The plot, characters, settings and costumes of "The Tourist" draw on early Hollywood, when movies represented romantic love as a cure-all and beautiful people as the natural inhabitants of beautiful places. Suspended British Interpol Agent Elise (Angelina Jolie) is both beautiful and lonely. She is shadowed by Scotland Yard's Inspector John Acheson (Paul Bettany), and a contingent of underlings, in hopes that Elise's lover, wealthy thief Alexander Pierce, will contact her. When Elise receives a cryptic note, the race on in this romantic thriller that could have been made in the late '50s, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Pierce, whose appearance is unknown due to recent plastic surgery, instructs Elise to board a train for Venice. She is instructed to find a man his size and shape, then persuade authorities that man is Pierce. Elise targets Frank (Johnny Depp) an unassuming Wisconsin math teacher on holiday. He is instantly smitten, even though Elise, as portrayed by Jolie, is little more than a mannequin filmed at every one of her many fabulous angles. Depp struggles to imbue Frank with both yearning and fear. He pursues Elise despite being shot at, shackled and arrested. The two stars need chemistry sufficient to persuade us that they can not help but fall in love, though Elise's attraction to the math teacher is based on nothing more than his affable demeanor. Depp tries to project an air of melancholy while Jolie's character seems to exist in some far off dreamland. Real talent is wasted in even more superficial supporting roles. Rufus Sewell plays an omnipresent Englishman and Timothy Dalton carves out Inspector Acheson's suave, pragmatic boss. Steven Berkoff stands in as a British gangster, racing authorities to catch up with Pierce. A satiric approach might have worked for "The Tourist," though witty dialog -- not evidenced here -- would be requirement number one. Slow-speed chases, routine action, and see-through plotting blunt this globe-trotting thriller that's all work and no play. DVD features: Outtake reel, Alternate animated title sequence, Director commentary, A Gala Affair, Bringing Glamor Back, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, Action in Venice, Tourist Destination, Canal Chats, MovieIQ + Sync, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Note: Blu-ray special features include all of the above except the feature film on DVD.
YOGI BEAR (2010/C-/Directed by Eric Brevig/Starring Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh, Andrew Daly, T.J. Miller, Nathan Corddry/Voices of Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake/Narrated by Josh Robert Thompson/Warner/Rated PG/Family/80 minutes/Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and digital download): Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters created in 1958, join a live-action film as CGI residents of Jellystone National Park. Anna Faris plays Rachel, a journalist sniffing around after hearing rumors of a talking bear duo. Voiced by Aykroyd, Yogi contrives to steal campers' "pic-a-nic" baskets with Boo Boo (voice of Timberlake) at his side. Beset Ranger Smith (Cavanagh) tries to keep the bears in line, but he will be out of a job unless he can prevent the mayor of a neighboring town from selling the park to loggers. Filmed in 3D, Yogi's high-flying antics should mesmerize the little ones, while their stuffed-animal equivalents should be coming to a store near you, all too soon. DVD features: Jellystone Park Jewels: Litterbug and Yogi's Secret Hiding Spot and Tips from Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller) on Park Visitor Etiquette and the Bear's Favorite Park Hideaway, Fun Yogi and Boo Boo Moments - Then and Now - from the Classic Animated Series to Their New Movie, 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, Looney Tunes Rabid Rider, Portuguese subtitles.
HOW DO YOU KNOW (2010/C/Directed by James L. Brooks/Starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson/Sony/Rated R/Comedy/121 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): On the very day that professional softball player Lisa (Witherspoon) learns she's been cut from her team, the 27-year-old runs into George (Rudd), an old acquaintance accused of perpetrating a corporate crime he didn't commit. Despite her romantic ties to major-league pitcher Matty (Wilson), romantic sparks fly between Lisa and George. Meanwhile, slightly dim-witted Matty becomes convinced Lisa's the girl for him, leading to a series of comic pratfalls. Nicholson appears as George's wealthy dad, rounding out this overly-manufactured sitcom aimed at the date crowd. DVD features: filmmaker commentary, Deleted Scenes w/Optional director commentary, Blooper Reel, Select Scenes Commentary with James L. Brooks and Owen Wilson, Extra Innings Featurette, English or French language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: BD-Live with MovieIQ+sync to access live trivia information about the movie's cast, crew, music while watching the movie, plus the Interactive Script Gallery feature, "The George" featurette, A Conversation with James L. Brooks and Hans Zimmer, Additional Deleted Scenes w/optional director commentary, English, Spanish or French language tracks, widescreen.
SHARKTOPUS (2010/C-/Directed by Declan O'Brien/Starring Eric Roberts, Hector Jimenez, Sarah Malakul Lane/Anchor Bay/Not Rated/Horror/89 minutes/Available on: DVD or Blu-ray): The SyFy Channel makes a creature-feature that stars a shark-octopus hybrid. After creating their beast, a father-daughter pair of scientists (Roberts and Lane), soon find the creature has escaped and is killing everyone it can't wrap its giant tentacles around. Due to the film's silly plot, the attraction mainly consists of seeing the beast in action, but its giant shark front half, and tentacled back half are a hoot that fail any standard of biology while the CGI behind the creature is below par. It was a fun idea seeking better execution. DVD or Blu-ray features: commentary with producers Roger and Julie Corman, Trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
NATURE: BIRDS OF THE GODS (2011/B/Hosted by David Attenborough/PBS/Not Rated/Documentary/60 minutes/Available on: DVD and Blu-ray): Free of predation, the birds of New Guinea developed fanciful feathers that were destined to be prized by encroaching humans. By harvesting the birds to acquire this artful plumage for sacred tribal rituals, humans have reduced, and in some cases, endangered the indigenous bird populations. Studied by New Guinean conservationists Miriam Supuma and Paul Igag, this documentary examines the importance of this plumage to the birds' mating rituals. The conservationists also visit local tribes to discuss sustainable practices that will preserve the source of the prized feathers. Happily, their work is meeting with some success. DVD or Blu-ray features: English language tracks, widescreen.
NOVA SCIENCENOW: HOW SMART ARE ANIMALS? (2010/B/PBS Video/Not Rated/Documentary/60 minutes/Available on: DVD): Cuttlefish and Octopi indulge in subterfuge that would make a double-spy proud. Perhaps then it comes as no surprise that these mollusks are also excellent problem solvers. Nova ScienceNow not only films this behavior, but peeks into the minds of dolphins and dogs. Researchers in Honduras have learned to communicate with captive dolphins through a kind of sign language. They asked the dolphins to work together to create new tricks. Their request and more was fulfilled when the dolphins improvised new moves never before witnessed by their trainers. Marvelous though this is, the news is even better for man's best friend whose particular brand of intelligence has finally gained the interest and recognition it deserves from animal researchers. The dog's uncanny ability to "read our mind," and its inherent cooperative temperament, have made dogs the darlings of animal behaviorists. Heck. Any dog owner could have clued them in. The scientific spin-off of Nova, ScienceNow tackles worthy subjects, though it frequently talks down to viewers. Stop that Nova. DVD features: English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
RANDOM HEARTS (1999/C-/Directed by Sydney Pollack/Starring Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sydney Pollack, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Haysbert, Bonnie Hunt/Image/Rated R/Drama/133 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): This film from Warren Adler's novel, was first optioned for the screen by Dustin Hoffman in 1984, but languished, undeveloped for 15 years. The usually appealing Harrison Ford is the quintessential aging actor hankering for his lost youth. He wears a tiny earring that emphasizes his large, drooping lobes, and crops his grey hair into a regrettable scarecrow cut. These trappings are inappropriate to his character, Dutch, a cynical, moralistic detective who reeks of "the establishment." The detective's illusion of "happy marriage" is shattered by a plane crash revealing his wife, on board with her paramour, was involved in an extramarital affair. Initially, Dutch's attempts to gather information about her liaison are compelling efforts to understand an unthinkable betrayal. He searches for his mirror image, the surviving wife of the "other man," Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas). She is a politician whose empty marriage leaves her unable to empathize with Dutch's grief. They discuss ad nauseam the reasons they shouldn't talk about it, while stumbling through an equally circular, depressing romance. Thomas' performance is the one bright spot as she supercharges her inscrutable character with repressed emotions. She's certainly an actress waiting to happen. Blu-ray features not available at this writing.
ROBOTS (2005/B-/Directed by Chris Wedge/Voiced by Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Greg Kinnear, Jim Broadbent, Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Coolidge, Amanda Bynes, Terry Bradshaw, Drew Carey/Fox/Rated PG/Animated/89 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): Robot World's cheap spare parts keep it colorful and unique inhabitants contentedly running. Rodney (McGregor), a big-eyed young robot, is an inventor hoping to join the movers and shakers in Robot City. Nothing in "Robots" compares to Rodney's astonishing trip through the city, inside a ball-cage that is flung, slingshot, and roller-coastered to his Bigweld Company destination. Rodney hopes to meet the benevolent roly-poly robot manufacturer (Mel Brooks), but the company has been taken over by Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), an android-like robot intent upon tossing older models onto the scrap heap. Rodney joins an eye-catching clutch of robots to defeat Ratchet's plan: Fender, a dilapidated "bot" (Williams) who talks nonstop, Aunt Fanny (Jennifer Coolidge), whose ample rear end provides a refuge for robots in hiding, and Cappy (Berry), a girl next door robot refugee. Ratchet's domineering mama, Madame Gasket (Jim Broadbent), operates a junkyard that will profit from scrapping outmoded models. Meant to be a cautionary tale concerning forced modernization, "Robots" is too much in love with its cute, bumbling heroes. Alas, much like the technological world it sends up, "Robot's" seeks to overwhelm us with its whiz-bang gadgetry, but neglects to look beneath the nuts and bolts for that essence we call a soul. Blu-ray features: Commentary by Blue Sky, Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty, The Voices of Robots, Music Video, Three Deleted Scenes w/Optional commentary, English language tracks, Spanish or French subtitles, widescreen.
ANASTASIA (1997/B/Directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman/Voiced by Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammar, Angela Lansbury, Meg Ryan, Kirsten Dunst, Bernadette Peters, Lacey Chabert, Arthur Malet, Jim Cummings, Andrea Martin, Liz Callaway, Debra Mooney/Fox/Rated G/Animated/94 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): A rewrite of the facts surrounding the search for Russian Princess Anastasia, rumored to have survived the assassination of the Imperial Romanoff family -- now an entrancing, animated musical film, thanks to a new and happy ending. Also new, a hope-to-die-for romance between Anastasia and a young hustler planning to collect the reward for her return. But the real clincher is the hustler's revelation that his Anastasia-in-training actually is the princess. The finished product may be politically correct but it ignores historical fact while cashing-in on the romantic myth's possibilities. It's a travesty, albeit an enjoyable one. Blu-ray features: commentary with directors, 2 sing-alongs, Anastasia's music box favorites, Bartok the magnificent, How to draw with Don Bluth, Making-of featurette, A magical journey, "Journey to the Past" music video, Making of "Journey to the Past" music video, Blu-ray games: Russian stacking doll, Anastasia's seek and find, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen.
Also Out This Week
ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES 2 & 3 THE NEW MINIMOY ADVENTURES (2011/Directed by Luc Besson/Voiced by Freddie Highmore, Selena Gomez, Mia Farrow, Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, will.i.a.m/Fox/Rated PG/Animated/196 minutes/Wal-Mart Exclusive Release - Available on: DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack): Two sequels to the mediocre 2006 film are combined into one package and released exclusively at Wal-Mart Stores. However, a quick check on Amazon confirms the titles can be purchased or rented on its site. Part-live action, part-animated, the films return Freddie Highmore to the role of 10-year-old Arthur, who enters the underground World of the Invisibles to save the Princess of the Minimoys. Arthur is joined in his quest by Queen Bee, and together the pair battle giant insects, an evil wizard, and the Emperor Maltazard. 2-Disc DVD features: English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen. 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
MESKADA (2010/C-/Directed by Josh Sternfeld/Starring Nick Stahl, Kellan Lutz, Rachel Nichols, Norman Reedus, Jonathan Tucker, Laura Benanti/Anchor Bay/Not Rated/Thriller/88 minutes/Available on: DVD): Named for the county in which the action is set, "Meskada" attempts to create tension from the clash between working class residents of a small town, and the elite inhabitants holding their fates in their hands. After her son is killed in a botched home robbery, the county commissioner (Benanti) threatens to veto the construction of a factory that could put the town's many unemployed to work unless someone comes forward to identify her son's killer. Police detective, Noah Cordin (Stahl), is assigned to investigate the case necessitating that he confront the bitter feelings of Meskada's underclass. The film's dramatic possibilities are never fleshed out and any possibility of suspense is sapped by an opening that makes no attempt to disguise the killer's identity. Nick Stahl and Rachel Nichols, as fellow investigators, give impassioned performances, while Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep's 24-year-old daughter), is fascinating to watch. DVD features: English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
SCARY MOVIE 4 (2006/C/Directed by David Zucker/Starring Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Carmen Electra, Leslie Nielsen, Molly Shannon/Weinstein/Rated PG-13/Comedy/91 minutes/Unrated and Uncensored Version Available on: Blu-ray): The Wayans brothers bow out of number four, a segment that might have been more aptly named "Be Wary of Movies" since "War of the Worlds," "The Village," "The Grudge" and "Saw," are focal points. Once again, Anna Faris anchors the cast, which includes Mike Tyson, Charlie Sheen, Dr. Phil, and Cloris Leachman. As always, this spoof will resonate most with those of us spending too much time in darkened rooms. Blu-ray Disc Features: Unrated version, Deleted and Extended Scenes, A conversation with the Filmmakers, David Zucker The Man Behind the Laugh, Zany Spoof Humor – Zucker Style, The Visual Effects, The Youngbloodz, Rappers… Actors, The Cast, Improvisation of Craig Bierko, Bloopers, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
BATTLE OF THE WARRIORS (2006/Directed by Jacob Cheung/Starring Andy Lau, Sung-Ki Ahn, Choi Si-won, Bingbing Fan, Wang Zhiwen/Dragon Dynasty/Rated R/Action/133 minutes/Available on: Blu-ray): Based on the Japanese manga series Bokkou, "Battle of the Warriors" highlights an historical epic set in 370 B.C.. China is torn apart when the Zhao State sets out on a long march to conquer the Yan State. The city of Liang, home to 4,000, lies in the path of the Zhao's great army. Ge Li (Andy Lau), a single Mozi fighter, arrives in Liang ready to work with a handful of Liang soldiers to implement a brilliant strategy for fending off the Zhao invaders. Blu-ray features: Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan, Making-of featurette. English or Mandarin language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.