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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We're gonna wreck it!

Wreck-It Ralph
It's been well established that pre-existing video games almost never translate into good movies (Doom, Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter -- in both its Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kristin Kreuk flavors -- are go-to examples of this), but invented video games can be a different story. In this category, you've got winners like TRON, Cloak & Dagger and now Wreck-It Ralph, the delightfully funny and surprisingly moving cartoon comedy from Disney. The title character (voiced to perfection by John C. Reilly) is the destructive villain at the center of the fictional platformer, Fix It Felix Jr. (you can play the game by clicking the link), who decides that he's going to ditch his current digital environment in favor of a game where he can be the hero for a change. He ends up in the super-charged racing title Sugar Rush, where he befriends outcast "glitch" Vanellope (Sarah Silverman, a great foil for Reilly) and helps end the reign of the duplicitous King Candy. Come for the superb animation and hilarious shout-outs to popular games past and present like Tapper and Pac-Man, stay for the rich story of friendship that develops between two characters that deserve their very own game.
Extras: Alternate and deleted scenes with optional audio commentary from director Rich Moore, commercials for all the video games seen in the film, a making-of featurette and the Oscar-winning cartoon short Paperman, that played before the movie in theaters. The Blu-ray also includes a series of ten video segments hosted by professional nerd Chris Hardwick that can be viewed by pausing the feature.
Click here to read our original review

Red Dawn
After three years on the shelf -- during which time the producers switched the original Chinese villains out for the North Koreans -- this entirely unnecessary remake of the '80s Cold War favorite found its way into theaters where it was profoundly (and rightly) ignored. Even the Mighty Thor himself (a.k.a. Chris Hemsworth), who plays the leader of the teenage rebels leading the charge against the invading army, can't distract from the second-rate writing and clunky action direction on display. If nothing else, Red Dawn shows that sometimes a movie that's been on the shelf, needs to stay on the shelf.
Extras: None.
Click here to read our original review

Chasing Mavericks
Playing For Keeps
Gerard Butler fans (if there are any left) can program their very own double bill this week, pairing the Scottish actor's little-seen surfing picture, Chasing Mavericks with his equally little-seen romantic comedy, Playing for Keeps. Originally helmed by Curtis Hanson until his health problems forced Michael Apted to take over, Mavericks casts Butler as real-life surfing guru Frosty Hesson, who teaches a 15-year-old newbie how to stay upright in the rough waters of Northern California's Mavericks beach. It's a standard-issue inspirational sports movie, punctuated by decent surfing footage. For the real thing, though, stick with docs like Step Into Liquid, Riding Giants and, of course, The Endless Summer. Sticking with the sports theme, Keeps finds Butler playing a retired soccer star trying to reconnect with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel, bland as ever) and their young son... if only his own foibles and a gaggle of hot soccer moms (played by such slumming actresses as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman and poor, poor Judy Greer) didn't keep getting in the way. The scenes of Butler fending of the advances of desperate housewives brings to mind the Patrick Dempsey comedy "classic" Loverboy, but Seven Pounds director Gabriele Muccino can't keep himself from slathering on the sentiment with the Biel storyline. All told, it was a rough 2012 for Butler. We'll see if his Die Hard-in-the-White-House flick Olympus Has Fallen gets him back on track in a few weeks.
Extras: Mavericks comes with a commentary track from Apted and two of the writers, deleted scenes and four featurettes. Keeps includes deleted scenes and two featurettes.

A Dark Truth
Lay the Favorite
The Bay
What unites these three seemingly disparate releases? Well, they each received blink-and-you-missed-'em releases in theaters and on DVD. Oh, and they're all fairly disappointing, despite the involvement of some big-name talent. The action movie, A Dark Truth, for example, stars Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker as the leader of a guerilla army in Ecuador who is kidnapped by the corporate-backed government, forcing his wife (Eva Longoria) to recruit an ex-CIA agent (Andy Garcia) to carry out a one-man rescue mission. It's a competently made jungle-set adventure tale, but that's about it. The Vegas-set comedy Lay the Favorite is a far bigger disappointment, mainly because you tend to expect better from veteran director Stephen Frears, the guy behind such great films as Dangerous Liaisons, Dirty Pretty Things and The Queen. The presence of Rebecca Hall as an exotic dancer-turned-sports bookie and Bruce Willis (who often excels in small-scale comedies like this) as her mentor is also promising. But the tone is off from the first scene and Frears never gets the narrative into a comfortable groove. Hall gives the movie her all, though; here's hoping she partners with Frears on better material soon. Finally, Barry Levinson -- yes, the guy who made Diner and Rain Man -- is probably the last person you'd expect to make a found-footage horror movie. But since the studios don't appear to be beating down his door anymore, here he is making The Bay, a low-budget thriller with an environmental angle. At heart a found-footage remake of Jaws -- the story finds a small seaside town battling some kind of aquatic menace -- The Bay generates some solid moments of tension and Levinson handles the shifting first-person POV more skillfully than most directors in this genre, but it's also not exactly the triumphant comeback that he may have been hoping for.
Extras: A Dark Truth comes with a behind-the-scenes mini-doc, Lay the Favorite includes deleted scenes and The Bay features a commentary track with Levinson and a making-of featurette.

Also on DVD:
A hit in its native France, Harvey Weinstein tried to power the odd couple buddy dramedy The Intouchables to stateside success (not to mention Oscar nominations) but fell well short of both goals. In the movie's defense, both of its leading men Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy -- who respectively play a wealthy quadriplegic and his brash new caretaker -- are quite good, but the film's toothless treatment of racial and class concerns inspired by its premise (which is based on a true story) does them (and the audience) a huge disservice. The Marine 3: Homefront continues the WWE-produced action movie franchise on DVD, with wrestler Michael "The Miz" Mizanin stepping into the title role. The documentary Satan's Angel recounts the life story of one of the most famous burlesque performers not named Gypsy Rose Lee. In catalog titles, Michael Crichton's '70s sci-fi favorite Westworld makes its Blu-ray debut, and A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection features high-def versions of all seven Elm Street movies minus, thankfully, the terrible remake. Saving the best for last, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition finally scores a Blu-ray edition, a release date that was no doubt planned under the assumption that he'd be coming off his third Best Director win for Lincoln. That's not how things went down, obviously, but it's still great to finally have a high-def version of List, which remains one of Spielberg's finest achievements. Special features include the feature-length documentary Voices From the List and a making-of featurette from the Shoah Foundation.

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