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Monday, June 14, 2010

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

Releases for the Week of 06/08/10-06/13/10 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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Shutter Island
(2010)
* * *1/2 (A-)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Patricia Clarkson, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams
Paramount//Rated R//Thriller//137 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray
This fourth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, examines the differences between perception and reality. Enigmatic DiCaprio is perfect for the role of US Marshal Teddy Daniels, teamed with rookie Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to search for an escaped inmate on Shutter Island, the site of an asylum for the criminally insane. The film, based on the bestseller by Dennis Lehane, is set in 1954, a pivotal point in the development of psychiatry. Teddy's search for an escaped killer (Emily Mortimer) uncovers competing schools of thought between Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who believes in addressing patient symptoms via psychotherapy and drugs and the prefrontal lobotomies favored by Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow). Teddy, is prone to daydreams of his wife (Michelle Williams), deceased two years prior, and as a WWII vet, suffers from night terrors stemming from wartime experience. One of the film's several plot twists investigates Teddy's ulterior motives for coming to Shutter Island. His conversations with doctors and with a determined woman, played by Patricia Clarkson are efforts to understand mental illness. The list of psychological thrillers successfully culminating in a surprise ending, is short, but Shutter Island is worthy of inclusion. DVD features: English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-Ray features same plus: Making-of featurette, Into the Lighthouse: Interviews with cast and crew regarding psychiatric therapies during the 1950s, option of Portuguese subtitles.


From Paris With Love
(2010)
* * (C)
Directed by Pierre Morel
Starring John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden
Lionsgate//Rated R//Comedy//93 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray
Resembling a goateed Mr. Clean -- right down to his oversized hoop earring -- John Travolta's CIA operative, Charlie Wax, attempts to kill his way to the top of a Paris drug-dealing operation. The reasons for gunning down baddies, consisting largely of Asians and Pakistanis, are Charlie's claims of terrorist activities. The kills and explosions seem video-game ready, a device to indoctrinate neophyte James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) into the realm of international black ops. On the very eve of becoming a full-fledged CIA Agent, and accepting a marriage proposal from his adorable French girlfriend (Kasia Smutniak), Reese is teamed with the reckless Wax. Reese's somewhat ineffectual approach to both his career and love are summed up by his sloppy attempt to bug a French minister's office. For once, Travolta's grinning and strutting actually serves the screenplay by Adi Hasak. Wax, presented first as an idiot, then as an indestructible idiot, graduates over the course of this tale to the role of wise mentor and protector. Along the way his adversaries, executed with gleeful abandon, are portrayed as cardboard cutouts. What might have been a two-and-half star fling is diminished by a transparent plot twist coming to light early in the film. Non gamers may appreciate the film's kinetic energy and some minor storytelling surprises. DVD features: director commentary, featurettes: making-of, Spies, spooks and special ops: Life under cover, Secrets of spy craft: Inside the international spy museum, Theatrical trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-Ray features same plus: Picture-in-picture director commentary, Friend or foe trivia game, Charlie Wax's gun locker featurette, Lionsgate live, (requires profile 2. 0 player) – BD Live Exclusive Theatrical trailer, digital copy of film.


Frontline: Behind Taliban Lines
(2010)
* * * * (A)
Screenwriter Jamie Doran
Starring Najibullah Quraishi, Cmdr. Mirwais
PBS Video//Not Rated//Documentary//60 minutes
Available on: DVD
Who are the Afghani insurgents and how do they operate? During the fall of 2009, video journalist Najibullah Quraishi attempted to find out during 10 days spent with rebels in northern Afghanistan. Remarkably, they allowed him to film Hezb-i-Islami's "Central Group," an organization with ties to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. To fund themselves the group maintains control over remote villages, collecting "taxes" from residents at gunpoint. Quraishi's footage and his observations, depict a structured, yet disorganized group led by middle-aged men. The young perform the most risky jobs. To targeting a road used by the U.S. and the United Nations, the insurgents make bombs, a process taped by Quraishi who lets his camera run even after being instructed to turn it off. On site, the men plant their bomb, but a misplaced remote detonator fouls the attack. When a high-powered leader visits the group, Quraishi's presence falls under suspicion, and he is spirited away for his own protection. We are left to ponder footage that is both enlightening and terrifying. DVD features: English language tracks, widescreen.


Z Rock: Season 2
(2009)
* * * (B)
Starring Joey Cassata, David Zablidowsky, Paul Zablidowsky, Lynne Koplitz, Big Jay, Joan Rivers
Anchor Bay//Not Rated//Comedy//242 minutes
Available on: DVD
By night, Brooklyn rockers, Paulie, David and Joey C belong to a rock band known as ZO2. Since they haven't caught their big break, by day the guys play soft rock at upscale children's parties. In season 2, the disillusioned band breaks up, only to realize that pursuing their dream -- and a steady stream of admiring babes -- is what they live for. Comedienne Lynne Koplitz appears as the band's promiscuous manager, Dina. A relative of Joan Rivers -- Dina frequently crosses paths with Joan's daughter, Melissa. The women are rivals arguing incessantly over the many men they've both bedded. Dina easily manipulates the band, portrayed as juvenile and fearful of her wrath. In real life ZO2 is a successful band getting good gigs -- as the group based upon the show's brief musical interludes. Airing at 11:30 PM Sundays on the Independent Film Channel, “Z Rock” is a little-known, well-written series that has yet to garner the attention it deserves. 2-Disc DVD features: deleted scenes, Outtakes, Z Rock Unscripted, Special guests, The Smackdown, English language tracks, widescreen.

Coach
(2010)
* * (C)
Directed by Will Frears
Starring Hugh Dancy, David Zayas, Liane Balaban, Mamie Gummer, Gillian Jacobs, Jonathan Gutierrez
Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Comedy//87 minutes
Available on: DVD
Hugh Dancy appears as Nick, a 28-year-old trust fund baby surprised to find himself the last party boy standing after his girlfriend (Jacobs) dumps him and his buddies all move on. A lifelong soccer fan, Nick takes a job coaching 13-year-olds playing on a local youth team. After learning life lessons from the kiddies, the aging slacker falls for Gabrielle (Balaban), an attractive doctor with little patience for losers. Jonathan Gutierrez is credible as a young team member, easily standing out from Dancy whose character bows to conventional Hollywood storytelling. DVD features: DD 5. 1 English language tracks, Spanish subtitles. widescreen.


Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist
(2009)
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Carole and Richard Rifkind
Starring Lawrence Shapiro
PBS Video//Not Rated//Documentary//60 minutes
Available on: DVD
Three graduate students race to discover the switch that controls appetite. Rob is a perennial dropout, Kilpatrick is tempted by the easy life and Gabriele struggles to overcome self-doubt. Serving as their guide and mentor, professor Lawrence Shapiro tries to keep them on course. During the three years of filming, the students' academic path demands long hours of tedious trials in return for low wages and the possibility of getting beaten to the punch. Though less involving than it could be, there's no more realistic depiction of the obstacles and rewards placed before candidates vying for a PhD in science. DVD features: The Pipeline of Future Scientists, Mentoring, Technology at the Cutting Edge, Basic Research and Drug Design, Talking to my Grandpa, Discussion Guide PDF, English language tracks.


Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind
(2009)
* * * (B)
Created by Nick Park
Lionsgate//Not Rated//Animated//38 minutes
Available on: DVD
Drawn from dialog-free, 5-minute episodes, these six chapters introduce Shaun the sheep, and his friends to a family of one-eyed extraterrestrials. In addition, Shaun and the other sheep keep finding new ways of getting in over their heads by going to battle with the farmer's naughty, clever pigs or with his ill-tempered bull. As is usual for a Nick Park story, it's up to a smart dog, in this case the farmer's dog Bitzer, to keep tabs on everyone. DVD features: Sing-Along With Shaun, "Whack-A-Pig" Game, English language tracks.


The Illusionist
(2006)
* * * (B)
Directed by Neil Burger
Starring Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, Edward Norton, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan, Aaron Johnson, Tom Fisher, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jake Wood
Fox//Rated PG-13//Thriller//109 minutes
Available on: Blu-Ray
Set at the turn of the 19th century, this mystery is a lavish, spellbinding production. Norton portrays rising magician Eisenheim, toast of Vienna and true love of Prince Leopold's (Sewell) mistress, Sophie (Biel). Seeking to undo his rival, the prince instructs Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti) to uncover evidence of what he believes are Eisenheim's criminal activities. The magician responds with a plot to reveal Leopold's corruption. The stakes continue to rise until Sophie is murdered -- or is she? Norton gives a powerhouse performance. 2-Disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo features: Commentary by writer/director Neil Burger, featurettes: Making of, Jessica Biel on The Illusionist, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.


A Waste of Shame
(2005)
* * (C)
Directed by John McKay
Starring Rupert Graves, Tom Sturridge, Anna Chancellor, Andrew Tiernan, Indira Varma, Zoe Wanamaker
BFS//Rated TV-14//Drama//85 minutes
Available on: DVD
Who did Shakespeare have in mind when penning his sonnets featuring a dark lady and a fair youth? This screenplay casts Graves as the Bard and speculates regarding the identities of these characters from his poetry. We meet the dark lady as Shakespeare yearns for the affections of Lucie (Varma), a beautiful, popular prostitute -- but he does little to win her. The fair youth is a pretty young man named William Herbert (Sturridge), The Earl of Pembroke, who captures Shakespeare’s gaze. The depravity of 16th Century England -- its filthy conditions and a plague, fuel everyone's fears and further contribute to Shakespeare's funk. Yet, the film fails to persuade that the Bard feels much of anything, and is therefore unsatisfying. DVD features: English language tracks, widescreen.


Dog City: The Movie
(1989)
* * (C)
Directed by Jim Henson
Voices of: Ron White, Kevin Clash, Jim Henson, Gordon Robertson, Rickey Boyd, Steve Whitmire, Fran Brill
Lionsgate//Not Rated//Family, Comedy//40 minutes
Available on: DVD
Jim Henson's 1989 gangster parody was a made-for-TV show enacted by dog puppets. In the 1930s, Ace the dog inherits his uncle's saloon, then decides to take on bulldog Bugsy rather than pay protection money. The puppets and sets are visually appealing, but the jokes barely fetch a smile and the characterizations lack bite. DVD features: Original movie concept art, Behind-the-scenes gallery, English language tracks.


Clint Eastwood: The Man With No Name Trilogy
(1964 - 1966)
* * * (B)
Directed by Sergio Leone
Starring Clint Eastwood
MGM//Rated R//Western//411 minutes
Available on: Blu-Ray
Clint Eastwood was propelled to international fame by Sergio Leone's trio of spaghetti Westerns. The films are notable for their humor, relentless violence and for Eastwood's scant dialog. His cigar-smoking character is sometimes referred to as Blondie. This set contains: A Fistful of Dollars, For A FewDollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. 3-Disc Blu-Ray features: The films feature commentaries with film historians, more information from film historian Christopher Frayling, trailers, radio spots, deleted scenes, Eastwood's remembrances of making the films, and a variety of special features on the directing, comparing locations, network broadcasts and reconstructions, Easter Eggs, English, French, German, Italian or Spanish language tracks, Cantonese or Korean subtitles, widescreen.


Also Out This week:

Starstruck
(2010)
Directed by Michael N. Grossman
Starring Sterling Knight, Brandon Mychal Smith, Danielle Campbell, Maggie Castle
Disney//Rated TV-G//Comedy//84 minutes
Available on: DVD/CD Extended Edition
Pop sensation Christopher Wilde (Knight), meets his number one fan Sara (Campbell), along with her sister Jessica (Castle), after the girls pursue him to his gal pal's birthday party. Sara and Christopher embark on a wild adventure that helps Sara understand the drawbacks of stardom, while Christopher realizes that spending time with a regular girl helps him put his life and goals into perspective. 2-Disc Extended Edition DVD/CD features: Extended cut of the Disney Channel original movie, extended music scene-featuring the song "Got To believe," Music videos: "Starstruck," "Something about the sunshine," "Party up," Rock-A-Long: Sing along with movie, included full-length soundtrack CD, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.


Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season Seven
(2009)
Created by Larry David
Starring Larry David, Cheryl Hines
HBO//Not Rated//Comedy//320 Minutes
Available on: DVD
Season seven find "Seinfeld's" co-creator and producer, Larry David, playing a fictionalized version of his cantankerous self. He's trying to orchestrate a reunion of the Seinfeld show while coping with his separation from Cheryl (Hines) and his continued entanglement with the Black family. Averaging a 9-out-of-10-rating from Internet Movie Database users -- it can't hurt that Seinfeld's cast is reunited in this season's third episode. Other guest stars include: Rosie O'Donnell, Catherine O'Hara, Meg Ryan, Elisabeth Shue, Christian Slater, Sherry Stringfield. 2-Disc DVD features: The Seinfeld Reunion: It Could Only Happen On Curb..., Rebuilding The Seinfeld Sets, Larry David As George Costanza, A Seinfeld Moment On Curb..: Interview With Larry David And The Seinfeld Cast, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.


The Cinema Pride Collection
(1961-2005)
Available on: DVD
To celebrate 40 years of the LGBT movement, this collection debuts on DVD, at Amazon.com, for less than $50. The set consists of 10 movies spanning four decades. Titles include: The Children's Hour, La Cage Aux Folles, MyBeautiful Laundrette. DVD features: featurettes, Q&A, commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, bloopers, character studies, theatrical trailers, and more.


Bob Hope Thanks for the Memories Collection
Universal//Not Rated//Comedy//504 Minutes
Available on: DVD
Bob Hope films from the 1930s and '40s get together in a collection that includes: Thanks for the Memory, The Ghost Breakers, Road to Morocco and The Paleface. 3-Disc DVD features: Bob Hope and the road to success, Entertaining the troops, Command performance 1944, and 1945, Hollywood victory caravan, Sing-alongs, Theatrical trailers, Photographic galleries, English language tracks.

Released Last Week:

Alice in Wonderland
(2010)
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee
Disney//Rated PG//Fantasy//109 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is rushing to avoid a misguided arranged marriage when she tumbles down a rabbit hole. She emerges to meet the Mad Hatter, played by Burton's muse, Johnny Depp, disappearing behind lizard green eyes and a persuasive vocal transformation. He functions as "Underland's" soul, beguiling Alice to save the kingdom from its number one death-dealer, The Red Queen. Played in clown-face by Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter, the queen's enthusiastic head-chopping has all but drained the land of its life-force. Her own enormous head, placed atop a diminutive body, gives the appearance of a bobble-head doll. She can neither find the right hat for her outsized globe, nor assure herself of the Knave of Hearts's (Crispin Glover) fidelity. When we finally meet the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), she's an ashen vision of Goth fashion. The action in Burton's Alicehardly frightens—despite the director's halfhearted attempts to create menace—but it's visually rich and amusing. The Mad Hatter's fixation on the loss of Alice's muchness embraces the whimsical tone of Lewis Carroll's book, but Burton, who even dots his landscape with skeleton-like trees, leaves his death-obsessed fingerprint all over the story. DVD features: Wonderland characters: The Mad Hatter, Finding Alice, Effecting Wonderland, English language tracks, French or Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 3-Disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo features same plus: Wonderland characters: The futterwackken dance, The Red Queen, Time-lapse: sculpting the Red Queen, The White queen, Making Wonderland: Scoring, Effects, Stunt, Sizing, The Cakes, Tea party props, Digital copy, English, French, Spanish language tracks.