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DVD Reviews For 12/30: "Talent Is More Erotic When It's Wasted."
by Peter Sobczynski

Although the end of the year often tends to contain the slimmest of DVD pickings, there are some intriguing new titles out there amidst the usual junk. Enjoy and Happy New Year!


10 YEARS (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $26.98): Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Kate Mara, Lynn Collins, Oscar Isaac, Justin Long, Aubrey Plaza, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Chris Pratt and Ari Graynor are among the players in this comedy-drama charting the 10-year reunion of the most impossibly attractive high school graduating class of all time. Offering no particularly new or profound insights to speak off, the film ends up being little more than a cinematic Whitman's Sampler of hot young performers doing their thing--off them, the increasingly impressive Tatum and the always-delightful Dawson acquit themselves the best.

ARBITRAGE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Richard Gere plays a Wall Street hotshot whose struggles to conclude a deal to unload his firm before its precarious financial position can be discovered are complicated by his actions following an accident involving his mistress (Laetitia Casta) that arouses the suspicions of his wife (Susan Sarandon), daughter (Brit Marling) and an inquisitive cop (Tim Roth). This feature debut from documentary filmmaker Ncholas Jarecki is ambitious and features a good cast doing strong, solid work but at its heart, the story is little more than a variant of Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities" that eventually goes nowhere.

BLUE LAGOON: THE AWAKENING (Sony Home Entertainment. $22.99): The old chestnut about two impossibly attractive teens who discover the joys of sexual intercourse while trapped on a desert island--previously recounted with the likes of Jean Simmons, Brooke Shields, Milla Jovovich and some forgettable dopes--gets yet another go-around in this modern-day incarnation in which school classmates Brenton Thwaites and Indiana Evans are stranded for months in the middle of nowhere yet always manage to look impeccably groomed. The idea of a contemporary version of the tale is not necessarily a bad one but since the entire purpose of such an enterprise is to see nearly-naked hunks and hotties gamboling about, the fact that it was produced as a made-for-TV film for Lifetime pretty much kills it in the crib and the atrocious performances by the leads serve to finish off the job. Besides, now that the 1980 version is now available on Blu-Ray via Twilight Time, this nonsense feels even more useless than before. Denise Richards, by the way, turns up as the girl's mother and is that doesn't inspire a rash of unhealthy desert island daydreams, nothing will.

COSMOPOLIS (E1 Entertainment. $24.98): David Cronenberg has made some of the more unusual films of our time but even many of his most devoted fans were perplexed with this admittedly outré adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel chronicling a young Wall Street hotshot (Robert Pattinson) as he embarks on a day-long trip across town for a haircut in a specially appointed limousine large enough to allow him to conduct business, affairs and even a prostate exam while hardly acknowledging the chaos erupting in the streets around him. This is definitely a challenging movie and those roped into watching it merely by the presence of Pattinson are going to come away from it enormously disappointed (though it should be noted that his performance is quite good and is the best evidence yet that he may indeed have a post-"Twilight" career of note). Those up to the challenge, however, are likely to find this to be one of the most darkly funny and conceptually fascinating films of 2012, not to mention one of the best. Those who fall into the latter category are advised to check out the typically excellent and informative Cronenberg commentary that is included among the bonus features.

THE ISLAND (Shout! Factory. $24.95): In this weird and largely forgotten adaptation of the Peter Benchley best-seller, Michael Caine plays a journalist pursuing a story about a group of genuine pirates robbing and slaughtering pleasure boaters in the South Seas who inexplicably takes his young son with him on a trip to the very same region where he suspects they are hiding. Inevitably, the two are captured by them and while the kid falls in with his captors, Caine finds himself being forced by the leader (David Warner) to help replenish the clan's hopelessly inbred bloodlines with his sheer manliness. A notorious failure when it premiered in the summer of 1980, especially in contrast to the enormous amount spent on the movie rights in the wake of the success of Benchley's "Jaws" and "The Deep," the film is little more than a curiosity today but fans of movies that go completely off the rails will find much to enjoy here. Alas, those wondering how it went off those rails--starting with the inexplicable decision to hire noted social satirist Michael Ritchie to direct a gory, full-blooded pirate thriller--will be left wondering since this Blu-Ray contains nada in the way of special features.

KILLER JOE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): After spending the last few years frittering away his talents on a series of increasingly forgettable and reductive romantic comedies, Matthew McConaughey made hell of a comeback in 2012 with vivid, scene-stealing performances in "Bernie," "Magic Mike" and this searing adaptation of the pitch-black and Southern-fried comedy-drama by acclaimed playwright Tracey Letts from William Friedkin (who previously collaborated with Letts on the brilliant "Bug"). In it, he plays a genteel-but-psychotic lawman who is hired by a dimwit drug dealer (Emilie Hirsch), along with his white-trash father (Thomas Haden Church) and stepmother (Gina Gershon), to kill his mother as part of an insurance scam--since he can't afford the down payment, he is forced to offer up his oddball younger sister (Juno Temple) as collateral. What happens from this point is not for the faint-of heart but everyone else will find it impossible to turn away from the finger-licking lunacy on screen, not to mention the knockout performances from the entire cast, and for those people, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

LOOPER (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): In the not-too-distant future, time travel is real but illegal and used only by organized crime to get rid of their enemies by sending them back in time to where hired guns known as "loopers" are waiting to finish them off. That is the foundation for this trippy thriller from Rian John featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who collaborate with Johnson on the cult favorite "Brick") as a looper whose cushy life is thrown for a loop when his next target turns out to be his future self (Bruce Willis), a development that pits the two against each other and finds farm woman Emily Blunt and her mysterious young nephew caught in the middle. One of the few films to really do something interesting with the notion of time travel and its inherent paradoxes, Johnson offers up an endlessly clever narrative that is smart, funny, exciting and filled with unexpected twists and turns as well as strong performances across the board. One of the better genre films of recent memory, this DVD includes a commentary from Johnson, Gordon-Levitt and Blunt, a behind-the-scenes featurette and deleted scenes with commentary from Johnson.

PITCH PERFECT (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): The cutthroat world of intercollegiate a cappella group competitions is the focus of this "Glee"-wannabe featuring Anna Kendrick as a rebellious outsider who joins a losing group of singers (including Brittany Snow, Anna Camp and Rebel Wilson) and freshens up their act by imploring them to try some of these new-fangled music mash-ups that are all the rage with the kids today. This became a sleeper hit when it was released in the early fall but I am at a loss to explain why--the story is bubbled-brained, the musical numbers are indistinguishable from the ones seen every week on "Glee" and the reliance on gross-out humor (including a girl making a vomit angel at one low point) is more off-putting than amusing. Other than a funny supporting turn from Rebel Wilson, this film is--and I apologize in advance--nothing much to sing about.

PREMIUM RUSH (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a daredevil bicycle messenger whose life is plunged into danger when he is charged with delivering a package that a corrupt cop (MIchael Shannon) will do anything to intercept. The trailers made this look like a preposterous high-concept thriller--which may be why audiences stayed away from it in droves when it premiered at the tail end of the summer--but what they failed to show was just how ridiculously exciting and entertaining it was to boot, thanks to a plot by writer-director David Koepp that was more clever than one might have otherwise expected, breathless pacing and a hilarious scenery-chewing turn from Michael Shannon as one of the more memorable bad guys to grace the screen recently. It may look and sound utterly generic but trust me, this one is a keeper.

THE QATSI TRILOGY ((The Criterion Collection. $59.95): In 1983, Godfrey Reggio made one of the most startling filmmaaking debuts of the decade with "Koyaanisqatsi," a dialogue-free non-narrative epic that explored mankind's gradual shift from the beauties of nature to a more technology-based existence via mesmerizing cinematography from Ron Fricke (who went on to make such impressive films as "Baraka" and "Samsara") and a ground-breaking score by Phillip Glass. Although the warnings of the danger of technological dependence were somewhat undercut by the fact that the visual style made everything look beautiful and poetic, the result was a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that continues to be a cult favorite to this day. Previously issued as a bare-bones DVD, Criterion steps up to the plate with a lavish box set that includes a new digital transfer of the film, new and archival interviews with Reggio, Fricke and Glass and an initial draft of the film featuring Allen Ginsberg on the soundtrack. In addition, the set also includes Reggio's two follow-up films--"Powaqqatsi" (1987), which focuses on the exploitation of third-world countries in the name of globalization, and "Naqoyqatsi" (2002), in which the transition of Earth from the natural to the artificial andd dehumanized has been completed. A must-see.

QUINCY M.E.: SEASON 4 (Shout! Factory. $39.97)
: What better way to commemorate the recent passing of veteran character actor Jack Klugman than by revisiting his beloved long-running TV drama in which he played a hard-drinking, hard-loving medical examiner out to solve murders and prevent the spread of disease with the help of his reliable Asian sidekick (Robert Ito) and the occasional guest appearance from Brett Somers? Sure, the program is a little cheesy by today's standards but I would take it over any of the current slew of autopsy-based procedurals in a heartbeat--or not, as the case may be. Other TV-related titles now available include "Army Wives: Season Six, Part 2" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99), "Being Human: The Complete 2nd Season" (E1 Entertainment. $39.98), "Californication: The Fifth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $45.98), "Charlie's Angels: The Complete 5th Season" (Sony On Demand. $45.99), "Funny Or Die Presents: The Complete Second Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $29.98), "Futurama: Volume 7" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98), "House of Lies: Season One" (Paramount Home Video. $45.98), "Justified: The Complete Third Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.99), "The Life and Times of Tim: The Complete Third Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $29.98) and "Shameless: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98)

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): In what feels like the All-Star edition of the surprisingly durable zombie film franchise, Milla Jovovich once again shoots, punches, kicks and contorts her way through a series of battles with the undead and worse across the world (well, not quite) and finds herself aided in her quest by many of those featured in earlier installments, even the ones who didn't quite survive the previous films. Like the rest of the series, this film is absolutely ridiculous from start to finish and like the rest of the series, it is so cheerfully and cheesily entertaining, thanks to the non-stop action, weirdo humor and flash visual style, not to mention the magnetic presence of Ms. Jovovich, that it is almost impossible to resist. Yes, it sets itself up at the end for a possible sixth installment. No, as with the previous films, that future film probably will not live up to the promise of that final scene. Yes, I will nevertheless be awaiting it with far more legitimate anticipation than the future "Star Wars," "Star Trek" or "Hobbit" movies combined.

THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: 2012 WORLD SERIES COLLECTION (A&E Home Entertainment. $59.95): Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. What is amusing is that the Giants so throughly decimated the Detroit Tigers in four short games that A&E was forced to include Game 5 of the NLDS, Game 5 of the NLCS and the previously-released perfect game thrown by Matt Cain earlier in the season, the first in Giants franchise history in order to fill out the set. For Giants fans, this set is, of course, absolutely essential. For everyone else. . .well, at least it is better than last year's set.

TOTAL RECALL (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): As uber-hack Len Wiseman is to crackpot cinematic genius Paul Verhoeven, so is Wiseman's tedious adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" to the still-memorable 1990 version offered up by Verhoeven. In this take on the story of a seemingly ordinary factory drone who may indeed be the super-spy of his fantasies after all, Colin Farrell plays Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jessica Biel plays Rachel Ticotin, Kate Beckinsale plays Sharon Stone, Bryan Cranston plays Ronny Cox and the movie plays viewers for fools with a noisy and insipid saga that remembers to include the three-breasted hooker from Verhoeven's version but fails to include the wit, excitement and legitimately clever narrative that he also deployed so successfully. On the DVD package, one Andrew Freund from MySpace calls this version "Better Than The Original!" Needless to say, Andrew Freund is as wrong about this movie as the movie is itself.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Also known as the second-most-embarrassing thing in 2012 to feature Clint Eastwood, the venerable icon stars as an aging baseball scout who, upon being threatened with forced retirement (the young punks in the front office want to get rid of him just because he is way past retirement age and losing his eyesight), winds up bringing estranged daughter Amy Adams along on a crucial scouting trip that allows them to come to terms with things. Clearly one of those one-off movies that Eastwood knocks out from time to time just to keep busy (the directing credit may go to longtime Eastwood associate Rob Lorenz but there is no question as to who is the one in charge), this film squanders a potentially promising idea and a game cast (which also includes Justin Timberlake as a rival scout with dreams of one day being an announcer) on a story that meanders aimlessly only to go bizarrely dark in the final reels before its fairly shameless conclusion. I guess that if I had to rank it, I would place it slightly above the atrocious likes of "Gran Torino" but not that much higher.

THE WORDS (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Bradley Cooper stars as a struggling writer who comes across a brilliant unpublished manuscript that someone else wrote, passes it off as his own work to enormous critical and commercial success and is eventually forced to confront the consequences of his actions. It is clear from every single achingly sincere moment that everyone involved was convinced that they were making some profound statement on the human condition and that only makes the end result all the more embarrassing for this is a tedious and pretentious bore from start to finish that not even a talented cast (including Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde) can rescue from terminal mediocrity.


DEATH SHIP (Scorpion Releasing. $26.95)

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98):

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (Warner Home Video. $34.99)

LIBERAL ARTS (MPI Home Entertainment. $24.98)

LOST HORIZON (Twilight TIme. $32.95 )

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (Shout! Factory. $19.97)

RED HOOK SUMMER (Image Entertainment. $27.97)

SLEEPWALK WITH ME (MPI Home Entertainment. $24.98)

SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION (Shout! Factory. $19.97)

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originally posted: 12/31/12 12:28:09
last updated: 12/31/12 14:06:52
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