Monday, December 17, 2012

Dec. 18 and Dec. 21 DVD/Blu-ray releases


Due out Friday, the fast-paced thriller tracks the efforts of a pompous but clever one-percenter (Richard Gere) whose world is being torn apart by multiple forces, including federal fraud investigators and the accidental death of his mistress. His bitter, distant wife (Susan Sarandon) engages in a parallel struggle, and his daughter and heiress apparent (Brit Marling) tries to keep the facade patched together. Riveting from the first scene to the last, the movie works excellently as a showcase for Gere's talents. Extras on the disc include commentary from writer/director Nicholas Jarecki, deleted scenes with optional commentary and a pair of featurettes that focus on Gere's character and the making of the movie.

Californication: Season 5

David Duchovny stars in his wry, cynical anti-romantic comedy, playing a sex-addicted celebrity author who can't keep out of his own way as he scrambles to keep his family life and career afloat while he tumbles into new territory as an action flick screenwriter. The series has seen better days, and hits something of a repetitive slump in its fifth outing. Occasionally the show recaptures some of its old punch, but it generally seems to be buckling under its own weight. Extras in the series, which oddly is still DVD-only and has still yet to come out on Blu-ray, are limited to episodes of other Showtime shows.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

By far my favorite of the three-film series, adapted from the series of Jeff Kinney novels, this chapter follows its hapless middle schooler protagonist (Zachary Gordon) through a summer of embarrassingly epic fail that could lead to his dad (Steve Zahn) shipping him off to military school. The kid masquerades as a country club worker to try to win the heart of his crush, pals around with his tubby best friend and tells slews of white lies that get him into Curb Your Enthusiasm-type trouble. Witty writing and game performances keep things lively. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes direcotr commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and some background featurettes.

Killer Joe

Due out Friday, this thriller is a blistering return to form for director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection). An unhinged Matthew McConaughey plays a Dallas lawman who operates as an assassin-for-hire on the side. He takes a contract from a family living in a trailer park with Double Indemnity-like delusions of quick wealth once a family member is knocked off. The clan bursts with personality, with a doddering dad (Thomas Haden Church), his impulsive, reckless son (Emile Hirsch), shifty-eyed mother figure (Gina Gershon) and dim, sheltered daughter (Juno Temple). A wily script, smoldering suspense and slick dialogue keep the drama lively. Extras include a look at the adaptation from the stage play, a cast Q&A from South By Southwest and Friedkin's commentary.

Liberal Arts

Director/writer/star Josh Radnor, Ted from TV's How I Met Your Mother, makes another quiet, introspective stunner to follow up his debut, Happythankyoumoreplease. He plays a New York college admissions adviser who, while returning to his Ohio alma mater to see off a favorite professor (Richard Jenkins), falls for a mature-beyond-her-years student (Elizabeth Olsen). The complicated relationship sends him running blind through an ethical and emotional minefield. What seems to be a rote, predictable plot veers off on wildly unexpected directions. Radnor's script also gives him and his co-star magnificent chances to work up intensity and bridled passion. Deleted scenes are the lone extras.

The Life and Times of Tim: Season 3

The Office Space-like HBO animated comedy continues to lap up deadpan laughs in its third outing, placing its hapless, meek title character (voiced by series creator Steve Dildarian) into a neverending vortex of humiliation. Tim handles endless abuse in the office, from so-called friends and in what passes for a love life. Mary Jane Otto and Nick Kroll turn in excellent voice work, contributing to the show's impeccable sense of comic timing. The set has no significant extras.

Pitch Perfect

Taking a Glee-like concept and resetting it for the college scene, the musical comedy follows the trail of a socially awkward, all-female singing crew that tries to pull together and croon its way to glory. Anna Kendrick shows remarkable singing talent as a student who reluctantly joins the squad, clashing with its prissy inner circle (Anna Camp and Brittany Snow). Taking the edge off is a boistrous teammate played by Rebel Wilson, who shows a Melissa McCarthy-like ability to steal scenes. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo hums with deleted and extended scenes, alternate takes and making-of footage.

Premium Rush

Due out Friday, this comedy-leavened action flick somehow manages to make the spandex-clad world of NYC bike couriers seem as intense as a Bond movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a daredevil messenger who's disconnected his brakes, weaves in and out of traffic and jousts with bike cops and motorists alike while unleashing a bevy of insane stunts. Michael Shannon plays an NYPD thug who's after JGL's package and Dania Ramirez plays a courier colleague who tries to wheel his way into the hero's heart. Intense action never lets its foot off the pedals. A pair of making-of featurettes make up the extras in the Blu-ray/digital copy combo.

Red Hook Summer 

Due out Friday, Spike Lee's quiet, understated coming-of-age drama follows a sullen boy (Jules Brown) who bristles as he stays with his bombastic preacher grandfather (Clark Peters), who struggles to keep his flock interested in his message while guarding a heinous secret from his past. Avoiding stars in favor of up-and-coming or little recognized actors, Lee uses the blank slate to flex his muscles as a storyteller, resulting ina  gritty and charming drama that reflects his earlier work. Lee's commentary and a making-of featurette highlight the extras.

Resident Evil: Retribution

Due out Friday, the dopey video game adaptation series continues to chug along, providing consistently invigorating action that covers up a threadbare plot and nonsensical dialogue. Taking things way too seriously as always, Milla Jovovich reprises her role as a dual-wielding zombie/mutant decapitator. Old pal Michelle Rodriguez is back in action; one of several former stars in the series who have been killed off only to make a head-scratching return. Reasonably decent CGI effects help keep the wild silliness somehwat feasible. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo is loaded with featurettes. Deleted and extended scenes are also there.

Shameless: Season 2

The under-the-radar Showtime gem, a comedy about a poor, trashy family trying to get by in Chicago's South Side. William H. Macy plays the alcoholic, chronically irresponsible patriarch, and Emmy Rossum is the early-20s firebrand who picks up much of his slack in keeping her five younger siblings in line. Pitch-perfect performances, insightful writing and frequent guest star Amy Smart, who plays a questionable influence on Rossum's character, keep the series unpredictable, helping the show grow stronger in its second season. Deleted scenes, a featurette on Rossum's character and actor interviews make up the extras on the Blu-ray/digital copy combo.

Trouble with the Curve

Due out Friday, Clint Eastwood's baseball drama sinks with as much of a head-scratching thud as his speech to the empty chair at the Republican National Convention. He plays a world-weary Atlanta Braves scout who is going blind and being shoved out the door by upper management. His old pal (John Goodman) gets him one last chance to prove himself on a North Carolina road trip, and insists his semi-estranged lawyer daughter (Amy Adams) tag along. Justin Timberlake pops up as a fellow scout, and Adams' convenient romantic interest, and he and the rest of the cast are left to trudge through the pticher's mound of cliches that make up the script. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo is light on extras, with only a pair of light featurettes on its basepaths.

Total Recall

Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel star in this remake of the 1991 sci-fi mind-bender. Farrell's character is a factory worker whose visit to a memory-altering facility sends him off on a series of wild life-and-death adventures. Like him, we're left guessing as to whether what's going on is fantasy or reality. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) casts a shadow over the proceedings as a domineering villain. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack comes with an extended director's cut, a gag reel and a slew of making-of featurettes. A nice bonus for PlayStation 3 owners is the inclusion of the God of War: Ascension demo.

Screeners were provided by the studios for review.

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