Angels & Demons – Sans the greasy mullet from The Da Vinci Code, Tom Hanks plunges into another three-quarters-baked adaptation of a Dan Brown conspiracy yarn, this one set in the Vatican amid a papal power struggle. Symbolism that goes down easier in the book seems a little stiff on film, but the drama is still a fast-paced lark.
Video game geeks will probably be all over the Blu-ray version because it includes a digital copy that you can play on PlayStation 3s and PSPs, as well as the iPhone and Windows Media player. Many of the extras, especially on the stuffed-to-the-gills Blu-ray, are more interesting than the movie itself, including extensive making-of featurettes and an interview with the artist who creates ambigram symbols.
Funny People – There’s no question this Adam Sandler –Seth Rogen team-up is director Judd Apatow’s least funny and most long-winded effort, but the result is still better than most thinking-fan’s comedies out there. The Sand-man plays a depressive, slightly over-the-hill comic who faces a terminal illness, and Rogen is his wide-eyed personal assistant/joke writer who goes off with him on adventures that last about a half hour too long. Both the Blu-ray and DVD are stacked with extras, including an alternate version of the film, deleted scenes and even clips of Apatow’s high school radio show. The Blu-ray has everything the DVD does and more, including footage of cast members’ individual stand-up acts.
Leon: The Professional – This sleeper 1994 action classic has gradually built up a reputation as one of the best of its decade. Jean Reno stars in the title role as a hard-boiled assassin who takes a 12-year-old orphan (Natalie Portman) under his wing and molds her into a cold-blooded killer. The movie debuts on Blu-ray with a weirdly dated 10-years-later retrospective and an extended version of the movie that adds 23 pulse-pounding minutes.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas Special – Having not aired on TV and only available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD – you can’t even rent this sucker for now – this is sure to be one of the more pirated releases of the year. The gang is in top form in a riotous and disturbing special that runs about the length of two 22-minute episodes strung together, as they look to rekindle their Christmas spirit and discover the idyllic days of Christmas past may not have been as innocent as they remembered. Even with a making-of doc and deleted scenes, this still feels like a light-on-content cash grab, but if you’re as obsessed with this show as I am the special deserves a place on your DVD rack.
Sex, Lies and Videotape – Steven Soderbergh’s joyfully perverse 1989 breakout hit shaped the 1990s indie boom. James Spader stars as a sexually defunct drifter who stays with his old college buddy (Peter Gallagher) and his bored wife (Andie MacDowell). Spader’s character is fascinating for the way he’s shut himself off from human intimacy and can only be aroused through interviewing women on camera about their sex lives. The Blu-ray debut of the movie includes a brilliant commentary with Soderbergh and fellow indie film king Neil LaBute, as well as a roun-up of bizarre deleted scenes.
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