Summer Sizzler Edition INSIDIOUS, LINCOLN LAWYER Headline
New Discs Plus: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and More
July usually means the summer doldrums for home video, but several
quality films from this past spring have managed to spruce up what’s
typically a slow-going time for home viewers.
ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (***, 106 mins., 2011, PG-13; Universal)
performed moderately well at the box-office last March after suffering
through a series of release-date delays. In hindsight it’s easy to see
why Universal had trouble marketing the film: despite the presence of
star Matt Damon and a premise that sounds like a sci-fi/action film,
writer-producer-director George Nolfi’s sly adaptation of a Philip K.
Dick story is much more of a fanciful romantic fantasy with the
emphasis not on FX but rather the relationship between Damon and female
lead Emily Blunt.
Damon plays an aspiring presidential candidate whose relationship with
Blunt, whom he meets on a chance encounter in New York City, is
continuously sabotaged not by lady luck but rather “The Adjustment
Bureau”: a group of mysterious men who possess the ability to create
twists and turns that impact the flow of life itself. The suits
(including John Slattery, Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp) try to tell
Damon that his “master plan” doesn’t include a life with Blunt, and
that any attempts to further their relationship will result in Damon’s
memory being wiped clean. Naturally, Damon has a hard time breaking
free of his feelings for Blunt, and decides that free will can and will
overpower the supernatural/quasi-religious powers of the Bureau.
Stylishly made with beautifully rendered cinematography of NYC by
“Braveheart”’s John Toll, “The Adjustment Bureau” is likely to
disappoint those anticipating another “Bourne”-like action picture
while enchanting viewers tired of the same old Hollywood formula chase
picture. Nolfi eschews shaky-cam and recent movie conventions for a
slick, old-fashioned feel, relying on the chemistry between the stars
to carry the picture through. It’s not a great movie but rather a quite
likeable one, with effects that are ingenious when called upon
(including a climactic, multi-door “opening” through Big Apple
landmarks) and genuine chemistry generated between the leads.
Universal’s Blu-Ray sports a nicely detailed 1080p transfer with DTS
5.1 MA audio boasting a typically atmospheric score from Thomas Newman.
Extra features include deleted/extended scenes, Nolfi’s commentary,
multiple featurettes, a DVD and digital copy as well.
Another sci-fi tale, SOURCE CODE
(**½, 94 mins., 2011, PG-13), makes its way to Blu-Ray on
July 28th from Summit.
This Canadian-lensed production posits a twisty, though mostly
predictable, “Twilight Zone”-type of scenario involving Air Force
colonel Jake Gyllenhaal, who tries to prevent a train disaster outside
the confines of Chicago by remotely entering the body of one of its
passengers: a teacher traveling with a female companion (Michelle
The good news for Gyllenhaal is that he’s able to scientifically
attempt this as many times he needs to – the bad news is that he has
only eight minutes to do it at a time, necessitating a series of
“Groundhog Day”-like mishaps in order to find out where the bomb on the
train is, which one of the passengers is responsible, and how he can
manage to complete the mission while working with a shady scientist
(Geoffrey Wright) with questionable motives. Along the way, he’s guided
by a fellow military advisor (Vera Farmiga) who can only divulge the
true nature of Gyllenhaal’s current physical situation one step at a
Ripley’s premise is intriguing and director Duncan Jones keeps things
moving, yet there’s just something about “Source Code” that prevented
me from really embracing the film. Perhaps it’s because of the story’s
structure that you just know Gyllenhaal is going to blow his early
attempts at finding the bad guy, making the first half of the film feel
longer than it actually is, and that there’s more to Gyllenhaal’s
actual fate than the story lets on. When the latter revelations are
explained, it’s not much of a surprise, while the picture even boasts a
bit of heavy-handed Political Correctness (when Gyllenhaal targets a
man with a Middle Eastern appearance, Monaghan even scolds him for
racial profiling!). “Source Code” works decently as a one-time
rental, with an ending that pleasingly backs off of a big action climax
(even though it sets things up for a sequel), but it’s not a whole lot
more than moderately entertaining.
Summit’s Blu-Ray disc scores on the technical end of things, in both
its AVC encoded 1080p transfer as well as its 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack,
though the disc is light on special features, with just a commentary
and optional scene-specific extras on-hand.
There haven’t been a lot of animated movies aimed at kids recently that
adults can sit through and find as satisfying as younger viewers, but
Gore Verbinski’s enjoyable RANGO (***, 111
mins., 2011, PG; Paramount) is one of the exceptions to the
The first animated film from Industrial Light & Magic, the
beautifully designed “Rango” follows a pet chameleon (voiced by Johnny
Depp) with an active imagination who survives a near-fatal car accident
and ends up alone, stranded in an Old West with a collection of
colorful characters in a dingy old town. There, “Rango” becomes a
sheriff charged with finding water for his liquid-deprived friends, and
encounters all kinds of resistance and villains along the way to
revitalizing his new home.
John Logan’s script and Verbinski’s direction make “Rango” a lot more
accessible for mature viewers than most CGI-kid-fare, with amusing
references and a send-up of western conventions working with the
intriguingly designed characters to create a unique viewing experience.
Kids, meanwhile, ought to enjoy the comedy and colorful vocal work
provided by Depp, whose Rango effortlessly improvises his way through
life in much the same way Jack Sparrow does on high seas. It’s inspired
and beautiful to look at, though a limp ending does sour the fun just a
“Rango” makes for a gorgeous Blu-Ray disc, the colors and details
almost leaping off the screen in its AVC encoded 1080p transfer. Hans
Zimmer’s score gets a good workout in the 5.1 DTS MA audio mix, while
the movie itself is included in both its 107-minute theatrical version
and an extended 111-minute cut. 10 additional deleted scenes are
included in HD with several HD featurettes, a DVD and digital copy as
well. Recommended! Also New on Blu-Ray
BOOT: Director’s Cut Blu-Ray (***½ , 208/147 mins., 1981; Sony):
Wolfgang Petersen's definitive WWII submarine film -- detailing the
harrowing exploits of a German U-Boat and its crew during the war --
seems to have been re-issued in the U.S. more than any other foreign
film. Over the years, we've seen the U.S. theatrical cut, then an
extended "Director's Cut" version, and most recently the "Original
Uncut Version,” which offered the complete German TV version of the
This latest Sony Blu-Ray package offers -- for the first time in North
America -- an HD edition of both the theatrical version and Peterson’s
Director’s Cut, which is a bit of a compromise between the 2 ½
hour theatrical version and the 283 minute “Uncut” TV cut. There are
nuances and additional character development present in the reinstated
footage that further enhance what's already a masterwork of suspense,
though the pacing in the Director’s Cut feels a bit prolonged at times.
For that reason, Sony wisely enabled viewers here to choose between the
U.S. release version and Peterson’s preferred edit of the picture.
Sony’s BD looks good on balance; the print seems a bit aged but the
studio rarely ever pollutes their transfers with DNR, so the appearance
looks natural and faithful to its source. While the original German
dialogue can be heard with English subtitles, the English dubbing isn't
completely awful and offers a perfectly adequate viewing experience if
you'd rather not read subs (the audio is DTS MA 5.1 on the remixed
Director’s Cut, both English and German, while the theatrical version
is DTS MA 2.0 on its respective German and dubbed tracks).
Even better, the Blu-Ray boasts a wealth of new extras, including a
45-minute retrospective documentary; a conversation with Petersen’s
wife, Maria (assistant director on the film); star Jurgen Prochnow
giving viewers a look at the set; a vintage, hour long documentary; a
look at the creation of the Director’s Cut; a 40-minute German
historical documentary on the underwater Battle of the Atlantic; and
Petersen’s commentary on the Director’s Cut, where he’s joined by
Prochnow and restoration producer Ortwin Freyermuth. ARTHUR
Blu-Ray /DVD/Digital Copy (**½, 109 mins., 2011, PG-13; Warner):
Since it seems like there’s nothing, collectively, we can do to prevent
every ‘80s hit from being remade these days, the best frustrated
cinephiles can do is hope that these new “reimaginings” as they’re
called (a buzz word used by PR departments just to cover the fact
they’re remakes) don’t entirely disgrace their predecessors.
The completely unnecessary new version of “Arthur,” Dudley Moore’s 1981
box-office smash, is thankfully not entirely awful, and perhaps with a
funnier script might have been a success at the box-office (this new
version was a major disappointment, managing just $33 million in
domestic receipts last spring).
Russell Brand lands the tough task of stepping into Moore’s shoes as a
drunk NYC millionaire playboy (with the emphasis on “boy”), as Arthur
spends most of his days watching cartoons and being tended to by nanny
Hobson (Helen Mirren). Arthur’s mother, however, soon poses an
ultimatum to our hero: either marry company exec Jennifer Garner or
lose access to his fortune, something that causes even more of an issue
once Arthur meets “blue collar” would-be children’s book author Greta
Peter Baynham’s script uses the basic premise of Steve Gordon’s
original screenplay, and TV director Jason Winer, making his feature
debut, is able to coax likeable performances out of most of the cast
(sans Nick Nolte’s one-dimensional turn as Garner’s gruff father).
Brand isn’t Moore but he tries hard and Gerwig is pleasant enough in
the Liza Minnelli role, but the movie suffers from having watered down
the original movie’s concept (Brand is more of a man-child than a
drunk) and a distinct lack of laughs. Too much of the movie also plays
out in by-the-numbers fashion, while there’s no dramatic chemistry
generated between Brand and either Mirren (whose role here feels
diminished from John Gielgud’s Oscar-winning turn in the 1981 version)
or Gerwig – all elements that gelled so remarkably in the original film
simply fail to come together here.
“Arthur” has its heart in the right place – and ultimately at least
fares better than the infamous, inexplicable 1988 Moore-Minnelli sequel
“Arthur 2: On the Rocks” – but there’s ultimately little reason for
watching it when the original is freely available, even on Blu-Ray.
Warner’s Blu-Ray Combo Pack of “Arthur” also includes a DVD and a
digital copy. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is lovely, with the film
having wisely been shot on location in the Big Apple. Extra features
include a gag reel, several additional scenes, and a Making Of
LAWYER Blu-Ray (**½, 116 mins., 2011, R; Lionsgate): Matthew
performance as Mick Haller – a cocky defense attorney
hired to get pretty rich-boy Ryan Phillippe off an assault charge – is
the whole reason to watch this adaptation of Michael Connelly’s book.
Equal parts confident, arrogant and sympathetic, McConaughey’s Haller
finds himself in over his head with a client who clearly knows more
than he’s letting on, and whom Haller eventually believes might be
connected with an earlier case of his. Once partner William H. Macy is
murdered, Haller’s suspicions prove correct, but trying to get himself
out of the case and expose the truth ends up putting the attorney in a
web of deception.
“The Lincoln Lawyer” boasts a tremendous cast and is slickly directed
by Brad Furman, though the story requires a major suspension of
disbelief at a few key moments during its running time. The movie also
suffers from some pacing issues (it’s been a while since I’ve seen one
of those old-time fake climaxes where a character says “everything’s
okay now, I’ll be right over,” only to end up in another life-or-death
struggle) along with a supporting cast that’s not always well utilized
(I’m looking squarely at you, Marisa Tomei!). Still, “The Lincoln
Lawyer” makes for a moderately entertaining view, carried throughout by
one of its star’s finest performances.
Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray boasts three featurettes and deleted scenes, plus a
DVD and digital copy. The 1080p transfer is perfectly rendered, as is
the 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack.
Blu-Ray (**½, 102 mins., 2011, PG-13; Sony): I’ll give
credit where it’s due to “Saw” director James Wan and writer Leigh
Whannell: their haunted house hit “Insidious” doesn’t entirely succeed,
but at least they decided to tone down the gore and attempt genuine
scares without excessive, sadistic violence.
It’s an old-fashioned fright concept that, for a while, works: by using
sound design, the fear of the unknown and occasionally spooky glimpses
of phantoms haunting a young couple (Rose Bryne and Patrick Wilson) and
their children, Wan and Whannell throw the viewer off-balance and
generate a number of freaky scares. The surprisingly “retro” tone
carries the picture’s first half, though things unfortunately get
bogged down in too much story involving their comatose boy most
affected by the haunting, astral projection and associated
psycho-babble (the requisite “twist” ending doesn’t satisfy, either).
Unlike the Freleng family in “Poltergeist,” the characters are never as
sympathetic as they ought to be, either, which diminishes the overall
impact of the story.
Still, “Insidious” provides enough spooky entertainment that makes it a
recommended view for fright fans – particularly those with surround
systems, where the Blu-Ray’s DTS MA soundtrack can be best appreciated.
The 1080p transfer is also well executed here, though the film is so
dark that it can be only appreciated by watching it late at night with
the lights off. Extra features on Sony’s BD package are mostly slim:
just a couple of featurettes are included on the 50gb platter.
HOBO WITH A
SHOTGUN Blu-Ray/Digital Copy (*½, 86 mins., 2011, Not Rated;
Magnolia): Rutger Hauer plays a homeless man sick of watching a
group of thugs rape, pillage and plunder their way through an unnamed,
grimy city in “Hobo With a Gun,” a movie that so desperately wants to
attain cult status that you can see its obvious references to ‘70s,
‘80s and assorted grindhouse fare in plain sight. Unfortunately, its
one, excessively violent joke is only good for a few laughs – seeing it
stretched out feebly to the sub-90 minute mark makes for a near-painful
experience as Hauer grabs a shotgun and combats the sadistic villains
in a series of bloody encounters.
Writer-director Jason Eisener takes to the material with all the
gratuitousness of early Peter Jackson or Quentin Tarantino, and tries
to spice it up with occasional Raimi-esque, cartoonish visual
flourishes, which is fine for a few minutes but “Hobo With a Shotgun”
never really displays any singular voice of its own. More over, the
mean spiritedness of some of the gags (particularly a bus of school
children the bad guys literally burn) creates a sour taste in the mouth
no amount of cinematic energy can overcome.
Magnolia’s Blu-Ray looks colorfully composed and the DTS MA audio
sports a rambunctious score credited to a number of composers including
the Obsidian Orchestra. Extra features are copious, including two
commentaries, deleted scenes, HDNet featurettes and other bonuses,
along with a digital copy.
Also newly available from Magnolia is 13 ASSASSINS (125
mins., 2010, R), the latest bloody (but, thankfully, far more
impressively rendered) samurai yarn from Japan’s Takashi Miike.
Magnolia’s Blu-Ray includes a vivid 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA
soundtrack, an interview with the director, deleted scenes and the
trailer, plus a digital copy for portable media players.
Blu-Ray (88 mins., 2010, R; Image):Australian
thriller, a knock-off of sorts of “Open Water,” finds a sailboat’s
passengers fighting for their lives when their vessel capsizes and the
group is hunted down seemingly one-by-one by a Great White. Andrew
Traucki’s latest film (he also directed the cult fave “Dark Water”) is
reasonably well-executed for the modest budget affair it is, though as
with “Open Water,” the characters become grating as they attempt to
swim for safety; it all ends up being stretched out (poorly) to feature
length, not unlike its American counterpart of sorts. Image’s Blu-Ray
disc includes a nice 1080p transfer and 5.1 soundtrack along with a
featurette and the trailer.
Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy (91 mins., 2010, R; Anchor Bay):
Namco’s long-running video game franchise makes for a predictably
fisticuff-laden brawl-fest in this loose adaptation of its gaming
source material. “Tekken” finds a young fighter (John Foo) trying to
win a futuristic tournament in 2039 to avenge his mother’s murder;
plenty of action follows suit in a film from the “Halloween IV” team of
scribe Alan B. McElroy and director Dwight Little. Anchor Bay’s combo
pack sports a 1080p Blu-Ray transfer, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, one
featurette, a DVD and a digital copy for portable media players.
HOUSE OF THE
RISING SUN Blu-Ray and DVD (88 mins., 2011, R; Lionsgate): Dave
Bautista plays a former cop hired by the mob to run security at a strip
club in this direct-to-vid action thriller co-starring Amy Smart,
Dominic Purcell and Craig Fairbrass. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray boasts
commentary from Bautista and director Brian A. Miller, cast interviews,
the trailer, a 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA audio. TV on DVD
Season 7 Blu-Ray (285 mins., 2010; HBO): Guest stars Sasha
Grey, John Stamos, Jerry Jones, William Fichtner, “Braveheart” scribe
Randall Wallace, Nick Cassavetes, Mark Cuban, Eminem, John Cleese, Mark
Cuban, Miguel Sandoval, Mike Tyson, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson
and Super Bowl winner Drew Brees appear in this seventh season of the
hit HBO series, which hits Blu-Ray this month.
In addition to 1080p transfers and DTS Master 5.1 soundtracks, HBO’s
high-def set of “Entourage”’s seventh season also includes a
behind-the-scenes profile of the season’s creation; a Sasha Grey
featurette; and three episode commentaries from producers and cast
members. (The eighth and final season of “Entourage” premieres later
this summer, by the way, on HBO)
Season 15 DVD (997 mins., 2009-10; Warner): The 15th and final
season of NBC’s long-running medical drama, created by Michael Crichton
and guided through its early years by John Wells, offers a satisfying
mix of episodes that wrap up the plot lines of recent cast members
Angela Bassett, John Stamos and Parminder Nagra while bringing back a
litany of cast members from seasons past: Noah Wylie, George Clooney,
Sherry Stringfield, Julianna Marguiles, Eriq La Salle, Laura Innes and
Alex Kingston among them. Some appear in cameos, others take a direct
involvement in the 22 episodes which conclude the program’s run.
Warner’s box-set includes 16:9 (1.85) transfers, 5.1 soundtracks,
unaired scenes and a retrospective featurette that completes the
series’ DVD editions in a recommended package for E/R fans.
3 DVD (573 mins., 2010; Sony): Glenn Close, Rose Bryne and Tate
Donovan returned for the third season of the acclaimed cable drama,
which ended up being canceled by F/X after declining ratings.
(Fortunately for fans of Patty Hewes, DirecTV has since come to the
rescue and agreed to pick up two new 10-episode seasons of “Damages,”
beginning with Season 4 which premieres this week).
Season three of the legal drama involves a Bernie Madoff-type and his
family, including mother Lily Tomlin, son Campbell Scott and attorney
Martin Short. A return of Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) is also in the
cards in this taut collection of episodes which ought to please series
Sony’s three-disc DVD set includes the program’s complete third season
with a number of fine extras, from deleted scenes and cast/crew
commentaries to a blooper reel, season retrospective and episode
director introductions. The 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 5.1 soundtracks
are both perfectly fine.
THE SMURFS: A
MAGICAL SMURF ADVENTURE DVD (190 mins., Warner): Peyo’s adorable
blue characters, who first shot to fame on this side of the Atlantic
during the 1980s, are poised for a relaunch with the upcoming Sony
live-action film...which looks awful, but then again, so did “Alvin and
the Chipmunks” and $800 million worldwide (and soon-to-be-three movies)
later, who’s laughing now?
The original Hanna-Barbera “Smurfs” series is back on DVD from Warner
to tie in with the new film, and this 2-disc set from WB includes 10
episodes from the show’s second season: Smurf Van Winkle, Revenge of
the Smurfs, the Magic Fountain, Smurf Me No Flowers, the Cursed
Country, The Blue Plague, The Ring of Castellac, A Mere Truffle,
Gormandizing Greedy and Sister Smurf are all on-hand here in
full-screen, monophonic transfers. Extra features in the three-hour
plus set include top 10 moments from Season 2 along with “Smurf Speak.” NEW FROM LIONSGATE - CLIFFORD,
everyone’s favorite big red dog, is back in new DVD compilation
appropriately titled DOG DAYS OF SUMMER. The five programs included in
this hour-long package all pertain to making the right moral decisions
in a release that ought to satisfy young viewers. Lionsgate’s DVD
includes colorful full-screen transfers and 2.0 stereo
soundtracks...Lauren Holly and Lance Henriksen do battle with the
SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE (90 mins., 2011, R), the latest After Dark Horror
DVD release from Lionsgate. This Syfy Channel movie is pretty much
standard fare, with a script by former Fangoria writer-editor Anthony
C. Ferrante. The DVD includes a 16:9 transfer, commentary and 5.1 Dolby
Digital sound. Also new in the After Dark series is THE TASK (99 mins.,
2011, R), an indie horror effort about a reality show where the
would-be phony terror its contestants experience turns out to be real.
Lionsgate’s DVD includes a featurette and the trailer, plus a 16:9
transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.
NEW FROM E ONE and MPI - Bruno
Podalydes examines the lives of contemporary Parisians again in PARK
BENCHES (114 mins.), an ensemble comedic-drama with Catherine Deneuve,
Mathieu Amalric and Chiara Mastroianni. IFC’s DVD includes deleted
scenes, a trailer, and a featurette; in 5.1 French with English subs
and a 16:9 (2.35) transfer to boot....Judy Greer, Michael C. Hall,
Taraji P. Henson, Kate Mara, Lesley Ann Warren, Rainn Wilson and comic
Sarah Silverman star in the offbeat comedy PEEP WORLD (79 mins., 2010,
Not Rated), an indie film from writer Peter Himmelstein and director
Barry Baulstein that failed to drum up much noise upon its limited
release a year ago. IFC’s Blu-Ray disc includes a 1080p transfer and
5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, with a few extras including deleted
scenes and the trailer....Another would-be super-hero comedy surfaces
in ZONAD (75 mins., 2010; Not Rated), with Simon Delaney as an escapee
from a rehab clinic who believes he’s really a costumed, Mork-like
extraterrestrial. IFC’s DVD of this Irish comedy import includes
commentary from director-writers John Carney and Kieran Carney and the
trailer, plus a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 2.0 soundtrack...The new GIRLS
NEXT DOOR move in along with Hef in Season 6 of the E! Reality series.
All 10 Season 6 episodes are included in MPI’s two-disc DVD set in 16:9
(1.78) transfers with 2.0 soundtracks and several extras, including
cast commentaries, deleted scenes and a bonus episode,
“Transitions”....OMNIBUS: AMERICAN PROFILES, coming from E One, offers
two disc profiles of Philippe Halsman, William Faulkner, Frank Lloyd
Wright, Pearl Buck, E.B. White, Sugar Ray Robinson, James Thurber,
Leonard Bernstein, the New York Times, Dr. Seuss and others in a
compilation of vintage Omnibus programs unseen since their original
1952-60 broadcasts. 15 pages of essays and behind-the-scenes info make
this a compelling package for Golden Age TV aficionados...Finally, THE
CONQUEROR (133 mins., 2009) offers a Russian adaptation of “Taras
Bulba” with E One’s DVD including a 5.1 Russian track or an English 2.0
dubbed mix; the video is provided in full 2.35 (16:9) widescreen.
TIME: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and More from Shout! Until
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