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Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

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Columbiana

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Olivier Megaton

Starring Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Amandla Stenberg, Cliff Curtis, Callum Blue, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Beto Benites, Jesse Borrego, Graham McTavish

Sony//Rated PG-13//Action//111 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

We meet Cataleya as a child in Columbia where she escapes a brutal crime lord who murders her parents. She gains entry to the U.S. and moves in with her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis), an assassin. Fifteen years later, Cataleya has learned his trade, and has found what passes for romance with Danny (Michael Vartan). Cataleya has tracked her parents' killer to Mexico, and is preparing to exact revenge. Her kills are meticulously planned and executed in a succession of formfitting outfits tailored to feed the fantasy life of young men. Yet, Saldana's melancholy performance is as stunning as is the film's nail-biting action. She walks softly -- and carries a very big gun! DVD features: featurettes: Making Of, Cataleya's Journey, Assassins, Training A Killer, Take The Ride. Blu-ray features same plus: Digital Copy, PS3 Wallpaper/Theme.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, David Hewlett

Fox//Rated PG-13//Science Fiction//110 minutes

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

When Planet of the Apes was released in 1968, genetic engineering wasn't yet on American minds. The latest installment, a prequel, makes use of increasing public disenchantment with animal research to gain sympathy for Caesar, a super-intelligent chimpanzee due to medical experimentation. John Lithgow plays Will Rodman's (James Franco) ailing father. Stricken with Alzheimer's, he's the motivation for his son's experiments that cause many ape deaths, but gift Caesar with extraordinary abilities. At the onset of adulthood Caesar is sent to an ape sanctuary. His ability to absorb and process information is depicted by Andy Serkis in a nuanced motion-capture performance. The film is served by San Francisco's geography and the Golden Gate Bridge, the latter a unique location for a climactic battle. Unusually thoughtful, the film earns the right to walk among the original "Ape" movies as the missing link. Blu-ray or DVD features: Commentaries by Director and Writers, 11 Deleted Scenes, The Genius of Andy Serkis, Scene Breakdown, A New Generation of Apes, Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries, The Great Apes, Mythology of the Apes, Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle, Character Concept Art Gallery. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features the same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy, a number of exclusive Blu-ray features.

Fright Night

(2011)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette

Disney//Rated R//Horror/101 minutes

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

Colin Farrell owns this remake of a campy 1980s film. His portrayal is smartly infused with sly humor and oozes dangerous sexuality that prompts laughter while raising goose bumps. Scribe Marti Norton made her bones on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and knows how to tap into a teen's perspective. She chronicles the fading friendship between Charlie (Anton Yelchin), a high school student determined to run with the in-crowd, and his childhood best friend, nerdy Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The pair are drawn into the investigation of a missing mutual friend that appears to be linked to Charlie's bachelor neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell). Jerry tries killing Charlie to shut him up, but Charlie seeks advice from Las Vegas magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a vampire expert with an impressive collection of vampire-killing toys. Three jaw-dropping sequences find the perfect blend of terrifying thrills and humor, though the climactic action is something of a letdown. DVD or Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: 5 Deleted & extended scenes, Peter Vincent: Come Swim In My Mind, How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie guide, Bloopers, "No One Believes Me" music video (Uncensored version), Squid Man - Extended & uncut. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: film on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Kung Fu Panda 2

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Voiced by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, Dennis Haysbert, Jean-Claude Van Damme

DreamWorks//Rated PG//Animated//91 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Panda Po (Black) initiates a search for his real dad accompanied by the Furious Five — Tigress (Jolie), Monkey (Chan), Mantis (Rogen), Viper (Liu) and Crane (Cross). The six soon set this goal aside to defend the art of kung fu from peacock Lord Shen (Oldman), who plans to wipe out the martial art using a new weapon. Dustin Hoffman returns as the diminutive red panda and guru, to admonish Po that kung fu, along with its reflective spiritualism, must survive at any cost. Director Jennifer Yuh moves the story along briskly, incorporating seamless 3D into the action. DVD or Blu-ray features: Filmmakers' commentary, Deleted scenes, Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters, The Animators' Corner, Animation inspiration, Kickin' it with the cast, Panda stories, Kung Fu shuffle game, Ni Hao: Learn to speak Chinese, World of DreamWorks Animation.

Warrior

(2011)

* * * 1/2 (A-)

Directed by Gavin O'Connor

Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Nick Nolte, Denzel Whitaker, Bryan Callen, Kevin Dunn

Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Action//140 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Edgerton and Hardy portray estranged brothers brought together because both decide to enter "Sparta," a winner-take-all mixed martial arts contest. Nolte appears as their reformed, alcoholic pop, Paddy, agreeing to train one of his sons. Resentments fly as each brother's determination to take home the $5 million-dollar prize, hardens. O'Connor's camera captures these brutal gladiatorial contests played out in hexagonal cages. The drama proves intimate and poignant, especially in the ring, where the brothers battle their demons as well as one another. DVD features: Deleted scenes with Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte, Selected scene on-camera commentary with filmmakers and Nick Nolte, commentary with filmmakers and actor Joel Edgerton, Bringing Warrior to Life documentary, Philosophy in Combat: Mixed martial arts strategy, A tribute to Charles "Mask" Lewis, Jr., Gag reel, Anatomy of the fight. Blu-ray features same plus: enhanced viewing mode, an in-depth look at Warrior with the cast and crew.

Straw Dogs

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Rod Lurie

Starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods, Dominic Purcell

Sony//Rated R//Thriller//110 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Rebooting director Sam Peckinpah's 1971 thriller, the story revolves around writer David (Marsden) and his wife Amy (Bosworth), a small-town Southern girl. Amy inherits the family home on Mississippi's Gulf coast, where the couple relocates from Los Angeles. Since the house requires extensive renovations, Amy hires her high-school boyfriend Charlie (Skarsgard), and his crew of repairmen, unaware that Charlie is determined to either revive his romance with Amy, or to kill her and her husband. Inventive and violent—especially during its climactic final act—the film explores our ability to stand and fight when backed into a corner. DVD or Blu-ray features: Commentary with Writer/Director, featurettes: Making of, The Ensemble, Production Design, The Ultimate Showdown.

Margin Call

(2011)

* * * 1/2 (A-)

Directed by J.C. Chandor

Starring Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany

Lionsgate//Rated R//Drama//107 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Digital Download and On Demand

Writer-director J.C. Chandor imagines the behind-the-scenes machinations of an investment house when management realizes ahead of everyone else, that the mortgage hedge fund market is poised to collapse. Since the company holds large positions in these funds, it decides to dump them on the market before others comprehend the ramifications. Kevin Spacey appears as the trading supervisor, Paul Bettany plays his immediate supervisor, Demi Moore is cast as top management and Jeremy Irons plays the firm's billionaire owner. The plot unfolds through a series of gut-wrenching strategy sessions that are increasingly difficult to stomach, and equally difficult to ignore. DVD or Blu-ray features: Director and producer commentary, featurettes: Making of, cast and crew, Deleted scenes, photo gallery.


Catch .44

(2011)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Aaron Harvey

Starring Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker, Nikki Reed, Deborah Ann Woll, Malin Akerman, Brad Dourif

Anchor Bay-Starz//Rated R//Action//94 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Three girls (Reed, Woll and Akerman) working at a strip club, take a job intercepting a drug shipment for local crimelord Mel (Willis). Full of themselves and armed to the teeth, the bickering trio sets off in a Beemer. They meet their match in a serial murderer (Whitaker) disguised as a state patrolman. Willis's bathrobe-favoring Mel is drawn into a standoff that calls for some shooting and much loud complaining in this sloppily scripted actioner. DVD and Blu-ray features: Filmmakers' commentary

The Expendables: Extended Director's Cut

(2010)

* * (C)

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke

Lionsgate//Not Rated (originally Rated R)//Action//114 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Following its home video release on Nov. 23, The Expendables is back for its director's cut release on Blu-ray, adding nine minutes to its runtime. Stallone, 64, leads a group of aging tough guys who first turn down a CIA-backed mission, then decide to do the job gratis—on their own terms after meeting at a tattoo parlor run by an ex-soldier buddy (Rourke). Statham plays a good guy, Eric Roberts steps in as the villain and Lundgren is cast as a mercenary unable to decide whose side he's on. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger appear uncredited—a smart choice. DVD features: Stallone's commentary, Making-of featurette, Deleted scene, Gag reel, Marketing archive, English language tracks, Spanish Subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features: Extended cut plus digital copy.

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