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Red Dawn (2012) Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Red Dawn (2012) movie poster Red Dawn

Theatrical Release: November 21, 2012 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Dan Bradley / Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore (screenplay); Kevin Reynolds (original movie screenplay & story); John Milius (original movie screenplay)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Jed Eckert), Josh Peck (Matt Eckert), Josh Hutcherson (Robert Kitner), Adrianne Palicki (Toni Walsh), Isabel Lucas (Erica Martin), Connor Cruise (Daryl Jenkins), Edwin Hodge (Danny), Brett Cullen (Sgt. Tom Eckert), Alyssa Diaz (Julie), Julian Alcaraz (Greg), Will Yun Lee (Captain Cho), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Tanner), Fernando Chien (Lt. Pak), Kenneth Choi (Smith), Matt Gerald (Hodges), Michael A. Knight (Colonel Ivanov), Steve Lenz (Pete), Noah Smith (Joe), Michael Beach (Mayor Jenkins)

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Remaking movies is tricky. Remake a great, beloved movie and everyone compares you to the original, probably unfavorably. Remake a flawed one and the public's interest and expectations aren't as high, yet you've still got to know how to improve upon those who struggled with the same story. That lose-lose scenario might encourage filmmakers
to stick with original scripts, but the commercial value of a built-in audience and a familiar title can be too tempting to resist. So, we get remakes all the time and rarely do they exceed their predecessors.

With a 6.1 rating on IMDb and a generous (yet still rotten) 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, 1984's Red Dawn clearly isn't sacred ground. Its biggest claim to fame may be that it was the first film released with the PG-13 rating. It's got its fans, but even their appreciation is ironic and recognizes the ludicrousness of a premise that sees small-town teenagers defending America against foreign invaders.

In 2012's Red Dawn, shot all the way back in the fall of 2009, the invaders have been updated from the Soviet Union to the slightly more believable North Koreans. The setting has been moved from Calumet, Colorado to Spokane, Washington. The rating is still PG-13 and the execution still leaves plenty to be desired.

Three young men (Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, and Josh Hutcherson) defending their nation from North Korean invaders hone their shooting skills on a deer in 2012's "Red Dawn."

The attack on America begins with a blackout, soon followed by paratroopers and airpower. The youths who stand up to their aggressors are average civilian teenagers and young adults, with the exception of Jed Eckert (Thor's Chris Hemsworth), a Marine who's back in town after a stint in Iraq. Jed is joined by his younger brother Matt (Josh Peck), a quarterback on the high school football team, and others including the brothers' love interests (Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas) and a couple of nerds (The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson and Connor Cruise).

All it takes is one training montage and a raid of the police department's weapons supply (the brothers' sergeant father is among those detained) to make these kids formidable warriors. They might not be able to match the North Koreans in tanks and artillery, but they're confident they can be the tiny flea that drives a big dog crazy (their words). The high school's team name -- Wolverines -- becomes their moniker and battle cry, as the occupiers brandish them terrorists.

Josh Hutcherson keeps his head warm while engaging in guerilla warfare on the streets of Spokane, Washington. Tanner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the most vocal of three grown-up Marines who join forces with the Wolverines.

The original Red Dawn is full of problems, from glaring credibility woes to plain old deficient character development. This remake repeats them and doesn't have the benefit of thirty years' worth of nostalgia to forgive them. Those same thirty years have brought progress to filmmaking, but that doesn't help this version in any way. It's still stupid, preposterous, and more laughable than exciting or inspiring. There's more violence, but the fairly remarkable volume is kept bloodless to secure the all-important PG-13 rating. The style falls in line with 21st century standards, if you're considering Michael Bay the standard. In this directorial debut of longtime stunt coordinator and second unit director Dan Bradley, big action sequences are dark, frantically-edited, and shakily shot.
If you even manage to follow them, chances are you won't care about them. There isn't even the novelty of clanging metal giants, just kids with RPGs, rifles, and explosive devices whose makes and models seem as important as the people carrying them.

The three-year journey from production to release, the result of MGM's seemingly endless financial troubles, had its perks. In 2009, Hemsworth had already wielded Thor's hammer for cameras, but neither that film nor The Avengers had been released and made him a semi-household name. Hutcherson had not yet appeared in The Hunger Games or the Oscar nominee The Kids Are All Right. Their co-stars haven't enjoyed a similar boost in recognition, with the formerly plump Peck being further removed from his Nickelodeon sitcom "Drake & Josh" and the two leading ladies remaining unknown by name or face.

Released on the always competitive Thanksgiving Eve as one of the year's worst-reviewed films, Red Dawn didn't fare as poorly as it might have at the box office, grossing an okay $45 million domestically while barely registering in foreign territories. That haul was still well short of profitability and even the movie's $65 million production budget, but enough to make the critical failures more significant than the commercial ones.

After its North American theatrical distribution rights were acquired by FilmDistrict, Red Dawn came to DVD and a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack via MGM's home video partner Fox, rather than FilmDistrict's usual ally Sony.

Red Dawn (2012): Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $45.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available in standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Blu-ray poses no problems of picture or sound for Red Dawn. The 2.40:1 video stays satisfyingly spotless and sharp, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix packs a pretty strong punch. While there are no dubs, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered.

North Korean forces invade Spokane by air on the main menu of the barebones DVD.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Unusually, Red Dawn comes equipped with nary a traditional bonus feature on Blu-ray or DVD, not even its trailer. It seems highly unlikely for there not to have been deleted scenes from a 93-minute film shelved so long,
but perhaps the void is an act of mercy when you consider what possibly could have been deemed too bad to include in this film.

The Blu-ray opens with a promo for The Blu-ray Experience and menu-inaccessible, already dated trailers for A Good Day to Die Hard, Skyfall, The Marine 3: Homefront, and Broken City.

Different from the one sold on its own, the DVD here includes a transferrable iTunes digital copy file alongside the film, unnecessarily dropping even the disc-opening trailers to fit it.

The main menu plays a deliberately glitchy montage of action scenes. The Blu-ray both supports bookmarks and resumes playback. The only insert in the unslipcovered eco-friendly Blu-ray case is a booklet supplying directions and a unique redemption code for either transferring the digital copy or downloading/streaming an UltraViolet version of the film. It also includes a coupon for $8 off another copy of this very Blu-ray combo or that of The Marine 3.

When assembling a guerilla army out of ordinary youths, it's good to have the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leading the way. Wolverines flash the peace sign with no intended irony.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Those who remember the original Red Dawn as cool or fun probably haven't seen it in a long time. This remake, however, is absolutely no better and, unaided by any nostalgia, it is even more of a chore to endure. This Blu-ray combo pack offers a fine feature presentation in four different formats and nothing more than that. A single viewing is one too many for all but the most devoted of action movie fans.

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Reviewed April 3, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 FilmDistrict, ContraFilm, United Artists, and 2013 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.