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Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

For the week of 1/04 - 01/10/11 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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MACHETE

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez

Starring Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Cheech Marin

Fox//Rated R//Action//105 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Those fond of '70s B-movies may enjoy this Robert Rodriguez flick, but those anticipating a satire will be disappointed. Because the hero played by actor Danny Trejo (the director's cousin) prefers a machete to a machine gun, the film views him as an honorable avenger. Rodriguez's cartoonish tale rarely winks at the audience, and has little time to do so between lecturing us on the reasons illegals should be granted citizenship. Despite casting Robert De Niro as racist Senator McLaughlin, the film's best asset is Danny Trejo's Machete, an ex-Federale seeking revenge for his family's murder. His plans are put on hold when a powerful Booth (Jeff Fahey) orders him to assassinate Senator McLaughlin. Michelle Rodriguez appears as a scantily clad taco vendor, while Jessica Alba portrays an immigration investigator who falls for grandfatherly Machete. Both female characters report to the climactic showdown wearing skintight pants and stilettos. Lindsay Lohan is typecast as the senator's doped-up daughter, Don Johnson plays a corrupt sheriff and Cheech Marin signs on as a priest disgusted by Booth's confessions. Machete becomes a Mexican folk hero by killing his way out of trouble. Gratuitous gore, female exploitation and every possible means of death via machete, are all depicted as though they were merely comic book illustrations. DVD features: deleted scenes, option to play the film with an audience-reaction soundtrack, English, Spanish or French language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray features same plus: film on both Blu-ray and DVD, downloadable Digital Copy or wireless Digital Copy via Pocket BLU.

THE LAST EXORCISM

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Daniel Stamm

Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Iris Bahr, Tony Bentley

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Horror//87 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Using handheld cameras to create a story centered around documentary filmmaking, The Last Exorcism is a carefully crafted tale that causes shivers while keeping gore to a minimum. Marcus Cotton (Patrick Fabian) makes a comfortable living performing fake exorcisms, but has decided to expose tricks of the profession to a documentarian (Iris Bahr). Cotton's plan is challenged when he meets Nell, a Louisiana rancher's adolescent daughter whose possession is particularly convincing. Cotton refuses to leave Nell alone with her god-fearing father (Louis Herthum) and peculiar brother (Caleb Landry Jones). Ashley Bell's performance as the possessed girl is a stunner that benefits from a script showing just enough to fuel our imaginations. Though the film's ending is its weakest link, each character's inability to change his belief system, is plausible. DVD features: 2 commentaries: Commentary with Director and actors Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum or producers Eli Roth, Eric Newman and Tom Bliss, Making-of featurette, Actual stories of exorcism, Teaser Trailer, Protection Prayer, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: third commentary with Former Exorcism Participants, Audition Footage with Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian, Caleb Landry Jones and Louis Herthum.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Jay Roach

Voices of Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch, Bruce Greenwood, David Walliams

DreamWorks//Rated PG-13//Comedy//114 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

For a comedy bent on browbeating its hero into an epiphany, this one is remarkably inoffensive. The film's list of no-nos include: no gross-out comedy, no profanity, no nudity, and no onscreen sex. What remains is a visit with insecure males, chiefly Paul Rudd as everyman Tim Conrad. Tim's creativity ought to win his promotion, but he's required to also perform at his boss's (Bruce Greenwood) monthly dinner party— a competition between office sharks—to bring the most ridiculous guest. Tim is stymied until he meets Barry (Steve Carell), an IRS drone and lonely dullard who constructs dioramas, using stuffed, costumed mice. Everyone in the film lacks self-awareness, including Tim's girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), manager of an artist (Jemaine Clement) who may be the planet's biggest buffoon. Eager to be Tim's friend, Barry manages to mess up every aspect of Tim's life. Like many comedies relying on "it" funnymen, the underwritten story sometimes resorts to easy, instantly forgettable gags. Because the film is a loose remake of a 1998 French farce, the story humorously demonstrates that idiocy is contagious. DVD features: Behind The Scenes with The Cast, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes Reel, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: The Men Behind The Mouseterpieces: Bringing Barry's Dioramas to Life in HD.

BIG LOVE: Season Four

(2010)

* * * * (A)

Created by Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer

Starring Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sissy Spacek, Mary Kay Place, Amanda Seyfried

HBO//Not Rated//Drama//516 minutes

Available on: DVD

With season five beginning Jan. 16, this release of season four gives viewers an opportunity to play catch up. Polygamist Bill Henrickson (Paxton) asks his first wife (Tripplehorn) to look after the family's partnership in an Indian Casino while he campaigns to become a Utah State Senator. However, a demanding lobbyist (Spacek) threatens to derail his plan. Bill's second and third wives (Sevigny and Goodwin) compete to bring their own agendas to fruition while Bill's eldest daughter (Seyfried) attempts to establish a life separate from that of her family. Roman, the corrupt "Prophet" of Juniper Creek, has disappeared, yet continues to cast a long shadow over Bill's family. An excellently written satire fleshed out with plausible characters and a winsome cast, this series tells a consistently compelling tale. 3-Disc DVD Boxset features: Inside the Episode of each episode, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

CASE 39

(2009)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Christian Alvart

Starring Renee Zellweger, Ian McShane, Jodelle Ferland, Bradley Cooper

Paramount//Rated R//Horror//109 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Emily Jenkins (Zellweger) is a social worker compelled to free adorable little Lily from the girl's dangerous home. After taking Lily (Ferland) in, putting the girl into therapy with a child psychologist (Cooper), and giving Lily oodles of love, Emily discovers that dark forces attack anyone close to the child. Ghoulish special effects, including a nasty swarm of hornets, are fun to watch though the film ultimately disappoints by taking predictable turns. The film was shot in 2006 and shelved before its release in Spain, then Mexico where it made its bones before earning a US release. DVD or Blu-ray features: Inside Case 39, Turning Up the Heat on the Chill Factor, Inside the Hornet's Nest, Playing with Fire, 2 Deleted Scenes, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

BACKDRAFT

(1991)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Donald Sutherland, Kurt Russell, Rebecca De Mornay

Universal//Rated R//Action//120 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Realistic but overwrought, Ron Howard's film glows with stars served up to be attacked by the mystical forces of fire. Long after you've forgotten the film's arsons or the melodrama surrounding a pair firefighting brothers, you'll remember the awesome fires caught by Howard's camera and enhanced by the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic. Blu-ray features: Ron Howard's intro, Deleted Scenes, Igniting The Story: Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer and others discuss the evolution of the film from script to screen, From the Casting room to Firefighter clinics, The Explosive Stunts, Creating The Villain: The Fire, Real-life Firemen - Real-life Stories: roundtable discussion with the crew of Station 73, Santa Clarita, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.