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Friday, June 24, 2011

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BATTLE: LOS ANGELES

(2011)

* (D)

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Nia Peeples, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Nzinga Blake, Ne-Yo

Sony//Rated PG-13//Science Fiction//116 minutes

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

Deceptively framed as a science fiction yarn, Battle: Los Angeles is a loud and shallow, soldier-boy flick. Though no documentary exists within the framework of this story, the narrative unfolds docu-style, via jittery handheld cameras capturing incomprehensible action. Invading extraterrestrials shoot at civilians and our military, on a layout of various battlegrounds in and around Santa Monica. Smoke and high frequency edits disorient and disconnect us from the characters. Aaron Eckhart plays battle-weary Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz, a veteran asked to advise inexperienced US Marine platoon leader William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez). Michelle Rodriguez is stereotyped as a tough chick with a big heart joining the platoon's mission to rescue a group of trapped civilians. Survivors include a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan), and a father (Michael Pena) attempting to keep his young son safe. Television news footage depicts aliens arriving at coastlines around the globe in what appear to be meteor showers. Biological-mechanical hybrids emerge bearing machine guns surgically attached to their forearms. The film's overbearing score seeks to manufacture the heart-in-the-throat pride missing from these two hours of "booyah." DVD features: Behind the Battle, Aliens in L.A., Preparing for Battle, Creating L.A. in LA, English, French, Spanish or Thai language tracks, Korean subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same as above plus: Directing the Battle, Boot Camp, The Freeway Battle, Command Control featuring Picture-in-Picture, Storyboard Comparisons, and Battle Points. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same as above plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray.

SANCTUM

(2010)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Alister Grierson

Starring Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Daniel Wyllie, Allison Cratchley

Universal//Rated R//Action//109 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Though immersed in finishing Avatar at the time, executive producer James Cameron provided his much-touted 3D camera system to Sanctum. In exchange for 50 seconds of idyllic underwater footage, the 3D creates strangely blurred foregrounds and backgrounds. The story is based on real events that occurred to James Cameron's friend and collaborator, Andrew Wight. Though Wight's group consisted of 15 divers, this adapted account whittles the group down to five adventurers who are trapped by a flash flood deep inside Papua, New Guinea's Esa-ala cave system. Master cave explorer Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), leads the search for a way out. His longtime partner, George (Dan Wyllie) provides a reliable back up, though Frank also requires support from his 17-year-old son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield). Ioan Gruffudd appears as Carl Hurley, a wealthy adventurer bringing along his mountain-climber girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson). Various accidents highlight the many ways either diving or climbing equipment can cause injury or death. Poetic license is taken to determine each character's fate, a problem due to a maze of overly contrived emotional conflicts and poorly written dialog. As an adventure, Sanctum earns an A, but as a human drama it barely squeaks by with a D. DVD features: commentary with director Alister Grierson, actor Rhys Wakefield and co-writer/producer Andrew Wight, Deleted scenes, Sanctum: The real story, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: Nullarbor dreaming. 2-Disc Blu-ray 3D features same plus: Film on both 2D and 3D.

UNKNOWN

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quieen, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella, Sebastian Koch

Warner//Rated PG-13//Action//113 minutes

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

While traveling in Berlin, American Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) is involved in a car accident that leaves him comatose. He awakens to discover that his wife (Jones) no longer recognizes him, and is married to a man (Quieen) she refers to as Dr. Martin Harris. Lacking evidence to prove his story, Martin gets no help from authorities, but when mysterious assassins attempt to kill him, Martin knows someone wants to cover something up. His only ally is a local woman (Diane Kruger), but she can't help Martin with his identity crisis. Adapted from the novel Out of My Head by Didier van Cauwelaert, readers either love or hate the ending. DVD features: Unknown: What Is Known? - the characters and plot of this international trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by David Bowers

Starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron, Chloe Grace Moretz

Fox//Rated PG//Comedy//99 minutes

Available on: DVD, 2-Disc Special Edition DVD or Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

Another Jeff Kinney "Wimpy Kid" novel is adapted for this sequel. Though Kinney published the fifth book in the series during the interim between the two films, little has changed for 12-year-old Greg Heffley (a returning Gordon), whose quest to become popular continues to disrupt his one and only friendship with tubby outcast Rowley Jefferson (Capron). Chloe Grace Moretz reprises her role as the school paper's offbeat editor, but where Rowley is content with himself and Moretz's character is cool, Greg's dreams of ascending the social ladder lack the humor necessary to improve this tale, best suited to preteens. DVD features: "My Summer Vacations" shorts!” "My Magic Summer" by Greg Heffley, "My Zoo-Wee Vacation!" by Rowley Jefferson, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc DVD features same plus: 6 Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary, Gag Reel. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy, Commentary by author Jeff Kinney and director David Bowers, 7 "My Summer Vacation" shorts, 10 deleted scenes, Alternate ending: "Stealthinator."



RED RIDING HOOD

(2011)

* 1/2 (C-)

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Billy Burke

Warner//Rated PG-13//Horror//100 minutes

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

Few will be surprised to learn that director Catherine Hardwicke has revamped the classic fairy tale into a horror with a teen love triangle twist. Valerie's (Seyfried) parents arrange for her to marry wealthy Henry (Irons), but she is in love with brooding Peter (Fernandez). Her plans to run away are put on hold after a werewolf haunting the nearby woods kills Valerie's sister. The townsfolk hire famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who suspects the werewolf wants Valerie, so he enlists her aid in a dangerous scheme to kill the beast. Hardwicke gambles on the presence of dreamy young men, stylized horror and mesmerizing landscapes to fill seats with female teens. DVD features: Trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD Extended Cut and Blu-ray, Digital Copy, Alternate cut: Includes a provocative alternate ending,

Secrets behind the red cloak picture-in-picture commentary with Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons and director Catherine Hardwicke, Gag reel, Red Riding Hood: Red's men the guys share their casting stories and we get a sneak peek at exclusive clips from their audition tapes, 2 music videos, additional scenes.

BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

(2011)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by John Whitesell

Starring Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas, Faizon Love, Ana Ortiz, Michelle Ang, Sherri Shepherd, Ken Jeong

Fox//Rated PG-13//Comedy//107 minutes

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

Martin Lawrence dons the fat lady suit for a threequel that attempts to up the ante. After his teenage stepson, Trent (Jackson), witnesses a mobbed-up murder, FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Lawrence) dons a Momma disguise, and forces Trent to pose as Momma's great niece. In the worst drag imaginable, the pair show up to an all-girls performing arts school, where Momma has landed an instructor's position and Trent impersonates the school's homeliest student. A bulky, but appealing staff member (Love) takes a shine to Momma, but otherwise, there's nothing new about Fox Studios milking this franchise for every last nickel. DVD features: commentary by director John Whitesell, producer David T. Friendly and actors Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas and Portia Doubleday, Deleted scenes, Gag reel, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD Blu-ray, Digital Copy, Song and Dance: Momma Style, Bigger Busts Countdown, "Baby You Know" Music Video, "Lyrical Miracle" Extended Music video.

HALL PASS

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jenna Fischer, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins

New Line Cinema//Rated R//Comedy//105 minutes

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

Best pals, Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis), are openly ogling other women when their wives, (Fischer and Applegate), offer the men a one-week pass to sow their wild oats—no questions asked. Thrilled to be given their freedom, the guys soon discover that women are immune to their charms, and are terrified to learn their attractive wives are having a ball. Though written and directed by the Farrelly Brothers, the film reflects Judd Apatow's influence as it explores the disconnect between male fantasy and reality. DVD features: Additional scene, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD - Enlarged Edition, and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.

TRUE GRIT

(2010)

* * * * (A)

Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Bruce Green, Roy Lee Jones

Paramount//Rated PG-13//Western//110 minutes

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

The Coen Brothers remake the 1969 film that garnered John Wayne his only Best Actor Oscar. This time Jeff Bridges puts his stamp on Rooster Cogburn, a flinty, one-eyed Federal Marshal hired by 14-year-old Mattie Ross to capture her father's killer, Tom Chaney (Brolin). Matt Damon appears as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, traveling to Arkansas in pursuit of Chaney, also wanted in Texas. The three travel through Indian territory on a journey testing their grit. The film is beautifully lensed, and unlike the 1969 version, ends in accordance with the Charles Portis 1968 novel. DVD features: Behind the scenes with Mattie Ross, Outfitting the old west: Buckskins, chaps and cowboy hats, Recreating Fort Smith, The cast, English, French or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy, Outfitting the Old West: Buckskins, chaps and cowboy hats, Colts, Winchesters & Remingtons: The guns of a post-Civil War Western, The cast, Charles Portis - The greatest writer you've never heard of...,

The cinematography of True Grit, theatrical trailer.

JUST GO WITH IT

(2011)

* * (C)

Directed by Dennis Dugan

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Bailee Madison, Nicole Kidman, Heidi Montag, Elena Satine, Kevin Nealon, Dave Matthews, Nick Swardson

Sony//Rated PG-13//Comedy//116 minutes

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

Sandler appears as Danny, a marriage-averse plastic surgeon who pretends he is already married, and is therefore available only for flings. Danny becomes trapped in his own lie when he falls for beautiful, young Palmer (Decker). To salvage the situation, Danny recruits his assistant, Katherine (Aniston), and her two kids, to pose as his family. The plot soon transports Danny, Palmer, Katherine and her kids to Hawaii for a romantic getaway that will change everyone's their lives. Nicole Kidman and Sandler movie alum, Dave Matthews, show up as the ultimate cool couple. DVD features: Filmmaker and Cast Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, Laughter Is Contagious - Blooper Reel, Featurettes: The Perfect Couple: Jen and Adam, Shooting Hawaii, Dolph-Not The One From Rocky IV, English or French language tracks, English, French or Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: 11 Minutes of Additional Deleted Scenes, 9 Featurettes: Adon: Living Plastic, Along Came a Prop Guy, Decker's Got Gas, Kevin Nealon: The Plastic Man, What's A Dugan?, Look Who Else Is In The Movie, Sneaky Kiki & Bart the Water Fart, The Not So Perfect Couple, Decker's First Role, movieIQ+sync and BD-Live™ connect to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray.



THE COMPANY MEN

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by John Wells

Starring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson

Weinstein Co.//Rated R//Drama//105 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Bobby (Affleck), Gene (Jones), and Phil (Cooper) are executives living in the lap of luxury when they become casualties of downsizing at a Boston-based manufacturing conglomerate. Family-man Bobby (Affleck) tries networking at the country club until the company cancels his membership. Believing he can replace his cushy job, Bobby drives his Porsche to an employment center where he is one of many seeking work. Company co-founder Gene can't believe he's been booted, while 30-year vet, Phil, is mad as Hell. Finally, Bobby goes to work putting up drywall for his brother-in-law (Costner), but how sorry are we supposed to feel for six-figure earners who fail to save for a rainy day? DVD or Blu-ray features: Commentary With Writer And Director John Wells, Alternate Ending, Making of featurette, deleted scenes, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

TRANSFORMERS

(2007)

* * * (B)

Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Anthony Anderson, Rachael Taylor, Kevin Dunn, Julie White

Voices of: Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Mark Ryan

Dreamworks//Rated PG-13//Sci-Fi//143 min

Available on: Blu-ray

Special effects lovers find a director to call their own in Michael Bay. The benevolent Autobots (good Transformers) want to prevent Decepticons from destroying Earth, but it won't be easy to stop a robot several stories tall. The killer-bot seems determined to hunt down each escaping soldier when it attacks Qatar, but Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson) and Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) live to tell the tale. Meanwhile, high school student, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) buys a used car. The gawky teen is stoked when gorgeous Mikaela (Megan Fox) accepts a ride in his sun yellow '76 Camaro. This bliss is interrupted by Decepticons bent on grabbing Sam to get their hands on a family heirloom needed to activate their plan. Sam's car comes to his defense, reconfiguring itself into a sun yellow warrior. You can't help but look for the car's grill, steering wheel and tires in their new form, just to be sure the special F/X team isn't cheating. Decepticons are more jagged and less colorful than Autobots whose car and truck alter-egos are frequently seen. Aided by the Industrial Light and Magic gang, Bay's early CGI sequences are extremely satisfying. However, as the confrontations become splashier and more frenetic, the action becomes difficult to follow and is overwhelmed by a pounding, orchestral score. Bay is a talented director, but he didn't recognize when enough was too much. Blu-ray features: director commentary by director, Transformers heads up display, BD-Live features, English language tracks, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

ROME: Season One (2005) & ROME: Season Two (2006)

* * * *(A)

HBO//Not Rated//Drama

Created by Bruno Heller

Directed by Michael Apted

Starring Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker, Kenneth Cranham, Lindsay Duncan, Ciaran Hinds

Available on: Blu-ray

Set during Caesar's reign, HBO's "Rome" dramatically blends history with educated guessing. The epic unfolds from perspectives that de-emphasize those of Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds), and Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham), in favor of the views held by commoners and noblemen. Vixen Atia of Julii is adroitly portrayed by frequently naked Polly Walker. Caesar's niece, Atia is determined to secure a position of power for her young son Octavian (Max Pirkis). After carrying out a mission together, officer Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and low-ranking soldier with Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) become fast friends, a relationship that helps to drive the plot. After seven years without a word from her husband, Lucius's wife Niobe (Indira Varma) is frightened by his return. Using incredible sets in imaginative ways, "Rome" sacrifices intimate character development for first rate drama that sucks you in faster than you can say "Beware the Ides of March." 5-Disc, 720-minute Season One Blu-ray features: Eight commentaries with cast and crew, All Roads Lead to Rome: interactive on-screen guide prepared by the series' historical consultant, Jonathan Stamp, Bloodlines: interactive on-screen guide highlighting the connections between the soldiers, senate and families of Rome, Introduction to the characters of Rome, two Shot x Shot: Gladiator - episode 11 fight sequence, and Caesar's Triumph - the epic episode 10 triumph scene, Behind-the-scenes featurette on sets, wardrobe and actors' boot camp, Featurette on the culture of ancient Rome, English, French, German, Polish or Spanish language tracks, Danish, Dutch, or Finnish subtitles, widescreen. 5-Disc, 600-minute, Season Two Blu-ray features: five commentaries with cast and crew, A Tale of Two Romes for two different classes, Making of Rome, season II featurette, The Rise of Octavian, Antony & Cleopatra, English, French, German, Polish or Spanish language tracks, Danish, Dutch, or Finnish subtitles, widescreen.

ORIGINAL SIN

(2001)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Michael Cristofer

Starring Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Jane

MGM//Rated R or Unrated//Thriller//118 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

A Cuban coffee plantation owner who advertises for a mail order bride from The States, Luis accepts Julia's explanation for the plain Jane photograph preceding her arrival, "I didn't want to be accepted just because I own a pretty face." He feels fortunate to marry a woman more beautiful than he had dared hope for, but Julia (Angelina Jolie) proves to be tons of fun in bed and a challenge everywhere else. In no time, she cleans out Luis's bank accounts and disappears. The pair's much hyped sex scenes unfold as artistically framed shots of imaginatively intertwined bodies, but they generate less heat than a Havana cigar. Lighthearted Banderas lacks the passion to credibly depict his character's ardent pursuit of Julia. The film owes much of its tension to Thomas Jane's vigorous performance. He turns up as Walter Downs, a smooth talking private detective tracking Julia's movements. Her real purpose is revealed in a maze of escapades that conceal the film's surprising resolution. A frothy tale steeped in melodrama, its mystery nevertheless steams ahead with surprising force. There's enough visual and visceral punch here for a batch of sinful thrills. Blu-ray features: director commentary, "You Can't Walk Away From Love" by Gloria Estefan, theatrical trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.

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