Sunday, January 06, 2013

Jan. 8 Blu-ray/DVD releases


Erasing the memories of the crummy 1995 Sylvester Stallone adaptation, director Pete Travis enlists Karl Urban to play the helmet-wearing one-stop-shop cop/judge/executioner in a crime-ridden dystopia. He grudgingly totes along a trainee (Olivia Thirlby) as he takes on a scar-faced gangland hooker-turned-mastermind (Lena Headey). The action is crisp and entrancing, while the dialogue is as good as you could hope for in something like this, stopping short of embarrassing the actors. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo boasts featurettes that take a look back at the history of the comic book source material, as well as the making of the film. There's also a prequel motion comic.

Enlightened: Season 1

In one of Laura Dern's wackier roles, she plays a burned out corporate cog who tries to live down an infamous episode that leaves her jobless and dependant on her condescending mother (Diane Ladd). The HBO dramedy probes the silliness of office politics, while taking an honest and appreciable look at mental illness. While not always relatable, Dern is always fascinating to watch. Cast and crew commentaries and episode summaries fill out the set.

Episodes: Seasons 1 and 2 

The bitingly funny, network comedy-skewering Showtime series continues to evolve in its second frame, tracking the ups and downs of a British writing couple's efforts to stick by a bastardized version of ther U.K. hit. In a pompously self-deprecating role as himself, Matt LeBlanc turns in some inspired work. As the show-within-a-show's star, LeBlanc plays off his persona of an oblivous, entitled meathead with aplomb. More assured and quickly paced than in its promising first season, the show has truly come into its own. The two-disc set, which includes both seasons of the series, is light on extras.

Tim Burton's somewhat overlooked homage to the roots of horror films shines brightly, keeping his masterful record with animated movies intact. It's a tale of a boy who longs to bring his dead dog back to life with his scientific ingenuity. The heedlessly macabre tone treats its audience with respect without slavishly condescending to kiddos for easy chuckles, and the visual style, which pays tribute to 1930s and 40s horror classics, is elegant and haunting. The 3D and 2D Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo is loaded with extras, including the short films Captain Sparky vs. The Flying Saucers and the original Frankenweenie, a look at the animation process and a music video.

Game Change 

A dead ringer for Sarah Palin in the role, Julianne Moore anchors the Cinderella story of the former Alaska governor's rise to the political stage when John McCain (Ed Harris) tabbed her to be her running mate in the 2008 presidential election. In the eye-popping political thriller that catalogs the campaign's surge and fade, Moore captures Palin's magnetic appeal, as well as her eager overconfidence and cut-throat backroom demeanor. A digital copy and a pair of making-of featurettes fill out the extras.

Hit & Run

Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell get together for an action comedy that's so forgettable it's tough to piece together the plot right after you've seen it. Shepard plays a reformed criminal in witness protection, guarded by an overzealous U.S. Marshal (Tom Arnold), who escorts his girlfriend (Bell) on an oddly dangerous ride to a job interview. Bradley Cooper and Jason Bateman embarrass himself by sleepwalking through bit parts in the pointless and humor-free affair that's livened occasionally by some cool stunt driving. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo inclues deleted scenes and making-of featurettes.

Screeners were provided by the studios for review.

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