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Monday, May 31, 2010

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

Releases for the Week of 05/25/10 - 05/30/10 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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Leverage: Season Two

(2009-2010)

* * (Grade C)

Created by John Rogers and Chris Downey

Starring Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge

Paramount//Not Rated//Drama//707 minutes

Available on: DVD

Timothy Hutton stars as Nathan Ford, leading a small band of vigilantes. Each episode opens with an innocent person being victimized by a greedy individual. The wronged party persuades Nathan and his team to take their case. Nathan identifies the wrongdoer's weakness and uses it to devise a means of bringing the miscreant down. In "The Three Days of the Hunter Job" the team provides a false scoop to a Nancy Grace-like journalist (Beth Broderick) whose inaccurate reporting has ruined many lives. Nathan is motivated by a tragedy from his past, but the other young team members: a hacker, an acrobat, a martial arts expert and a con game expert, risk jail and worse simply because they enjoy their work. 4-Disc DVD features: John Rogers set tour, Behind the boom featurette, The Creators of Leverage Q&A, "The Hand Job" spoof video, Andy Lange music featurette, Season 2 wrap party gag reel, commentaries on each episode, English language tracks, widescreen.

Dear John

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

Starring Richard Jenkins, Amanda Seyfried, Channing Tatum, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona

Sony//Rated PG-13//Drama//109 minutes

Available on: DVD or Blu-Ray

The adaptation of yet another weepy Nicholas Sparks romance casts Channing Tatum as John Tyree, a U.S. Special Forces soldier on leave, when he falls hard for Savannah Curtis (Seyfried) in scenic Charleston, S.C. She's passionate, sweet and adorable, he's loyal to a fault and off to serve in Iraq while Savannah languishes at home. Largely told through the pair's love letters, the film offers excellent supporting turns by Jenkins as John's socially inept father, and by Thomas who plays a single parent raising an autistic son. Determined to pluck our heartstrings, Dear John aims squarely for the author's cry-hard fans. DVD or Blu-Ray features: Deleted and Alternate Scenes, Alternate Ending, Outtakes, A Conversation with Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried and Lasse Hallstrom, Transforming Charleston, Military in Movies: Dear John's Military Advisors, Mr. Tyree, The Mule, and Benny Dietz, The Story of Braeden Reed, English language tracks, widescreen. Exclusive Blu-Ray features: movieIQ%u02D9 sync and BD-Live for real-time info while watching the movie.

7 Adventures of Sinbad

(2010)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Ben Hayflick, Adam Silver

Starring Patrick Muldoon, Sarah Desage, Bo Svenson

Asylum//Not Rated//Fantasy//90 minutes

Available on: DVD

Another direct-to-video Asylum motion picture, Sinbad sports the tagline "The Original Prince of Persia," and is timed for a concurrent release with the major motion picture bearing that title. Shot in just 13 days on a $500,000 budget, the film depicts an appealing array of giants that include: an octopus, a crab, a squid, a whale, flying prehistoric dinosaurs and a two creatures cribbed from "Lord of the Rings," a cyclops and a lava demon. The film goes awry when focusing on billionaire industrialist Adrian Sinbad (Muldoon), fleeing with a handful of others, after his oil tanker is attacked. They become marooned on a desert island where local warrior Loa (Desage) persuades them to prevent an impending apocalypse by undertaking a daring quest. DVD features: Making of featurette, deleted scenes, bloopers, trailer, English language tracks, widescreen.

Flashpoint: Season Two

(2009)

* * (C)

Created by Mark Ellis, Stephanie Morgenstern

Starring Enrico Colantoni, Amy Jo Johnson, Hugh Dillon, David Paetkau, Michael Cram, Sergio Di Zio, Mark Taylor

Paramount//Not Rated//Drama//338 minutes

Available on: DVD

Toronto's Emergency Task Force defuses bombs, climbs the sides of skyscrapers and fields trained negotiators who are also capable of rescuing hostages by force. Plenty goes wrong for team members, both in the line of duty and their personal lives. Though the characters' workaday struggles are credibly depicted, the show's soft storytelling technique blunts its edgy subject matter. 2-Disc DVD features: featurettes: Stunts, Weapons, Hugh Dillon works well with others, English language tracks, widescreen.

Malice in Wonderland

(2009)

-Bomb- (F)

Directed by Simon Fellows

Starring Maggie Grace, Matt King, Danny Dyer, Nathaniel Parker, Bronagh Gallagher, Anthony Higgins, Steve Haze, Dave Lynn

Magnolia//Rated R//Fantasy//87 minutes

Available on: DVD

Lewis Carroll's tale is re-imagined and set in present day London. While escaping a dull German fiancée, American socialite Alice (Grace) is hit by a London cab. The driver, named Whitey (a stand-in for the white rabbit), takes Alice to a party after he learns she is suffering from amnesia. While she tries to make sense of her circumstances, Whitey (Dyer) attempts to befriend a crook because Whitey wants in on the major heist he is said to be planning. The truth of Alice's situation turns out to be as tired as the film's lazy dialog and lackluster action. "Off with its head." DVD features: Making of featurette, Behind the scenes, Photo gallery, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

Rain Fall

(2009)

* * (C)

Directed by Max Mannix

Starring Gary Oldman, Hasegawa Kyoko, Kippei Shiina, Max Mannix, Akira Emoto

Lionsgate//Rated R//Action//111 minutes

Available on: DVD

Release Date May 25, 2010

John Rain (Shiina) is an assassin working in Tokyo when he learns his CIA handler (Oldman) is determined to kill both Rain and Midori (Hasegawa), the innocent daughter of Rain's most recent target. Together, Rain and Midori go on the run, though they mostly stroll because a slew of government killers can't seem to track them down. Despite the exotic locations and adequate acting, this momentum-challenged action flick is soon all wrung out. DVD features: Cast and crew interviews, Trailer gallery, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

Merlin and the Book of Beasts

(2009)

* (Grade D)

Directed by Warren P. Sonoda, Jesse Moss

Starring James Callis, Laura Harris, Monique Ganderton, Donald Adams, Patrick Sabongui, Maja Stace-Smith, Jim Thorburn

Anchor Bay//Not Rated//Fantasy//92 minutes

Available on: Blu-Ray

When the evil sorcerer Mordred unleashes the Medusa twins and a plague of homicidal insects on the kingdom, Merlin must save the day with help from deceased King Arthur's daughter, Avlynn. She alone can wield Excalibur against Mordred, but can do nothing to enliven lifeless special effects or to invigorate this poorly paced screenplay. Merlin should zap this mangled Sci-Fi Channel effort into oblivion.

The Shortcut

(2009)

* * (Grade C)

Directed by Nicholaus Goosen

Starring Dave Franco, Andrew Seeley, Shannon Woodward, Katrina Bowden, Josh Emerson, Nicholas Elia, Raymond J. Barry

Anchor Bay//Rated PG-13//Horror//85 minutes

Available on: Blu-Ray

After his little brother Tobey (Elia) sees something frightening in the woods, Derek (Seeley) and his teen friends venture into the forest to seek out a scary old man said to dwell there. A low-budget horror casting James Franco's little brother Dave, the story takes the unfortunate shortcut of telegraphing its plot twists. Blu-Ray features: Director commentary, Behind the scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, DD SS 5.1 English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen.

The Shadow Within

(2007)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Silvana Zancolo

Starring Bonny Ambrose, Laurence Belcher, Rod Hallett, Haley J. Williams, Beth Winslet

MTI//Rated R//Horror//93 minutes

Available on: DVD

Maurice (Belcher), 9, is plagued by the malevolent spirit of his dead twin brother Jacques, as well as those of other recently deceased local children. In an effort to speak with her dead son, Maurice's mother Marie (Williams) allows Madame Armand (Ambrose) to lead a seance forcing Maurice to channel his twin's spirit. Kate Winslet's sister Beth appears in a gratuitous role as a doctor, the sole adult concerned for Maurice's soul. The film hits its high mark during unnerving sequences that depict child-shaped shadows chasing Maurice, but the effect of these creepy moments is dissipated by talky execution, and the overall lack of plot. DVD features: Trailers, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

Spartacus

(1960)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Kirk Douglas, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, John Gavin, Nina Foch

Universal//Rated PG-13//180 minutes

50th Anniversary Edition Available on: Blu-Ray

Douglas appears as a gladiator leading a slave revolt against Rome, but the stagy toga-and-sandals production is made corny by a self-aggrandizing score. Charismatic Douglas produced and wrangled Simmons to play his love interest, Olivier for the role of Crassus, Laughton to portray a curmudgeonly senator, John Gavin as young Julius Caesar, Peter Ustinov to portray greedy businessman Batiatus, and best of all, Tony Curtis (replete with a New York accent) as Antoninus. Restored in 1991, Anthony Hopkins dubbed Olivier's voice in the "snails and oysters" scene while Curtis dubbed his own voice, because the original soundtrack could not be salvaged. Blu-Ray features: Deleted Scenes, Behind-the-scenes Footage, Archival Interviews with Peter Ustinov and Jean Simmons, 5 Vintage Newsreels, Image Galleries, including Production Stills, Concept Art, Costume Designs, Storyboards, Posters, Print Ads, English language tracks, French or Spanish subtitles.

Hard Ride to Hell

(2010)

Directed by Penelope Buitenhuis

Starring Miguel Ferrer, Katherine Isabelle, Laura Mennell, Brendan Penny

Vivendi//Not Rated//Horror//94 minutes

Available on: DVD

A band of immortal, devil-worshipping bikers terrorize a group of campers after the interlopers unwittingly observe a gruesome blood sacrifice. Fleeing to a ghost town, the campers take shelter in a church that harbors a malevolent priest and a strange boy burdened by a terrible secret. A cutlery salesman (Brent Stait) squares off against the cannibalistic biker leader (Ferrer), but the film's real goal is to create a heap of chopped and chain-sawed body parts. DVD features: English language tracks, widescreen.

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