The PhilmGuy's DVD Review: 'Midnight in Paris,' 'Margin Call'

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Dec. 20 2011, Published 8:35 a.m. ET

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In a thriller inspired by La Femme Nikita, The Professional and Kill Bill, Zoë Saldana plays an assassin trained since childhood who is obsessed with tracking down criminal masterminds who murdered her father. While Saldana sizzles and the stuntwork is superb, the plot is a bit rote, with limp dialogue and unsurprising twists. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo includes nothing more than some drab featurettes.

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Dolphin Tale

The fact that this is an inspirational tale starring an animal was more than enough to make me dread watching it, but I was pleased with how the movie fails to bow to convention and sop itself in sentimentality. Based on a true story, the drama follows a struggling sea-life nonprofit (headed by a character played by Harry Connick Jr.) and its efforts to help an injured dolphin swim by convincing it to use a device that attaches to its tail. Ashley Judd pops in as the single mother of a boy who gets caught up in the enterprise. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes a peek at Winter, the dolphin in the movie, as well as deleted scenes and a gag reel.


The Expendables: Extended Director's Cut Blu-ray

You know that poster that got fans of 1980s action flicks all excited? It lies. Many of the dudes on the poster, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, just pop up in cameos. Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li and Jason Statham grab most of the screen time in this film about mercenaries who try to overthrow a dictator. I was hoping for cheesy one-liners, gratuitous explosions and funny references to a cinematic era long passed, but what I got was a dull, plodding film that doesn't get better with the extra material. For those with the ability to sit through it, there's a feature-length making-of documentary in the extras of the Blu-ray/digital copy combo.

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Family Guy: Volume 9

I'll never understand the way Fox chooses to pump out Family Guy discs. Rather than stick with season-by-season releases, the studio releases a flurry of best-of collections. The latest volume includes some choice cuts from seasons 8 and 9. The picks are excellent, but it's not clear why some episodes from the seasons had to be left out. Extras include commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes and an episode of The Cleveland Show.

Owen Wilson
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Margin Call

Capturing the zeitgeist of these times, this West Wing-style drama captures the hours leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore play employees of a massive, doomed investment firm who struggle with the decision whether to protect themselves or their investors as their ship goes down. Much of the finance-speak flew over my head, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the fast-paced film. Filmmaker commentary, deleted scenes and making-of featurettes make up the extras.

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Midnight in Paris

In one of Woody Allen's best efforts in years, Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter who travels to Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her right-wing parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy). Dissatisfied with his relationship, professional accomplishments and the world itself, he begins taking midnight strolls that magically transport him to the Roaring '20s, where he rubs elbows with his literary idols, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Allen pokes fun at the historical figures while paying loving tributes to their personalities and idiosyncrasies. A featurette goes over the film's Cannes Film Festival premiere, but what the movie could have really used is an annotated pop-up trivia track that explained a little backstory on the plethora of great writers and artists that pepper the film.

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Straw Dogs

James Marsden plays a Hollywood screenwriter who goes with his new wife (Kate Bosworth) to her backwoods hometown in the Deep South to sell the home in which she grew up. They hire some of her old friends to do some contracting work, and they terrorize the couple in increasingly bold and disturbing ways. A remake of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 thriller, which starred Dustin Hoffman, Rod Lurie's film equals the original and surpasses it in many ways. Subtle character shading and more convincing motivation for the sordid characters makes up for the performances, which can't match those of the original. Lurie provides an illuminating commentary, and there are four featurettes among the extras.


This tragically overlooked drama is much like last year’s The Fighter, only set in the world of mixed martial arts rather than boxing. Tom Hardy plays a retired Marine who grudgingly accepts coaching from his reformed alcoholic father (Nick Nolte), while Hardy's older brother (Joel Edgerton), a former MMA fighter, is forced back into the arena to make ends meet. Wonderfully written father/son and brotherly love moments bookend the spectacular fights in this powerhouse film. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes a deleted scene, making-of documentary, a gag reel and MMA pointers.


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