Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman portray an odd couple agreeing to a "no strings attached" sexual relationship. Actually, Adam (Kutcher) seeks love and commitment to allay the pain of his father's (Kevin Kline) aberrant sexual behavior. Medical resident Emma (Portman) claims to have neither the time nor inclination for romance, but she's always available for a hook up with Adam. His tolerance for her "rules" makes little sense since Adam's kind and lovely coworker (Lake Bell) is gaga for him and helps Adam gain a staff writer's job on a weekly TV show modeled after "Glee." Portman's is asked to represent the independent woman, but is then reduced to a lovesick puppy trailing after Adam. The actress has always seemed a cold fish, while happy-go-lucky Kutcher seems incapable of deep thought, making him less than ideal for this role. Excellent supporting players, Mindy Kaling and Greta Gerwig weigh in as Emma's roommates, while Chris Bridges and Jake Johnson stand in as Adam's buds. The script gives these characters room to enact small, prickly subplots. Well-paced storytelling, punctuated by ticklish situations, add up to a sufficiently enjoyable date movie. DVD features: director commentary, Sex Friends: Getting Together, Inside the Sassy Halls of Secret High, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Storylines, Digital Copy, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Director commentary, Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy, Modern Love: The Do's and Don'ts.
THE DILEMMA (2011/C-/Directed by Ron Howard/Starring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, Queen Latifah/Universal/Rated PG-13/Comedy/112 minutes): The loyalty between longtime best friends forms the centerpiece of "The Dilemma." Nick (Kevin James) and his wife Geneva (Winona Ryder), enjoy a night out with Nick's best friend Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Ronny's girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly). The couples' banter eventually leads them to ponder, "Can you ever really know anyone?" This question, and the ensuing action, are pursued from Ronny's perspective -- a bachelor striving for overdue professional and personal success. Playing his own age, 40-year-old Vaughn straddles the line between composure and panic. Best friends with a long history, Nick and Ronny are partners in a small automotive design company poised to win a contract with Chrysler. Ronny's manic determination to secure the deal ups the ante when he spies Nick's wife Geneva snogging a younger man (Channing Tatum). Ronny decision to hold back the news until Nick completes the design work for their contract is conflicted, and should be funny, though it rarely rates a chuckle. Ryder plays philandering Geneva with graceful realism that's easily overlooked, while Kevin James is wasted as straightman and Jennifer Connelly has little to do but play nice. Queen Latifah strikes a confident pose as a vulgar supporting character that's beneath her in this disappointing Ron Howard effort. DVD features: Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: This is The Dilemma.
HUMAN PLANET: The Complete Series (2011/A/Directed by Mark Flowers, Nicolas Brown/Narrated by John Hurt/BBC Video/Not Rated/Documentary/400 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): Much like the Disney documentary "Babies," the BBC travels the globe to study unusual human practices, focusing on those that bring us in close contact with nature. Filmed over four years in nearly a hundred locations, the outstanding photography is accompanied by John Hurt's lucid narration. These eight episodes include: Inuit fishing for mussels, Indonesian villagers hunting a sperm whale from paddled wooden boats, a race to reach a water hole between elephants and a cow herder, Algerian well diggers, the Dogon of Mali fishing enmasse at the sacred Lake Antogo, three Africans stealing meat from 15 hungry lions, the Papuan Korowai tribes building a tree house, a perilous effort to mine jungle honey, a Jaipur market trader's attempts to ward of a gang of marauding Rhesus monkeys, and back to Africa for a dance competition between Wodaabe men hoping to win a night of bliss. 3-Disc DVD or Blu-ray features: Behind the Lens - A set of ten 10-minute "making of" featurettes, at the end of each episode, Two bonus featurettes, English language tracks, widescreen.
JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER (2011/B-/Directed by Jon Chu/Starring Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Shawn Stockman/Paramount/Rated G/Documentary/105 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): With a little help from his 36-year-old single mother, Canadian heart-throb, Justin Bieber, rose to YouTube fame and now churns out top-selling albums. Using home video footage, this documentary chronicles Bieber's journey, and his present-day concerts in elite venues. Viewers meet "Team Bieber," including his hair and clothing stylist, bodyguards, vocal coach, mom and Bieber's friends. Bieber's performance at Madison Square Garden, where he is joined onstage by Jaden Smith, reveals much about Smith's privileged upbringing as he fails to comprehend Bieber's hard-won rise to success. Miley Cyrus joins the cavalcade of teen performers for this post card to tweens -- Love, Justin. DVD features: Concert dance-off with Justin and crew, Favorite Girl: Justin's full-length concert performance, R.I.P. Hair Flip, Giving Back, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Copy.
NOVA: SMARTEST MACHINE ON EARTH (2011/B-/Created by Michael Bicks/Directed by Michael Bicks/PBS Video/Not Rated/Documentary/60 minutes/Available on: DVD): Transforming computers into an interactive artificial intelligence is a programmer's holy grail. To claim victory on the game show Jeopardy, a computer named Watson was pitted against Ken Jennings, the show's 74-game champion, and Brad Rutter, the game's all-time money winner. Watson held more than enough data to wipe out his opponents provided he could decipher the wordplay, puns, double-meanings and intuitive differentiations required by the game's format. Nova follows IBM programmers as they attempt to teach Watson to overcome these obstacles, though we can't shake the impression they are holding back in what should be fascinating, but is merely a mildly diverting documentary. DVD features: English language tracks, widescreen.
FROM PRADA TO NADA (2011/B-/Directed by Angel Gracia/Starring Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Adriana Barraza, Kuno Becker, Wilmer Valderrama, Nicholas D'Agosto, April Bowlby/Lionsgate/Rated PG-13/Comedy/107 minutes/Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand): Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" is updated and given a Latino twist. Sisters, Law-student Nora (Belle), and party-girl Mary (Vega), are Beverly Hills hotties. They drive snappy cars and get everything they want until their father dies suddenly and deeply in debt. Obliged to move into a modest, East Los Angeles home owned by their boisterous Aunt Aurelia (Barraza), the girls are humiliated to find themselves riding the bus. Having long ignored their Mexican heritage, neither Nora nor Mary speak Spanish, but meeting handsome Latino men piques their interest in Mexican culture and opens the door to romance. DVD or Blu-ray features: Featurettes: From Nada to Prada SPARC Your Imagination With Judy and Wilmer, My Family, Mi Familia, Bloopers, Deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
HIT LIST (2011/D/Directed by Will Kaufman/Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Cole Hauser, Jonathan LaPaglia, Ginny Weirick/Sony/Rated R/Action/90 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): While drowning his sorrows in a bar, a depressed businessman (Hauser) carrying several grudges, confides his troubles to a stranger (Gooding, Jr.) who subsequently claims to be a hit man willing to kill five of those who have wronged the businessman. Believing they are engaged in fantasy role play, the businessman gives the stranger a list, then is appalled when two of the names he's written turn up murdered. The hit man dares the businessman to "stop me if you can," in this predictable mess squandering the talents of two bankable actors. DVD or Blu-ray features: English, French, Spanish or Thai language tracks, Korean subtitles, widescreen.
PENN & TELLER: BULLSHIT! — Season Eight (2010/B/Created by and Starring Penn Jillette, Teller/Showtime/Not Rated/Comedy/275 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-Ray): In an effort to debunk popular beliefs and expose faulty government policies, Las Vegas magician, Penn Jillette, narrates documentary footage while his silent partner, Teller, mimes his award-winning portion of the message. Cloaked in an acerbic, comical approach, the show incorporates talking heads, science geeks, painful puns, female nudity and boatloads of profanity. Some button-pushing topics explored here include the government's failure to classify cheerleading as a sport, a political movement to regulate fast food, the fantasy of easy money schemes, the myth surrounding Area 51, and the anti-vaccination movement. 2-Disc DVD features: First two episodes of the new series "Episodes," English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.
THE GREEN HORNET (2011/C/Directed by Michel Gondry/Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson/Sony//Rated PG-13/Action, Comedy/119 minutes/Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D/DVD Combo Pack): Seth Rogen co-writes and stars in a chatty movie drawing on the mediocre 1960s TV show. After his wealthy father dies, spoiled playboy, Britt Reid (Rogen), inherits a newspaper empire and Dad's coffee-making, Karate-chopping chauffeur, Kato (Chou). When Reid also learns of Kato's knack for creating cool gadgets, he convinces him to become his crime-fighting partner. Christoph Waltz does a satiric turn as Gotham City's crime lord while Cameron Diaz appears as Reid's secretary. DVD features: Filmmakers' commentary, Gag reel, The Black Beauty: Rebirth of Cool, Writing The Green Hornet, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: Deleted Scenes, The Green Hornet Cutting Room, Trust Me: Director Michel Gondry, Finding Kato, The Stunt Family Armstrong, The Art Of Destruction, Movie IQ + Sync. 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Film on both DVD and Blu-ray 2D and Blu-ray 3D, PS3 Theme, Jay Chou Audition, Double Barrel, 3D Animated Storyboard Comparisons, "Trust Me" with Director, The Stunt Family Armstrong, English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese, language tracks.
BLACK DEATH (2010/C/Directed by Christopher Smith/Starring Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten, Kimberley Nixon, John Lynch, Tim McInnerny/Magnolia/Rated R/Drama/102 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): Both the Medieval setting and the promise of Sean Bean in a major role, earned my interest in "Black Death," an ultimately disappointing tale recounting England's decimation first by the black plague and second by religious fanaticism. The film opens to workers grimly clearing the dead from a city, then turns its sights toward Osmund (Eddie Redmayne), a young monk hopelessly torn between his monastic duties and love for a young woman (Kimberley Nixon). Osmund soon joins a band of religious avengers, led by the knight Ulric (Sean Bean), in their search for a remote village said to be protected by witchcraft. The story depicts the drudgery of mid-14th century life, but its portrayal of the conflict between Christians and pagans is trite. Weapons of torture and death are put to frequent use, sometimes appropriately, but more frequently, gratuitously. DVD features: Deleted scenes, Bringing Black Death to Life, Interviews with cast and crew, Behind the scenes footage, HDNet: A look at Black Death, Theatrical trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: Digital Copy.
BLUE VALENTINE (2010/B-/Directed by Derek Cianfrance/Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, Mike Vogel, John Doman/Anchor Bay/Rated R/Drama/114 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): This drama, told in both the present day and in flashback, is nicely acted and framed, but skews toward depressing. Michelle Williams, an actress capable of taking on difficult material, appears as Cindy, a nurse married to house painter Dean (Gosling). In the present, their relationship is on its way out. Flashbacks attempt to justify their emotional bonding, but the film leaves out the middle portion, where cracks mar begin to appear in their relationship. Dean becomes passive and problematic, and the film spends an inordinate amount of time on Cindy's struggles to maintain the family's finances and while contending with her fading attachment to Dean. Barely good enough to recommend, the story's secondary characters (played by Mike Vogel and John Doman), are caricatures in a story that leaves us feeling black and blue, though not for all the right reasons. DVD or Blu-ray features: deleted scenes, a making-of feature, director commentary by Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton, English language tracks, widescreen.
300 (2007/C/Directed by Zack Snyder/Starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Vincent Regan, Dominic West, David Wenham, Michael Fassbender, Rodrigo Santoro, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Tom Wisdom/Warner/Rated R/Drama/116 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): As imagined by graphic novelist Frank Miller, the battle between a Persian army of thousands and 300 brave Spartans leads to gory clashes at the narrow mountain pass of Thermopylae, gateway to Greece. Gerard Butler appears as King Leonidas, leader of the remarkable warriors. Back in Sparta their queen (Headey) panders to a council bigwig (West) for the promise of troops to reinforce the 300. It's an incredible chapter in ancient history that has been reduced here to the next hit video game. Blu-Ray features: Green Lantern Movie Cash, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.
HOTEL RWANDA (2004/A/Directed by Terry George/Starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte/MGM/Rated PG-13/Docudrama/122 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): The Holocaust's "never again" pledge lies is disregarded in Rwanda where the ruling Hutu tribe kills 800,000 Tutsis. Armed by the French in 1994, the Hutus gun down and machete their rivals. The film depicts little of that bloodshed, but follows the heroic efforts of hotel manager Paul Ruseabagina (Cheadle), to shelter 1200 Tutsis refugees. Though fearful for his life, Ruseabagina does what he must, damn the consequences. Blu-ray features: Commentary with director and real-life subject of the film Paul Ruseabagina, with select commentary by musician Wyclef Jean, Commentary on selected scenes with Don Cheadle, Making-of Documentary, Return to Rwanda, English, Spanish or French language tracks, widescreen.
DEAD MAN WALKING (1995/B-/Directed by Tim Robbins/Starring Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, R. Lee Ermey, Robert Prosky, Lois Smith, Raymond J. Barry, Celia Weston/MGM/Rated R/Drama/122 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): Susan Sarandon plays sister Helen, a 40ish, modern nun called upon to shepherd death row inmate Matthew Poncelet (Penn), through his final days, pending execution. Though inexperienced in such field work, Helen gains Poncelet's trust, persuading him to accept responsibility for his acts. Penn does admirable work, but it's Sarandon's thoughtful performance, aided by Tim Robbins' mostly well-written dialog, that distinguishes this film. Robbins lingers on some scenes long past making his point, but all sides are carefully presented. Blu-ray features: English language tracks, widescreen.
THE TERMINATOR (1984/A/Directed by James Cameron/Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Linda Hamilton, Dick Miller, Rick Rossovich, Franco Columbu, Earl Boen, Bess Motta/Fox/Rated R/Sci-Fi/108 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): This performance establishes Schwarzenegger's ability to be simultaneously wicked and wickedly funny. Linda Hamilton is cast in her first major feature film role. Michael Biehn portrays her savior, journeying back in time to battle a relentless terminator (Schwarzenegger) that has been programmed to kill her. Blu-ray features: English language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features: DigiBook, English language tracks, widescreen.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962/B-/Directed by John Frankenheimer/Starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury/MGM/Rated PG-13/Science Fiction/126 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): This satirical nod to paranoid fanaticism stars Frank Sinatra as a soldier driven crazy by nightmares in which his platoon is captured and brainwashed. You'll quickly see through the transparent plot, but its a worthy effort. Blu-ray features: Director commentary, Exclusive Interview with the director, Sinatra and George Axelrod, 2 featurettes: Queen of Diamonds, A Little Solitaire, How To Get Shot, Original Theatrical Trailer, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.
Also Out This Week
SOMETHING WILD (1986/Directed by Jonathan Demme/Starring Jeff Daniels, Ray Liotta, Melanie Griffith, Tracey Walter, Charles Napier, Margaret Colin, Su Tissue/Criterion Collection/Rated R/Comedy/113 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): After being seduced by attractive petty thief Lulu (Griffith), timid New York investment broker Charlie (Daniels) agrees to accompany her to Pennsylvania where she wants him to pose as her husband at her high school reunion. After several misadventures, Charlie falls for Lulu, but his happiness is short lived since Lulu's real husband -- violent ex-con Ray (Liotta), suddenly turns up. Both a comedy and a drama, the film looks at the odd twists life may take when we leave our comfort zone. DVD or Blu-ray features: New Interviews with Demme And Screenwriter E. Max Frye, Original Theatrical Trailer, Booklet featuring an Essay by Film Critic David Thompson, English language tracks, widescreen.
COUGARS, INC. (2010/Directed by K. Asher Levin/Starring James Belushi, Denise Richards, Kyle Gallner, Sarah Hyland, Rebecca Mader/Lionsgate/Rated R/Comedy/82 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Download and VOD): Kicked out of several high schools, Sam (Gallner) steps up to help his beleaguered mom pay for his education. Along with his friends, Sam launches Cougars, Inc., an escort service for middle-aged women trying to hold onto their youth. DVD and Blu-ray Features: commentary with the cast and crew, featurette "Sloppy Seconds," deleted/extended scenes, gag reel, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
DINOSHARK (2010/Directed by Kevin O,Neill/Starring Eric Balfour, Roger Corman, Iva Hasperger/Anchor Bay/Not Rated/Sci-Fi/92 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): Freed from its glacial prison by a sudden climate shift, a massive prehistoric shark makes its way to a virtual buffet on Mexico's crowded beaches. Terrified sunbathers flee for their lives, but fearless captain Trace (Balfour) and headstrong Marine biologist Carol (Hasperger) seek out the sole expert (Corman) on this 150-million-year-old prehistoric giant. The hunt is on as Dinoshark puts the trio on its appetizer list.