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Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

For the week of 02/01 - 02/07/11 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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NEVER LET ME GO
(2010)
* * (C)
Directed by Mark Romanek
Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling
Fox//Rated R//Drama, Sci-Fi//104 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
When a classroom of 12-year-olds learns they are clones that will be sacrificed to extend the lives of their "originals," the children barely react. This adaptation, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, takes us through an alternate universe set in the U.K. during the '80s and '90s. We meet three clones closely linked by their shared upbringing at a boarding school for their kind. At 18, Kathy H (Carey Mulligan) and friends, Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), move into cottages with other clones. Ruth and Tommy become lovers while Kathy sees other clones through the grisly donation process. As all three await the "completion of their donation cycles," none rails against the unfairness or attempts to run away. The rules of this universe drains the life from a tale that is twist on both Blade Runner and The Island, but that lacks the excitement of either. DVD or Blu-ray features: The secrets of Never Let Me Go, The director's on-set photography, Tommy's art, National donor program & Hailsham campaign graphics, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

THE TILLMAN STORY

(2010)
* * * (B)
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev
Narrated by Josh Brolin
Starring Mary Tillman, Patrick Tillman, Sr., Richard Tillman, Dannie Tillman, Russell Baer, Stan Goff, Philip Kensinger, Bryan O'Neal, Jason Parsons
Sony//Rated R//Documentary//94 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
The tragic story of Pat Tillman's death by friend fire, is the story of a family that would not give up in its search for the truth. Pat, a promising professional football rookie, abandoned his career for a tour of duty in the Middle East. Following his death by gunfire at age 27, Pat's mom dug deep into 3,000 redacted pages that constituted the military's investigation. The military claimed Pat gave his life to protect his comrades. However, his family wondered why the military burned Pat's uniform, body armor and diary, rather than returning these items to them. A vast propaganda machine constitutes the only logical explanation, but Pat's family, and his widow, have yet to be given all the information that the survivors of a fallen soldier deserves to know. DVD or Blu-ray features: Director commentary, English language tracks, widescreen.

LET ME IN
(2010)
* * *1/2 (A-)
Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas
Anchor Bay//Rated R//Horror//115 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
A remake of the 2008 Swedish horror, Let the Right One In, the story of lonely 12-year-old Owen (Smit-McPhee), befriending Abby (Moretz), his mysterious 12-year-old neighbor, both moves and haunts. While Owen is picked on by bullies and neglected by his single, alcoholic mom, Abby struggles to hide a terrible secret. By the time Owen realizes she's a vampire, the two have become inseparable friends. The American version stays true to the original's tone, but it adds a police officer (Koteas) who investigates a series of strange murders, and several scenes that deepen the suspense. DVD features: director commentary, featurettes: Making-of, Special effects, Step-by-step car-crash sequence, The Art of Special Effects, Deleted scenes, Trailer gallery, Poster gallery, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray features same plus: Dissecting Let Me In, Unrated Deleted Scenes, Digital copy of the film.

CONVICTION

(2010)
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Starring Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Peter Gallagher, Juliette Lewis, Ari Graynor, Loren Dean
Fox//Rated R//Drama/103 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
A dream cast stifled by a pedestrian script dramatizes this amazing true story. Swank brings charismatic devotion to the role of Betty Anne Waters, loving sister of a man she believes is wrongly convicted of murder. Betty's efforts to free Kenny (Rockwell) would destroy a lesser person. She survives a troubled marriage, supporting herself and two daughters by waitressing at a bar, all while earning her law degree. Sam Rockwell plays reckless Kenny with a full-bodied blend of charm, self-pity and hair-trigger temper, increasing our admiration for Betty, who sticks by him regardless of his behavior. Betty spent nearly 20 years in her effort to free Kenny, and while the screenplay doesn't delve deeply into her emotional life, hers remains an extraordinary tale of devotion. DVD or Blu-ray features: A Conversation with Director Tony Goldwyn & Betty Anne Waters, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

NATURE: REVEALING THE LEOPARD
(2010)
* * * 1/2 (A-)
Series Produced by Bill Murphy
Directed by Mark Fletcher
PBS Video//Not Rated//Documentary//60 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Filming this elusive predator has long been an exercise in frustration. Then filmmakers caught a break when one female, raising two cubs, allowed cameramen to remain in close proximity to her den. The leopard's strength, intelligence, and solitary existence have allowed it to survive, even to thrive, where other large cat species are in sharp decline. This documentary reveals the strategies leopards employ as one mother attempts to teach her youngsters to remain quiet and hidden—come what may. In addition to this unique footage, the film captures a variety of leopard species from around the globe. DVD or Blu-ray features: English language tracks, widescreen.

DEAD SPACE: AFTERMATH

(2011)
* (D)
Directed by Mike Disa
Voices of Graham McTavish, Christopher Judge, Ricardo Chavira, Peter Woodward, Gwendoline Yeo
Anchor Bay//Not Rated//Animated, Sci-Fi//78 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
This direct-to-video film is meant to illuminate the mythology informing Electronic Arts' space-horror "Dead Space Looms" videogame series. Among its myriad problems, the thinly plotted story won't win game converts, leaving players of the game to appreciate the film's gratuitous violence. After retrieving a much sought after relic, known as The Marker, from the Aegis colony, the crew of the Ishimura are either dead or transformed into zombified monsters. Officials question four survivors, brutally interrogating each about their encounter with the relic on a disintegrating planet. Both the action and the cell-shaded animation are uninspired, and fail to capitalize on what might have become interesting characters if the film weren't in such a rush to kill them. Little attention is lavished on this DVD devoid of special features. DVD or Blu-ray features: Dead Space 2 Game trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?
(2009)
* * * * (A)
Directed by Joe Winston
Starring Brittany Barden, Angel Dillard, Terry Fox, Donn Teske
Passion River Films//Not Rated//Documentary//90 minutes
In the film by Joe Winston inspired by the Thomas Frank book, the question is whether conservatives in Kansas are voting for or against their own interests when siding with Christian conservative politicians? The documentary follows three families, and learns that two of the families are determined to vote pro-life, and against gay marriage, no matter the personal cost. Winston trusts viewers to fill in the blanks of his even-handed documentary. To that end, he is respectful to his subjects, allowing them to say their piece on all matters. We can only hope that other documentary filmmakers will be inspired by this approach. DVD features: Commentary with Joe Winston, Laura Cohen, and author Thomas Frank, Extended and Deleted Scenes, Q&A with Filmmakers, English language tracks, widescreen.

BROADCAST NEWS

(1987)
* * * (B)
Directed by James L. Brooks
Starring William Hurt, Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, Jack Nicholson, Joan Cusack, Robert Prosky
Criterion Collection//Rated R//Comedy//132 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
The Washington news media is the object of caustic commentary in this comedy starring Holly Hunter as a feisty television producer. Her programming relies on a dim but personable anchorman (Hurt), and the perspective provided to her by a cynical veteran TV journalist (Brooks). Made during an era when corporate news ownership was still finding its feet, the film's observations about a changing news climate are even more relevant today. 2-Disc DVD or Blu-ray features: New commentary track featuring James L. Brooks and editor Richard Marks, A new Documentary on Brooks's career in television and film, Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes, w/commentary, New Video Interview with Veteran CBS News Producer Susan Zirinsky, Featurette containing on-set footage and Interviews with Brooks, Hunter, and Actor Albert Brooks, Booklet Featuring an Essay by Film Critic Carrie Rickey, Original Theatrical Trailer, English language tracks, widescreen.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
(1957)
* * (C)
Directed by Leo McCarey
Starring Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr
Fox//Not Rated//Drama//119 minutes
Available on: Blu-ray
Engaged to marry an heiress, playboy Nickie (Cary Grant) falls for Terry, a kept woman. Promising to disentangle themselves from their significant others, the pair agree to meet in six months atop the Empire State Building. Tragedy prevents Terry from keeping her appointment and what had been a smart drama rapidly transforms into sentimental pap. Blu-Ray features: commentary by Singer Marni Nixon and film historian Joseph McBride, Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr, Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant, A producer to Remember: Jerry Wadd, The look of an Affair to Remember, AMC backstory: An Affair to Remember, Fox movietone news: An Affair to Remember shipboard premiere attracts celebrities, Trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: 60th Anniversary Special Edition
(1951)
* * * * (A)
Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Voices of Ed Wynn, Sterling Holloway, Kathryn Beaumont, Verna Felton
Disney//Rated G//Animated Family//75 minutes
Available on: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Reimagining Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books, Disney presents their fractured fairytale with tremendous visual flair and great humor. Catapulted into a topsy-turvy world after plummeting down a rabbit hole, Alice begins to appreciate her ordinary life. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Through The Keyhole: A Companion's Guide To Wonderland, Painting The Roses Red: Interactive Game, DisneyView - Enhanced Viewing Experience, Walt Disney Color TV Introduction (1959), Reference Footage: Alice And The Doorknobs, Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks, Reflections On Alice Featurette, Operation Wonderland (In Hi-Def), English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

Also Out This Week


BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA 2
(2011)
Directed by Alexander Zamm
Starring George Lopez, Odette Yustman, Emily Osment, Miguel Ferrer, Ernie Hudson, Susan Blakely, Elaine Hendrix, Bridgit Mendler
Disney//Rated G//Family//84 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Just as Disney turned 101 Dalmatians into a larger cash crop using direct-to-video sequels, the studio cranks out chapter two about happily coupled Chihuahuas, Chloe and Papi. Soon after their owners get hitched, Papi and Chloe give birth to pups who grow into adorable troublemakers. While trying to raise money to save the family home, the puppies inadvertently become part of a bank-robbing gang's getaway plan. The pups' disappearance leaves their parents and owners in an uproar the pups are attempting to escape their captors. As in the original, human characters in the movie can't hear or understand the dogs' conversations, but viewers aren't as fortunate. DVD features: Blooper Faux Paws, "This Is My Paradise" music video by Bridigit Mendler, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD or Blu-ray, Beverly Hills Chihuahua interactive game show.

MEAN GIRLS 2
(2011)
Directed by Melanie Mayron
Starring Tim Meadows, Meaghan Jette Martin, Diego Boneta, Jennifer Stone, Maiara Walsh, Nicole Anderson, Claire Holt
Paramount//Rated PG-13//Comedy//96 minutes
Available on: DVD
This direct-to-video sequel to the 2004 Tina Fey comedy, attempts to cover its lack of wit with gross-out humor. That said, the film offers an intriguing twist on the original's premise. High school senior Jo's (Martin) frequent moves with her NASCAR mechanic father have left her friendless. She readily agrees to exchange her friendship with nerdy Abby for Abby's father's promise to pay Jo's upcoming college tuition. With Abby's help, Jo sets about dethroning the school's popular queen of mean (Walsh), but as Jo learns, it's nearly impossible to be both nice and popular. DVD features: Making of featurette, On Set Video Diaries, In the Closet with Kitty Boots, Catching-Up with Tim Meadows, High School Yearbook, Gag Reel, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.
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