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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

by admin February 19, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ben Affleck strains to think up new "Argo [bleep] yourself" jokes.

Argo
Ben Affleck completes his storybook comeback from walking punchline to A-list director with Argo, a (very heavily) fictionalized account of a declassified '70s CIA operation that found exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (played by Affleck, who proves a better director than actor in this particular case) crafting an elaborate cover story as the producer of a Hollywood blockbuster in order to spirit a group of American embassy workers out of Iran against the backdrop of that country's revolution. Armed with a terrific script by Chris Terrio and an ace ensemble that includes John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Victor Garber among others, Affleck crafts a thoroughly enjoyable throwback to '70s political thrillers like Three Days of the Condor, albeit minus some of the deeper ideas and themes that drove those pictures. The movie's airport-set climax in particular is a real blast... even if it is entirely the stuff of Hollywood legend. It's that sequence alone (plus Affleck's surprise Best Director snub) that will probably nab Argo the Best Picture Oscar at next week's Academy Awards, which means the backlash against this well-crafted piece of studio filmmaking will begin... now.
Extras: A commentary track with Affleck and Terrio, picture-in-picture commentary from people who were on the ground during the Iranian revolution, an interview with the real Mendez and President Jimmy Carter and three additional featurettes.
Click here to see our full list of Oscar picks and predictions
Click here to read our original review of Argo
Click here to see the movies Ben Affleck should have escaped from

Sinister
Going into Sinister, I was anticipating another routine, phoned-in horror exercise. But surprise! It actually turned out to be a gripping, dramatic and legitimately scary movie, with a committed performance by star Ethan Hawke as a true crime author who discovers that the latest case he's writing about may have supernatural roots. Director Scott Derrickson wears his Shining influence on his sleeve, but hits upon a freshly spooky device in the box of home movies depicting a series of gruesome deaths that unnerve both Hawke... and us in the audience. Although Sinister does try to tack on one too many final act twists, the genre's fans would be better served by more movies like this and fewer like yet another Paranormal Activity knock-off.
Extras: Two commentary tracks, one with Derrickson solo and the other pairing him with screenwriter C. Robert Cargill a.k.a. Ain't It Cool News's Massawyrm, deleted scenes with additional commentary and a pair of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Fun Size
After launching the twin teen sensations that were (however briefly) The O.C. and Gossip Girl, Josh Schwartz tried taking his talents to the big screen with this Halloween-themed Adventures in Babysitting knock-off starring a gaggle of Nickelodeon and MTV stars. Victoria Justice stars as Wren, who finds herself having to skip a killer Fright Night party in favor of finding her missing lil' brother, kicking off a series of supposedly comic (but mostly irritating) misadventures. Dumped into theaters right before Halloween with little promotion, Fun Size sank without a trace, which suggests that Schwartz probably should have just aired the thing on TV where most people will see it (if they see it at all) anyway.
Extras: A gag reel, deleted scenes, a featurette and -- best of all (if you're under the age of 15) -- the music video for Carly Rae Jepsen's "This Kiss" plus a making-of-the-video mini-doc.
Click here to read our original review

The Factory
Small Apartments
Despite the presence of some fairly big names (including John Cusack in one and Rebel Wilson in the other), both the cop thriller The Factory and the dark comedy Small Apartments wound up going straight to DVD. And once you see them, you'll understand why: they're pretty terrible. Of the two, The Factory is easier to sit through, if only to find out how world-weary cop (Cusack) ultimately catches the psycho (Dallas Roberts) who has kidnapped his daughter (Mae Whitman). Getting to that point can be a tedious slog, however, due to Morgan O'Neill's Law & Order-level production and the relentless unpleasantness of the movie's central crime, which is an ugly variation on the Jaycee Lee Dugard story. But Small Apartments may be uglier still, if only in the way director Jonas Akerlund wastes his talented ensemble (which, in addition to Wilson, counts James Marsden, Juno Temple and James Caan amongst its members) on a poorly thought-out script that tries and fails to mix offbeat comedy and a more dramatic story about two eccentric brothers. You've heard of not ready for primetime? Small Apartments ain't even ready for DVD.
Extras: The Factory comes with zero bonus features, while Small Apartments comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Top Gun
Best in Show
The Insider
Three new (and very different) movies arrive in brand-new Blu-ray editions this week, leading off with the 1986 flyboy favorite Top Gun, the movie that defined an era of blockbuster filmmaking, not to mention transforming Tom Cruise into a global superstar. Seen today in all its glossy glory, the movie remains a hilariously overblown piece of studio excess, filled with music video-ready montages, noisy action sequences and plenty of latent homoeroticism hidden behind a trying-too-hard heterosexual romance. This new high-def release includes both 3D and 2D versions of Top Gun, in case you want the experience of watching planes fly directly at your face in the comfort of your own living room. Hard as it may be to believe, 2000's Best in Show is the first of the four mockumentaries Christopher Guest directed between 1996 and 2006 to nab a high-def release. Although it's not my personal favorite of that quartet (I'd have to give that title to Waiting for Guffman, with A Mighty Wind running a close second), Show may be the most crowd-pleasing, what with the dog show hook and Fred Willard's brilliant (and oft-imitated) performance as a clueless TV announcer. (Now somebody put Guffman on Blu already, please. You can forget about For Your Consideration for the time being.) Finally, while Heat is commonly cited as Michael Mann's finest '90s-era achievement, I'd have to throw my support behind The Insider, his terrific fact-based drama about a Big Tobacco whistleblower (Russell Crowe, in a role that should have won him an Oscar rather than Gladiator) who takes his story to 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino, whose focused performance here avoids the self-parodic tendencies that drag down Heat). It's only appropriate that The Insider was released on Blu-ray the same week as Argo, because as much fun as the latter espionage-tinged movie is, this one has a scope and an intensity that Ben Affleck never quite nails. Extras: Top Gun includes a previously recorded commentary track with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott (RIP), a six-part making of documentary, four music videos, storyboards and additional featurettes. Best in Show comes with a commentary track featuring Guest and co-writer/co-star Eugene Levy, plus deleted scenes. Too bad the best film of the bunch, The Insider, only comes with an old behind-the-scenes featurette.

Also on DVD:
As indicated in my original review Joe Wright's new version of Anna Karenina has style to burn, but as a dramatic telling of the Tolstoy's classic romance, it's as flat as a set of train tracks. Paging Friday Night Lights fans! The Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated depicts a season in the life of an underdog high school football team. Apparently, not even Ayn Rand's legions of followers wanted to spend money to watch Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike, which accomplished the feat of earning even less money than the first installment. Rand would be proud. With Monsters University set for release later this year, Pixar is re-releasing Monsters Inc. in a new 5-disc edition. The classic Fred Astaire and Judy Garland musical Easter Parade premieres on Blu-ray as part of Warner Bros.'s ongoing 90th anniversary celebration. Speaking of classics, James Cameron's The Terminator gets a remastered high-def release as well. And finally, Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront gets the Criterion treatment, meaning it's no longer a contender, but an honest-to-god DVD champ.

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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