"FOUR CHRISTMASES"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand
    and Digital Download November 24
    Check out the official site!

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
This dysfunctional family Christmas story follows Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon), a modern couple living together in San Francisco. They aren’t planning on getting married – a decision partially fueled by the fact that both sets of parents are divorced – or having kids. Every year, to avoid visiting their four different families, they plan a vacation right on Christmas. When their latest vacation is nixed due to fog grounding all the planes in town, their families reach out to them to make a visit. Over the rest of the film, Brad and Kate spend the day celebrating Christmas at four different households.

WHAT I LIKED
I like a good dysfunctional family Christmas movie, like “The Family Stone” a few years back, and “Four Christmases” fits that bill. It’s not filled with holiday cheer, although it does dip its toe into that pond near the end of the film.

For the most part, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon work together as an on-screen couple. They have decent chemistry, and in spite of their considerable size difference, they click better than Vaughn did with someone like Jennifer Aniston. However, when it comes to the cast, it’s the supporting roles that steal the show. Jon Favreau is hilarious as Vaughn’s on-screen brother and the adorable Kristin Chenoweth is great as Witherspoon’s sister. Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenbergen and Jon Voight round out the family as the four parents.

If you’ve had the pleasure of dealing with in-laws (and potential in-laws) over the holidays, you’ll find plenty to laugh at in this film. I can say that I have experienced some of what happens in this movie, in particular when one family plays Taboo. That scene was hilarious to me because it’s happened more than once.

Finally, the ending shot of the film is worth the price of admission as well. I know people who do that. See the film, and you’ll know what I mean.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
At its heart, “Four Christmases” is a romantic comedy, and it plays out like one. So if you don’t want any cheer or hope in your Christmas movies, you’ll want to skip this one. Still, anyone can pick apart this movie as a romantic comedy with its formulaic cliches, but I consider that to be something that goes with the territory.

Also, for parents hoping to find a nice movie to show the family, you’ll want to err on the side of caution with this one. In particular, the film contains a pretty unexpected Santa spoiler, demonstrating that you probably shouldn’t be showing this PG-13 movie to young kids.

DVD FEATURES
The single-disc DVD comes with no special features.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who want to see a dysfunctional family Christmas... or at least four of them.



"TERMINATOR SALVATION"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on DVD December 1
    Visit the Official Site!


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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
John Connor (Christian Bale) is forming a resistance to the machines in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. As he’s working his way up the ranks in the fight against SkyNet, Connor uncovers the development of the cyborg Terminators, which mimic humans with real flesh on their internal metal. Meanwhile, Connor tracks down his own father Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who is only a teenager in 2018, and fights to keep him safe to avoid changing history.

WHAT I LIKED
I was pretty critical of “Terminator Salvation” when it came out in theaters this summer. It wasn’t the greatest movie of the 2009 summer season, and I have to admit that I even dozed off at one point in the film. However, that doesn’t mean it was all bad.

I liked the action in this movie. That’s where director McG soars. He’s not a character-driven director, but I’ll give him credit over his big-budget counterpart Michael Bay. At least McG tries to give us a story. But the story crumbles in light of the action.

The Terminator sequences are what give this film it’s power. Whether we’re talking the destruction of an early model cyborg or fighting against giant robots and self-powered motorcycles, these machines are wicked-cool to watch on the screen. It’s a good thing you don’t need to care about the humans that are fighting them.

There is a cool speculative fiction plot buried in all this action as well. It’s not constructed well, and you have to search to find it. But it might get you to think a little bit... at least until the next explosion.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There are some seriously problems with this movie, and it all goes down to the script, which makes me wonder if this film was one of those casualties of the writer’s strike last year. Even now, I find it hard to recall exactly what was going on because there were so many seemingly unrelated characters and stories.

As good of an actor as Christian Bale is, he is somewhat wasted in this film, left to brood in front of a microphone rather than rise up as the leader of the resistance. Likewise, Bryce Dallas Howard as his wife is also forgettable. Instead, the film rests on the shoulders of Sam Worthington (whom I am still confuses as to why he is the new go-to action movie hero) and Anton Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese. The acting in these moments isn’t exactly terrible, but ultimately forgettable.

The previous pre-apocalyptic “Terminator” movies had me rooting for the humans. This one, however, left me just not caring. Sure there were some cool action sequences and a neat cameo by the Governator (or at least a cameo of his face), but the movie doesn’t hold up together well as a whole.

But hey, at least it’s better than the awful television series that was canceled earlier this year.

DVD FEATURES
The single-disc DVD comes with no special features.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Die-hard “Terminator” fans and anyone who is expecting something worse.



"SHORTS"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Rated PG
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on DVD November 24
    Visit the Official Site!

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the town of Black Falls, where the nefarious Mr. Black runs the show, everyone is beholden to the technology of the all-purpose Black Box. When some kids find a magical wishing rock, they start making wild and crazy wishes – everything from “telephonesis” to an army of crocodiles – and throw the town into a spin. Told in a series of six short films, slightly out of order and from the kids’ point-of-view, we learn how the wishing rock and the Black Box can come together to almost destroy the town.

WHAT I LIKED
There is nothing innovative or brilliant about this movie, and anyone over twelve years old will probably find this movie irritating and annoying. However, if you can get yourself into the right mindset and expect something like “The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl,” you will at least enjoy the movie to a degree.

Robert Rodriguez makes two kinds of movies – gritty action movies for adults and goofy CGI adventures for kids. “Shorts” falls in the latter category, capturing the story-telling feel of a young child. What results is a live-action cartoon with very little logic and a series of sight gags and kid-friendly action. The script relies on silliness and bad puns, going for the gee-whiz factor of super-intelligent crocodiles and giant boogers rather than playing out as a solid story.

But that’s okay... if you’re a kid. I personally can’t stand certain children’s programs – including cartoons like “Chowder” and “The Misadventures of Flapjack” – but they speak to my kids. I took my boys to see “Shorts” in the theaters, and the have since watched the DVD. They love the movie, giant boogers and all. That is who it is made for.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I wasn’t a huge fan of “Spy Kids 3” or “The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl” for the same reasons I wasn’t wild about this movie. They were random and silly, feeling like a poorly scripted Saturday morning cartoon with better special effects. If you’re not a child, there’s a lot to hate on with this film. Chances are, the parents in the audience are going to roll their eyes at the plot jumps, the leaps in logic, the teeth-grindingly bad acting and the overall goofiness of the film. Yes, there’s a lot to criticize, but you’ll find all that coming from the grown-ups in the audience, and it’s not their movie.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD comes with Rodriguez’ standard bonus content installments: “The Ten-Minute Film School” and “The Ten-Minute Cooking School.” In the “Ten-Minute Film School,” Rodriguez covers similar ground he did in his release of “SharkBoy and LavaGirl,” showing how you can use off-the-shelf software and sound effects to make cool home movies with the kids. He also includes his demo teaser for “Shorts” that he shot with his family to help secure funding for the film.

The “Ten-Minute Cooking School” offers a recipe for Chocolate Chip Volcano Cookies, which looks delicious. However, after having made some of his other recipes at home and experienced massive failures, I was suspicious. Sure enough, they tasted great but they did not hold together. All this leads me to think that Rodriguez is a fine filmmaker and a good cook, but he has some real problems writing his own recipes down. (Although I will say that this video spot is adorable with how he lets his young daughter assist in the process. Kudos to him as a family man.)

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Kids and no one else.



"SUPREMAN: THE COMPLETE
ANIMATED SERIES"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on DVD November 24
    Visit the Official Site!

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
After the success of “Batman: The Animated Series,” Warner Bros. animation commissioned a new animated series about “Superman.” Not as dark as the show for the Dark Knight, this mid-1990s series rebooted the story of Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton. Introducing new villains and bringing back some old stand-bys, this modern series brought Superman into the pop culture again.

WHAT I LIKED
While Hollywood’s feature films didn’t quite get how to make a comic book movie until “X-Men” was released in 2000, the animated side of the production studios were making quality adaptations since the early 1990s. The “Batman” series set the bar high at DC, and the “Superman” series rose to the occasion.

This series has more to do with the excellent modern animation we find today from Warner Premiere and Lionsgate (for the Marvel titles) than with the silly and campy productions from the 70s and 80s. In this sense, both “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Batman: The Animated Series” were quite groundbreaking by creating the mold for these modern animated titles.

A Superman purist will appreciate the way the show stays relatively true to the mythos – at least the rebooted mythos form the John Byrne years. The showrunners take some liberties, but these changes turn out to be pretty cool, like giving Brainiac origins on Krypton and Lex Luthor’s creation of Bizarro. There’s also some new characters that play out well, but we still get treated to old classic characters like Darkseid and the Phantom Zone villains.

Things have been updated for the 90s, including a slightly cooler Jimmy Olsen, but for the most part, this is 54 episodes of classic Superman stories. Watching these episodes in a vacuum, you might believe they were made only a few years ago because they help represent the modern excellence of super comic adaptations.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
In a box set of 54 episodes, there’s bound to be some that rub you the wrong way. I tend to take issue with some of the voice cast. Lori Petty as Livewire is cool to a degree, but I’m just not a fan of Lori Petty. Likewise, as hot as Ms. Gsptlsnz (the girlfriend of Mr. Mxyzptlk) is, having her voiced by the thoroughly unattractive Sandra Bernhard just took me out of the moment.

DVD FEATURES
“Superman: The Complete Animated Series” packages together all three seasons from previous releases in a single box set. Each season contains several commentaries by the writers and artists behind the series. There’s multiple making-of featurettes, including spotlights on the development of the series with “Superman: Learning to Fly,” “Building the Mythology: Superman’s Supporting Cast” and a look at the development of the villains in “Menaces of Metropolis.”

There’s a pop-up trivia track on an episode from the first season as well as an excerpt from the “Look, Up in the Sky!” documentary from Bryan Singer’s turn as a Superman director. In season three, David Kaufman, who voices Jimmy Olsen, interviews the show’s creative team, which offers some nice perspective. Finally, there’s a seventh bonus disc that includes the documentary “The Despot Darkseid: A Villain Worthy of Superman,” which examines the origins of Darkseid and how he was designed to be the perfect villain for our hero.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Superman fans, big time.



Watch this clip from "Superman: The Animated Series"




    

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