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" Keep cool brothers, we’re the saviors of soul "
— Johnny Murphy, The Commitments

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Dark of the Moon is the best of the Transformers trilogy. —Matt Anderson (review...)

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Except that it’s set in a small Irish village, Waking Ned Devine could pass for Grumpy Old Men 3. Instead of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, it stars two aging Irish actors, Ian Bannen and David Kelly.

Bannen and Kelly play Jackie and Michael, two old friends who don’t act their age. (The two take motorcycle rides to the icy Atlantic to go skinny-dipping.) When they learn someone from their village (of just 52 people) has won the lottery, they concoct some wacky schemes to befriend the winner.

They target the 18 known lotto players from the village and invite them all over for a nice chicken supper. One by one, they rule everyone out, until they deduce the winner must have been the man who didn’t come, Ned Devine.

They discover that Ned is Dead from the shock of winning the lottery. Jackie and Michael contrive to steal his identity and claim the winnings.

The movie’s got a (mostly) good heart and more brain than you might think. Jackie’s wife Annie (Fionnula Flanagan) is the movie’s loving moral conscience. She makes the two heroes ponder the fraud they are committing and the potential wishes of the deceased. The movie even remembers to tell us where the money would have gone, had not Jackie and Michael intervened.

There is only one time that the movie is unapologetically blackhearted, and it stands out in contrast to the rest of the film. It’s a scene that’s supposed to make you cheer, but it is unnecessarily cruel, and it calls into question the film’s otherwise goodhearted nature. Many audiences actually did cheer, so you may too. But I found myself wincing at the film’s sudden wicked glee.

The film is full of colorful minor characters, although none of them are developed enough to really let you get attached. The widescreen cinematography is great (including footage shot on the rugged and rustic Isle of Man), but it wasn’t really put to any use in the film....

It seems that for every good thing about the movie, there’s also a “but.” It’s tough to decide whether to recommend it to a friend. The DVD doesn’t help you decide, either. It has a modest amount of features, but not really enough to really impress.

The DVD presents the movie in its original widescreen format, and it preserves the rugged green beauty caught on film. Several panoramic helicopter shots show the hills, the coastline, and the village. The transfer to digital is crisp and clean.

The disc includes a few extra features but nothing unusual or outstanding. There is a theatrical trailer that makes the movie look pretty good. There are director and actor biographies that, for a DVD, are fairly thorough — a few screens of biography followed by a complete filmography for the main actors and the director.

The sound is good, although there is some confusion about how it’s encoded. The sleeve displays the “Dolby Digital” logo, which indicates that the disc has 5.1 discrete surround sound. However, the movie is actually only recorded in Dolby Surround, which is the next step down. I thought I must have set up my amplifier incorrectly, but checking a few other Dolby Digital discs verified I was not mistaken.

On the other hand, the sound was good, and Waking Ned Devine is not the type of movie that requires 5.1 surround. Still, for a new DVD to not have 5.1 Dolby Digital is a shame, especially when the sleeve appears to promise it.

The film only has the English soundtrack, but there are subtitles in English and Spanish.

And finally, there are chapter stops — 24 to be exact.

Add these features together and you get a disc that is better than some, but not outstanding. If you’re interested in watching the movie or if you liked it in the theaters, the DVD is a good way to see it. The widescreen presentation and generally good sound and picture are the next best thing to film. If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you won’t miss much without this one in your collection.