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Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

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COWBOYS & ALIENS (Out Dec. 6)

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, Keith Carradine, Noah Ringer

Universal//Rated PG-13//Sci-Fi/Western//118 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

Adapted from a graphic novel by Scott Mitchell, this sci-fi movie examines mankind's ability to fight back when extraterrestrials invade an isolated western town during the 1800s. Cowboys & Aliens offers few surprises, but the aliens are marvelously invented creatures that partially make up for the film's lackluster narrative. The film benefits from its spooky settings in semi-arid deserts and stark rocky outcroppings. Daniel Craig appears as mysterious stranger Jake Lonergan, lacking all memory of his life prior to his arrival in town. He becomes an object of interest to Ella, an opinionated, capable beauty played by Olivia Wilde, displaying an edginess that lifts her underwritten role. Sam Rockwell and Keith Carradine add Western flavor in supporting turns, while Harrison Ford is cast as the local bigwig. The ensemble is game though at times ill-served by blurred special effects. For much of its running time, Cowboys & Aliens entertains with action set pieces, but having eschewed philosophical underpinnings, the action neither enthralls nor makes the grade as camp. DVD and Blu-ray features include: Digital Copy of Cowboys & Aliens, Second Screen, Conversations with Jon Favreau, Making of featurette, director's commentary.

THE HANGOVER PART II (Out Dec. 6)

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Todd Phillips

Starring Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Mason Lee, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee, Jamie Chung, Nick Cassavetes, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman

Warner//Rated R//Comedy//102 minutes

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

The original's loosely-knit wolf pack is reunited in Bangkok for Stu's (Ed Helms) wedding to a babe from Thailand. The guys plan to toast Stu's impending nuptials on the beach, but somehow ingest a substance that once again leaves them with amnesia, and minus the 16-year-old brother Teddy (Mason Lee) of Stu's fiancee. As before, the trio awakens in a motel room. This time the mysteries include tattoos, new hairstyles, a severed finger and a supersmart capuchin monkey. The small simian is only slightly more outrageous than self-descibed "stay-at-home-son" Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis, who instantly bonds with his primate brother. Normally uptight dentist Stu, has apparently gone off the deep end while under the influence, and knows that his fiancee's strict father will kibosh the wedding unless they find his son Teddy. Bradley Cooper appears as married Phil, longing for his carefree bachelor days. The formula includes comically retracing their steps in order to locate Teddy. Mike Tyson and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) reprise their earlier roles, and chapter two gains traction by placing Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Tambor in pivotal supporting roles. The slapstick comedy is bolstered by one-liners and approachable characters who remain lovable despite their inanities. DVD and Blu-ray features include: Map of destruction, The madness of Ken Jeong, Action mash-up, Three Best Friends song, The Dan Band performs Fame.

ANOTHER EARTH (Out Now)

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Mike Cahill

Starring Brit Marling, William Mapother, Kumar Pallana, DJ Flava

Fox//Rated PG-13//93 minutes

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

On the eve of her acceptance into an elite university, Rhoda (Marling) drinks and drives with disastrous results. Released from prison four years later, she offers a low-cost cleaning service to the very man whose family she killed. Unaware of her true identity, John Burroughs's (Mapother) self-imposed isolation is eased by Rhoda's presence. They, like everyone else, are obsessed with a twin earth that has appeared in the sky. Might Burroughs's wife and child be alive there? Might the other Rhoda have avoided her mistake? When the pair fall in love, these questions grow in complexity, becoming increasingly urgent. 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, 7 Deleted Scenes, "The First Time I Saw Jupiter" music video, The Science Behind Another Earth, Creating Another Earth, Fox Movie Channel presents Direct Effect with Mike Cahill, In Character with Brit Marling, and In Character with William Mapother, Digital Copy.

BIG LOVE: Season Five DVD (Out Dec. 6)

(2011)

* * * * (A)

Created by Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer

Starring Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Seyfried, and Mireille Enos.

HBO//Not Rated//Drama//600 minutes

Available on: DVD

This season concludes the ingenious series depicting Mormon polygamist, Bill Henrickson (Paxton), and his three wives, as they attempt to live a successful plural marriage. Having gone public about his polygamy after winning a seat in Utah's Senate, Henrickson's family is the focus for controversy. Henrickson's first wife, Barb (Tripplehorn), defies him by espousing her belief that women may also hold the Mormon priesthood. Third wife Margene (Goodwin), tries her hand at multilevel marketing program while second wife, Nicolette (Sevigny), conspires to become Henrickson's legally wedded spouse. Bill's domestic attention is distracted by his attempts is dismantle the backwards polygamist compound where he was raised. Part satire, part evenhanded debate, the series works its way toward a stunning conclusion without missing a beat. 4-Disc DVD features: Inside the Episode feature for each episode with the show creators, Big Love The End of Days.


THE DEBT (Out Dec. 6)

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by John Madden

Starring Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Jesper Christensen, Ciaran Hinds

Universal//Rated R//Thriller//114 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

This espionage thriller unfolds in two time frames, one set in 1966, the other in 1997. The action centers around husband-and-wife covert operatives, played by Chastain and Worthington in 1966. Their mission, bringing down a Nazi war criminal (Christensen), is being celebrated 30 years after the fact, with the now-divorced couple played by Mirren and Wilkinson. Unfortunate mishaps, that originally impacted their mission, continue to exact a toll. The plot thickens as the story flashes back and forth, until the riddle is finally solved. Special Features unavailable as of this writing.



MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS (Out Dec. 6)

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Mark Waters

Starring Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury

Fox//Rated PG//Comedy//94 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

A wealthy businessman and divorced father of two, Mr. Popper (Carrey) is peeved when six penguins arrive on his doorstep, courtesy of dear old Dad, an Antarctic adventurer. The miscreants turn Popper's penthouse into a frozen circus, but before he can find an alternate placement for the gang, Popper's estranged children go gaga for Captain, Bitey, Nimrod, Loudy, Stinky and Lovey. Realizing the birds are the ticket to regaining his family (including Carla Gugino as ex-Mrs. Popper), the businessman decides to embrace his destiny as a penguin-wrangler. Loosely based on the 1938 children's book by Richard and Florence Atwater, whose writings envisioned a financially challenged, childless couple. Special Features unavailable as of this writing.



ONE DAY (Out Now)

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Romola Garai, Rafe Spall, Patricia Clarkson

Universal//Rated PG-13//Drama//107 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download, on demand

The adaptation of a David Nicholls romance calls for Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess to play friends and lovers over a 20-year period. Hathaway appears as Emma Morley, a working class heroine who meets wealthy charmer Dexter Mayhew (Sturgess) on July 15, 1988, at their college graduation. The film's gimmick reunites them on a series of July 15 anniversaries to witness the ebb and flow of their friendship and its influence over their unfulfilled romance. Emma's superior values contrast with Dexter's self-indulgent lifestyle in this story that seems 65 years too late. DVD or Blu-ray features include: several making-of features and director's commentary.



THE SMURFS (Out Now)

(2011)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Raja Gosnell

Starring Hank Azaria, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters, Jayma Mays, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays

Sony//Rated PG//Family//100 minutes

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

Sony Studios hopes parents, remembering their television-viewing childhood, will be prompted to introduce their children to the Smurfs. Released in both 2D and 3D, the story follows the little blue characters as they escape from their home world and the evil wizard Gargamel (Azaria). The Smurfs land in New York City where the CGI'd blue guys are dropped into a live-action world that dwarfs and frightens them. Their best hope for survival lies with a human couple played by Harris and Mays, who are expecting a baby and somewhat overwhelmed by the chaos that accompanies the Smurfs. DVD and Blu-ray features include: A short about adapting TV's Smurfs to the screen, Find the Smurfs game, Blooper reel and two commentaries.



30 MINUTES OR LESS (Out Now)

(2011)

CR: * *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Michael Pena, Bianc Kajlich, Dilshad Vadsaria, Fred Ward

Sony//Rated R//Comedy//83 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

A pair of fledgling criminals (McBride and Swardson), strap a bomb to the chest of pizza delivery guy Nick (Eisenberg), then give him precious few hours to rob a bank in order to remain in one piece. Slacker Nick enlists help from bumbling best friend Chet (Ansari), but when the duo can't disarm the bomb, they realize that the robbery must go on. Laughs are fewer than expected despite a topnotch cast of likable comedians. DVD or Blu-ray features include: deleted scenes, outtakes and a featurette on the cast and crew.



WALK ON THE MOON (Out Dec. 6)

(1998)

* * * (B)

Directed by Tony Goldwyn

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Diane Lane, Live Schreiber, Anna Paquin, Tovah Feldshuh

Platinum Disc//Rated R//Drama//107 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

Having married her husband while a pregnant teen, a 31-year-old woman questions her choice during the sexually provocative '60s. Housewife and mother of two, Pearl (Diane Lane) quietly smolders. During the family's annual vacation in the Catskills, a free-spirited hippie (Viggo Mortensen) takes her breath away, endangering Pearl's family life. They couple-up to the televised moonwalk, and join in Woodstock's concert melee. Not to worry, second chances are tendered to all including those who travel back in time via this nostalgic ode. No listed Special Features.



BASQUIAT (Out Dec. 06)

(1996)

* * (C)

Directed by Julian Schnabel

Starring Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Benicio Del Toro, Claire Forlani, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Gary Oldman,

Platinum Disc//Rated R//Drama//106 minutes

Available on: DVD

In 1979, John Michelle Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright) graduated from authoring strange graffiti on the streets of New York to become a prominent black artist. Prior to being discovered, middle class bred Basquiat chose to live in a cardboard box. While his fame grew, his personal life showed little progress. Andy Warhol (David Bowie) tolerated the artist but his hedonism and arrogance toward others alienated everyone who tried to care for him. Long-term drug abuse led Basquiat's death in 1988. Decisive brush strokes are missing from this picture of the enigmatic Basquiat. Was he exploited, or a pathetic addict? His strange artworks flash so briefly across the screen, it's impossible to gain perspective regarding his talent. No listed Special Features.