BLOGS

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You sunk Tim Riggins's battleship!

Battleship
Originally pegged as one of this summer's big-ticket blockbusters, Peter Berg's cinematic version of the classic board game instead turned out to be one of its most high-profile disappointments, falling well short of the $100 million threshold that event movies are required to clear. (At least the $200 million international gross helped its bottom line somewhat.) But much like the other 2012 big-budget flop starring Taylor Kitsch (Disney's John Carter), Battleship isn't as bad as its reputation. Sure it's dumb -- it's based on a freaking board game, remember? -- but Berg isn't a self-serious action blowhard like Michael Bay, whose work the Friday Night Lights co-creator (and director of the original film) is clearly riffing on here. Instead, he imbues the proceedings with a welcome degree of humor that offsets some of the inanity. On the other hand, all the self-aware gags in the world can't improve what passes for "story" here, the bulk of which pits Kitsch's brash Navy officer against an invading alien menace. Rounding out the cast are Alexander SkarsgÄrd as Kitsch's older brother, fellow FNL veteran Jesse Plemons and pop star Rihanna as other members of the crew, Brooklyn Decker as Kitsch's bodacious love interest and Liam Neeson as her disapproving dad. As bloated blockbusters go, Battleship was far from 2012's worst offender (looking at you Total Recall), but here's Extras: An all-access behind the scenes tour of the film's production, hosted by Berg, who also chats over pre-visualization footage of an unfilmed alternate ending and seven additional making-of featurettes. Sadly, the original Battleship board game is sold separately.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to find out how to tell Battleship apart from Transformers

The Lucky One
The latest machine-made movie fresh off the Nicolas Sparks assembly line, The Lucky One casts Zac Efron as a recently returned Iraq War vet who makes his way to a small North Carolina town to find the woman pictured in a photo that served as his lucky talisman on the battlefield. That woman turns out to be single mom Beth (Taylor Schilling), who runs the local animal kennel when she's not chasing after her adorable tyke and receiving life advice from her wisecracking grandma (Blythe Danner). What happens next is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a Sparks production -- tears are shed, lips are locked, obstacles are overcome and at least one person dies tragically. Directed with maximum gloss by Scott Hicks, The Lucky One is lovingly shot and painfully dull.
Extras: A handful of making-of featuettes chronicling such subjects as Efron and Schilling's onscreen romance and Efron's boot camp regimen.
Click here for an illustrated guide on how to make a Nicolas Sparks movie

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The latest stop-motion feature from the British animation house Aardman (the folks responsible for Chicken Run and those beloved Wallace and Gromit shorts) is a high seas adventure that doesn't rank with the studio's best work, but has some modest pleasures that make it worth checking out. Chief among them is Hugh Grant's boisterous vocal performance as the Pirate Captain, a swashbuckler whose swash could use a bit more buckle if he's going to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. Pursuing that title takes him to England, where he bumps into a certain Mr. Charles Darwin and runs afoul of Queen Victoria, and then out onto the open water as he tries to save a rare bird from Victoria's hungry hands. Besides Grant, Band of Misfits also boasts stellar stop motion animation, two very funny animal sidekicks and a great chase sequence through a multi-level townhouse. Unfortunately, the film's episodic narrative means that there's a lot of downtime between these highlights and the supporting cast isn't as richly imagined as our fearless captain. From any other studio, Band of Misfits would be above average, but from Aardman (as with Pixar) we're always expecting something more.
Extras: Two making-of featurettes (including one devoted to the aforementioned townhouse chase), kid-friendly games and a pair of short films with commentary from director Peter Lord.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our Q&A with director Peter Lord

The Terminator Anthology
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
In DVD parlance, "double dipping" means the practice of putting out another edition of a movie that's already been released on disc, generally with more bonus features to guilt trip consumers into plunking down more cash. Well, here's a pair of franchises that have been released in so many DVD incarnations, at this point they're well beyond double dipping and into quintuple dipping. Of the two, The Terminator Anthology seems the most necessary since it represents the first time that Blu-ray versions of all four Terminator movies have been sold in a single box set. Yes, that means you're forced to own Terminator 3 and (shudder) Terminator Salvation, but those two can be instructive viewing in terms of how (and how not to) continue a franchise after its creator, in this case James Cameron, departs. (Also T3 does offer a few decent chases, for the record.) As for the first two, they remain great sci-fi spectacles and look terrific remastered in high-def. Lord of the Rings fanatics got their chance to purchase a Blu-ray set of Peter Jackson's three-part fantasy epic last year, but if you're the kind of person who prefers slender single editions to bulky box sets, all three movies are available separately in special 5-disc editions. It should be noted that these are the extended editions, not the theatrical cuts, which means you'll be getting the superior versions of Fellowship and Two Towers, but not the shorter, better Return of the King. We're sure those cuts will be released when the studio goes for their sextuplet dip.
Extras: One other caveat about these sets: all of the bonus features are recycled from previous editions. The Terminator Anthology comes with deleted scenes, commentary tracks (on T2 and T3), a slew of behind-the-scenes featurettes, gag reels and storyboard to film comparisons. Lord of the Rings comes with the same exhaustive, extensive documentaries and commentary tracks that were featured on the very first release of the extended editions way back in the early aughts. If you make it through all of them, you'll be fluent in Elvish.

Also on DVD:
Steve Harvey parlayed his best-selling advice book into a box-office hit this past spring, when Think Like a Man dominated the charts for a good chunk of April... at least until The Avengers came along and blew everything else out of the water. From Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Empire Strikes Back to Body Heat, Lawrence Kasdan has penned some of the finest screen entertainments of the past three decades. But that doesn't stop his latest effort, Darling Companion (which he also directed) from being an enormous bore that strands its terrific cast (including Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline and Richard Jenkins) in the woods looking for a lost dog. We love Krysten Ritter on Don't Trust the B----, but that goodwill wasn't strong enough for us to make it through the entirety of L!fe Happens, an anemic comedy she co-wrote and stars in as a single gal who goes through a rough transition to single mom. Another TV favorite who let us down in a new full-length feature is Veronica Mars's Jason Dohring, who headlines the indie comedy Searching for Sonny about an oddball who attends his 10-year high school reunion in search of his former crush (Minka Kelly) and one-time pal (Masi Oka). Despite Dohring's always appealing presence, Sonny is weighed down by poor writing and hamfisted attempts at quirky humor. The Starship Troopers franchise goes manga in its latest direct-to-DVD installment, Starship Troopers: Invasion. In honor of its 100th anniversary, Universal unleashes another slew of classic titles from its vault in new Blu-ray editions, starting with the immortal comedy Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, the pioneering disaster flick Airport (personally, we're waiting for the high-def appearance of Airplane! next month), Alfred Hitchcock's masterful Vertigo (which recently displaced Citizen Kane as the greatest movie of all time, according to Sight & Sound), and his equally entertaining The Birds and, finally, the adorable Jimmy Stewart comedy, Harvey. And we can't close this column out without mentioning Criterion's remastered release of Quadrophenia, a.k.a. The Who-penned rock opera that's not Tommy. The typically lavish extras include an audio commentary with the director, new interviews with The Who's sound engineer and the band's co-manager and archival clips with on-set behind-the-scenes footage.

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