Home movies

Home movies

Night at the Museum

New York’s Museum of Natural History comes alive in this grand adventure starring Ben Stiller as the latest in a series of night watchmen, following in the footsteps of old timers Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs and Mickey Rooney. Desperate to hold down a job to impress his son, loser Larry Daley (Stiller) accepts a position as night watchman, unaware that once the doors are shut, history comes to life. The premise allows the filmmakers plenty of opportunities to poke fun at history and historical characters (Robin Williams is Teddy Roosevelt; Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan play miniature gunslingers and Roman leaders) while grounding the outrageous in Stiller’s engaging performance. Lots of fun and laughs, plus a good dose of heart. Two-disc special edition showcases deleted and extended scenes, a hilarious blooper reel, numerous featurettes and commentaries, and a DVD-ROM game. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Smokin’ Aces

When second-rate Las Vegas illusionist Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) decides to squeal on his mob buddies, a $1 million contract on his life attracts numerous gangs of hit men in writer-director Joe Carnahan’s kinetic thriller. Taking his cue from exploitation films of the ’70s, Carnahan piles on the bullets as one eclectic group of killer after another file into Lake Tahoe for a shot at the prize. Flashy cast includes Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta and singer Alicia Keys as one-half of a female hit squad. Don’t blink or you’ll miss something. DVD deals additional scenes and outtakes, plus a special effects reel. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Code Name: The Cleaner

Cedric the Entertainer seems to be having a good time in this OK comedy about a man who wakes up in a world of confusion and deceit. Jake Rodgers (Cedric) has three problems: the dead body in his bed, the suitcase full of money and the fact that he has no idea who he is or how he got there. His hot wife (Nicollette Sheridan) and mysterious assistant (Lucy Liu) claim he is a secret agent involved in a government conspiracy. Nothing is what it seems as Jake tries to piece together his missing memories while dodging bullets and babes. (New Line Home Entertainment)

World Wrestling Entertainment: The New & Improved DX and Mick Foley: Greatest Hits & Misses — A Life in Wrestling (Hardcore Edition)

Fans of Wrestle-Mania can continue the celebration with two new releases. The New & Improved DX chronicles the rise and fall of D-Generation X, fueled by WWE renegades Triple H and Shawn Michaels, who in 2006 turned Vince McMahon’s Raw into their own personal bitch slap. The three-DVD collection includes all the outrageous promotional stunts and feuds, plus clever packaging. Mick Foley: Greatest Hits & Misses is a three-DVD reissue featuring Foley’s greatest matches, handpicked by the man himself. With more than 90 minutes of additional DVD extras, the collection includes complete and uncensored bouts from 1993-2006. (WWE Home Video)

Funny Money

Chevy Chase has some funny moments in this comedy based on the British play. Chase plays ac-countant Henry Perkins, who ac-cidentally picks up the wrong briefcase, only to learn it is filled with a $1 million. Jake and his wife Carol (Penelope Ann Miller) can’t believe their good fortune, which goes from bad to worse when the original owners and numerous peripheral characters try to get a piece of the pie. DVD issues featurette, plus poster and still gallery. (Starz)

Home movies

Home movies

The Queen

After the death of Princess Diana, the British monarchy comes under scrutiny when the queen decides to keep the tragedy a personal affair, sparking public outrage. As Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren won a Best Actress Oscar for her understated, seamless performance of a woman caught between honor and country. Directed by Stephen Frears, The Queen does an excellent job of capturing the behind-the-scenes turmoil and heartache faced by the royal family and their supporters. Mirren is especially potent in quiet moments, when her inner dialogue says more than words. Production and historical commentaries serve up additional facts and figures. (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

The Last King of Scotland

The rise and fall of enigmatic monster-dictator Idi Amin is captured by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker in all his intensity in director Kevin Macdonald’s compelling cinematic biography. Whitaker is stunning as he goes from gentle giant to towering tyrant, capturing the imagination and fear of Uganda and of James McAvoy as his personal physician. DVD takes viewers behind the scenes with an informative documentary, a handful of deleted scenes, expressive commentary and a Whitaker featurette. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Notes on a Scandal

Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are riveting as teachers-turned-adversaries in director Richard Eyre’s cinematic pressure cooker. Dench is veteran schoolteacher Barbara, whose acerbic, bitter resignation distances her from other teachers. When young, naive Sheba (Blanchett) ar-rives at the school, Barbara preys on the new teacher. What begins as a desperate plea for friendship develops into a fatal attraction, complicated after Barbara catches Sheba in a compromising situation with a student, giving Barbara the upper hand. Watching these two women engage in a vicious cat-and-mouse game turns melodrama into a delicious thriller. Scandalous DVD extras include observant commentary, traditional featurettes and profiles. (Fox)

The History Boys

A British Dead Poet’s Society, based on Alan Bennett’s award-winning play, starring Richard Griffiths and Stephen Campbell Moore as two very different teachers attempting to prepare their students for university entrance exams. Hector (Griffiths) is flamboyant in his methods, allowing students to apply their lessons to real life, while Irwin (Moore) believes in a more practical lesson plan. Directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George), The History Boys does an outstanding job of dispensing life lessons, forcing the students and their teachers to grow over the semester. Commentary and featurettes are on DVD lesson plan. (Fox)

Deja Vu

A horrific New Orleans ferry explosion piques the interest of federal agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), who suspects terrorism. Coming up with more questions than answers, Carlin is invited to participate in a top secret project where the government can manipulate time. Realizing he can step back in time and stop the attack, Carlin volunteers to be the first test subject. With only a small window of opportunity, Carlin must rely on a potential victim to stop the disaster. Powerhouse performances and breakneck action collide to create an intense ride, complimented by deleted scenes and featurettes on the DVD. (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

The Aura

An epileptic taxidermist schemes to commit the perfect crime, but is unable to execute it. A fortuitous hunting trip opens the door for Espinosa (Ricardo Darin) to fulfill his dream, propelling him into a dangerous world where nothing is what it seems. After accidentally killing a real criminal, Espinosa sees it as fate and steps into the man’s proposed armored-car heist. Argen-tinean director Fabian Bielinsky (Nine Queens) is a master of the slow burn, turning up the heat to see which character will rise like a Phoenix. Darin is superb as a man whose dreams are no match for reality. In Spanish with English subtitles. Featurette and musical montage complete the DVD. (IFC Films/Genius)

I Want My DTV

Now that the studios have exhausted all seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond and M*A*S*H, they are digging deeper into their classic television vaults for some choice DVD collections. Looking for laughs? Program the complete first season of WKRP In Cincinnati (Fox), featuring 22 episodes (plus the infamous “Thanksgiving Turkey” episode), commentaries and featurettes; Bonnie Franklin tackles being a single mom to Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli in the complete first season of Norman Lear’s One Day at a Time (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), 15 episodes plus reunion special; Lear’s favorite leading lady Maude makes her DVD debut, starring Bea Arthur as the outspoken feminist. All 22 episodes from Season 1 are available on four discs (Sony).

Home movies

Home movies

Charlotte’s Web

Magical family film combines live action with CGI to bring the beloved best-selling book to the screen. Julia Roberts is the voice of Charlotte, a spider who helps piglet Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay) hatch a plan to save him from the slaughterhouse. With the help of the barnyard animals and a young girl (Dakota Fanning), Wilbur becomes a celebrity. There is a lot to enjoy in this playful adaptation, which brings out the best in writing, directing and acting. As in Babe, the animals steal the show, and feature the voice talents of Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Buscemi, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, among others. DVD spins up a music video, deleted scenes, gag reel and featurettes. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

The Good Shepherd

Matt Damon delivers a sharp performance as Edward Wilson, one of the founders of the Central Intelligence Agency. Recruited from school, Wilson becomes a covert agent during the end of World War II and remains with the company through his retirement. Director Robert De Niro (who co-stars) and writer Eric Roth take us through the labyrinthine world of espionage and the CIA, showing us how it works and operates, and the people who champion it. Angelina Jolie is on hand as Edward’s trophy wife, while Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, William Hurt and John Turturro lend excellent support as various superiors and allies. A little long in the tooth, The Good Shepherd takes it time to unfold. Once it finds a target, it becomes relentless, as good as any spy thriller. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Children of Men

Despite its dynamic cinematography, there is something off about this futuristic thriller set in London. In the year 2027, and an unexplainable plague has rendered the world sterile. It has been 18 years since the birth of the last baby, so when former radical Theo (Clive Owen) is recruited by an ex-girlfriend to transport secret cargo, he is reluctant. When he learns his mission involves escorting the planet’s only pregnant woman around government and radical roadblocks to safety, he has no choice but to comply. The quest is filled with harrowing conflict and a surprise visit to a former political cartoonist (Michael Caine) with all the answers. DVD expands on the subject with deleted scenes, featurettes and a documentary by director Alfonso Cuaron. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Bobby

Recreating the night Presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968, writer-director Emilio Estevez is to be congratulated for maneuvering all the intricate pieces of this riveting chess game into place for the final checkmate. As with all historical films, the outcome is already known. What makes the film so engaging is watching all the pieces fall into place, the way certain characters make decisions which will alter their lives forever. So much is known about the event, the victim and the assassin that it’s a privilege to meet and greet the peripheral characters who also played important roles in the tragedy. Cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Elijah Wood, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan, Freddy Rodriguez, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Hunt, Sharon Stone and Harry Belafonte. (Weinstein/Genius)

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

Ryan Reynolds takes a powder in this sequel, which finds Taj (Kal Penn) heading off to England’s prestigious Camden University to fulfill his family’s legacy in the Fox and Hound Fraternity. Upon his arrival, Taj is informed he has been assigned to a house of outcasts, and won’t be allowed to pledge. Using the talents he learned from Van Wilder, Taj transforms the ragtag group of misfits into a team intent on taking the coveted Hastings Cup from their rivals. While not as outrageous as the original, The Rise of Taj still manages to entertain and offend. Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes. (Fox)

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