Out on Blu-ray/DVD
* * (C)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe
Universal//Rated PG-13//Comedy//105 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
This ensemble production trades plausibility for a shot at winning a congeniality award. Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, building manager of a Trump-like Tower. His daily pep talk to staff reminds them that security and service distinguish the building and apartments starting at $5 million. Kovacs practices what he preaches by anticipating residents' needs, especially those of investment guru, Arthur Shaw (an appropriately smarmy Alan Alda). Kovacs is horrified when the FBI arrests Shaw for defrauding investors because Shaw handled the Tower employee pension fund. Sympathetic FBI agent Claire Denham (Tea Leone), tells Kovacs she believes $20 million dollars is stashed in Shaw's apartment. Remembering Shaw's hidden safe, Kovacs hatches a plan. He enlists the help of his criminal neighbor Slide (Eddie Murphy), unaware the petty thief knows nothing about safecracking. Murphy bluffs his way in, ordering Kovacs and crew to each steal $50 worth of merchandise from a local mall. Kovacs also recruits a failed stock trader (Matthew Broderick), the Tower's concierge (Casey Affleck), and a Tower new-hire, played by Michael Pena. Kovacs finds a real safecracker in Tower housekeeper Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), the daughter of a Jamaican locksmith. Failing to construct a credible heist, the film relies on humorous set pieces, broadly sketched comedy and heartrending snippets meant to make its larcenous characters appear more sympathetic. The male characters come off as dim and dimmer, though Sidibe's self-possessed housekeeper, is a truth-telling riot and Tea Leoni's FBI Agent steals the movie with her hilarious drunk scene. DVD features: Two Alternate Endings, Deleted & Alternate Scenes, Gag Reel, Plotting Tower Heist in three acts, Commentary with director Brett Ratner, editor Mark Helfrich and cowriters Ted Griffin & Jeff Nathanson. Blu-ray features same plus: Director's Video Diary, U-Control: Picture-in-Picture & The Music, pocket BLU App, Advanced Remote Control, Video Timeline, Mobile-To-Go, Universal's Second Screen interactive viewing experience, Flick View: Behind the Scenes, Storyboards, and Soundtrack.
PUSS IN BOOTS
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Chris Miller
Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris
Paramount/Dreamworks//Rated PG//Animated, Family//90 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
In this Shrek spin-off, Puss in Boots receives both an origin story and his own adventure. A successful outlaw and notorious Don Juan, Puss re-teams with his childhood best friend, Humpty Dumpty (Galifianakis) to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill (Thornton and Sedaris), in order to climb the beanstalk and kidnap the goose that lays the golden eggs. Joining the pair is Kitty Softpaws, a de-clawed femme fatale cooed by Hayek. Family-friendly visual gags abound, and while the film lives up to its 3D pedigree, it falls somewhat short on plot. DVD features: The Voices Behind the Legends, Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, The Three Diablos: All-new Puss adventure, Interviews with the cast and creators, Glitter Box Dance Off!, Klepto Kitty, Kitty Keyboard, Fairytale Pop-Up Book, Kitty Strikes Again game, CATivities (DVD-ROM), Printables. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film and special features on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy Pack. The Animators' Corner with creators, animators, cast and crew, Create your own custom fairytale, Puss' Paw Pouncing Challenge, Trivia Track.
DOWNTON ABBEY: Series 2
* * *1/2 (A-)
Created by Julian Fellowes
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Iain Glen, and Zoe Boyle
PBS Video//Not Rated//Drama//540 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
The second season finds the Crawley family and their servants, deeply effected by World War I. Hugh Bonneville appears as the Earl of Grantham, while McGovern portrays his monied American wife. Maggie Smith is a treasure as the family dowager, and a master manipulator. Much like "Upstairs Downstairs," the servants lay claim to the most compelling dramas. The second season unfolds during 1919 and 1920, a period beautifully recreated in the Crawley mansion, vehicles and fashions that change abruptly as the war ends. Writer/Director Julian Fellowes captures an era when females were disinherited in favor of males, and judged more harshly for their missteps. The one major flaw finds the eldest Crawley daughter conveniently smitten with her cousin, a handsome dullard poised to inherit her father's title and the family estate. Camouflaged as a special feature, "Christmas at Downton Abbey" is actually an unlisted, ninth episode. 3-Disc DVD or Blu-ray features: Fashion & Uniforms, Romance in a Time of War, House to Hospital.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - Part 1
* * * (B)
Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene
Summit Entertainment//Rated PG-13//Fantasy//117 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Digital Download and On Demand
As director of Part 1 of two films drawn from Stephanie Meyer's final book, Bill Condon demonstrates an understanding of achy-breaky material. Bella Swan, the 18-year-old heroine played by Kristen Stewart, marries her chivalrous young man, vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). She accepts she must ultimately be "turned," but insists on consummating their love while she remains human. Edward fears sexual contact under these conditions, because vampires become unpredictable creatures during lovemaking. Bella survives their encounter, but is impregnated with Edward's offspring. Unwilling to endanger her hybrid fetus, Bella refuses to be "turned" although the pregnancy is killing her day by day. Edward enlists the help Bella's also-ran boyfriend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) in persuading her to abort. It's a fool's errand, but Jacob longs to be near her, and is determined to protect her from werewolves, members of his own Indian tribe who want Bella and her unborn child killed. Holed up at the remote Cullen family home, Edward and Jacob form a strong alliance. Though tragedy looms, the trio holds fast to their belief that love is all that matters. They pop, sizzle and burn. Bring on Part II. 2-Disc DVD or Blu-ray features: 6-part Making-of Documentary Wedding Video, Jacob's Destiny, Edward Fast Forward, Jacob Fast Forward, Director Commentary.
* * (C)
Directed by Andrew Niccol
Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Johnny Galecki, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer, Johnny Galecki, Yaya DaCosta, Alex Pettyfer
Fox//Rated PG-13//Science Fiction//110 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
In writer-director Andrew Niccol's dystopian future, everyone remains 25 years old indefinitely. A neon-numbered lifeclock is embedded in each person's forearm. From the age of 25 on, all added time is either earned or inherited. Should the clock run out, its wearer will die. Time is currency, holding the poor hostage to low wages and rising prices. In the Dayton ghetto, "Timekeepers" track down and punish time thieves. Here, 28-year-old Will Salas, scrapes by with his 50-year-old mother (a dewy Olivia Wilde). Meanwhile the wealthy while away their time away in rarefied bastions where only an accident or theft of time, can take their lives. When rich boy Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) goes slumming in a Dayton tavern, Salas's conscience prompts him to protect the man from time thiefs. Hamilton is there to commit suicide, but before he does, he gives Salas a hundred years of surplus time. This windfall brings Salas to the attention of suspicious timekeeper, Raymond Leon (a chilling Cillian Murphy). Salas escapes to the wealthy district, where he is joined by heiress Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), who's eager to bring down her time-rich papa (Vincent Kartheiser). Clocking in at nearly two hours, Niccol's film flies during its first 60 minutes, but thereafter has more time on its hands than it knows what to do with, so it devolves into a predictable chase movie. DVD features: deleted/extended scenes. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, The Minutes featurette, In Time game app.
THE RUM DIARY
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Bruce Robinson
Starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Amaury Nolasco
Film District//Rated R//Action//120 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download
Depp plays author Hunter S. Thompson's alter ego, Paul Kemp, as a young writer living in Puerto Rico during the late '50s. Kemp is rooming and partying with a pair of eccentric fellow journalists (Ribisi and Rispoli) when a well-to-do businessman (Eckhart) bribes him to write a flattering piece on the businessman's project aimed at monied tourists. Kemp wishes to remain in the good graces of the businessman's comely girlfriend (Heard), and becomes locked in a battle of conscience versus libido. DVD features: Making-of featurette, The Rum Diary Backstory 45-minute documentary including exclusive footage from 1998 to 2002 of Hunter S. Thompson collaborating on his novel's overdue publication and its long-coming adaptation, previews. Blu-ray features include the same plus BD-Live to stream the theatrical trailer, Sony previews and bonus feature excerpts.
A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS
* * * (B)
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring Kal Penn, John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris
Warner//Rated R//Comedy//90 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and Digital Download
Six movie years have passed in the lives of stoner buds, Harold Lee and Kumar Patel (played by Penn and Cho respectively). Kumar appears to be living responsibly while Harold continues to lay about getting high. The pair is estranged when a package delivery prompts a reunion that results in burning down a Christmas tree that is the pride of Kumar's father-in-law. The buds attempt to replace it before dear old dad finds out, but they are waylaid by out-of-control parties, stoned infants, and other mishaps that reveal nothing of importance has changed. DVD features: Additional scenes. Blu-ray features same plus: Extended cut, Through the Haze with Tom Lennon, Bringing Harold & Kumar Claymation to Life.
LADY AND THE TRAMP: Diamond Edition
* * * (B)
Directed by Hamilton Luske
Disney//Rated G//Animated, Family//76 minutes
Available on: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Disney opens its vaults to release a new edition of the studios 1955 animated feature. Every dog-sponsoring family will recognize both themselves and their best friend in the endearing opening scenes - proving "we don't train them, they train us." The plot revolves around a well-bred cocker spaniel and her admirer, a street-savvy mutt. The story explores dog-psychology, concluding that pet dogs want nothing more than to please their masters. Other pleasures include a pair of marauding Siamese cats singing "We are Sia-me-se if you Ple-ase." Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Never-before-seen deleted scenes, Never-before-heard deleted song, Inside Walt's story meetings, Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad, Making-of featurette, Finding a voice for the cats, Going to the dogs.