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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 8, 2012

by Ethan Alter January 8, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 8, 2012

"Stallone's not the law! I am the law!"

Dredd
Seventeen years after a botched Sylvester Stallone flick tainted the character, British comics icon Judge Dredd returned to the big screen last September in a hyper-violent siege picture that seemed poised to launch a new franchise. But once again, audiences stayed away in droves, which sets Dredd's comeback back until at least 2029. It's kind of a shame really, since while Dredd is far from a classic, it is a significant improvement over that Stallone debacle and features some elaborately staged bits of bloodletting that take full advantage of the R-rating. And additional Kudos to incoming star Karl Urban for not balking at keeping the character's signature helmet on for the duration of the movie's runtime... unlike his predecessor who doffed it at the first opportunity he got. The wafer-thin plot sets the post-apocalyptic judge/jury/executioner down in an enormous high-rise run by a bad-ass crime lord (a perfectly cast Lena Headey) with only a novice cop (a perfectly miscast Olivia Thirlby) for back-up and dozens of enforcers to kill. Dredd is mindless mayhem, but at least it's over quickly and is rarely boring.
Extras: Six featurettes, including one exploring the history of the character, and a motion comic prequel to the feature.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see our picks for other characters who deserve a second chance a franchise

The Inbeteweeners
An enormous hit abroad, the first big-screen adventure of the four sex-starved teens who headline the popular British series The Inbeteweeners landed with a thud on these shores... much like the show's Americanized remake, which was cancelled after a single season by MTV. And it's true that some familiarity with the show helps in watching the feature film, if only because you'll find the characters less obnoxious and hateful if you're familiar with the humiliations they've endured over their three-season run on the small screen. Having graduated from high school (or, to put it in British terms, sixth form) the quartet decamp for a supposedly picturesque Grecian party destination where they hope to find sun, fun and girls, but instead endure all manner of pratfalls and embarrassments. At once both more risqué and less provocative than the series, The Inbetweeners movie gets by mainly on the appeal of the central cast and a handful of really big laughs. See it... but only after you've watched the show first.
Extras: Commentary with all four Inbetweeners, a making-of documentary with cast and crew interviews, plus deleted scenes and bloopers.
Click here to read our original review

Hit & Run
Dax Shepard gave his fiancée Kristen Bell an early wedding present when he handed her the lead role in the Smokey and the Bandit inspired road-chase comedy he wrote and co-directed. Bell is by far the best thing about this well-meaning, but sloppy film and gets to show off a comic and emotional range not present in her previous big-screen vehicles, When in Rome and You Again. She and Shepard also qualify as one of the rare offscreen couples to actually generate chemistry onscreen as well -- whether making kissy-faces or shouty-faces at each other, they are never short of adorable. The best way to view Hit & Run is just to watch all their scenes together (and maybe the final car chase) and then fast-forward through everything else... particularly whenever notorious comedy buzzkill Tom Arnold is onscreen.
Extras: Deleted scenes and three featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Compliance
Inspired by a real-life incident, Craig Zobel's follow-up to the sorely underseen Great World of Sound uses a seemingly improbable situation to explore the little and big ways that ordinary people feel compelled to comply with authority every day. Set almost entirely within a fast food joint, the film begins with the restaurant's assistant manager (Ann Dowd) receiving a phone call from a man who professes to be a cop. He then launches into an elaborate story involving a missing purse and one of her employees (Dreama Walker) that sounds just unlikely enough to be true. Over the next few hours, the suspect is subjected to a prolonged interrogation that takes several disturbing turns... disturbing primarily because none of her co-workers seem capable of stopping what's going on. At times frustrating, but always fascinating, Compliance is a guaranteed conversation starter.
Extras: A commentary track with Zobel and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Click here to read our original review

Frankenweenie
In a year when Tim Burton produced his single-worst live action movie (Dark Shadows), he earned back some of our respect with Frankenweenie, a beautifully animated stop-motion feature based on his own live-action short film from the early '80s. Like its predecessor, the film follows a young genius who loses his beloved dog in a traffic accident, but manages to bring him back Frankenstein-style. Although the first half of the movie is a bit underwhelming -- unlike Burton's other stop-motion productions, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, this one isn't a musical and the lack of energy Danny Elfman's songs bring to the proceedings is felt -- it functions as a low-key prelude to the inspired final act, in which a crew of oversized monster pets terrorize the kid's picture-perfect suburb. This thirty-minute sequence represents some of the loosest, funniest filmmaking we've seen from Burton in quite some time... probably since his underrated Mars Attacks!. (And, best of all, there's no trace of Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter in sight.) Let's see more of that kind of spirit in your next live action feature, okay Tim?
Extras: The original Frankenweenie short film that inspired the film, an all-new cartoon short starring Sparky (pre-death, of course), an extensive tour of the movie's table-top set with interviews by its dedicated crew of stop-motion artists and a look at the touring exhibit that is currently visiting different museums around the world.

House at the End of the Street
Not since the Jennifer Connelly "classic" Career Opportunities has a movie devoted so much screentime to the white tank top worn by its leading lady. Filmed well before The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook made her an A-list movie star, the cheap-o, stink-o horror movie House at the End of the Street stars Jennifer Lawrence (and her cleavage) as the rebellious teenage daughter of an overworked single mom (Elisabeth Shue), who has moved them into a new home that happens to be located next door to a house where a horrible murder occurred years ago. The sole survivor -- quiet teen guy Ryan (Max Thieriot) -- still lives there and, despite her Mom's repeated warnings, Lawrence just can't help wanting to cozy up next to him. Directed with no sense of style and zero tension by Mark Tonderai, House shows that Lawrence is willing to try her best even with terrible material and little support from her co-stars and director... but honestly, the best performance in the movie is still delivered by that tank top.
Extras: Just a lone making-of featurette; we're not surprised that Lawrence wants to distance herself from this one.

Stolen
Nicolas Cage's ongoing transformation into Steven Seagal (complete with terrible, terrible toupee) continues with this bargain-basement thriller, which re-teams him with his old Con Air director, Simon West. In a nod to that earlier, significantly better favorite, the film opens with ex-con Nic Cage going to see his daughter after spending eight years in prison, stuffed animal in tow. But that's the only amusing part of an otherwise paint-by-number Taken rip-off, which finds his daughter being kidnapped by one of his old associates (Josh Lucas, wearing a wig that's even less convincing than Cage... and that's saying something), thus forcing Cage to run all over New Orleans trying to rescue her. Clearly made on the cheap, Stolen makes even a cash-in sequel like Taken 2 look like a masterpiece of action cinema.
Extra: Behind-the-scenes footage, a featurette and cast and crew interviews.

Grand Hotel
Mrs. Miniver
Driving Miss Daisy
With the Oscars a little over a month away, Warner Bros. seeks to capitalize on the awards fever by releasing three of the studio's past Best Picture winners in new high-def editions. First up is Grand Hotel, the star-packed melodrama (seriously, just look at that cast list -- Greta Garbo! Joan Crawford! Lionel Barrymore!) that became the fifth film to take home the Best Picture statue in 1932. Best known today as the film where Garbo uttered that immortal line, "I want to be alone," Grand Hotel is proof that the concept of Oscar bait didn't begin with Crash. Ten years later, the World War II drama Mrs. Miniver took home the top prize and star Greer Garson scored the Best Actress trophy for her role as the matriarch of a middle-class family dealing with life in wartime England. Finally, WB gives the 1989 champ Driving Miss Daisy the deluxe treatment in a special booklet edition with behind-the-scenes photos. One of the more controversial Best Picture winners in recent memory, Miss Daisy famously scooped up Best Picture the same year that Do the Right Thing presented a very different take on race relations in America... and then wasn't even nominated. And while Spike Lee's movie has endured as the superior movie, Miss Daisy has its modest pleasures, specifically the double act of Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, whose lived-in performances make up for some of the screenplay's contrivances and cringe-inducing drama. Do the Right Thing really wuz robbed, though...
Extras: Grand Hotel has a commentary track with film historians Jeffrey Vance and Mark A. Vieira, a making-of documentary and vintage newsreels, trailers and short films. Mrs. Miniver includes World War II-era cartoons, short films and newsreels. And Driving Miss Daisy offers a commentary track with the filmmakers (but conspicuously not Morgan Freeman) and a featurette.

Also on DVD:
Speaking of bargain-basement action movies, Guns, Girls and Gambling stars the Dream Nightmare Team of Christian Slater, Dane Cook and Gary Oldman (!) as a crook, a lawman and an Elvis impersonator respectively all in hot pursuit of a priceless Indian artifact. Also: their dignity. Released (and soundly ignored) before Zero Dark Thirty, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden is another "Get Osama" procedural, but this is definitely a case where you should accept no substitutes for Kathryn Bigelow's superb movie. Go on a trip around the world without leaving your home, courtesy of Ron Fricke's Samsara, a gorgeously made travelogue that was filmed over four years in more than 25 different countries. Turning to library releases, the George Clooney/Michelle Pfeiffer rom-com One Fine Day makes its belated Blu-ray debut, transporting us all back to the mid-'90s when the Cloonster was still just that floppy-haired, chin-wagging doc from ER and Pfeiffer was... well, acting on a regular basis. Speaking of nostalgia trips, 1996's Fear stars a pre-Walk the Line Reese Witherspoon as a girl who falls for a seemingly nice, but secretly violent dude played by a post-Funky Bunch Mark Wahlberg. Finally, the Monte Hellman cult classic Two Lane Blacktop arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion, which throws in two audio commentaries and a bunch of other goodies.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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