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Original The Day The Earth Stood Still among DVD reviews

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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951). One of the defining science fiction films from a decade that witnessed the explosion of the genre, The Day the Earth Stood Still has lost none of its topicality – if anything, the march of time has only increased its importance as a pacifist doctrine. Klaatu (Michael Rennie), a humanoid being from a galaxy far, far away, arrives in Washington, D.C., with the massive robot Gort by his side. Klaatu arrives peacefully, but since U.S. military policy (then, as now) is to shoot first and ask questions later, the spaceman is wounded and escorted to an army hospital, where he insists that he must speak to all of the world's leaders before it's too late. Klaatu had not figured on the perils of earthling bureaucracy to slow down his mission, so he escapes from the hospital, whereupon he acquires a room at a boarding house. There, he befriends single mom Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray), and soon decides that his best hope for mass communication is via the renowned scientist Dr. Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe). Director Robert Wise (who would later helm West Side Story and The Sound of Music) and scripter Edmund H. North, working from Harry Bates' story "Farewell to the Master," have created a serious-minded motion picture that nevertheless offers the expected sci-fi props, including a moody music score (by the great Bernard Herrmann, of Psycho fame) and a memorable robot in Gort (played by towering actor Lock Martin). Gort's presence also gave rise to one of cinema's classic lines: "Klaatu barada nikto!"

The two-disc special edition includes new extras as well as ones from the title's previous DVD incarnation. Features include audio commentary by Wise and director Nicholas Meyer (Time After Time, Star Trek movies II and IV); separate commentary by four film and music historians; a 24-minute making-of piece; a reading of the original short story that inspired the film; North's Race to Oblivion, a nuclear-disarmament documentary (featuring Burt Lancaster); and the featurette Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction As Metaphor.

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***1/2

THE MUMMY: CURSE OF THE EMPEROR'S TOMB (2008). 1999's The Mummy was a barely passable Indiana Jones rip-off, while 2001's The Mummy Returns proved to be rather dismal. This one, however, is the worst of the lot, though that didn't deter U.S. audiences from forking over $102 million to catch it in theaters. In the China of 2,000 years ago, a sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) places a curse on an evil emperor (Jet Li) who can now only be awoken by a drop of human blood; cut to 1946, where retired adventurer Rick O'Connell (series star Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, replacing Rachel Weisz after the latter declared, "Screw this; I have an Oscar now!") mope around their English estate while son Alex (Luke Ford) is off digging up the emperor. Plot contrivances reunite them in Shanghai, and from there, the gang is forced to fight the now-revived emperor. The sloppiness of the entire enterprise is immediately evident by the fact that the 27-year-old Ford looks nowhere near young enough to be playing the son of 39-year-old Fraser and 41-year-old Bello. From there, the movie only gets more absurd; for example, do the O'Connells really encounter abominable snowmen who, based on the employment of a field goal signal, must subscribe to DIRECTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package? And do scripters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar think that audiences will be impressed by dialogue that basically consists of variations on Rick yelping, "Well, here I am fighting mummies again!"? Clearly, here's a perfunctory franchise in need of a long-overdue dirt nap.

Extras in the two-disc deluxe edition include audio commentary by director Rob Cohen; a 22-minute making-of piece; 11 minutes of deleted and extended scenes; and featurettes on the effects, action choreography and location shooting.

Movie: *

Extras: **

PRICELESS (2008). The women of Sex and the City look as chaste as Mother Teresa when compared to Irene, the protagonist of this French comedy. Promoted by the studio as the modern-day counterpart to Breakfast at Tiffany's Holly Golightly (though the film itself evokes Ernst Lubitsch or Preston Sturges more than Blake Edwards), Irene (played by Audrey Tautou) floats around the French Riviera looking for wealthy men to pamper and provide for her. Her current suitor Jacques (Vernon Dobtcheff) has agreed to marry her, but out of boredom, she has a fling with a young millionaire named Jean (Gad Elmaleh). But it's a case of mistaken identity: Jean is actually a bartender at the resort, and Irene is furious after Jacques dumps her and Jean (now unemployed for sleeping with a guest) is unable to provide for her. Hopelessly smitten, Jean remains in her orbit even after she lands another suitor (Jacques Spiesser), and once he finds himself the companion of an older woman (Marie-Christine Adam) who mistakes him for a gigolo, Irene softens and begins to teach this novice the rules of the game. The P.C. Patrol can feel free to tut-tut at the characters' morals, but Priceless is such a charming romantic comedy in the fairy-tale vein (a la Pretty Woman) that any ill will would be seriously misplaced. After being drained of all personality for her role in The Da Vinci Code, Tautou regains her Amelie effervescence, while The Valet's Elmaleh again displays an easygoing rapport with his own comic intuitions. Add to this frothy mix some gorgeous shots of the French Riviera, and Priceless proves to be a steal at any cost.

Aside from a half-dozen trailers, there are no extra features.

Movie: ***

Extras: *

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