"HARRY POTTER AND THE
HALF-BLOOD PRINCE"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on Blu-ray, DVD
    and digital download December 8
    Visit the Official Site!

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the sixth film of the popular series, Harry Potter is realizing he lives in a dangerous world where Voldemort and his followers (known quaintly as Death Eaters) are stirring up all sorts of trouble, not just with wizards but also in the muggle world. Harry tries to have a routine year at Hogwarts, which is interrupted periodically by headmaster Dumbledore, who is trying to uncover some mysteries in Voldemort’s past. Dumbledore enlists Harry in this mission to glean information from the new professor, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), and discover the secret to wipe out Voldemort.

WHAT I LIKED
As a fan of the “Harry Potter” films over the years, I have seen them in their ups and their downs. For the longest time, my favorite film in the series was the third film, “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” After a stumble with the fifth film, “The Half-Blood Prince” is easily up there with my favorite.

In this film, things get real. There’s a little bit of high school soap opera going on, and there’s also a little bit of Quidditch to detract from the otherwise heavy story, but things keep on track with this movie. Where the fifth film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” was merely set-up for the finale of the series, this movie starts that finale.

We see a little more of the gray characters of Snape and Dumbledore coming out in this film, and there’s a real sense of dread that weighs things down. All this leads up to a great anticipation for the two-part “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” coming soon to a theater near you.

And while the last film climaxed with some cool wizard battles, this movie opens with them... and has them show up in the middle as well. That’s why I like to watch these films.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
As I said before, there’s a bit of a drag with the teen soap opera happening throughout the film. This is to be expected from a movie like this. It is about teens, after all. Still, these moments work better in the book where the secondary and tertiary characters get more play. Here, they seem more like padding.

Similarly, the Quidditch scenes have always seemed extraneous to me. There’s a bit of this diversion, but ultimately it doesn’t detract too much from the story.

DVD FEATURES
The single-disc DVD comes with no additional special features. If you want something more than the film, splurge for the two-disc set of the Blu-ray.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of the series, ‘cause Lord knows you will be totally confused if you haven’t seen the first five films.



"THE HANGOVER"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated R and Unrated
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on Blu-ray, DVD
    and digital download December 15
    Visit the Official Site!

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Four guys head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party to end all bachelor parties. After a night of raucous drinking and a little unplanned drug use (thanks to some roofies slipped to them by their needy new buddy), they wake up with blinding hangovers and no memory of the night before. They also have lost the groom, whom they need to find before his wedding in Los Angeles the next day.

WHAT I LIKED
Probably what I liked even more than “The Hangover” itself is the success that it had with no A-list stars as well. This movie goes to show Hollywood that you don’t need big names to make a great movie. You need a great movie to make a great movie. The fact that this movie was one of the top grossing films of 2009 with excellent actors with very little star power gives me hope that Hollywood will get the hint that films do not have success by name-power alone.

But getting back to the film, I will say that this is deservedly one of the funniest films out this year. And watching it on DVD gave me more laughs than watching it in the theater alone. Like any good comedy, “The Hangover” got better because I was anticipating the comedy as well.

The cast of the film is fearless, and they throw down for the funny. Ed Helms from “The Office” plays a version of his TV self, but it’s still hilarious with Bradley Cooper’s scoundrel nature to play off of. However, it’s Zach Galifianakis who steals the show as the socially retarded soon-to-be brother-in-law of Justin Bartha’s character.

In many ways, this reminds me of the classic 80s comedy “Bachelor Party.” It has the same theme, and it has the same wacky nature. It doesn’t pull punches, sometimes to the audience’s chagrin, and it is a career-making film for its stars. Check this one out, and you’ll laugh a lot... I guarantee.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The danger of a film like “The Hangover” is that it fails to live up to its hype. Having had a chance to see it in the theaters prior to release, I didn’t worry about that. However, if you’re seeing this film for the first time on DVD, you might want to go in with lower expectation. Without a large audience reacting to the comedy, you might find things a little flat.

Still, it should make you laugh. And it warms the cockles of my heart to know that “Stu’s Song” and “The Three Best Friends” from the soundtrack are officially eligible for Oscars... though they don’t have a chance in hell of winning.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD and the Blu-ray are both available in unrated versions, which aren’t too noticeably different. Still, that doesn’t detract from the funniest moments. The DVD features includes on the theatrical cut, a gag reel, the Dan Band performing “Fame,” an “Action Mash-Up,” the “Three Best Friends” song, a feature commentary, a selection of improv lines from Ken Jeong and about 100 additional photos from the “missing camera” (although none quite as shocking as you’ve already seen in the closing credits).

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of raucous comedies.



"(500) DAYS OF SUMMER"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated R
    Studio: Fox Searchlight

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young greeting card writer who has fallen in love with his co-worker Summer (Zooey Deschanel). After pursuing her for weeks, he succeeds in going out with her. This is the start of a 500-day relationship that is bound for disaster. After all, this film admits right from the start, it’s not a love story.

WHAT I LIKED
(500) Days of Summer was a darling of the critics this year. I can respect it for certain things. For example, it has a very unique way of telling its story, bringing it out of chronological context and treating the audience to some fine non-linear storytelling.

Additionally, there are some pretty neat and innovative ways to present the story. The use of narration is not pedantic or boring, but more whimsical and in tune with some quality storytelling. Several scenes stand out as uniquely constructed, including a sudden dance number after a night of love-making and a split-screen to show what the character anticipates compared to what actually happens.

While I have some problems with the characters, I did find a lot of truth in them. Tom and Summer may not be the most emotionally stable people on the planet, and if they were my friends, I’d have little sympathy for them. However, I do know people like them so their reactions are genuine to a degree.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I have taken a lot of crap from my fellow critics for not really liking this movie. Upon a second viewing on DVD, I liked the characters even worse.

Summer is an emotional cripple who gets in her own way of happiness. She toys with Tom and acts aloof when she wants to avoid problems. Sure, Zooey Deschanel is adorable, but her character isn’t very attractive to me at all.

But Tom is worse. He’s unrealistic and a borderline stalker. He is never really in love with Summer but rather in love with what he wants her to be. She never lies to him about what she wants, but he ignores reality and gets crushed in the process. The dude just needs to get it together. Still, like I said before, he’s not an unrealistic character because I know people exactly like him.

DVD FEATURES
The single-disc DVD only comes with some deleted scenes and a feature commentary. The Blu-ray has more extensive content if you want to splurge.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who has had his or her heart broken, by his or her own design or not.



"SOMETHING SOMETHING SOMETHING
DARK SIDE"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: Fox

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
On the heels of the success of “Blue Harvest,” the folks at “Family Guy” have put together a home video exclusive of the second installment of Peter Griffin’s take on the “Star Wars” universe. “Something Something Something Dark Side” finds the Griffin family in a black-out again, so Peter spins a yarn of “The Empire Strikes Back” with the cast of “Family Guy.” And yes, even Meg gets a part this time.

WHAT I LIKED
I love both “Family Guy” and “Star Wars.” And knowing that the folks behind “Family Guy” are big fans of Lucas’s films as well helps make this video spoof a great thing. There’s a lot of love for the original source material, which is relatively rare for a pop culture show like this. After all, it has become chic now to bash on George Lucas.

I found “Something Something Something Dark Side” even more entertaining than “Blue Harvest,” perhaps because it seems better formed. Maybe I’m used to the various “Family Guy” characters in their roles. Or perhaps it’s because they fit the mold better in this installment.

What’s actually really cool about this show is that there are shots from the original film that are just done over with “Family Guy” animation. Like the classic Mel Brooks movies, this stands as a neat episode of the series beyond just a spoof of the movie.

The jokes are pretty fresh, and they serve both the casual viewer and the fan of either series. And, if you’re listening George Lucas, it also made me want to watch “The Empire Strikes Back” again, which only helps to keep love alive for the “Star Wars” films.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There’s not a lot I didn’t like about this special. Sure, there are some characters that don’t get as much play as I would have liked, such as Quagmire as C-3PO. This goes to a greater issue in that I would have loved to see this play out as a two-hour movie rather than a condensed one-hour show. It does seem a bit rushed.

But then again, if I wanted to see a rendition of “The Empire Strikes Back,” I could just watch the original.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary with Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hentemann, David A. Goodman, Kirker Butler, Dominic Pochino and Seth Green, which is pretty interesting because it details all the restrictions they had in order to make the show. There’s also a trivia track to go along with the show called “Family Guy Fact-Ups.” A side-by-side animatic is also available on the menu, as well as a portion of the movie’s table read.

One of the neatest things about this release is the cool cover box, which is a knock-off of the original “Empire Strikes Back” poster, and there’s a little featurette explaining how that poster was developed. Finally, for those waiting for the next installment in the trilogy (which actually should be called “Blue Harvest”), there’s a sneak peek at the table read for the “Return of the Jedi” spoof.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of either “Family Guy” or “Star Wars”... or both.




    

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