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Lisa Miler, Lake Tahoe Action figure



* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Roger Donaldson

Starring Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, Harold Perrineau, January Jones

Anchor Bay//Rated R//Thriller//105 minutes

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

This conspiracy thriller is surprisingly credible and features the best Nicolas Cage performance in years. Following his wife’s (Jones) brutal rape, English teacher Will Gerard (Cage), accepts the sort of offer you can’t refuse from a stranger named Simon, played by Guy Pearce who talks softly and sports a shaved head. In return for a favor from Gerard at some future date, Simon’s organization will kill the culprit. The next day Gerard receives proof the perpetrator is dead. Six months later, Gerard and his wife are beginning to put the attack behind them when Simon comes a calling. Gerard is ready to pass clandestine messages, but he isn’t prepared to carry out a revenge killing. When Gerard is caught in the crossfire, he’s obliged to run from both Simon and the cops. Well-acted and exquisitely paced, the film’s impact depends upon whether or not you buy into Gerard’s actions. Kicking his usually crazy mode to the curb, Cage made me believe. DVD or Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: Making of featurette, English or Spanish language tracks and subtitles.



* * * (B)

Directed by Asger Leth

Starring Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Edward Burns, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick

Summit Entertainment//Rated PG-13//Thriller//102 minutes

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

This sleeper thriller benefits from a sneaky plot and excellent performances by Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Burns. Worthington appears as Nick Cassidy, a cop framed for stealing a $40 million diamond from cutthroat businessman David Englander (Ed Harris). Aware Englander has half the NYPD in his pocket, Cassidy takes to a 21-story ledge and threatens to jump unless the cops produce the only negotiator he feels he can trust — played by Banks. As she attempts to talk Nick down, we see a parallel plot unfold in the building next door. Putting this jigsaw puzzle together is fun, and infuriating because the film vacillates between the reality of Nick’s predicament, but are assaulted by a “Mission Impossible” meets hip-hop, hyper-reality of the film’s secondary plotline. Nick’s persuasive ledge scenes make you want to give yourself over, however imperfect the story may be. The included “Ledge” feature is not to be missed. It details the three sets necessary to shoot these scenes, including an actual 21-story ledge where Worthington, who suffers from a fear of heights, shot some of his scenes. Don’t even think about it. DVD or Blu-ray features: “The Ledge” Featurette, trailer with Elizabeth Banks’s commentary, English or Spanish language tracks, and subtitles, widescreen.



*1/2 (C-)

Directed By Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Starring Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert

Sony//Rated PG-13//Fantasy, Action//95 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, on demand, digital download

Cage long sought a superhero role to place his own stamp upon, and found a bizarre one in Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. By day Blaze is a stunt motorcycle rider, but when duty calls, he’s transformed into a flaming skeleton, known as the Ghost Rider, atop a tricked out bike from Hell. Blaze’s duo identities are the result of making a deal with the devil who appears in human form as Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), busily converting the vulnerable to serve his purpose. When we meet Blaze, he’s in hiding to avoid fulfilling his contract as Satan’s bounty hunter. When he learns of the plight of pretty Nadya (Violante Placido), whose son was promised to the devil, Blaze is sympathetic and determined to help. Nadya and her son are protected by an ancient order of monks who shelter the woman and her son Danny (Fergus Riordan) in their wine cellar. Golden-eyed Moreau (Idris Elba) rejects his order’s nonviolent philosophy, eschewing rosary beads for a semiautomatic. Because he has been “touched” by Satan, Blaze “senses” the lad’s whereabouts and makes a beeline to intervene on the boy’s behalf. With its frequently incoherent action, this movie relies on rote car chases and Ghost Rider’s fiery visage as points of interest. We’re likely to see more of Ghost Rider since a financially strapped Cage can’t afford to give up this mediocre franchise any time soon. DVD features: Deleted scenes, English or French language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray features same plus: Director’s expanded video commentary, The Path to Vengeance: six-part documentary, Catalan, English, French or Spanish language tracks and subtitles. 3D Blu-ray features same plus: film on both 2D and 3D, Riding into another dimension: 3D featurette.



*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry

Warner Bros.//Rated PG-13//Action//128 minutes

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

Guy Ritchie’s second go at Sherlock Holmes overflows with frenetic action, jumbled plotting, bickering characters and trick photography. Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes as part hooligan and part arrogant boor. Our deductive friend is imagined as a master of martial arts. The film’s gimmick has him foresee precisely how he will defeat his opponents. Each of a half-dozen visions is followed by the actual fight, repeated precisely as he imagined. As the story opens, a disguised Holmes tracks down feisty love interest Irene (Rachel McAdams), to warn her that working with master criminal Moriarty (Jared Harris) is perilous. The detective is more concerned with the inconvenient nuptials of his only friend Dr. Watson (Jude Law), and Holmes does what he can to sabotage the wedding. At Watson’s stage party, Holmes ensures his friend gets drunk as a sailor on leave, delivering Watson to the altar at the last possible moment. Once the ceremony is over, Holmes literally shoves the bride aside to enlist Watson’s help saving the world from Moriarty. He no longer possesses the powers of deductive reasoning that inform his superior intellect until well after the fact when the detective announces aspects of the story the action is unable to convey. The climactic final 20 minutes lift the action from London’s mean streets to Britain’s corridors of power. It’s an improvement, but there’s not much Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this Sherlock Holmes. DVD features: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry, Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed, Holmesavision on Steroids, UltraViolet Digital Copy of film, English, Spanish and French language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Maximum Movie Mode: Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes – Hosted by Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes: Under the Gypsy Spell, Meet Mycroft Holmes, Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine, English, Spanish, French and Thai language tracks, Korean, Chinese and Indonesian subtitles.



* * * (B)

Directed by Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh

Starring Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, Alexander Asefa, Chief Dave, Lt. Rorke, Jason Cottle

Relativity Media//Rated R//Action//101 minutes

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

The harrowing action of “Act of Valor” nearly makes you forget that acting falls outside the job description of the real-life SEALs cast in this film. Originally intended for recruitment, “Act of Valor,” directed by stunt men Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, is a pro-democracy, pro-heroism feature presentation. While some take umbrage with its “go America” attitude, the real controversy stems from the Pentagon’s demand that studios and filmmakers grant the Pentagon line-by-line editing power in exchange for filming either U.S. Military equipment or military personnel. Though an infuriating First Amendment issue, the problem is practically nonexistent in “Act of Valor,” a film proudly wearing its stars and stripes on its sleeve. The filmmakers claim that casting active-duty SEALs meant agreeing to their terms, including the use of live ammunition and realistic missions. The world of covert ops and methods used to gather intelligence, are fascinating subjects realistically addressed by this fictional mission. Though the film falls short of great, it details the scant bits of information used to ferret out threats of terrorism. Thrilling action! DVD features: Director’s Commentary, 6 Deleted Scenes, English or Spanish language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray features same plus: Interviews with the 7 Navy SEALs, Featurettes: Making Of, Real Bullets, Real SEALs Real Tactics, Silent Warriors, “For You” Music Video by Keith Urban, Making of the Music Video, Director’s Intro.



* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Polly Walker, Ciaran Hinds

Voiced by Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Samantha Morton

Disney//Rated PG-13//Sci-Fi//132 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D/DVD Combo Pack, on demand, digital download

This Edgar Rice Burroughs’ saga, blends the western genre, science fiction and a sandals-and-toga fantasy. A new approach when published a century ago, by current standards Burroughs’ concept is dated. When we meet John Carter (a serviceable Taylor Kitsch), he’s an embittered Civil War veteran mining a rich vein of ore, located in an Arizona Territory cave. The relatively humorous opening establishes a perfect tone, but as the story continues, it grows increasingly serious. While fleeing government agents, Carter is transported to Barsoom, better known to us as Mars. The planet’s low gravity affords John superhuman strength and finds him the best high jumper in the solar system. He is spotted by Tars Tarkas, a 9-foot-tall Thark warrior leader, played by Willem Dafoe. Tharks are humanoids equipped with an extra set of arms and mandibular tusks. Domination of the planet is contested by two opposing red-skinned groups of the humanoid persuasion. Leading one faction, Sab Than (Dominic West) promises peace in exchange for marrying the opposition’s princess, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Carter joins the battle, and falls for the strong, morally superior princess. The melodrama might be intolerable if not for Burroughs’s creatures fleshed out in CGI. Barsoom is home to a dinosaur-salamander hybrid that functions as a domesticated dog, imaginative beasts of burden and huge gladiatorial white apes bearing little resemblance to their namesakes. A superior race of humanlike Therns are worshipped as gods, but are untrustworthy. Burroughs wrote many sequels, but since this adaptation took in just $32 million above its $250-million-dollar budget, this could be Carter’s last hurrah. DVD features: filmmaker commentary, 100 Years in the Making featurette, English, French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack or Blu-ray 3D/DVD Combo Pack, features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, John Carter’s journal with innovative in-world experience, 360 Degrees Of John Carter – every aspect of the filmmaking process on one of the movie’s biggest production days, Deleted Scenes With Optional Director Commentary, Barsoom Bloopers.



*1/2 (C-)

Directed by Brad Peyton

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman

New Line Cinema//Rated PG//Action//94 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D/DVD Combo Pack, on demand, digital download

Sean (Josh Hutcherson, reprises his role from 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”). He is looking for his missing grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine) when he finds an encrypted message he believes reveals Grandpa’s location on an unchartered island. Sean’s step dad, the saintly Hank (Dwayne Johnson), is an award-winning cryptographer able to decode the message. He is drawn into the search, over objections voiced by Sean’s mom (Kristin Davis). Hank hires hapless helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman), and the pilot’s daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to fly himself and Sean to the island. Their arrival opens promisingly as they disturb the egg clutch of a giant mama lizard and are subsequently rescued by Grandfather Alexander. The story defies logic with tiny island-dwelling elephants and elephant-sized bees that have discovered this niche on a landmass that spends 70 years of each 140, underwater. Urgently, when Sean and Hank arrives, the island is due to sink in a mere 48 hours. Their race over jagged terrain, and around an erupting volcano spewing pure gold, is enabled by giant honey bees. In the interest of being entertained we willingly forgive much, but “The Rock” can’t carry off a bouncing pectoral muscles joke, or massacring “It’s a Wonderful World.” None of this prevents Sean, Hank and Grandfather Alexander from finally bonding, but in an ideal world this lackluster effort would end any further plundering of Mr. Verne’s novels. DVD features: Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, English, French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray 3D/DVD Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack, feature same plus: Interactive Adventure guided by star Josh Hutcherson, including riding on Giant Bees and outsmarting a Hungry Mama Lizard, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese language tracks, Cantonese, Complex Chinese and Korean subtitles.



* * * (B)

Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Robert Patrick, Vera Farmiga

Universal//Rated R//Action//115 minutes

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

Matt Weston (Reynolds) is a rookie CIA Agent who feels he’s languishing as the keeper of a South African safe house — that is until renegade agent Tobin Frost (Washington), is stashed there prior to a debriefing. Frost, an infamous seller of secrets and armaments, possesses information the government plans to exchange for granting him immunity. However, before Frost’s interrogators arrive, the house is attacked by professional assassins whom Weston and Frost barely escape. Realizing they’ve been betrayed, the pair must rely on one another until they can locate the mole. Denzel is at his best as an ambiguous bad guy, displaying credible chemistry with Reynolds who is rises above his “Green Lantern” debacle, to be surprisingly effective here. DVD features: Making Safe House, Hand-to-hand action, Building the Rooftop Chase, Inside the CIA, English, French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.



* * (C)

Created by Michael Sardo

Starring Sarah Shahi, Michael Trucco, Baron Vaughn, Virginia Williams

Universal//Not Rated//Drama//438 minutes

Available on: DVD, on demand, digital download

“Fairly Legal’s” first season was released to home video just as season two wrapped up. The show chronicles the tribulations of Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi), an ex-attorney working as a mediator at her father’s law firm. She’s still grieving his recent death, as she and Justin (Michael Trucco), her soon-to-be ex, navigate an on-and-off-again romance. Though he’s an Assistant DA presumably snowed with clients, he has time to helps Kate circumvent the legal system, and complains of her busy work-life. Her smart-mouthed assistant Leonardo (Baron Vaughn) helps Kate juggle too many balls. He’s a treasure. Not only does he keep her clients appeased, he provides this drama with much-needed laughs. Life would be pretty good if not for Kate’s meanish stepmother and new boss, Lauren (Virginia Williams). Each episode features Kate handling one or two cases while defying orders to resolve things her way. She’s constantly late and says inappropriate things to the wrong people, but demonstrates an understanding of what will best serve her clients. The format puts melodrama front and center, but her problems are the classy sort that lack urgency. It’s too bad since she’s an appealing character and mediation could be a fascinating topic. 3-Disc DVD features: deleted scenes, episode commentaries, scene comparisons, gag reel.



* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring Spalding Gray

Criterion Collection//Not Rated//Comedy//79 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Writer, storyteller and actor, Spalding Gray, confronts his demons about aging, and his obsessive need to feel in control, in this hilarious dramatic monologue. Middle-aged Gray is diagnosed with an eye disease requiring corrective surgery. Fearful of going under the knife, Gray searches for alternative cures. These run the gamut and span the globe, from a nude, Native American sweat ceremony, to visiting the Brazilian “Elvis” of psychic surgery, to a regimen of raw vegetables prescribed by a nutritionist-ophthalmologist. Gray’s outrageous comic descriptions are enhanced by director Soderbergh’s dramatic, rhythmic camera and lighting effects. The author’s cathartic and biographical journey provides perspective on our physical nature, and our ability to choose life affirming attitudes. Blu-ray features: New high definition digital transfer, supervised by director Steven Soderbergh, New interviews with Soderbergh and cowriter Renee Shafransky, A Personal History of the American Theater, a monologue by Spalding Gray, Theatrical trailer, booklet featuring an essay by film critic Amy Taubin.



* *1/2 (B-)

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh, Jonathan Kaplan

Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame

Warner//Rated R//Comedy//88 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download

When three high school seniors throw an epic birthday bash in an effort to put nerd-dom in the rear view mirror, their plans quickly spiral out of control. Shot home video-style, the film chronicles the insanity of extending plus one invites to all the popular kids thinking few will show up (Dad’s car and swimming pool are just two of the casualties). Their popularity, and chances with girls on the line, the three youths try reasoning with revelers, to no avail. Meanwhile, unable to believe his boy could host such an obnoxious party, the lad’s out-of-town dad accuses his cell-phone calling neighbors of wildly exaggerating the mayhem. Starring virtual unknowns, the film is produced by Todd Phillips (of “The Hangover”), who knows his way around male-bonding rituals gone awry. DVD features: Project X: Pasadena Three making-of featurette, English, French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles. Blu-ray features same plus: Project Xpensive: Tallying Up The Damages, Project X: Declassified: the stunts behind-the-scenes.

ERIN BROCKOVICH: Universal’s 100th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring Julia Roberts, Albert Finney

Universal//Rated R/Drama//132 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

Julia Roberts earned a record payday for a female lead when this film was released in 2000. She brings real-life crusader, Erin Brokovich to life with a mixture of warmth and don’t-mess-with-me attitude. Lacking either polish or pedigree, twice-divorced Brockovich finds herself a single mother of three. She browbeats the attorney (Albert Finney), who loses her personal injury case, into hiring her as his legal assistant. She proves her worth through dedicated investigation and by memorizing thousands of pertinent facts and figures regarding PG&E’s wrongdoing in a water contamination case injuring more than 600 plaintiffs. Though Brokovich becomes emotionally involved in her cases, she desperately wants respect, and delivers a tongue-lashing to anyone underestimating the brains that lurk beneath her Hollywood-trash wardrobe. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: Deleted scenes with director commentary, Making-of featurette, Erin Brockovich: A look at a real-life experience, 100 Years of Universal: Academy Award winners, 100 Years of Universal: The lot, Theatrical trailer, English or French language tracks and subtitles.

THE STING: Universal’s 100th Anniversary Collector’s Series


* * * * (A)

Directed by George Roy Hill

Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw

Universal//Rated PG//Drama, Comedy//130 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

This tale of the big con generates surprise humor and tension over the course of four set pieces. Shaw appears as the villain you love to hate, set up by Gondoroff and Hooker (Newman and Redford), a pair of charismatic grifters you can’t help but love. The con men have joined forces to avenge the murder of a mutual friend by stripping Shaw’s character of the one thing he cares about — money. A favorite scene finds Newman excelling in burlesque, yet subtle comedy when he poses as a drunken, high stakes poker player. The gambit earns laughs while establishing Hooker as an accomplished card cheat. Family friendly, this classic Oscar Winner has timeless style. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Features: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, The Art of The Sting: 3-part documentary featuring Interviews with Robert Redford and Paul Newman, 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics, 100 Years of Universal: The ’70s – A look at Universal’s iconic movies and filmmakers during this dynamic decade, 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, Behind-the-scenes look at the movie magic created on the famous Universal Studios lot, Theatrical Trailer, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles.

Also Out



Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass.

Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong

Paramount//Rated //Comedy//82 minutes

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

Jason Segel portrays a thirty-something slacker — still living at home while seeking the meaning of life. Ed Helms appears as his slightly more accomplished older brother and Susan Sarandon takes on the role of their long-suffering mom. DVD features: English, French or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: UltraViolet, digital copy, Portuguese language tracks and subtitles.

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