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Friday, June 10, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

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THE MECHANIC

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Simon West

Starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden, James Logan

CBS Films//Rated R//Action//92 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

The 1972 movie starring Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent is rebooted with Jason Statham and Ben Foster as the seasoned assassin, and assassin-in-training, respectively. The story's complex relationships are credibly updated, but the effort is undermined by storytelling clichés. Statham's velvety voice and intense focus enhance the right role, and he's found one highly disciplined hit man, Arthur Bishop. Bishop's garage houses a classic Jaguar he fine tunes between jobs. Bishop's orders to kill are issued by unctuous Dean (a serviceable Tony Goldwyn), CEO of a secret, well-funded syndicate that relies on Bishop's meticulously planned and executed hits. Though Bishop's mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), is cautious and wise, he has spawned reckless son Steve (Foster). Following Harry's murder, Bishop steps in as Steve's surrogate father, agreeing to teach Steve the family trade. Steve fails to follow Bishop's instructions and winds up in an exquisitely choreographed brawl. His volatile presence ensures that all the player's misdeeds are brought to light, sometimes cleverly, but other times awkwardly. Such lapses in diligence detract from this otherwise above average action flick. DVD or Blu-ray features: Get Inside the Action with the "Tools of the Trade" featurette, Deleted & Extended Scenes, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

DRIVE ANGRY

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Patrick Lussier

Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, Christa Campbell, Charlotte Ross

Summit Entertainment//Rated R//Action//104 minutes

A gun-toting joyride, Drive Angry hurls every type of exploding vehicle and body part at its audience. Though it feels like a graphic novel, the original screenplay was co-written by director Patrick Lussier. The film's worships rednecks, muscle cars and hedonistic sex, existing under a nihilistic spell that is barely dented by its hero's efforts to defeat Satanic worshippers. In a nod to the 17th century epic poem, "Paradise Lost," Nicolas Cage's John Milton, escapes from Hell in order to save his infant granddaughter from a Satanic cult led by Jonah (Billy Burke). Milton races to their sacrificial site in a 1969 Dodge Charger, killing dozens of Jonah's minions along the way. Milton's sidekick is Piper (Amber Heard), the car's plucky owner. Cage is decked out in a scraggly wig and black leather, while Heard's long blonde locks, denim cutoffs, cowgirl boots and clinging T-shirt, complete her hillbilly pin-up look. As Satan's dapper "Accountant," William Fichtner runs away with his scenes, giving his character the campy twist this film so desperately craves. DVD features: Commentary with filmmakers Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, Deleted scenes, How to: Drive Angry, Milton's Mayhem, English or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen.


I AM NUMBER FOUR

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by D.J. Caruso

Starring Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand, Callan McAuliffe

Disney Touchstone//Rated PG-13//Sci-Fi//110 minutes

While I Am Number Four is based on the first book in a series of six, known as "The Lorien Legacies," (the last five are yet to be written). Co-authors, Jobie Hughes and James Frey wrote their tale under the pen name Pittacus Lore. If Frey sounds vaguely familiar, it's because he made news for his sham autobiography entitled, A Million Little Pieces. Frey's discredited account revealed a vivid imagination that is less evident in this screen adaptation of "I Am Number Four." Bland Alex Pettyfer, 20, plays John Smith, a 15-year-old extraterrestrial, one of nine Loriens sheltering on Earth. As the film opens, the number three Lorien is killed, placing John next in line for termination by the planet-raiding Mogadorians. The Mogs travel in semi-trucks carrying elephant-size hunting creatures that resemble frogs sporting dagger claws. Timothy Olyphant stands out as Four's grumpy protector Henri. "Glee's" Dianna Agron, 24, appears as John's love interest Sarah, while Callan McAuliffe plays John's nerdy friend and alien-conspiracy buff. Blowing things up figures prominently in the action, partly the result of John's newly emerging special powers. Number Six in the line of Loriens, played by Aussie actress Teresa Palmer, 24, arrives as John's backup. Her gumption provides some relief from the sedate cast trying to pass themselves off as teens. The story dutifully ticks off the romance, action and superhero elements deemed necessary to attract both boys and girls, but whether it can hang onto its audience, remains to be seen in number two. DVD or Blu-ray features: Bloopers, Becoming Number Six: Teresa Palmer masters her stunts, English, French or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features: 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.

THE ROOMMATE

(2011)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Christian E. Christiansen

Starring Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet, Alyson Michalka, Danneel Harris, Frances Fisher

Sony//Rated PG-13//Thriller//91 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

A plot that echoes 1992's Single White Female is rebooted for the coed set when college student Sara (Kelly) is assigned to a dorm room with new girl Rebecca (Meester). The girls initially get along, but their budding friendship takes a wrong turn after Rebecca decides she'd rather kill Sara's other friends than share Sara. Little promotion was done for this one despite casting Billy Zane and Frances Fisher in supporting roles. DVD features: Director's Commentary, Deleted & Alternate Scenes, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: Making Of featurette, Next Generation of Stars, Dressing Dangerously, English, French or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen.

THE RITE

(2011)

* * (C)

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Ciaran Hinds, Alice Braga, Rutger Hauer, Toby Jones

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

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Suggested by Matt Baglio's book, The Making of a Modern Exorcist, this story is drawn from Baglio's own experience while taking an exorcism course. Michael Kovak (O'Donoghue) is a disillusioned seminary student sent to the Vatican to study its new exorcism program. His failure to take demonic possession seriously prompts an instructor (Hinds) to send the nonbeliever to work with Italian exorcist Father Lucas (Hopkins). After being introduced to a woman who appears to be possessed, Michael rediscovers his faith but is in denial when an acquaintance exhibits signs of possession. Creepy special effects and Hopkins's presence may be enough to get this one noticed, but a muddled screenplay and O'Donoghue's vanilla portrayal, are a letdown. DVD features: Deleted Scenes, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy, Alternate ending, Soldier of God: Meet father Gary Thomas, the Vatican-ordained exorcist whose life story inspired the film, Go inside the exorcism academy to share eyewitness accounts of real-life exorcisms.

GNOMEO & JULIET

(2011)

* * 1/2 (B-)

Directed by Kelly Asbury

Voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Ozzie Osbourne, Jason Statham, Michael Caine, Ashley Jensen, Jim Cummings, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters

Disney//Rated G//Comedy//84 minutes

Available on: DVD, and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack in 2D or 3D

Shakespeare's tragedy is reset in the current day, as an animated comedy featuring garden gnomes. After their home owners leave in the morning, neighboring blue and red garden gnomes resume their long-standing feud. Against all odds, red gnome, Juliet (Blunt) and blue gnome, Gnomeo (McAvoy), fall madly in love, but are forced to keep their feelings secret from their warring clans. Maggie Smith and Michael Caine voice gnome elders, while Ozzie does a bit as a Bambi figurine. Creative action, a sweet new ending, and Elton John's music, make this one a date movie and more. DVD features: Elton Builds A Garden featurette focuses on the impact of Elton John's musical score, Frog Talk With Ashley Jensen: Ashley gives voice to Nanette: with Crazy Faces, a bonus Japanese lesson, "Crocodile Rock" Music Video, English or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, 2 Alternate Endings; Storyboard Sequences Featuring "Crocodile Rock," Deleted & Alternate Scenes; In "Animated" Storyboard Sequences, "The Fawn Of Darkness"; Ozzy Osbourne's Mumblings About Voicing A Little Fawn Deer, Intercut With Session Outtakes. 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack 3D features same plus: Digital Copy.

BIUTIFUL

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Starring Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Eduard Fernandez, Diaryatou Daff, Cheng Tai Shen, Luo Jin

Lionsgate//Rated R//Drama - English with Spanish subtitles//147 minutes

Available on: DVD

Javier Bardem turns in a nuanced, Oscar-nominated performance as Uxbal, a mid-level criminal operating in Barcelona when he learns he has a terminal illness. A single father, Uxbal provides for his young sons by supplying goods to an underground industry that makes knock-off designer items that sidewalk vendors sell to the city's tourists. Uxbal wages an uphill battle to help those of the industry's illegal workers in the most pitiful of circumstances. Co-writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu depicts Uxbal's experience of the world, allowing the camera to see what he sees and disclose what he feels. Barcelona's backstreets are both gritty and horrific, but Bardem's superb acting imbues each depressing moment with deeper meaning. DVD features: Spanish language tracks, English or Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

GOD WENT SURFING WITH THE DEVIL

(2010)

Directed by Alexander Klein

Hosts Mofeed Jabar, Matt Olsen, Arthur Rashkovan

Cinema Libre//Unrated//Documentary//84 minutes

Available on: DVD

In 2006, after Palestine elected Hamas, Israel closed the borders, sealing off the flow of both goods and people. Despite combat and fights all around them, a handful of Palestinian surfers continued to ride the waves, braving snipers and sharing battered surfboards. Learning of their plight, a group of Israelis and Americans teamed up to bring them surfboards and gear. This film documents both interference from the Israeli government, and the joy of international surfers uniting on Al Deira Beach where they defy the odds to share a rush of freedom on the waves. DVD features: Making of featurette, Production Photo Journal with commentary, Original Ending.