I Want My DVD: Tuesday, May 21, 2013

by Ethan Alter May 21, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, May 21, 2013

One of the side effects of Side Effects is sadness that Steven Soderbergh is now one film closer to retirement.

Side Effects
For the penultimate film before his long-promised retirement, the ever-adventurous Steven Soderbergh ventures into De Palma/Polanski territory with the genre-hopping Side Effects. Written by Soderbergh's regular collaborator, Scott Z. Burns, the film begins as a marital drama about an emotionally troubled young woman (Rooney Mara) who turns to a prescription-happy psychiatrist (Jude Law) to provide advice (and pills) to help her through a bout of crippling anxiety that follows the return of her white collar criminal hubby (Channing Tatum) from prison. This section of the film is so gripping and well-acted (particularly by Mara, proving that her breakout role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was no fluke), it's a real shock when the plot makes a hard left turn into thriller territory halfway through. And while there's still a lot of fun to be had with various plot twists and twists-within-twists that constitute the second half, the potent dramatic effect of Side Effects wears off somewhat, particularly after Burns hauls out one of the hoariest clich├ęs in the thriller playbook (one involving the true motivations of another psychiatrist, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) during the climax. While Side Effects may not be top-tier Soderbergh, it still demonstrates many of the qualities that make him one of the finest contemporary directors around and why his presence will be missed from the cinematic landscape. And hey, with his actual final film, Behind the Candelabra, hitting HBO this weekend, he's got one more chance to out on top.
Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette and fake ads for the fictional drugs seen in the movie. Too bad that Soderbergh apparently didn't have the time to record one of his typically erudite and information-packed commentary tracks.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our picks for Steven Soderbergh's five most underrated movies

Beautiful Creatures
Another attempt at launching a popular Twilight-style YA franchise fell short with Beautiful Creatures, adapted from the first installment in the four-part Caster Chronicles. This one trades vampires and werewolves for a coven of witches and the Pacific Northwest for the Deep South. When mysterious new girl Lena (Alice Englert) moves to town, she catches the eye of homegrown hunk Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) who invites himself over to her family's plantation home and learns that she's descended from a line of "Casters" -- i.e. magical folk who "cast" spells for either the virtuous forces of Light or the villainous legions of Dark. On her 16th birthday, Lena herself will have to choose which side she wants to align herself with and everyone from her droll uncle (Jeremy Irons) to her slutty cousin (Emmy Rossum, having the most fun of anyone onscreen) to her evil mama (whose spirit flits from body to body) tries to influence her decision. I'll leave it to fans of the novels to speak to how well or badly the film honors its source material. All I'll say is that after sitting through Beautiful Creatures, I'm not sorry that the movie's box-office failure means we won't be seeing Part 2 of the Caster Chronicles anytime soon.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a trailer for the Margaret Stohl book Icons and six featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

The Last Stand
Stand Up Guys
It was a rough winter for action heroes of a certain age as brawler after brawler fell prey to audience indifference. After taking an extended sabbatical from movie stardom to run an entire state, Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted to get his old job as America's number one action star back via The Last Stand, the High Noon-esque story of a small-town sheriff who defends his community against an escaped drug kingpin and his heavily-armed posse. Directed by South Korean auteur of bloodshed Kim Jee-woon (whose previous credits include I Saw the Devil and A Tale of Two Sisters), Stand has a painfully protracted set-up, further marred by Schwarzenegger's rusty line readings and awkward physical presence. (Sure, he was never a great actor, but this performance is worse than Junior and Hercules in New York combined.) Once the bullets start flying, though, the movie snaps to life, recapturing some of the enjoyably dumb (and entirely politically incorrect) bloody excess of the Austrian Oak's '80s vehicles. Speaking of the '80s, Taylor Hackford's Parker -- which stars Jason Statham as crime novelist Donald E. Westlake's famous anti-hero -- feels like a Cannon Films production transplanted to the present day. And I mean that as (mostly) a compliment. It's a seedy, sordid and straightforward slice of pulp fiction that benefits from its star's naturally gritty screen presence. Even Jennifer Lopez, who plays Parker's inexperienced partner-in-crime, fits neatly into the scenery instead of standing out like a sore thumb. Expect Parker to have a long afterlife as a late night cable staple. On the other hand, Stand Up Guys will and should vanish into obscurity, despite the fact that I features acting legends Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin sharing the frame for the first time. The trio plays former gangsters who reunite for one last night of rabble-rousing and tomfoolery before a rival crook comes calling to collect on an old debt. Watching Stand Up Guys, one gets the sense that all director Fisher Stevens felt he had to do was point the camera at his stars and let them work their magic. While these performers are (often, though not always) individually great, collectively they don't gel all that convincingly; they're acting at each other, not with each other. The terrible script and Stevens's hands-off direction doesn't provide them with much support, either. One could make the case that The Last Stand and particularly Parker deserved to be bigger hits than they were. But audiences were right to give Stand Up Guys the cold shoulder.
Extras: The Last Stand includes a batch of deleted and alternate scenes and four featurettes. Parker comes with a Hackford-anchored commentary track, plus four featurettes. And Stand Up Guys features three featurettes, deleted scenes and a commentary track that should consist of Stevens saying "I'm sorry" over and over again.
Click here to read our original review of The Last Stand
Click here to read our original review of Parker
Click here to read our original review of Stand Up Guys

Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Superheroes Unite
Howl's Moving Castle
My Neighbor Totoro
With the future of their Star Wars animated shorts in doubt due to the Disney takeover, Lego is wisely branching out into other franchises. For example, this feature-length direct-to-DVD cartoon features DC Comics' cast of colorful superheroes, from the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel to the Boy Wonder and the Scarlet Speedster, teaming up to defeat a Lego-ized Legion of Doom consisting of Lex Luthor and the Joker among other baddies. Like the video game that inspired it, the 71-minute film is packed with clever visual and verbal gags derived from DC lore and a light tone that makes it an enjoyable sit for kids and their geeky parents. Of course, to see a true master class in animated entertainment, check out the high-def double bill of My Neighbor Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle, from the mind and pen of anime maestro, Hayao Miyazaki. Originally released in 1988, Totoro remains one of the finest all-ages entertainments from the past three decades, a beautifully animated, charmingly told coming-of-age story about two sisters and the helpful forest spirit who lives in the tree next door. 2004's Castle isn't quite as flawlessly conceived and executed, but it's worth watching for the lush hand-drawn visuals alone. Lego Batman certainly entertains in the moment, but Miyazaki's films are for the ages.
Extras: Lego Batman includes a making-of featurette, a short teaser and bonus episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans. Totoro comes with the original Japanese storyboards and six featurettes, while Castle boasts interviews with Miyazaki and the Pixar-based talent (like John Lasseter and Pete Docter) influenced by his work.

The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics
The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary
Warner Bros. continues to celebrate its 90th anniversary in style, releasing twin volumes of past and present gangster favorites. The four-film "Classics" set is an all black-and-white affair, grouping Edward G. Robinson's Little Caesar and Humphrey Bogart's The Petrified Forest with the James Cagney staples The Public Enemy and White Heat. Though the latter films are the set's crown jewels, Caesar and Forest are great fun, too, both fine examples of the tone and style '30s era genre pictures. The "Contemporary" box, meanwhile, places a trio of Martin Scorsese hits (Mean Street, Goodfellas and The Departed) alongside Michael Mann's Heat and Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Those heavy hitting titles might tempt present-day film buffs to skip the "Classics" in favor of the "Contemporary" but they owe it to themselves to pick up the former as well. After all, it's those period classics that helped pave the way for the contemporary classics.
Extras: Each film is accompanied by extras ranging from featurettes to deleted scenes to commentary tracks. A 32-page booklet with production information and photos is included as an added bonus in both boxes.

Also on DVD:
Cashing in on that Glee brand name while it still means something, Chris Colfer wrote and stars in the dark high school comedy Struck By Lightning, playing an ambitious, obnoxious senior eager to flee his small-minded small town... eager enough to blackmail his classmates into helping him succeed. Loving Tatiana Maslany's dazzling, identity-shifting performance on BBC America's Orphan Black? Check her out in the Canadian comedy, Picture Day. Pell James and Johnathon Schaech headline the haunted house chiller Dark Circles. Camilla Belle hits the road for a journey of -- what else? -- self-discovery in Open Road. The ABCs of Death boasts 26 mini-horror movies, one for each letter of the alphabet. Sadly, only five of them are worth seeing. Shout! Factory continues to give neglected cult horror movies their due, releasing handsome, extras-laden high-def versions of 1976's The Town that Dreaded Sundown and 1981's The Burning. Shout! also gives the Blu-ray treatment to the long-forgotten (for good reason) 1990 version of Captain America, starring Matt Salinger as Marvel's shield-throwing, stars-and-stripes-wearing hero. Could Roger Corman's Fantastic Four be next? Please say yes.

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