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Monday, Jan. 16, 2012

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

Home Video Releases: 01/10/12 to 01/23/12

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MONEYBALL [1/10]
(2011)
* * *1/2 (A-)
Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Kathryn Morris, Robin Wright, Stephen Bishop, Reed Thompson
Sony//Rated PG-13//Drama//133 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
"Moneyball" views pro baseball from an insider's perspective, observing opposing camps caught in the seismic shift ushering in a new era. The film opens in 2001. After losing their championship bid and small roster of star players, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), becomes increasingly irritated as his wizened scouts rate a player's attractiveness and likability on par with the prospect's ball-playing skills. While attempting to trade players, Beane meets Peter Brand, a numbers cruncher with an inventive, cost-effective team-casting approach. Played by Jonah Hill, nerdy Brand attempts to remain invisible beneath a cheap sports jacket, but Beane is having none of it. Filmed without fanfare, the movie provides ample opportunity to understand Brand's use of statistics to predict a player's odds of getting on base. Pitt easily slips into the hide of an ambitious middle-aged man who has failed time and again to grasp the brass ring. Philip Seymour Hoffman dips his chameleon-like persona into that of the A's curmudgeonly team manager Art Howe. Though technically a baseball film, "Moneyball" is about defeating the opposition while sticking to your guns. Doing either of these is difficult enough, but doing both when an entire institution is against you, is nothing short of genius. DVD and Blu-ray features include: deleted scenes, blooper reel, featurette on Beane.


THE IDES OF MARCH [1/17]
(2011)
* * * * (A)
Directed by George Clooney
Starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood
Sony//Rated R//Drama//101 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
This drama highlights many flaws inherent to the American political process while taking to task the delegate vote that frequently determines which candidate each party will nominate. Adapted from Beau Willimon's play "Farragut North," George Clooney produces, directs, and plays Pennsylvania Governor turned presidential candidate Mike Morris. Seen through the eyes of 30-year-old campaign aide Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), Morris is admirable, sticking to his principles even at his campaign's peril. Morris's campaign manager, seasoned veteran Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), seeks the endorsement of North Carolina's imperious Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright), who controls the all-important 348 superdelegates, or 20-percent of all Democratic Party delegates, composed of senators, congressman, governors and party leaders. Though delegates are pledged to represent the votes of their constituencies, superdelegates vote as they wish, opening the door to nominating a candidate who fails to win the popular vote, as happened to Hilary Clinton when Obama won the nomination in 2008. Meyers learns an especially hard lesson from the opposition campaign run by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), as well as some ugly truths about his own candidate. Beneath its glossy veneer, the film makes dazzling points about the inequities of our two-layered election process. It's a suspenseful drama that challenges viewers to recognize the true nature of the beast. DVD features: Commentary with George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Believe: George Clooney, The Cast. Blu-ray features same plus: The Origins of The Ides of March, What Does a Political Consultant Do?


BOARDWALK EMPIRE: Season One [1/10]
(2010)
* * * (B)
Created by Terence Winter
Starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Kelly MacDonald, Michael Pitt
HBO//Not Rated//Drama//732 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Given its GO-HBO on demand feature, the network elected to withhold the home video release of season one until several weeks after season two's conclusion. This disappointment aside, the series recreates its time and place, Atlantic City during the 1920s prohibition era in, with the same lavish attention to period and detail as it did in "Deadwood." Steve Buscemi portrays corrupt county treasurer, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson. We meet him on the eve of prohibition as he tells the women's league prohibition will improve their lives while he secretly arranges to make a killing by supplying county speakeasies with all the liquor they will need. While a fine actor, Buscemi lacks gravitas and isn't the best choice for the lead, but he is adequate and his performance is supplemented by a small calvary of supporting players. The series, slow to develop, and is light in the jaw-dropping action that normally defines an HBO series chronicling criminal activity. Nevertheless, it's one of television's better offerings, and provides viewers with an historical perspective that enriches. 5-Disc DVD features: Making Boardwalk: a behind-the-scenes look featuring interviews from the cast and crew, Creating the Boardwalk, Speakeasy Tour of some of the famed Prohibition speakeasies in Chicago and New York with cast members, Character Dossier: comprehensive character guide, The Original Sin City: 30-minute documentary, Six commentaries with cast and crew. Blu-ray features same plus: An interactive, picture-in-picture experience with noted Atlantic City historians on all 12 episodes.


BELLE DE JOUR [1/17]
(1967)
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi, Michel Piccoli, Francisco Rabal, Macha Meril, Muni, Jean Sorel
Criterion Collection//Rated R//Drama - French with Subtitles//100 min
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Unavailable for thirty years, due to an alleged one-man effort to buy and destroy each commercial print, director Luis Bunuel's film had real shock value when first released in 1967. Young Catherine Deneuve is stunningly beautiful as Severine, a starry-eyed newly-wed increasingly neglected by her ambitious doctor husband. Haunted by memories of her past molestation, and drawn to fantasies of sexual humiliation, Severine is a dual purpose mannequin, modeling Yves Saint Laurent's 60's couture by night and European lingerie by day, as she secretly prostitutes herself in an elegant whorehouse catering to kinky clientele. Severine's compartmentalized life is eventually breached by a gangster's crazed infatuation that escalates into murderous threats against her husband. You might expect a predictable epiphany as the dutiful wife runs to her husband-father figure, confesses everything, bringing the pair to a newfound level of intimacy. I wish I could say "Belle De Jour's" defiance of expectations is revolutionary, but it is a study in ambiguities, vague and nearly beyond comprehension. Its point, that many of us have a dark side, is starkly made. Stifling dialog and Deneuve's wooden performance are infuriating aspects, but the film's surreal mood-work still plays like an art house selection and Sacha Vierny's cinematography easily stand the test of time. DVD and Blu-ray features include: New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition), commentary featuring Michael Wood, author of the BFI Film Classics book Belle de jour, New video piece featuring writer and sexual-politics activist Susie Bright and film scholar Linda Williams, New interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, Segment from the French television program Cinema, featuring interviews with Carriere and actress Catherine Deneuve, Original and rerelease trailers, New English subtitle translation, Booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with director Luis Bunuel.


JANE EYRE [1/10]
(2011)
* * * (B)
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, Simon McBurney, Valentina Cervi, Amelia Clarkson
Universal//Rated PG-13//Drama//121 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
This adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's gothic romance stars lovely Mia Wasikowska as a plain Jane. Orphaned as a child and subsequently educated at the austere, Lowood Charity School for Girls, Jane finds employment at Thornfield, an estate belonging to the mercurial Edward Rochester (Fassbender). Despite warnings from Rochester's enigmatic housekeeper (Dench), Jane falls deeply in love with her employer and is blissfully happy until she learns of his dark secret. Jane follows her own moral compass, becoming a heroine for the ages in this handsomely filmed production. DVD or Blu-ray features: Director commentary, Deleted Scenes, A Look Inside Jane Eyre, To Score Jane Eyre, The Mysterious Light of Jane Eyre.


WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER? [1/10]
(2011)
* * (C)
Directed by Mark Mylod
Starring Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner
Fox//Rated R//Comedy//106 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
After reading an article claiming that women with 20 or more lovers are likely to never marry, Ally (Faris) is determined to remain below this magic threshold by revisiting her numerous exes, one of whom has surely transformed into "the one." In order to track down her beaus, she enlists the help of hunky, promiscuous neighbor Colin (Evans), who happens to be an amateur investigator. The film barely registers the humor inherent in Ally's search, and squanders Martin Freeman as her British ex. Though likeable, clownish Faris fails to exert rom-com appeal -- especially when her character is condemned for her checkered past, while her costarring male counterpart gets a free pass for his excesses. DVD or Blu-ray features include: Extended cut, deleted and extended scenes, gag reel.


KILLER ELITE [1/10]
(2011)
* * (C)
Directed by Gary McKendry
Starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Yvonne Strahovski, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Open Road Films//Rated R//Action//114 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Danny (Statham) is retired from Brit Special Forces when he is lured back to work by a sheikh located in Oman. Having kidnapped Danny's mentor, Hunter (De Niro), the sheikh promises to kill the man unless Danny finds and executes three assassins said to have killed the sheikh's sons. Clive Owen appears as a rogue agent leading the assassins Danny must hunt down. Inspired by Ranulph Fiennes's book "The Feather Men," the film features serviceable, violent action, despite a story that lacks suspense as the plot indulges Danny's sentimental backstory and suffers for it. DVD and Blu-ray features include: Deleted and extended scenes.


ABDUCTION [1/17]
(2011)
*1/2 (C-)
Directed by John Singleton
Starring Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Antonique Smith, Maria Bello, Jason Issacs, Sigourney Weaver
Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Action//106 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Though this actioner looks cheaply made, its plot intrigues. Teenage Nathan (Lautner) discovers his parents are imposters after he finds a photograph of himself on a missing child website. Nathan also learns he is the key to exposing a government conspiracy hatched by a cunning agent (Weaver). She orders Nathan to come in, but he and his girlfriend (Collins) decide to expose the plot, and are obliged to run for their lives while being relentlessly pursued. The poorly written script provides little justification for either the conspiracy, or the sloppy action that ensues. DVD features: Abduction Chronicle: On-camera Production Journal with Taylor Lautner, Making-of featurette, Taylor's Amazing Stunts, Gag Reel. Blu-ray features same plus: Digital Copy, Customizable Infirm Experience - personalize your movie with in-picture documentaries and exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews with Cast and Crew.


Also out

DIRTY GIRL [1/17]
(2010)
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Starring Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, Milla Jovovich, Dwight Yoakam, Juno Temple, Jeremy Dozier
Anchor Bay//Not Rated//Comedy//104 Minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
In 1987, Danielle's (Juno Temple) skimpy outfits and precocious sexual activity sentence her to a remedial class where she is partnered on a parenting project with chubby Clark (Dozier), a closeted gay lacking friends. After her adopted mother (Steenburgen) announces Danielle's engagement to Clark, the pair flee her homophobic parents for a cross-country road trip to search for Danielle's biological father. She hopes finding him will answer her questions, but she is surprised to learn that Clark makes a worthy friend and confidant. DVD or Blu-ray features: Director commentary, Deleted and Extended Scenes.
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