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New on DVD – December 14, 2010 – The Other Guys and Despicable Me

Bad guys threaten on different comedic fronts: a pair of the worst cops New York’s ever seen fight for respect in the tongue-in-cheek Other Guys, while in the animated spy spoof Despicable Me a Bond-era villain wants to steal the Moon. These and many more films (The Town, The A-Team, Cyrus) are coming to DVD and Blu-ray this last pre-Christmas shopping week.

The Other Guys
The guns-and-wisecracks formula of the buddy-cop movie has been with us longer than many multiplex denizens have existed on this planet, meaning that a genre send-up like Adam McKay’s satire — starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as NYPD wannabes who get their shots at the big time — would have plenty of great material to draw from. Unfortunately, our writer found the film unable to settle “on a comedy identity, flopping from absurd action to screwball comedy to slapstick buffoonery.”

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The idea for this animated comedy is pretty simple: evil villain Gru (voiced creepily by Steve Carell) plots to steal the Moon but is forced to adopt a trio of cute orphans in order to do so. Our critic liked this one well enough, noting that several years ago it would have worked just fine but that in the age of Pixar the “animation bar has been raised, permanently, and Despicable Me misses it by a mile.”

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Narc director Joe Carnahan’s film version of the iconic eighties TV series doesn’t have much time for in-jokes or sly asides; it’s too busy blowing stuff up, and that’s a good thing. Liam Neeson chomps into his role as the leader of a band of ex-military types accused of a crime they didn’t commit who now have to clear their names. Our writer believed the film’s “ditzy rhythm” made for highly enjoyable cinema that “remembers to entertain, albeit in a hilarious, hyperviolent action-flick manner.”

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Director and star Ben Affleck’s second film is a star-studded bank-heist flick set in (where else?) Boston, where a career crook (Affleck) falls in love with his crew’s last hostage and decides that it’s time for the classic One Last Job. Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, and Chris Cooper round out the astounding cast of this “gritty crime noir,” which proves that, while “Ben Affleck has never been a sure thing as an actor,” nevertheless “as a director he’s a solid two for two.”

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3-star-rating.gif
After pushing boundaries with the decidedly adult 300 and Dawn of the Dead, Zach Snyder took on this surprising project: an adaptation of a children’s series about an epic struggle between two bands of owls. Our critic considered the beautiful film a “technical masterpiece” whose story’s center was, however, sadly “emotionally hollow.”

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In this family-friendly sequel, Emma Thompson (who also wrote the screenplay) plays the titular magical nanny — a “spotty old cow with a unibrow, big earlobes, crooked teeth, and a couple of sizable moles on her face” — who comes to restore order to a British family’s house bedeviled by a pair of obnoxious disobedient kids. We thought the film’s “quaint, straightforward desire to amuse” was its “greatest, most glorious attribute.”

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Industry veteran, plastic-surgery cautionary tale, and legendarily caustic comedian Joan Rivers gets a respectful but unvarnished treatment in this documentary about how the 77-year-old is still hustling for a good gig. While mostly following her current work, the film also delves into her beginnings in Greenwich Village clubs and her first flirtations with stardom on Johnny Carson’s show. Our critic wrote that it was a “short and perceptive” work “presented unapologetically and unencumbered by any half-baked notions of sainthood.”

Even though our writer thought that this film about a sad sack (John C. Reilly) whose promising relationship with a beautiful woman (Marisa Tomei) is thwarted by her creepy son (Jonah Hill) “sounds so much like a reshuffled version of several Judd Apatow arrested-development comedies that it’s almost confusing,” it ended up being a quite different kind of comedy that “is too gentle to score satirical points off of these characters and too sweet and honest to launch off into the comedic deep end.”

The newest film from Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet follows the mishaps and misadventures of a permanently bad-luck guy, Bazil (Dany Boon), who gets a bullet shot into his head that can’t be removed without turning him into a vegetable. Afterward, Bazil teams up with a band of miscreants to take revenge on the arms merchants whose wares killed his father and almost killed him. Jeunet’s talents ensure the film’s “technically flawless and creative imagery,” but our writer added that it also “drowns us in an excess of set pieces designed for bizarre amusement, employing mostly physical humor and insane Rube Goldberg contrivances.”

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A stellar cast can’t quite save this meandering ensemble piece from HBO auteur Rodrigo García about three would-be mothers linked by their connection to one Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) and their sizably melodramatic issues with their daughters. Our writer was most impressed with Naomi Watts’s performance but thought that her “fearlessness is never matched by the filmmaking.”

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