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Monday, May 24, 2010

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

Releases for the Week of 05/18/10 - 05/23/10 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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INVICTUS

(2009)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Langley Kirkwood, Grant Roberts

Warner//Rated PG-13//Drama//134 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

In 1995, newly elected President Nelson Mandela became the champion of South Africa's low-ranking national rugby team, the Springboks. To the nation's blacks, Rugby represented white Afrikaner elitism, but believing South Africa's pride was at stake since the nation was set to host 1995's World Rugby Cup, Mandela reversed a parliamentary decision to disband the team. Barely released from a long term of unjust imprisonment, President Mandela argued that maintaining South Africa's fragile democracy required forgiving his tormentors, and those of all blacks. He was determined to work with the white Afrikaner nationalists controlling the country's military and financial institutions to unite a fractured nation. Played here with dignity and humor by Morgan Freeman, President Mandela persuaded Francois Pienaar, captain of the Springboks team, to become the president's coconspirator. Pienaar, played by Matt Damon, ignored objections from teammates and family, and set about reforming attitudes among the dispirited Springboks. Equally surprising, the Springboks once again found their rugby footing, exhibiting the change in captivating game action. Director Clint Eastwood glosses over the unflattering aspects of Mandela's personal life, but he accomplishes something very rare with this inspirational movie that actually feels good. DVD features: Matt Damon Plays Rugby: Turning a Hollywood Star into a Rugby Player, Invictus Music Trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: In-Depth Picture-in-Picture, Mandela Meets Morgan, Vision, Courage and Honor: Clint Eastwood and the Power of a True Story - Via PIP, The Eastwood factor, Mandela Meets Morgan, DVD Disc of the film, Digital Copy.

NEW DAUGHTER

(2009)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Luis Berdejo

Starring Kevin Costner, Ivana Baquero, Gattlin Griffith, Samantha Mathis and Noah Taylor, Erik Palladino

Anchor Bay//Rated PG-13//Horror//108 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

As a single dad attempting to save his daughter from supernatural creatures, Kevin Costner does what he can to anchor this mediocre horror. Needing a new start for himself and his two kids, newly divorced novelist John James (Costner) moves them into a country home. Situated on the property is a huge dirt mound that proves irresistible to James's teen daughter Lousia (Baquero) while it simultaneously repulses his young son Sam (Griffith). Eventually James realizes that mound-dwelling creatures have gained psychic control of his daughter. The story moves too slowly, spreading a 30-minute plot thin as peanut butter, and doesn't help itself with an assortment of wormy humanoid creatures. DVD or Blu-Ray features: director commentary, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, theatrical trailer, English language track, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

THE JEFF DUNHAM SHOW

(2009)

* (D)

Television/TV Series, Television, Comedies

Comedy Central//Not Rated//Comedy//154 minutes

Available on: DVD

Despite ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's inspired idea, casting his dummies as characters in sketches, his television show is mismatched with other Comedy Central's programming because Dunham's topical humor is several steps behind that of current events. In the first episode Dunham and Walter (Dunham's crotchety old man dummy) go for therapy in order to work out their differences. Learning the therapist is gay, Walter can't help but make a slew of anti-gay statements, but the jokes fall flat. In another, Dunham's dead terrorist dummy, going by the name of Achmed, tries to join the Marines. Again, the jokes are loud, desperate, and fail to strike their targets, innocent or otherwise. Perhaps other episodes in this set are better, but after watching these two, this viewer had enough. DVD features: 7 episodes plus Unaired Sketch, deleted scenes, Behind the scenes, Bloopers, English language track, widescreen.

VALENTINE'S DAY

(2010)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Garry Marshall

Starring Julia Roberts, Emma Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Shirley MacLaine, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Topher Grace, Eric Dane, Hector Elizondo, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx

New Line//Rated PG-13//Comedy//125 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

Seeking to examine the strains and opportunities afforded by Valentine's Day, this romance vehicle is a blur of numerous characters and plot lines. Included love stories feature: senior citizens (MacLaine and Elizondo), gay men (Cooper and Dane), office romance (Alba and Foxx), first crushes (Emma Roberts), and more. Kutcher plays a florist and Garner leads the narrative as his best friend. Kathy Bates appears as a therapist, Queen Latifah as a bipolar talent agent and Anne Hathaway plays a housewife leading a secret double life. Though predictable and gooey, as in a box of assorted chocolates there's a piece for everyone. DVD features: Exclusive "Sex and the City 2" sneak peak trailer, 14 Deleted Scenes with Intro from Garry Marshall, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: director commentary, The stars confess their Valentine's Day stories, The Garry factor, "Stay here forever" music video, gag reel, DVD disc of the film, Digital Copy, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese language tracks.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES

(2010)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Tom Vaughan

Starring Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell, Harrison Ford

CBS Films//Rated PG//Drama//105 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

John and Aileen Crowley's (Fraser and Russell) incredible real-life battle to save their children from the rare Pompe disease, becomes a fictionalized, overblown, made-for-TV style movie. Harrison Ford portrays Dr. Robert Stonehill, a fictional, unruly research scientist interested in finding a cure for an illness known to kill the afflicted by age two. Armed with Stonehill's promise to work full-time on a solution, John Crowley sets about to raise $500,000 dollars. Scripted as irascible and antisocial, Ford works overtime creating an annoying, unsympathetic researcher while Fraser's efforts to emote Crowley's fear and determination barely register. The failure of a fictional film is nothing new, but this amazing true story deserved better. DVD features: featurettes: Extraordinary Measures: The Power to Overcome, Meet John Crowley, Deleted Scenes, widescreen. Blu-Ray features same plus: MovieIQ sync and BD-Live connections to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie.

THE SPY NEXT DOOR

(2010)

* 1/2 (C-)

Directed by Brian Levant

Starring Jackie Chan, George Lopez, Billy Ray Cyrus, Amber Valletta, Katherine Boecher, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley

Lionsgate//Rated PG//Comedy//95 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray

Jackie Chan plays Bob Ho, an international spy on loan to the CIA. Ho finds his toughest assignment is babysitting his girlfriend's (Valletta) three misbehaving children. To express their disdain for Ho's lack of domestic know-how, the kids ensnare the spy in booby traps designed to humiliate their caretaker. After one youngster accidentally downloads top-secret information that causes a Russian terrorist to appear at their doorstep, Bob's job becomes especially challenging. Chan imports deft comic timing to Ho's karate chopping efforts in protection of the kiddies, but can this action star shine while working with three adorable urchins? Methinks not. DVD features: featurettes: Jackie Chan: Stunt Master And Mentor, Adventures In Acting With The Kids From The Spy Next Door, blooper reel, English language track, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

30 DAYS: The Complete Series

(2005-2007)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Created by Morgan Spurlock

Starring Morgan Spurlock

Virgil Films//Not Rated//Docudrama//792 minutes

Available on: DVD

By forcing those holding diametrically opposing viewpoints to spend 30 days together, Morgan Spurlock, of "Supersize Me" fame, hits upon a formula for creating an atmosphere of tolerance. His strategy plops a 40-year-old atheist into a Christian family's home, moves a volunteer border patrolman into a tiny apartment housing seven Mexican illegals, and places a pro-choice advocate in a facility for unwed mothers. In just a few short days, shades of gray become visible where once there was only black and white. Excellently matched hosts and guests undergo a process that reshapes their perspectives to accommodate the beliefs of their new friends. The effect extends to viewers who can't help but join the search for common ground. Great family viewing. 6-Disc DVD features: Morgan Spurlock's commentary on select episodes, diary cam for season 1, DD English language track, widescreen.