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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

by admin December 6, 2011 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cowboys fight aliens. How can you possibly screw that up? Here's how...

Cowboys and Aliens
One of the surprise duds of the summer, Cowboys and Aliens squanders a good cast (led by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford), a usually reliable director (Jon Favreau) and a promising high-concept hook. Bearing only a passing resemblance to the comic book it shares a title with, the film pits a posse of cowboys against an army of invading alien gold miners (apparently, for outer space travelers, gold offers better mileage than petroleum) for a series of chaotically choreographed action set-pieces interspersed with painfully dull and plodding attempts at character development. Aside from its general lack of imagination, the movie's biggest sin may be the way it barely gives its leading men any opportunity to play off each other. The conflict between outlaw Craig and tough-minded ranch owner Ford should drive the narrative; instead, they're bystanders to a boring, blockbuster-oriented sound-and-light show.
Extras: A commentary track and bonus "conversation" with Favreau, plus five making-of featurettes.

The Hangover Part II
In trying to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic that was the first Hangover, director Todd Phillips took the original cast all the way around the world to the country formerly known as Siam and turned them loose on the streets of Bangkok. But despite the different setting, The Hangover Part II is the exact same movie as its predecessor, a fact that the film itself keeps reminding us of by having the characters constantly reference the events of their previous lost night and then say "Boy, can you believe this is happening again?" It's hard not to chuckle occasionally at some of Zach Galifianakis' bizarre ramblings and Ed Helms (who is more or less the central character this time around) achieves a few touching moments amidst the enforced madcap "hilarity." But, overall, what happened in Thailand really should have stayed in Thailand.
Extras: Gag reel, a making-of documentary and two additional featurettes, one about director Phillips' approach to comedy and the other a portrait of the movie's breakout star, Crystal the Monkey, who proved more likable than anyone else in the cast.

The Help
A late-summer smash hit, this earnest adaptation of the best-selling book was alternate praised and pilloried for its depiction of race relations in the '60s-era Deep South. Emma Stone stars as ambitious young journalist Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, who raises a ruckus among the privileged white families in her small town by interviewing the black women that toil in their households, largely unnoticed and uncelebrated. Viola Davis (a current favorite for a Best Actress nomination) and Octavia Spencer play two of these domestic servants, who share their stories with Skeeter at great personal expense. The Help suffers from a few too many melodramatic flourishes and an overabundance of subplots, but the cast -- particularly Davis and Spencer -- keep you watching.
Extras: Two featurettes, deleted scenes and a Mary J. Blige music video.

Mission: Impossible Extreme Blu-ray Trilogy
Most blockbuster franchises devoted themselves (sometimes too much so) to establishing a consistent mythology and cast of characters. That's definitely not the case with the Mission: Impossible series, where, over the course of three movies (the fourth, Ghost Protocol, hits theaters next week) the only constants have been Tom Cruise as Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt and Ving Rhames as his right-hand man, Luther. Otherwise, each M:I film is distinctly its own beast, starting with Brian De Palma's underrated 1996 original, which is marked by the director's love for twisty narratives and memorable set-pieces (that extended sequence where Cruise breaks into CIA headquarters remains a corker). John Woo's follow-up packs considerably less punch, but the Hong Kong director's overblown, outsized approach to action results in a few memorable scenes. For the third installment, writer/director J.J. Abrams crafts an enjoyable team adventure with a great villain (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that plays somewhat like an above-average episode of Alias... and we mean that as a compliment. We look forward to seeing what kind of movie incoming director Brad Bird has in store for us with Ghost Protocol. Would it be too much to hope for a few Incredibles shout-outs?
Extras: Making-of featurettes , trailers, photo galleries and commentary tracks, most of which are carry-overs from earlier DVD editions.

Also on DVD:
Back in the '90s, the combination of Jim Carrey and penguins would likely have yielded a blockbuster of Antarctica-sized proportions. But the former pet detective's star has dimmed of late, so Mr. Popper's Penguins only banked a middling $70 million at the summer box office. Clearly, the filmmakers should have cast Justin Bieber as Popper instead. Jessica Chastain made better movies in 2011 than The Debt, (Tree of Life and Take Shelter come instantly to mind) but this John Madden-directed thriller features one of her best performances, as a novice Mossad agent that grows up to be Helen Mirren. The film itself is an agreeable adult thriller, marred only by a truly dumb ending. Before the David Fincher version hits theaters Christmas weekend, catch up on the original Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (plus its two inferior sequels) via Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition, which offers extended cuts of all three films. Temporary dragon tattoos not included.

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