Buried – Ryan Reynolds pulls off an impressive one-man show as an American contractor stuck in an undisclosed location in the Middle East, buried alive in a box. With a cell phone at his disposal, Reynolds frantically makes calls to family, friends and government officials in order to try to save himself. A sharp, well-executed cinematic experiment, Buried rises well above the level of schlock you might expect. The Blu-ray/DVD combo is light on extras.
Animal Kingdom – A superb Aussie mob film with airtight storytelling and impressive acting from a cast led by Guy Pearce, Animal Kingdom sucks you into its Down Under underworld with aplomb. It’s the tale of a young buck who finds himself sucked into a sticky web of backstabbing, double crosses, extortion and murder. Filmmaker commentary and an hourlong making-of documentary lead the slate of extras.
Death Race 2 – The world needs another Death Race movie as much as it needs another Black Eyed Peas single, but here it is anyway. Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames and Sean Bean make up the decidedly C-list cast, in a nonsensical demolition derby of nothingness that makes the idiotic first film seem as thoughtful as Gosford Park in comparison. It’s nice that the Blu-ray/digital copy combo pack is stacked with deleted scenes and several silly but well-intentioned featurettes that are at least as entertaining as the movie itself.
Jack Goes Boating – Philip Seymour Hoffman is master of the sad-sack indie-film loner character – John Candy with smaller budgets and no laughs. In his latest character study, he plays a limousine driver who’s into reggae and serves as a miserable third wheel to his married best friends. He finds a chance for redemption in a woman (Amy Ryan) his pals set him up with, but Jack has a way of screwing up everything he touches. The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and a featurette about how the film was adapted from a play.
Paper Man – Ryan Reynolds tries his darndest to lose his Sexiest Man Alive distinction by playing a creepy platinum-haired tights-wearing superhero who is a figment of the imagination of a struggling writer (Jeff Daniels). The Daniels character begins an unseemly friendship with his babysitter (Emma Stone) as he stumbles to regain his voice. The disjointed plot never quite clicks, and had me constantly rolling my eyes. The extras are as weak as the movie.
Raging Bull Blu-ray – Martin Scorsese’s 1980 opus on the troubled life of boxer Jake La Motta is a year late for a 30th anniversary treatment, but its second round on Blu-ray is a vast improvement over the previous bare-bones release. In what’s probably Robert De Niro’s finest performance, La Motta is an entrancingly imploding mess to behold as he allows himself to be consumed by the rage and fear that lifted him to fame. The Blu-ray/DVD combo boasts four new HD featurettes, including a look at the long-enduring De Niro/Scorsese partnership.
The Virginity Hit – It’s telling that the movie is released only on DVD and not Blu-ray. The studio has little confidence in the ill-conceived comedy, and for good reason. It’s yet another stab at the tired tale of a high schooler desperate to lose his virginity, unique because it’s told as a series of YouTube-style clips. The device wears thin and grows increasingly threadbare, as the videos become more contrived. Well-intentioned but annoying, I’d advise you to steer clear of the wreck. Filmmaker commentary and audition videos are included.
Stone – Edward Norton slips squarely back into Primal Fear mode, hamming it up as an off-kilter arsonist who haunts the life of a parole officer played by Robert De Niro. A saucy Milla Jovovich plays the Norton’s temptress wife, who helps her husband convince De Niro to get him out of jail. The resulting lust triangle is involving, if cheesy. There are hardly any extras on the disc.