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Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

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FINAL DESTINATION 5

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Steven Quale

Starring Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Tony Todd, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, Arlen Escarpeta, Ellen Wroe, P. J. Byrne, Tony Todd

Warner//Rated R//Horror//92 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

In the fifth installment of the long-lived Final Destination franchise, a group of young people escapes a horrific death, then slowly realize that death continues to stalk them. The same premise informs all five films. A young man foresees a terrible accident slated to take his life and those of his corporate coworkers. His vision allows him to save many from a catastrophic bridge collapse, but, as explained by baritone coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd), continuing to cheat death takes both luck and imagination. The plot moves briskly to connect the morbid accidents that befall each survivor—Rube Goldberg puzzles that tease and twist. Disposable, unlovable players get theirs first as the plot wends its way towards the one or two characters worth saving. To hammer home the difficulty of surviving death's onslaught, a montage of greatest Final Destination deaths accompany the closing credits. The film's ending, along with this tribute, might lend an air of finality to the franchise, but where there's money yet to be made, nothing's final. DVD features: UltraViolet Digital Copy, Circle of Death, Your Final Destination. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, making of, Alternate Death Scenes, Visual Effects of Death: Collapsing Bridge, Visual Effects of Death: Airplane Crash.

APOLLO 18

(2011)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

Starring Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins

Anchor Bay//Rated PG-13//Science Fiction//90 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Apollo 18 proposes that in 1974, a secret manned moon mission intentionally put astronauts in harm's way. The film opens with the implausible claim this footage was pieced together from filmstock found online. It depicts three astronauts learning they've been selected for a mission to place cameras on the moon, supposedly to spot any impending Soviet missile strike. Something is rotten from the get-go—especially storytelling that fails to mine either the dread or wonder from stark lunar footage. One astronaut orbits overhead as two set down on the moon to place cameras. Houston refuses to act when the astronauts spot evidence that someone, or something, has preceded them there. It's obvious they are under attack and abandoned by Houston—facts they are loathe to acknowledge. The filmmakers expend little effort constructing their conspiracy theory and even less depicting the attackers. I wish Apollo 18 had simply lost momentum, but instead, it failed to launch. DVD or Blu-ray features: Commentary with Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and Editor Patrick Lussier, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, Alternate Endings. Blu-ray includes Digital Copy.


CONTAGION

(2011)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Elliott Gould, Bryan Cranston, Marion Cotillard, Sanaa Lathan

Warner//Rated PG-13//Drama//106 minutes

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

Director Steven Soderbergh examines the terrifying effects of a global pandemic. We meet Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow), when she returns to The States from Hong Kong with flu-like symptoms. Neither she nor husband Mitch (Matt Damon) know she has contracted a deadly disease. Health officials are alerted and begin the painstaking process of tracking down those having contact with Beth during her final days. They trace a planeload of passengers, question Beth's friends and coworkers, travel around the world, and meet resistance from within and without their ranks. At approximately 20-minute intervals, the film revisits Beth's Hong Kong trip, working its way back to her encounter with the virus. Laurence Fishburne appears as head of the CDC, sharing increasingly grim news with other agencies. In an attempt to protect his surviving teen daughter, Mitch barricades them inside their home from where they watch television to witness the unraveling of society. Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard play health care employees gathering medical intelligence in the field, while Jennifer Ehle and Elliott Gould appear as researchers attempting to map the disease's DNA. Ordinary citizens are misled by a blogger (Jude Law) claiming to have discovered a home cure. The film works as a thoughtful treatise, but it adheres to the rules of a disaster flick, differing in that Contagion is all too plausible. DVD features: How a virus changes the world, English or Spanish language tracks. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: DVD, Digital Copy, The reality of Contagion, The Contagion detectives, English, French or Spanish English language tracks.

SHARK NIGHT 3D

(2011)

*1/2 (C-)

Directed by David R. Ellis

Starring Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Alyssa Diaz, Sinqua Walls

Fox//Rated PG-13//Horror//91 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray 3D

Malik (Walls) is severely wounded while wake-boarding with friends in a large Louisiana saltwater lake. Unaware he is being hunted by an enormous, man-eating shark, the friends climb aboard a small speed boat and race him to medical help. Far from land, their craft is swarmed by hundreds of aggressive sharks that have been secretly planted in the lake. Local girl Sara (Paxton) attempts to lead her friends in a life-or-death struggle against this age-old predator, but since 3D gore has become the norm, it may never be safe to go to the movies again. DVD features: Shark Attack! Kill Machine!, Ellis' Island, Theatrical Trailer, Blu-ray 3D features same plus: Shark Night's Survival Guide, Fake Sharks Real Scares, Digital Copy.


I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT

(2011)

* * (C)

Directed by Douglas McGrath

Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Christina Hendricks, Kelsey Grammar, Seth Meyers, Olivia Munn

Anchor Bay//Rated PG-13//Comedy//90 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Sarah Jessica Parker stars in this adaptation of a 2002 best seller by Allison Pearson. Kate (Parker), a well-paid corporate finance executive and mother of two young children, brings home the bacon while trying to appease her unemployed architect husband (Kinnear). Though Kate gives the appearance of "having it all," her precarious balance is upset when she is assigned to oversee the accounts of a debonair client, played by the ever-reliable Pierce Brosnan. A timely romantic comedy, the film examines the demands confronting career women raising a family, though it is prone to stray into cutsie, "Desperate Housewives" territory. Parker leads a winsome cast in this tale for and about women, albeit, women with more advantages than most. DVD and Blu-ray features: A conversation with author Allison Pearson.


HIGHER GROUND

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Vera Farmiga

Starring Vera Farmiga, Norbert Leo Butz, Dagmara Dominczyk, John Hawkes, Bill Irwin, Joshua Leonard, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Donna Murphy

Sony//rated R//Drama//109 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

Adapted from Carolyn S. Briggs's memoir, Higher Ground traces Corinne Walker's (Farmiga) efforts to sustain her Christian faith. As a teen Corinne falls in love, gets pregnant and is married, but when difficulties arise within her marriage, Corinne and her husband seek to strengthen their bond through faith. They join a patriarchal church group that leaves her gasping for air, except when in the company of Corinne's free-spirited friend Annika (Dominczyk). Both dramatic and humorous, Corinne's journey is one of self-discovery and empowerment. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Commentary with Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard and Renn Hawkey, Making Higher Ground, Production Diary, Toe Sucking, Meeting of the Men, Grave, English or French.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Troy Nixey

Starring Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson

Sony//Rated R//Horror//99 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Guillermo del Toro wrote this screenplay based on a 1973 TV-movie that, as a child, rocked him to the core. He rewrites the script to center on Sally (Madison), a 9-year-old sent to stay with her dad (Pearce) living in a Gothic mansion he is restoring to sell. Sally amuses herself, and avoids Dad's new girlfriend (Holmes), by investigating every nook and cranny in the house. She discovers a hidden realm, populated by small creatures that become increasingly malevolent. The question remains: are Del Toro's childhood fears sufficiently scary to spook the film's adult audience. DVD or Blu-ray features: The Story, Blackwood's Mansion, The Creatures. English or Spanish. Conceptual Art Gallery (Blu-ray only).