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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

For the week of 01/25 - 01/31/11 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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RED

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, Rebecca Pidgeon

Summit Entertainment//Rated PG-13//Action//111 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

You'd never guess the film RED is adapted from a three-issue comic book published in 2003 and 2004, by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, even though a gaudy floral postcard introduces Miami, Washington DC, and Mobile Alabama. The slight story gathers a half-dozen retired operatives for one last mission. Though gun battles occur regularly, emphasis is placed on the ability to improvise and smarts over beauty. Light-hearted fun is a byproduct of banter between CIA retirees Frank Moses (Bruce Willis, a young retiree at 55), Boggs (John Malkovich), and Joe Matheson (73-year-old Morgan Freeman playing 80), along with onetime MI6 Agent Victoria (Helen Mirren) and her old flame, KGB agent Ivan Simonov (Brian Cox). Government employee Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker, the baby at 46) is brought along for her own protection after Frank's death is ordered for reasons so secret that even the CIA agent in charge (Karl Urban) hasn't been filled in. Ernest Borgnine plays the keeper of CIA archives, knowledgeable due to his many years on the job. While character development takes a back seat to the action, the story is smart enough to engage the audience with its appealing comedy. John Malkovich is a stand out as a retiree taking paranoia to new heights and Mirren dazzling personality buoys the spirit. Willis and Freeman are in their comfort zones as humorous cynics, while Brian Cox and Richard Dreyfuss are no strangers to their enigmatic roles. DVD or Blu-ray features: Deleted and extended scenes, cast insights, CIA exposed, commentary with retired CIA field officer Robert Baer, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

 

SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER

(2010)

* (D)

Directed by Kevin Greutert

Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flanery, Gina Holden

Lionsgate//Rated R//Horror//91 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Though dead, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) continues his reign of terror through proteges. The mayhem is meant to deliver justice, but slicing a two-timing woman in half or forcing a liar to watch his wife being baked alive, is overkill. Many of us would be grateful if this installment, promising to be Jigsaw's last, was in fact his final bow, but few believe Lionsgate will ax the profitable franchise. The film's R-rating makes a mockery of the MPAA Board, which apparently feels that snuff deprived of pornography makes suitable viewing for youngsters accompanied by anyone 18 or over. In addition to the aforementioned murders mentioned earlier, a woman's head explodes when it becomes the launching point for a speeding tire, and another woman's jaw is ripped away in close up by a bear trap sprung from within her mouth. Besides being the most misogynist film of the franchise to date, the final chapter is the most gruesome even though the 3-D effects fall flat. DVD features: Producers' commentary or Writer's commentary, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Music Videos, Theatrical Trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray features same plus: Film on both Blu-ray and DVD, Digital Copy, 52 ways to die - recounting the traps from the Saw films, Lionsgate Live.

 

HEARTBREAKER

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Pascal Chaumeil

Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Pascal Chaumeil, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damiens, Helena Noguerra, Andrew Lincoln

MPI//Not Rated//Comedy - In French, English subtitles//105 minutes

When friends or family are desperate to break up a destructive romance, they hire Alex (Duris) who poses as the perfect suitor to win a woman's heart. He doesn't break up happy couples, but is forced to make an exception when needing to pay off a menacing thug. Alex is hired as Juliette's chauffeur and bodyguard, positioning him close to her as he has just 10 days to prevent her marriage to a seemingly perfect fiancee. Juliette doesn't find him attractive, but since Alex knows Juliette's most secret yearnings, he is well armed until he unexpectedly falls for his subject. A huge hit in France, this rom-com is optioned for an American remake. Decisions, decisions. Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Aniston? DVD features: French language tracks, English subtitles, widescreen.

SECRETARIAT

(2010)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Randall Wallace

Starring Diane Lane, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, Dylan Baker, Margo Martindale, Nelsan Ellis, Otto Thorwarth, Fred Dalton Thompson

Disney//Rated PG//Drama//122 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

In this docudrama, a Denver housewife becomes a horseracing legend when, in 1973 she bets the farm on an untested foal. Penny Chenery Tweedy (Lane) inherits her father's (Glenn) deeply indebted stud farm, and, after losing a coin toss, she also owns the offspring of Something Royal. When the young horse shows promise, Penny's economist brother (Baker) admonishes her to sell the foal in the interest of paying the estate taxes. Instead, Penny chooses to challenge the old-boy racing network and of course, the rest is history. Her unshakable belief in her miracle horse prompted marketing of the film to faith-based audiences. Diane Lane's performance generates Oscar-buzz while Disney recording star AJ Michalka, landed the role of Penny's daughter. DVD features: Heart Of A Champion - An Inside Look at Secretariat, 3 deleted scenes, Music Video: AJ Michalka "It's Who You Are," English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Movie on both DVD or Blu-ray, Recreating the Races, A Conversation With The Real Penny Chenery, director commentary, Relive Secretariat's Triumphant 1973 Preakness Run From Numerous Perspectives, 4 Additional Deleted Scenes.

 

THE TRAVELER

(2010)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Michael Oblowitz

Starring Val Kilmer

Paramount//Rated R//Thriller//91 minutes

Available on: DVD

Val Kilmer's performance in The Traveler demonstrates why Hollywood should reclaim him—all of him. Kilmer's weight gain has relegated the actor to lesser fare, mainly supporting roles in direct-to-video releases by their dozens. Here Kilmer stars as an enigmatic stranger, announcing to law enforcement that he wishes to confess to murder. Perplexed deputies fail to grasp that this man, refusing to give his name, has yet to perpetrate the crimes. After he's locked in a cell by impatient cops, the building's lights go out and evidence surfaces that the stranger may possess unusual powers. In short order the targets of his rampage are getting bumped off, but this loosely constructed horror fails to generate either scares or suspense. DVD features: English language tracks, widescreen.

 

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST

(2009)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Daniel Alfredson

Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Georgi Staykov, Annika Hallin, Per Oscarsson, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Jacob Ericksson, Sofia Ledarp

Music Box//Rated R//Drama, Thriller//129 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This adaptation of the final novel from the Millennium Trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson, is charged with tying up a number of plot threads. As the story opens, punk tomboy Lisbeth (Rapace), is recovering from gunshot wounds and preparing for her trial on charges of attempted murder. Lisbeth receives help mounting a defense from a renegade journalist, and potential love interest, Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist). In earlier installments the pair worked to expose corruption within Swedish law enforcement and to uncover the unlawful practices by major Swedish corporations that wish to silence Lisbeth and Mikael once and for all. Wildly popular in both it's written and film incarnations, this Swedish series is slated for an American remake. DVD or Blu-ray features: Theatrical Trailer, Original Swedish or Dubbed English language tracks, English subtitles, widescreen.

 

THE GREAT DEBATERS

(2007)

* * * (B)

Directed by Denzel Washington

Starring Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Denzel Whitaker

Genius//Rated PG-13//Drama//124 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

In this highly fictionalized account of the 1935 debate competition between an all-black, Texas college and USC (recast here as Harvard University), Washington and Forest Whitaker play professors with differing views on how to further civil rights. The film explores the lives of its young debaters as they compete for a level playing field. Directed by Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey, this pedigreed film exhibits the straightforward approach Washington used to devastating effect in Antwone Fisher. Blu-ray features: Historical Perspective, Heritage of Music, "That's What My Baby Likes" and "My Soul is a Witness" Music Videos, Actor/Director Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker on Becoming James Farmer, Sr., A New Generation of Actors, 1930s Wardrobe of Sharen Davis, Production Design, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

 

NOMAD: THE WARRIOR

(2007)

* * (C)

Directed by Sergei Bodrov, Ivan Passer, Talgat Temenov

Starring Kuno Becker, Jay Hernandez, Jason Scott Lee, Mark Docascos, Ayanat Yesmagambetova

Weinstein Co.//Rated R//Drama//111 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Jason Scott Lee and Jay Hernandez star in this ambitious saga set in the 18th century. Lee portrays Oraz, an incorruptible mystic dedicated to protecting the child prophesied to unite the nomadic Kazakh tribes and drive out the invading Jungars. Rugged mountains, epic battles, beautiful horses and overflowing machismo help the film create appeal as it bumps along over a cliche-strewn path. Different writers appear to have scripted the disagreeing English language soundtrack and English subtitles. Blu-ray features: English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

 

ALMOST FAMOUS: THE BOOTLEG CUT

(2000)

* * * * (A)

Directed by Cameron Crowe

Starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Patrick Fugit, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin

DreamWorks//Rated R//Drama//162 minutes

Best Buy Exclusive release, Available on: Blu-ray

This semi-autobiographical tale embellishes director Cameron Crowe's own teenage adventure as a wanna-be journalist. His assignment, to travel with a touring rock band and write an in-depth cover story for Rolling Stone magazine, is brimming with surprise moments, joyous music and epiphanies as it takes a nostalgic tour of the '70s. Blu-Ray features: director commentary, audio director Intro, Making of featurette, Interview with Lester Bangs, Cameron Crowe's Top Albums of 1973 , "Fever Dog" Music Video, "Love Comes and Goes," Rolling Stone Articles, B-Sides, Cleveland Concert, "Small Time Blues," Stairway, English, French or Spanish English language tracks, widescreen.

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