nearby frozen lake. Naturally, they grumble at each other there, too.

Things seem to get even worse between them when an attractive and free-spirited woman, Ariel (Ann-Margret), moves in across the street. Both Gustafson and Goldman are dazzled and soon they are trying to outdo each other to impress her.

There are plenty of laughs along the way and also many situations that will bring a warm smile to your face. Burgess Meredith is terrifically funny as Gustafson's salty 94-year-old father, who hasn't lost any lust for the opposite sex. Darryl Hannah, Kevin Pollack and Ossie Davis round out a marvelous cast. Highly recommended.

"Knowing" is not the usual aliens-on-the-loose sci-fi fare. It begins in 1959 Lexington, Mass., where William Dawes Elementary is celebrating its grand opening by burying a time capsule to be opened a half-century in the future. Inside the capsule are students' drawings depicting what they think the future will look like. One paper, however, is a massive list of numbers written by a strange little girl.

Fifty years later, the capsule is opened and each current-day student receives one of the drawings from yesteryear. Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) gets the one with numbers. Later in the evening. Caleb's dad, John (Nicolas Cage), spots the paper and thinks nothing of it. But after Caleb goes to bed, John, a professor at MIT, takes another look at the numbers.

Suddenly he becomes obsessed with them. He works through the night and discovers that the numbers are predictions of future disastrous events. Many of them have already occurred but others are still to come. One sequence of numbers might even predict the fate of the human race. John frantically tries to convince others of his findings. It all makes for a top-notch and haunting sci-fi effort. Highly recommended.

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Other Blu-ray titles:

"The Universe: The Complete Second Season" (A&E, 2007-08, $79.95): This four-disc set contains 18 episodes of the History Channel's spectacular journey through our solar system and millions of light years beyond. Among the subjects explored are "Cosmic Holes," ''Supernovas," ''Colonizing Space," ''Unexplained Mysteries" and "The End of the Universe." Not surprisingly, all of the computer-enhanced episodes sparkle on Blu-ray. Highly recommended.

"The Deep" (Sony, 1977, $28.95): Based on a book by Peter Benchley, this film features some stunning underwater photography, which looks terrific on Blu-ray. Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte play a couple on vacation in Bermuda, where they discover a hidden treasure. The find soon complicates their lives with drug smugglers and sharks. Also in the cast are Robert Shaw, Eli Wallach and Louis Gossett, Jr.

"Push" (Summit, 2009, $34.98): Dakota Fanning and Chris Evans play characters who have special abilities, such as being able to see into the future. The pair make off with a briefcase that contains a startling government secret. They become involved in a series of events that threaten the future of civilization, or something like that. The sci-fi film looks good but often is confusing.

"The Unborn" (Universal, 2009, $39.98): A young woman, Casey Beldon (Odette Yustman), is plagued by frightening dreams and becomes convinced she is possessed by evil spirits. She calls on Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) to help her by performing an exorcism.

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(c)2009 McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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