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Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

For the week of 02/08 - 02/14/11 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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MY SOUL TO TAKE

(2010)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Max Thieriot, Emily Meade, John Magaro, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Denzel Whitaker, Paulina Olszynski, Jeremy Chu, Raul Esparza, Shareeka Epps

Universal//Rated R//Horror//108 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Twenty-five years after his groundbreaking Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven returns to the teen slasher genre. The film presents us with "The Ripper," a serial killer possessed by a demon that could be linked to any of seven local children born in the minutes immediately following the serial killer's death. As the seven teens, approach their 16th birthdays in the small town of Riverton, they fear that the Ripper will possess one of them. The group, a darker version of the Archie comic-book gang, is composed of a jock (Nick Lashaway), popular but mean Brittany (Paulina Olszynski), religious zealot Penelope (Zena Grey), blind Jerome (Denzel Whitaker), superstitious Jay (Jeremy Chu), outcast Bug (Max Thieriot) and Bug's best friend Alex (John Magaro). Meaningless backstories consume much of the film, while a Native American legend, claiming the California Condor carries the souls of those it consumes, is thrown in to little effect. Craven leads viewers down blind alleys riddled with logic inconsistencies and fails to frighten us with poorly arranged killing scenes that are sometimes, unintentionally funny. The final insult is delivered by ineffectual, post-production 3D that leaves us hoping Wes Craven's soul will be made to answer for this dud. DVD or Blu-ray features: Director commentary with actors Max Thierot, John Magaro and Emily Meade, Alternate Opening, Alternate Endings, Deleted and Extended Scenes, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Tod Williams

Starring Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

Paramount//Rated R or Unrated//Horror//91 minutes

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

Paranormal Activity and its sequel are inexpensive films shot largely on low-resolution home video cameras and blue-toned surveillance systems. Unlike the first film, the sequel requires us to wait a long time for something noteworthy to happen. In the first film, Katie (Katie Featherston) claimed a demonic presence gained ever-increasing control over her as she slept. To disprove this, Katie's boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), set up a video camera in their bedroom and was surprised when it captured frightening events. Chapter two is set in the home of Katie's sister, Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden), where Kristi's husband Daniel (Brian Boland), has security cameras installed throughout the house. The surveillance footage is mixed with that of handheld video cameras that record the couple's lives. Each night the camera records the home's common areas and Hunter's room where the family German shepherd, Abby, stands guard. Following 75 minutes of unspectacular footage, Daniel's teen daughter concludes that evil forces have come for Hunter, the first male born into Kristi's family in nearly a century. The notion that an upscale, somewhat featureless suburban home, is targeted by malevolent spirits, is creepy, but the film's clever ending doesn't make up for 90 minutes of missing terror. DVD features: Director's Cut, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE

(2010)

* 1/2 (C)

Directed by Steven R. Monroe

Starring Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg, Andrew Howard

Anchor Bay//Rated R or Unrated//Horror//108 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This example of exploitation cinema seems calculated to attract both rape and revenge enthusiasts. Its twisted perspective aside, the film is well acted and will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. While on a writing retreat in the Louisiana backwoods, pretty novelist Jennifer (Sarah Butler) is terrorized and raped by four local rednecks and a corrupt sheriff. She fakes her death, and returns to the scene of the crime to brutally exact her revenge. Though qualifying as torture porn, Jennifer's revenge killings are creative, can be poetic and are sometimes amusing. A remake of the 1978 film by Meir Zarchi (whose original version is being simultaneously released on Blu-ray), we can't help thinking that both we and this fine cast, should be spending our time doing something worthwhile. DVD or Blu-ray features: filmmakers commentary track, behind-the-scenes featurette, original theatrical teaser and trailer, deleted scenes, English language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray exclusive: all-new interview with Meir Zarchi about the making of his infamous cinematic landmark.

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed By: Ryan Fleck , Anna Boden

Starring Zach Galifianakis, Viola Davis, Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zoe Kravitz

Universal//Rated PG-13//Drama//102 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This examination of teen mental health and frustration, attempts to walk the line between poignancy and humor. Adapted from the semi-autobiographical account by novelist Ned Vizzini, we meet teen Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), whose call to a suicide hotline lands him in the Brooklyn's Argenon Hospital in the adult wing because the youth ward is under renovation. Craig develops a crush on a pretty cutter (Emma Roberts), and is advised in matters of love by his self-appointed mentor (Zach Galifianakis), a middle-aged patient whose life is in tatters. Craig's nervous breakdown is low stakes while Roberts's light-hearted take on her character prevents us from feeling her pain. Galifianakis is a treasure of both cautious optimism and despair, but he can't rescue this film from the jaws of a television sitcom. DVD or Blu-ray features: Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, A Look Inside It's Kind Of A Funny Story, NYC Premiere, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

TAMARA DREWE

(2010)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Stephen Frears

Starring Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Jessica Barden, Charlotte Christie, Tamsin Greig

Sony//Rated R//Comedy//111 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This cheeky Brit comedy is based on a cheeky graphic novel purporting to update Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Set in Ewedown, a fictitious pastoral village in Dorset, England, attractive young Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) returns to sell the family home she's inherited. During her years away in the big city, the neighbor's farm has become a writer's retreat, run by a married, philandering author (Roger Allam) and his long-suffering wife (Tamsin Greig). Tamara, attired as the latest version of Elly May Clampett, seems to craved male attention, and soon enough she is engaged in three different flings. A pair of bored schoolgirls (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie) amuse themselves by manipulating the adults, but each character's flaws are ultimately responsible for ensuring that they get their just deserts. DVD or Blu-ray features: Commentary with Gemma Arterton and Luke Evans, Making of featurette, Reconstructing Tamara Drewe, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

YOU AGAIN

(2010)

* 1/2 (C-)

Directed by Andy Fickman

Starring Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Betty White

Touchstone//Rated PG//Comedy//105 minutes

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

Having become a big success at a PR firm, Marni (Bell) considers herself past her awkward high school years. Then Marni learns her brother plans to marry Marni's high school nemesis, Joanna (Yustman), and Marni decides she is going to prevent this impending disaster. Marni's mother, Gail (Curtis), is aghast over Marni's plans, but Gail's feelings change after Joanna's aunt Ramona (Weaver) arrives, exposing Gail to her own high school rival. A talented female cast makes the most of a hilarious, but thin premise that would have been better served by a 30-minute sitcom. DVD and Blu-ray extras include a short on Fickman's filmmaking process, a spoof interview with members of the cast and a collection of deleted scenes. DVD features: Following Fickman: On Set With Director Andy Fickman, 3 Deleted Scenes, The Cast Answer Questions From Fans Asking for Advice, Behind-the-Scenes Cast Interview Spoof, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, 11 Deleted Scenes, Blooper Dance Party.

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Greg Berlanti

Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks, Hayes MacArthur, Melissa McCarthy

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

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

Holly and Messer (Heigl and Duhamel) are unwed adults who inherit guardianship of a newborn orphaned by the death of the same friends that cooked up the pair's disastrous blind date, three years prior. Compelled by family court to jointly occupy a home with baby Sophie, somewhere between midnight feedings and diaper changes, the pair's mutual animosity turns to admiration. Two years of ups and downs are depicted in montages that make the rough patches seem far cuter and much funnier than parents will remember. DVD features: Deleted Scenes, English, French or Spanish language tracks, letterbox widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: A Survival Guide to Instant Parenting with Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl, Will Sasso, Jessica St. Clair, Melissa McCarthy, Andrew Daly, Bill Brochtrup and Ron Huebel, Katherine Heigl: Becoming the Best Mom Ever, Josh Duhamel: The Triplet Tamer, includes Portuguese language track.

MIDDLE MEN

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by George Gallo

Starring Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, Jacinda Barrett, Laura Ramsey, Terry Crews, Rade Serbedzija, Kevin Pollak, James Caan, Robert Forster

Paramount//Rated R//Comedy//112 minutes

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

Inspired by a true story, Middle Men documents the rise of porn on the fledgling 1995 Internet. Jack Harris (Wilson) is the financial wizard behind the scheme, narrating the sordid events and personalities that populate an empire built on Mob money. The idea springs from the addled minds of former veterinarian Wayne Beering (Ribisi) and NASA technician Buck Dolby (Macht). Their growing fortunes fuel the pair's fondness for stronger drugs while Jack squanders his happy homelife on strippers and trying to placate porn stars, scam artists, thugs, FBI agents and corrupt politicians. James Caan turns up as a colorful lowlife while Jack tries to rescue Beering and Dolby from the duo's escalating bouts of stupidity. DVD features: Deleted scenes, Outtakes, Slap montage, English language tracks, Spanish or French subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both Blu-ray and DVD.

FOR COLORED GIRLS

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Tyler Perry

Starring Janet Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Michael Ealy, Kimberly Elise, Omari Hardwick, Hill Harper, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Kerry Washington, Macy Gray, Richard Lawson

Lionsgate//Rated R//Drama//134 minutes

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

Adapted from a 1975 play by Ntozake Shange, the original story was set in various cities hosting seven black women as they struggled with abuse, rape, cheating lovers and back alley abortions. The narrative consisted of 20 poems woven to create an interconnected tale. Perry's version expands the characters to nine women, eight of whom reside in the same Harlem apartment building. He adds dialog and drops the choreography. Reset to the present day, Perry inserts morality lessons and imposes his Christian worldview. Stiffly lensed, the production attempts to incorporate elements of the play with Perry's new strategies, but it fails to gel. DVD features: Span of the Rainbow: Interactive Documentary, Prism of Poems, Transformation: Movie Magic, Living Portraits, Music For Colored Girls, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both Blu-ray and DVD.

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