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Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

For the week of 11/22/10 - 11/29/10 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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I'M STILL HERE

(2010)

* (D)

Directed by Casey Affleck

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, Tim Affleck, Antony Langdon, Sue Patricola, Diddy, Ben Stiller, Edward James Olmos

Magnolia//Rating R//108 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

When actor Joaquin Phoenix claimed he had quit acting to become a rapper, he and friend Casey Affleck, made a documentary recording Joaquin's efforts to persuade a doubtful press and public. As the film progresses, we must conclude that Joaquin is both incredibly human and dull, despite the fact that he is putting on a show for our benefit. His halfhearted efforts to pose as a serious rapper make you laugh at, rather than with them. Soon, his abysmal rap songs and scruffy beard, grow tiresome. Home life consists of snorting oodles of coke, smoking weed, or filming himself receiving the sexual services he purchased. On two occasions, Joaquin hatefully threatens an associate he accuses of letting the media in on his ruse. The tirade must be put on, but coupled with Joaquin's incessant whining, we lose all sympathy for his plight. I give the movie one star for one satisfying sequence recording Joaquin's appearance on Letterman, where he becomes the object of the talk show host's humorous disdain. DVD or Blu-ray features: commentary with Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Nicole Acacio, Larry McHale, Anthony Langdon, Johnny Moreno, Eddie Rouse, Matt Maher, Elliot Gaynon and Sue Patricola, or commentary with Casey Affleck, deleted scenes w/Affleck's commentary, audio conversation with Jerry Penacoli "Extra", Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix, Audio conversation with Christine Spines (journalism professor), Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix, Jerr Penacoli "Extra" interview with Joaquin Phoenix, Alternate ending, outtakes w/Affleck's commentary, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: GREAT MIGRATIONS

(2010)

* * * (B)

Narrated by Alec Baldwin

Starring Thomas Fritsch, James Byrne

National Geographic//Rated TV-PG//Documentary//200 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

In an effort to keep up with the Discovery Channel, PBS and the BBC, National Geographic has made its own nature spectacle themed on animal migrations. For those keeping track, the series boasts it documents both the longest migration in the lower 48 and that of the largest fish on earth. Alec Baldwin narrates tales of elephants, seals, whales, zebra, wildebeest, army ants, red crabs, peregrine falcon, pronghorn, monarch butterflies and others on the march and on the run from human encroachment. Much of the photography is stunning and several scenes are heartbreaking, but in the final analysis there's little new for nature show fans. The format attempts to heighten dramatic tension by cutting between four or five stories within each episode. Reminiscent of Planet Earth, "Great Migrations" is good, but it requires restructuring and a new script, to become great. 3-Disc DVD or 2-Disc Blu-ray features: Science of Migrations, Great Migrations: Behind the Scenes, English language tracks, widescreen.

EAT PRAY LOVE

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Ryan Murphy

Starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Richard Jenkins

Sony//Rated PG-13//Drama//133 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

After finalizing her divorce, 32-year-old Elizabeth Gilbert (Roberts) receives an advance for a book she plans to write while visiting three foreign countries. She spends four months eating her way through Italy, four months seeking spiritual guidance in India, and finally, four months in Indonesia where she hopes to find love. Adapted from Gilbert's bestselling memoir, Oprah went gaga for this tome, though to paraphrase Jennifer Egan's New York Times review: it's a low stakes story that we know from the outset will end happily. DVD or Blu-ray features: theatrical version of the film plus the unrated director's cut, Ryan Murphy's Journey with Eat Pray Love, The Eat Pray Love Soundtrack, Previews, English, French or English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen.

THE EXPENDABLES

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke

Lionsgate//Rated R//Action//103 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

In what is best described as an expendable movie, Stallone, 64, leads a group of aging tough guys who first turn down a CIA-backed mission, then decide to do the job gratis -- on their own terms. The buddies reach their decision at a tattoo parlor doubling as their clubhouse and run by an ex-soldier (Rourke). Statham plays a good guy, while Eric Roberts steps in as the villain and Lundgren is cast as a mercenary unable to decide whose side he's on. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger appear in uncredited roles—a smart choice. Predictable, noisy and stuffed to the gills with sloppy gun battles, the movie cries out for more wit and less grit. DVD features: Stallone's commentary, Making-of featurette, Deleted scene, Gag reel, Marketing archive, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen. 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on DVD with DVD bonus features, Digital Copy, Ultimate recon mode, Making-of documentary, From the ashes: postproduction and release documentary, Comic-con 2010 panel, Ultimate Recon Mode in-movie BonusView feature, Metamenu Remote and BD Touch enabled, D-BOX Motion Control Enabled, French or English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen.

2010: MOBY DICK

(2010)

*1/2(C-)

Directed by Trey Stokes

Starring Barry Bostwick, Renee O'Connor, Adam Grimes, Michael Teh

Asylum//Action//90 minutes

Available on: DVD

Herman Melville's great white whale becomes a prehistoric, submarine-munching beast. The opening campfest occurs in 1969. A submarine, exploring using echo location beneath pack ice, is seized in Moby Dick's jaws and slammed onto the shore. After eyeballing an injured man through a crack in the hull, Moby bites the sub in half, taking off the man's leg. Forty years later, that man has become vengeful Captain Ahab (Bostwick), commander of a state of the art nuclear sub. He's gone rogue to hunt Moby, kidnapping pretty whale expert Michelle (Renee O'Connor). Though Moby is 500 feet long and able to pluck helicopters from the sky, he has managed to hide his existence from both Michelle and the military while single-handedly attempting to rid the ocean of annoying sonar devices. Sadly, the gargantuan whale's fun is speared by dopey actors spouting ludicrous dialog. DVD features: Making of featurette, Gag reel, Trailers, English language tracks, widescreen.

SEARCH FOR SANTA PAWS

(2010)

* (D)

Directed by Robert Vince

Starring Madison Pettis, Kaitlyn Maher, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Danny Woodburn, Wendi McLendon-Covey, John Ducey, Bonnie Somerville

Voices of Richard Kind, Mitchel Musso, Josh Flitter, Zachary Gordon

Disney//Rated G//Family//96 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

Though Santa Paws employs a super-cute talking white golden retriever, his talking doggie friends, and a pair of abused orphans, the lack of humor and wandering subplots won't hold anyone's attention for long. While visiting New York City with his best friend Paws, Santa (Riehle) receives a bump on the head, and loses the crystal granting him immortality. Separated from his best friend Paws, Santa is hired to play himself at an upscale department store where the owner exhibits a Scroogey attitude toward Christmas and toys. It's up to Paws and his new friends to save Christmas by reuniting their bearded friend and his magic crystal. DVD features: The Hucklebuckle Hero Pop-Up Storybook, Sing-Along Mode with Colorful Lyrics On Screen, Music Video "Deck The Halls," deleted scenes, French, Spanish or English language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray.

CALIFORNICATION: Season Three

(2009)

* * * (B)

Created by Tom Kapinos

Starring Natascha McElhone, David Duchovny, Madeline Zima, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Kathleen Turner, Embeth Davidtz, Pamela Adlon, Eva Amurri, Peter Gallagher, Diane Farr, Ellen Woglom

Showtime//Not Rated//Comedy//341 minutes

Available on: DVD

Hank (Duchovny) is an author prone to drown his sorrows in a bottle and casual sexual encounters. He loves his ex (McElhone), though he repeatedly blows his chances to rekindle their relationship. In season three, Hank takes a job as a professor of literature and proceeds to bed every woman in his path. Evan Handler, Hank's long-suffering agent and best friend, is paying for his own sexual aberrance both personally and professionally. It's a tribute to our involvement with both men, who have the sense to regret their bad behavior, that this painful show is frequently painfully funny. 2-Disc DVD features: Blooper reel, Marcie's pajama party, The Tudors - season 4 - the final season - episodes 1 and 2, Cast Member Interviews, United States of Tara - season 2 - episodes 1 and 2, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

THE WINNING SEASON

(2009)

* * (C)

Directed by James C. Strouse

Starring Sam Rockwell, Jessica Hecht, Margo Martindale, Emily Rios, Rob Corddry, Shareeka Epps, Emma Roberts, Shana Dowdeswell, Melanie Hinkle, Meaghan Witri

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Drama//105 minutes

Available on: DVD

High school principal Terry (Corddry) decides to take a chance on has-been, ex-athelete Bill (Rockwell), whom he hires to coach the girl's basketball team. It's a strictly by-the-numbers sports movie, replete with Bill's redemption and a coming of age story for the girls, but the cast, including Emma Roberts a young B-ball player and Margo Martindale as the assistant coach, make this formulaic tale somewhat amusing. DVD features: Theatrical trailer, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen.

MADEA GOES TO JAIL

(2009)

* * (Grade C)

Directed by Tyler Perry

Starring Tyler Perry, Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, David Mann, Tamela Mann, Ronreaco Lee, Ion Overman, Vanessa Ferlito, Viola Davis, Sofia Vergara

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Comedy//109 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Reprising Madea, his granny-with-attitude alter-ego, Tyler Perry gets down and funky when anger issues land Madea in the clink. Once inside, bad-actor Madea handily puts the jail's toughest chick in her place and helps her jail-mate, Candy (Pulliam), learn there's more to life than selling her bod. Derek Luke appears as an Assistant DA confronted with his past misdeeds when an old friend shows up. Directed by the star and scribe himself, Perry's signature life lessons abound—but viewers are apt to wish there was more of plus-sized Madea and less of everything else. Blu-ray features: Madea is back, Leroy "law" Brown, Looking for the big house, You have the right to remain silent!, Bringing in the heavy hitters, Madea's crazy, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen.

THE FAMILY THAT PREYS

(2008)

* *1/2 (Grade B-)

Directed by Tyler Perry

Starring Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates, Tyler Perry, Cole Hauser, Sanaa Lathan, Taraji P. Henson, Rockmond Dunbar, KaDee Strickland, Sebastian Siegel

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

Available on: Blu-ray

Casting Bates and Woodard as best friends, redeems this Tyler Perry film. Wealthy socialite, Charlotte Cartwright (Bates), and her longtime, working class friend, Alice Pratt (Woodard), embark on a cross-country road trip meant to be a time-out from their misbehaving adult children. While learning to let go, Charlotte and Alice hit upon a plan that could repair relationships within their troubled families. Blu-ray features: deleted scenes, featurettes: Two Families, Two Legends, Preying In The Big Easy, Casting The Family, Delving Into The Diner, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

WHY DID I GET MARRIED?

(2007)

* *

Directed by Tyler Perry

Starring Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Sharon Leal, Jill Scott

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Drama//118 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Tyler Perry, known for his Christian themed stage plays, adapts this one to reach a wider audience. Four couples gather at a mountain cabin for their annual retreat, unaware that an infidelity will jeopardize the stability of each couple's marriage. Perry stars opposite Janet Jackson in a departure from his role as Madea, the grandmotherly matriarch at the center of his stage plays. Best of all, he doesn't sing. DVD features: Featurettes: Janet Jackson: Return of an Icon, Reflections on Getting Married, The Music, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features: The girls of Married, The guys of Married, Married rides the rails, Winter in whistler, Janet Jackson: return of an icon, Reflections of Getting Married, The music of Married, Spanish or English language tracks, widescreen.

MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION

(2006)

*

Directed by Tyler Perry

Starring Tyler Perry, Blair Underwood, Lynn Whitfield

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Comedy//110 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Tyler Perry's fat suit and wig preceded and surely inspired the wretched "Big Momma" films featuring Martin Lawrence, but Perry earns our forgiveness because his character, Madea, cares deeply for her African-American audience. Perry portrays the cranky matriarch, unapologetic for her Christian family values, as she regales her relatives with quips and biblical quotations. Beware Perry's "Gong Show"-worthy array of gospel hymns. Blu-ray features: Madea mania, From stage to screen, Transforming Tyler, deleted scenes, Photo gallery, commentary, making of featurette, Making the music, Gather plantation, Marriage Madea style, Spanish or English language tracks, widescreen.

THE TUDORS: The Complete Series

(2010)

* * * * (A)

Created by Michael Hirst

Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill, Joely Richardson, Joss Stone

Showtime//Not Rated//Drama//533 minutes

Available on: DVD

The four seasons of this spectacular Showtime series depict King Henry VIII's tumultuous reign from 1509 to 1547. The series illuminates Henry's reason for marrying again and again, beheading those wives unwilling to grant him a divorce. War, religious strife, Henry's declining health, along with the ambitions of various men of the cloth, make this a bloody great drama. Meyers is superbly cast as Henry in a series that outdoes the BBC with its high production values and in-depth character studies. 3-Disc DVD features: United States of Tara Seasons 2 Episodes 1 & 2, Via E-Bridge Technology: Dexter Season 5, Episodes 1 & 2, Californiacation Season 3 Episodes 1 & 2, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 16-disc set. The collection also has numerous extra features, including Making-of bits, historical shorts, deleted scenes and a blooper reel.

DEADWOOD

(2004 -2006)

* * * *

Created by David Milch

Starring Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, Powers Boothe, John Hawkes, Brad Dourif, William Sanderson, Keith Carradine, W. Earl Brown, Paula Malcolmson

HBO//Rated TV-MA//Drama//2160 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

"Deadwood" blends truth and conjecture with tense storylines, a sense of foreboding and characters you can almost touch. Writer David Milch, imagines an 1877 South Dakota mining camp that operates outside the law like a contained war zone. Milch's killer dialog transcends the profanity that historically represents the camp's actual vernacular. He conceptualizes the associations between a dozen or so complex principals. During its first season, Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) takes center stage as the next best thing to a hero, but the irresistible pull exerted by Deadwood's mastermind, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), soon finds him stealing the show. Proprietor of a saloon, gambling-hall and whorehouse, Swearengen's establishment is the site of power mongering, and murder. With Deadwood's sheriff, Bullock, in his pocket, Swearengen fears no one save millionaire, George Hearst (Gerald McRaney portraying the real-life father of William Randolph Hearst). Owner of Deadwood's most profitable gold mine, Hearst commands a hired army of ruthless Pinkertons. With business frequently conducted at the blade of a knife, it's impossible to predict who will live, and who will be grievously injured or die. 13-Disc Blu-ray features: The meaning of endings: David Milch on the conclusion of Deadwood, The real Deadwood: Out of the ashes, Q&A with cast and creative team, Deadwood 360° tour, Al Swearengen audition reel, Digibook, English, French or Spanish English language tracks, widescreen.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED

(2010)

Directed by J Blakeson

Starring Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston, Gemma Arterton

Anchor Bay//Rated R//Thriller//100 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

A tense thriller benefiting from reversals and revelations occurring between two kidnappers, and their victim, beautiful young heiress, Alice (Arterton). She is stripped and handcuffed to a bed in an apartment reinforced like a prison, then compelled to make a humiliating video begging her father to pay a handsome ransom. Her captors, Vic and Danny (Marsan and Compston) are saddled with sufficient baggage to endanger their scheme. Prickly chemistry and well-placed twists keep the momentum going, though the film has been criticized for its cynical viewpoint and overworked final sequence. DVD or Blu-ray features: director commentary, storyboard featurettes, extended scenes w/commentary, English language tracks, widescreen.

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO

(2010)

Directed by Lucy Walker

Host Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Zia Mian, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Pervez Musharraf, Lawrence Scott Sheets, Valerie Plame Wilson, Graham Allison, James Baker, III, Bruce Blair, Tony Blair, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Matthew Bunn, Richard Burt, Mike Chinoy, Joe Cirincione, Richard Cizik, Thomas d'Agostino

Magnolia//Rated PG//Documentary//89 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This chilling documentary assembles talking heads, facts and archival footage to reiterate the dangers posed by nuclear ambitions. The existence of 23,000 known weapons boggles the mind, and gives pause since we have come close to nuclear war on more than once. Even more frightening is the ease and affordable cost of procuring nuclear weapons' parts from Eastern European sources. DVD or Blu-ray features: deleted scenes, Additional interviews, Archival footage, Ploughshares fund PSA, A letter from the filmmakers, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen.

BATMAN BEYOND: The Complete Series

(1999-2001)

Voices of Stockard Channing, Kevin Conroy, Angie Harmon, Will Friedle, Cree Summer

Warner//Not Rated//Animated//1097 minutes

Limited Edition Available on: DVD With Booklet

This Batman series is set in the distant future. It produced 52 episodes over three seasons, and aimed beyond the grammar school set with its heavy metal music and themes. In season one, an elderly Bruce Wayne (Conroy) meets and grooms young Terry McGinnis (Friedle) in carrying on the caped crusader's tradition. Next generation baddies include the Jokerz gang, the mind-controlling Spellbinder, Splicers who combine their human DNA with animal DNA, the chameleon Falseface, a deadly virus, synthetically-enhanced teenagers, and more. Season two falters when it delves into Terry's high school adventures at the expense of his relationship with Wayne. In season three, Terry meets Superman and joins the Justice League (another cartoon show entity). Bruce Wayne has a chance to become young again and Terry is trained by Wayne's martial arts instructor, Kairi. Nearly 3,000 Internet Movie Database users rate this series an impressive 8-out-of-10, despite the lack of a proper ending when the show was abruptly cancelled. The story is resolved in the Justice League Series episode entitled "Epilogue," not included here. Season one and part of Season two are hand drawn while the latter portion of the season and the entire Season three are digitally rendered. Packaging twice the length of a normal DVD set makes storing the set problematic. 8-Disc DVD features: two commentaries by the creators/producers, and actor Will Friedle, Inside Batman Beyond - panel discussions with the creators/producers, Music of the Knight isolated score, Smells Like Creamed Spinach - Easter egg demo of the Batman Beyond main title theme by Kristopher Carter with intro by producer Bruce Timm, Close Up On: The creators, producers, directors and Will Friedle discuss four key episodes from Season 3, Trailers, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen. French & Spanish subtitles on Seasons 1 & 2, none on Season 3.

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