Lisa Miller

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April 9, 2012
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Lisa's home video capsules

EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Stephen Daldry

Starring Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, Viola Davis

Warner//Rated PG-13//Drama//129 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

Marked by several touching performances, "Extremely Loud" is an overly ambitious effort to illustrate the devastating aftermath endured by one family in the wake of 9/11. Thomas Horn portrays Oskar, a 9-year-old whose father (Tom Hanks, in flashback), was killed during the World Trade Tower attacks. The story begins in earnest one year later, when Oskar's mother, Linda (a subdued Sandra Bullock), struggles to hold her family together. Hidden in his father's closet, Oskar finds a key and is determined to search out the lock it opens. Newcomer Horn gives an affecting performance, particularly when in the company of his grandmother's elderly tenant, a role played by Max von Sydow and earning an Oscar nomination. Unable to speak, the old man is a match for the lad whose difficulty communicating with unfamiliar people is a longstanding problem. The story, adapted from the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, presents challenges the filmmakers never quite overcome, but this drama benefits from poignant characters pursuing intersecting agendas. DVD features: Finding Oskar Young and newcomer Thomas Horn. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Digital Copy, The artistic challenges of adapting the bestseller with Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and director Stephen Daldry, A 9/11 victim's memorial wall photo with the filmmakers, family members, and Tuesday's Children Volunteers, Max Von Sydow: Dialogues with the Renter.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

(2011)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by David Fincher

Starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson

Sony//Rated R//Thriller//158 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray combo pack

The best thrillers often create paranoid characters unable to tame their suspicious natures. Though this type longs to trust someone their flawed personalities prohibit doing so. They seek a remedy by digging into other people's painful truths while grappling with their own. Author Stieg Larsson, a Swedish magazine journalist who is reflected in the lead male character, completed his trilogy in 2004 then died suddenly from a heart attack at 50 years of age. This film adapts his first, bestselling book. His characters inhabit us while his central mystery exposes the fears and grudges that frequently define family relationships. The series was made into a trilogy of Swedish films, the first released in 2009. Both versions are strong. Daniel Craig is just shy of great as middle-aged Mikael Blomkvist, the magazine journalist-owner sued by the deep-pocket subject of his recent expose. Blomkvist escapes his troubles by accepting an offer from elderly Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a business magnate hoping to solve the 40-year-old murder of his then 16-year-old niece Harriet. Back at the magazine, Blomkvist's partner, editor and married love interest, Erika (Robin Wright) is displeased to be left holding the bag. Harriet's disappearance took place on the family's island where nearly all the suspects (family members) continue to reside. The complexity of the task mounts as Blomkvist, ensconced in a rustic cabin on Vanger's property, learns that many family members no longer speak to one another. He hires Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant, antisocial 23-year-old, to sort through boxes of papers and run down leads. Lisbeth possesses a photographic memory and wields her sexuality as both a weapon and a tonic. The two-and-a-half hour runtime requires viewer commitment to the family's jagged relationships at the heart of this mystery. DVD features: commentary by Fincher. Blu-ray Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, making-of featurettes that examine various aspects of the film.

THE SITTER

(2011)

* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by David Gordon Green

Starring Jonah Hill, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Ari Graynor, J B Smoove, Sam Rockwell, Jessica Hecht

Fox//Rated R//Comedy//81 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

Noah (Jonah Hill), describes himself as the sort of baby sitter who expects to sit on the couch and watch TV while the kids make themselves scarce. An underwritten plot -- dependent on Hill's comedic talents -- may persuade viewers to overlook its numerous implausibilities. College dropout Noah is asked by his single mom (Jessica Hecht), to watch her friend's three kids, thus enabling Mom to go on her first promising date in ages. Jonah takes slacking to a whole new level. His excuses have excuses, but he so readily cops to his failings that it's nearly impossible to condemn him unless you are the spoiled obnoxious cuties Noah must supervise during a night in Hell. When he arrives at his babysitting gig, Noah is introduced to heavily medicated, anxious 13-year-old Slater (Max Records). Noah wouldn't mind if Slater weren't occupying the couch Noah intends to inhabit. Next he meets celebutant-worshipping 8-year-old Blithe (Landry Bender), slathered in rainbow make-up to match her colorful leggings and tutu. Lastly, Noah meets Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), a demolitions-obsessed boy adopted from El Salvador. A fateful phone call prompts Noah to procure cocaine from a manic dealer (Sam Rockwell) -- kids in tow. Noah's plans to make the buy include plundering the cash of a wealthy brat at her over-the-top Bat Mitzvah. Along the way, Noah discovers an amazing ability to connect with children, along with courage he didn't know he possessed. These qualities, combined with humor and honesty, make Noah appealing to a pretty, girl-next-door type who's attentions do wonders for his ego. A slacker's movie, "The Sitter" is about dreams coming true and getting revenge -- without ever breaking a sweat. DVD or Blu-ray features: both rated and unrated cuts of the film, gag reel, short about Jonah Hill.

WAR HORSE

(2011)

* * (C)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup

DreamWorks//Rated PG-13//146 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Director Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" sentimentalizes the effect one remarkable animal has upon many distressed humans. The story is set during the early 20th century, during WWI, unfolding like any romantic drama, but switching star-crossed lovers for a boy and the horse he hearts. Drawn from a childrens novel by Michael Morpurgo, the love story is a fairytale that repeatedly depicts the carnage of battle while placing the horse in terrible peril. British farmer Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) acquires Joey, a 2-year-old horse ill-suited to farmwork, but perfectly suited to his sensitive son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) who trains the leggy animal to come when called. World War I breaks out, and cash-strapped Ted sells Joey to the calvary. The film follows Joey's fading and rising fortunes as he is passed between Brits, Germans and French, tracking the ability of Joey's noble spirit and precocious intelligence to uplift his caregivers. Meanwhile, Albert becomes a soldier, keeping an eye out for his beloved horse. The 2-and-1/2-hour film is a romantic drama in three acts -- mainly dwelling in act two where Joey and Albert endure many tragedies. The expertly recreated scenes are secondary to Spielberg's point that Joey is a better fellow than his human counterparts. DVD features: War Horse: The Look. 2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, War Horse: The Journey Home, An extra's point of view. 4-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack features same plus: Digital copy, A filmmaking journey, Editing & scoring, The Sound of War Horse, Through the producer's lens.

WE BOUGHT A ZOO

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Cameron Crowe

Starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Colin Ford, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning, Patrick Fugit, J.B. Smoove, Angus Macfadyen

Fox//Rated PG//Drama//126 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray/Combo Pack and digital download

This family drama is drawn from Benjamin Mee's memoir, a single dad verging on meltdown after the death of his wife (played in flashback by Stephanie Szosak). Matt Damon appears as Mee, a journalist who quits his job and purchases a dilapidated zoo (that includes a home) in Southern California. His brother (Church) dubs the idea "insane," but Mee's 7-year-old daughter (Jones) is ecstatic. Working with lions, tigers, and bears, Mee and his troubled teen son Dylan (Ford), begin to find common ground, but the cost of caring for dozens of wild animals necessitates selling tickets to the public. However, before doing so he must first make required safety upgrades. Johansson appears as a volunteer animal caretaker, and the sort of woman Mee might love -- once he is redeemed by his work and completes the porcupine enclosure to overcome his prickly situation. DVD features: Commentary with Director Cameron Crowe, Actor J.B. Smoove and Editor Mark Livolsi, It's a Zoo: Behind the Scenes with the Animals. Blu-ray/Combo Pack features same plus: film on both Blu-ray and DVD, Deleted & Extended Scenes, Gag Reel, We Shot a Zoo, Their Happy is Too Loud, The Real Mee, Gallery by Still Photographer Neal Preston, Sneak Peek, Theatrical Trailer.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED

(2011)

PR: * * (C)

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Starring Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate

Voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate, David Cross

Fox//Rated G//Animated//87 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

While taking a tropical cruise, the Chipmunks, and their girl-band friends, the Chipettes, are accidentally swept overboard, only to be marooned on a tropical island. They are followed by their hapless human sponsor Dave (Lee), along with series villain Ian Hawke (Cross) -- the latter decked out in a pelican suit. Dave spends most of the film desperately searching for his charges who have landed on the opposite side of the island. The first two "Chipmunk" movies made $400 million apiece, a figure the threequel hopes to equal by placing Alvin and the Chipmunks in survival mode. It's the nuts for the six and under set. DVD and Blu-ray extras include a tongue-in-cheek feature about shooting on location in Hawaii and a "Music & Dance Machine" that allows viewers to skip directly to the musical bits. DVD features: Munk Music & Dance Machine, Munking Movies in Paradise. 2-Disc DVD features same plus: Disc 1: Going Overboard with the Chipmunks, Everybody Munk Now!, Alan Tudyk, Chipmunk Apprentice, Music Videos Sing-a-longs, Fox Movie Channel presents Growing Up Alvin, Fox Movie Channel presents In Character With Jason Lee, Extended Scenes, Promotional Fun, Sneak Peek. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.

EUREKA: Season 4.5

(2011)

* * (C)

Created by Andrew Cosby, Jaime Paglia

Starring Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Erica Cerra, Niall Matter, Joe Morton

Universal//Not Rated//Sci-Fi//439 minutes

Available on: DVD

As before, The SyFy Channel's popular series splits its DVD season into two parts, this set encompassing the second half of season four. The main story arc follows preparations for a mission slated to explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The team behind the effort works at a top-secret scientific research center hidden within the small Oregon town of Eureka. As the center searches for 20 viable astronauts, and rushes to perfect a new, ultra-fast method of space transport, town sheriff Carter (Ferguson) and his scientist soulmate Allison (Richardson-Whitfield), explore their romantic relationship. Likewise, sheriff's deputy Jo (Cerra), and her guy pal Zane (Matter), rekindle their on-and-off romance. Jaw-dropping special effects showcase the disaster of the week (such as spontaneous black holes or renegade nanobots) as writers shoehorn a bit of the through storyline around the lead characters' continued romantic sagas. Though frequently tiresome, the occasional episode sparkles with thrilling twists and bright storytelling. 3-Disc DVD features: Podcast commentary on selected episodes with Co-Creator/Executive Producer Jamie Paglia and Executive Producer Bruce Miller, Deleted and Extended Scenes, The Mythology of Eureka, Holiday Episode: O Little Town..., Gag Reel, Eureka: Season 5 Sneak Peek, Warehouse 13 Crossover Episode: Don't Hate the Player.

CHINATOWN

(1974)

* * * * (A)

Directed by Roman Polanski

Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston

Paramount//Rated R//Drama//131 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

A young Jack Nicholson establishes his appealing screen presence as Jake Gittes, a '30s, smart-mouthed, Los Angeles private detective. Specializing in infidelity cases, Gittes accepts a straightforward assignment that is anything but. He is knifed, beaten, framed and faces a civil lawsuit. Cast as Mrs. Mulwray, Faye Dunaway, at the pinnacle of her career, achieves a depth of character the actress matched only in "Bonnie and Clyde." Monkey-faced John Huston is imposing as Noah Cross, capable of raising tension with an icy glare. Roman Polanski's triumph, ranked 19th on the AFI's 100 best list, is a tale of sexual intrigue and ugliness. Hollywood has given us many good dramas and some fine thrillers, but this masterpiece excels as both. Blu-ray features: Blu-ray Disc features: Commentary by Screenwriter Robert Towne with David Fincher, Water and Power: The Aqueduct - The Aftermath, The River and Beyond, Chinatown: An Appreciation, The Beginning and the End, Filming, The Legacy, Theatrical Trailer.

THE WAR ROOM

(1992)

* * (C)

Directed by Chris Hughes, D.A. Pennebaker

Starring James Carville, George Stephanopoulos

Criterion Collection//Rated PG

Denied access to candidate Bill Clinton, the filmmakers spent eight days living in "The War Room," campaign HQ run by blue-streak-talkin' James Carville and camera shy George Stephanopoulos. Smart as these guys are, their frequently insignificant prattle obscures the nuts and bolts of their winning campaign. DVD features: New, restored high-definition digital transfer, Return of the War Room: 2008 documentary with reflections by advisers James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, and Paul Begala on the effects of the Clinton war room, Making "The War Room": a conversation between the filmmakers, Panel discussion featuring Carville, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, journalist Ron Brownstein, and Bill Clinton, Interview with strategist Stanley Greenberg, booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menand.

TINKER TAILER SOLDIER SPY

(2011)

* * * (B)

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds

Focus Features//Rated R//Thriller// 127 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Adapted from a revered John Le Carre novel, this film centers around retired spy, George Smiley (Oldman), reactivated during the 1970s to catch a KGB mole. Smiley must identify which of four men is a double-agent. The suspects are played by Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik, each camouflaged by high placement within British Intelligence. Presented by the BBC as a 6-hour miniseries, this 2-hour film barely manages to condense the Smiley's complex discoveries and flashbacks into a coherent thriller. Patient viewers are rewarded by a cerebral mystery that holds its cards close to the vest. DVD and Blu-ray features: commentary by the director and Oldman, cast and crew interviews.

THE MUPPETS

(2011)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones

Disney//Rated PG//Family//103 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, digital download and on demand

Muppet-lovers Gary (Segel) and Mary (Adams), go on vacation to Los Angeles, bringing along their friend, wanna-be Muppet, Walter. The group finds the Muppets' L.A. empty and poised to be sold to an oil tycoon with plans to feature his own Moopets. To prevent this travesty, the trio hunts down Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal and the others -- who need $10 million dollars to stop the sale. Since the Muppets have fallen on hard times, they must secure a television slot for their new show by updating their act and persuading TV execs the Muppets are still relevant. Compounding their problems, Kermit is devastated to learn Miss Piggy has found a new beau. DVD features: Blooper Reel. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Making Of The Muppets featurette, Deleted Scenes, A Little Screen Test On the Way To The Read-Through, Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song, Unreleased Theatrical Spoof Trailers, Commentary - With Jason Segel, James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, Disney Intermission when you pause the film.

HOP

(2011)

* * (C)

Directed by Tim Hill

Starring James Marsden, Elizabeth Perkins

Voiced by Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie

Universal Pictures//Rated PG//Animated//96 minutes

Available on: DVD or Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, Digital Download

It was only a matter of time before someone was bound to make a family film starring the Easter Bunny, though we hoped that film would display more wit and charm than can be found here. Animation meets live action as Russell Brand voices E.B., the Easter Bunny's (Laurie) teen son who runs away to become a rock 'n' roll drummer. Needing a place to bunk in Hollywood, E.B. persuades a local (Marsden) to put him up and to help E.B. get to his auditions. Burdened with a hackneyed plot and poor scripting, the only relief for adults is found back on Easter Island, where a flock of fluffy yellow chicks plot to oust the Easter Bunny -- in an amusing segment that mirrors our feelings about this film. DVD features: The World of Hop, Russell Brand: Kid Crack Ups, All Access with Cody Simpson. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both Blu-ray and DVD, digital copy, Emotion in motion: the dance of Ken Daurio, Carlos on Carlos: the Hop premiere according to Carlos Games.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 9, 2012 03:42PM Published Apr 9, 2012 03:40PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.