Channing Tatum's attempt to be the next John McClane goes down.
White House Down
With Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx coming off two of the biggest hits of their career (Magic Mike and Django Unchained respectively) plus the involvement of summer movie maestro Roland Emmerich, White House Down seemed like a shoo-in for blockbuster status. But this Die Hard in the Oval Office throwback earned only slightly higher approval ratings than the current Congress at the box office, failing to even reach the $100 million mark. Adding insult to injury, it was outgrossed by its presidential rival, Olympus Has Fallen, which finished its run with over $20 million more in the bank and a recent sequel announcement. This is definitely a case where the better film went… well, down as WHD offers all the schlocky fun that's decidedly absent from the relentlessly grim Olympus. Though a bit on the longish side, Emmerich keeps the action cruising along fluidly and raises the stakes to absurd (in a good way levels), like a spectacularly silly car chase around the White House lawn. The buddy comedy rapport that develops between Tatum's aspiring Secret Service agent and Foxx's hipper-than-thou President is fun to watch as well. White House Down obviously isn't Die Hard, but it's a damn sight better than this year's actual Die Hard flick, A Good Day to Die Hard.
Extras: A gag reel and a wealth of making-of featurettes exploring the special effects, production design and action sequences.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see what else Roland Emmerich has destroyed in his movies
Grown Ups 2
Regrouping after the critical and commercial disaster that was That's My Boy, Adam Sandler reassembled his Saturday Night Live buddies for a quickly-made sequel to his 2010 hit. The gang rushed into the sequel so quickly, they clearly didn't have time to finish (or, for that matter, start) a script, because the finished product is basically a series of unfunny sketches with a barely-there narrative loosely threading them all together. But audiences clearly didn't mind, as Grown Ups 2 was one of the summer's big comedy hits, grossing $133 million, which more or less ensures that a Grown Ups 3 will be on the way when Sandler's next solo movie bombs. Wake us up when the franchise crosses over with The Expendables for an aging comics vs. aging action stars mega-brawl.
Extras: Deleted scenes and four featurettes, including one that puts David Spade center stage for some reason.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see the cast's most grown-up roles
As I Lay Dying
Only Renaissance Man James Franco would select a supposedly unfilmable William Faulkner novel to use as the basis for his directorial debut. And, to be sure, the finished product reflects the pretensions of its maker, with Franco busting out film school student devices like split-screen, direct address to the camera and other attention-grabbing flourishes to tell Faulkner's story of a family transporting their dead matriarch's body to her hometown for burial. But you know what? There's also some really strong work here, both in front of and behind the camera. While Franco's performance is uneven, Tim Blake Nelson is excellent as the widowed father and Logan Marshall-Green impresses in the role of an angry brother. (Franco also gives his off-screen pal Danny McBride one of his rare dramatic roles, a bit of stunt casting that works.) And while the copious amounts of split screen is distracting at first, it actually complements the source material's reliance on shifting narratives and points-of-view. Franco has already shot his follow-up, an adaptation of the equally challenging Cormac McCarthy book Child of God, and is in the process of turning Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury into a movie. Having now seen As I Lay Dying, those projects aren't as crazy as they once sounded.
Extras: A lone behind-the-scenes featurette.
Girl Most Likely
A trio of blink-and-you-missed 'em theatrical releases enter their DVD afterlives today, starting with Kristen Wiig's Bridesmaids follow-up, Girl Most Likely, an arrested development-themed comedy that languished in limbo following its less-than-heralded premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Maybe it should have stayed there, because it's a thoroughly underwhelming effort that doesn't do its star any favors. Wiig plays thirtysomething screw-up Imogene, who is forced to leave the bright lights of Manhattan behind for her dingy Ocean City homestead, still inhabited by her wacky mama (Annette Bening) and eccentric brother (Christopher Fitzgerald), following a faked suicide attempt. What follows is a mixture of strained laughter and unconvincing moments of personal growth, along with a complete absence of any Wilson Phillips. A biopic about the eponymous porn actress and an expose of the seedy side of the '70s porn industry (like there's a non-seedy side of the '70s porn industry?), Lovelace casts Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace, the star of the highest-grossing X-rated picture of all time, Deep Throat. Lured into the business by her lout of a husband (Peter Sarsgaard, appropriately creepy), Lovelace starts out presenting its subject's public persona -- fame, money and star-studded parties -- before chronicling the private horrors she suffered, including abuse, prostitution and rape. Solidly-made and well-acted, Lovelace nevertheless lacks that extra dimension and dynamism that would elevate it out of B-grade territory. Released in theaters a mere month ago, Parkland cannily times its DVD release to the ongoing observance of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Written and directed by journalist Peter Landesman, the film depicts the aftermath of the president's violent death, focusing on Lee Harvey Oswald's brother, as well as the man who filmed the assassination, Abraham Zapruder and the staff at Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy's body is taken. The hospital sequences are by far the strongest part of the film, as the doctors attempt to revive the President while his Secret Service detail absorbs the seismic impact of the day's events. Unfortunately, the rest of it feels like a stiffly dramatized historical reenactment, trying and failing to make the past come alive for modern-day viewers.
Extras: Girl Most Likely offers deleted scenes, a gag reel and two featurettes. Lovelace is accompanied by a behind-the-scenes mini-doc. Parkland sports a commentary track and deleted scenes.
Click here to read our original review of Girls Most Likely
Click here to read our original review of Parkland
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition)
Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga
As promised, Peter Jackson continues his tradition of padding out his frequent trips to Middle-earth with an extended cut of An Unexpected Journey, the first of his three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. But where the longer cuts of Lord of the Rings added a hefty amount of screentime to the already-lengthy individual installments, the extended Journey only adds 13 minutes worth of new scenes. That's probably good news for people who found the film tedious in the extreme, what with all those singing dwarves tossing plates and such, but for those of us who thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to young Bilbo Baggins (like yours truly), it's slightly disappointing that there won't be more Middle-earth goodness to tide us over until The Desolation of Smaug comes out. Then again, the nine hours (nine hours!) of bonus features should keep us plenty occupied. Hard as it may be to believe, for the first time since 2007, there won't be a new Twilight movie in theaters around Thanksgiving time. (That slot has been handed off to The Hunger Games instead.) But that hasn't stopped the studio from trying to cash in on the eternal Team Edward/Team Jacob debate one more time. Twilight Forever spreads the five films and accompanying extras across 10 discs, all of which are held in a commemorative photo album filled with snapshots of your favorite vamps and virginal teens.
Extras: An Unexpected Journey's nine hours of bonus features includes a commentary track with the team of Jackson and Philippa Boyens, plus comprehensive appendices consisting of making-of featurettes, on-set video diaries and peeks into the editing room. Twilight Forever retains every single bonus feature released on the previous Twilight discs and adds 2 hours of new material, including fresh cast and crew interviews and a fan-centric featurette.
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Right Stuff
1946's Best Picture winner, The Best Years of Our Lives, makes its Blu-ray debut at last. William Wyler's intimate epic explores the difficult re-entry many World War II veterans experienced when they left the battlefield behind for post-war civilian life. Dana Andrews, Harold Russell (who won a Best Supporting Actor trophy) and Frederic March (who was awarded Best Actor) play three soldiers who return to wildly different lives, but face many of the same challenges in attempting to move on from their wartime experiences. It's a confirmed, ahead-of-its-time classic that still resonates today. If you're looking for great non-Star Wars space movies, that list has to include Apollo 13, Gravity and The Right Stuff (all of which, by the way, happen to feature Ed Harris), Philip Kaufman's three-hour dramatization of the early years of the great Space Race, which is also making its high-def debut today. Boasting a terrific ensemble that includes Harris, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn and Dennis Quaid and a gripping account of how the maiden flight of the Bell X-1 supersonic aircraft eventually led to the launch of the Mercury-Atlas 9 space vessel, The Right Stuff is perfect viewing for space nuts young and old.
Extras: The Best Years of our Lives offers an introduction by surviving co-star Virginia Mayo and a separate interview with Mayo. The Right Stuff include a commentary track, a PBS documentary about John Glenn and four additional featurettes.
Also on DVD:
Brian De Palma's boardroom thriller Passion was soundly ignored on its extremely limited theatrical release, but it deserves a second look on DVD. It's a wickedly fun and highly stylish picture that's got a killer bad girl turn by Rachel McAdams. An Israeli lawyer and a Palestinian student become unlikely lovers in the drama Out in the Dark. Charles Dickens gets the Disney treatment in the 1983 cartoon Mickey's Christmas Carol: 30th Anniversary, starring Uncle Scrooge as… well, Scrooge, while the usual Mouse House regulars turn up in the timeless tale's supporting cast. (Personal favorite? Goofy as Marley's ghost.) And keep in the holiday spirit with Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year, the 2002 cartoon featuring the residents of the 100 Acre Wood ringing in the New Year. For those grown-ups and older kids who want slightly less saccharine Christmas fare, there's the Bill Murray favorite Scrooged, newly available on Blu-ray. Put a little love in your heart, indeed.
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