The Movie Report
June 2012

#671 - 672
June 1, 2012 - June 8, 2012

all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

#672 June 8, 2012 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

Lola Versus poster Lola Versus (R) ** 1/2
Don't let the Fox Searchlight logo at the top fool you: Lola Versus is very much mumblecore graduate/indie darling Greta Gerwig's big initial step at mainstream chick flick stardom, and she proves more than capable of fitting the bill, showing the neccessary likability, spunk, quirkiness, and timing to endear herself to the masses. If director/co-writer Daryl Wein's intent was to really highlight his heroine's charm, he definitely dies succeed, for Gerwig stands tall over this rather forgettable piffle as the titular Lola, whose finds herself in a bit of a directionless (to use a term favored by Gerwig's character in Whit Stillman's recent--and more rewarding--Damsels in Distress) tailspin after her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman) suddenly dumps her. Some R-rated raunch fails to spice up the meandering and only sporadically amusing proceedings as Lola bounces off of various friends and/or lovers in search of some grounding--which, some 80-odd minutes later, she predictably realizes can only come from within. Similarly, the film's appeal generally comes only from within its leading lady, whose ongoing rise I look forward to continuing to follow in sturdier vehicles.

Madagascar 3 poster Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (PG) ***
The wildly successful Madagascar animated comedy series finally--and, to be frank, very unexpectedly--breaks from pleasantly watchable kid-friendly mediocrity to visually imaginative, consistently witty all-ages entertainment with its third installment, and the key to this is right there in the title. After spending two films in Africa, taking lost bantering/bickering New York Central Park Zoo animals Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), along with lemur pal King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the ever crafty crew of penguins, to a new continent in their ongoing quest to return home proves to be a creative shot in the arm. The more familiar yet still foreign city settings open up new, visually exciting action comedy scenarios (as in an early chase scenes in and above the streets of Monte Carlo), and the re-entry into the land of people introduces a hilarious new adversary in an obsessive, almost superhuman animal control officer (Frances McDormand) determined to capture them. In an attempt to evade her clutches, the gang joins a circus, and with what sounds like a rather routine new wrinkle writers Eric Darnell (again co-directing with Tom McGrath, as well as Conrad Vernon this time) and Noah Baumbach (yes, the indie filmmaker--no stranger to animation he, having co-scripted Wes Anderson's terrific stop-motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox) actually send this series into a refreshing new direction, introducing some dynamic new characters and unexpectedly clever plot turns (chief among them, a lovesick Julian's romance with a trike-riding bear). It would be easy, especially given the series' financial success, to keep the whole "lost city zoo animals" hook going indefinitely, but rightfully confident are Darnell and Baumbach in the retooled focus that this film actually does bring the overall arc of all three films to a resolution--and with the core quintet of characters still working well together and with their newly extended family, the prospect of further sequels is suddenly as creatively promising as it is inevitable.

Nobody Else But You poster Nobody Else But You (Poupoupidou) ***
A best selling crime novelist (Jean-Paul Rouve) from Paris suffering from writer's block finds unlikely inspiration in the untimely death of a beloved model/weather girl (Sophie Quinton)--or, rather, his amateur investigation into her mysterious "suicide" in her small village home in Eastern France. Writer-director Gerald Hustache-Mathieu milks his setting for all its worth, both in terms of stunning wintry snowscapes and droll observations on small town eccentricities, which adds some distinctive flavor as the mystery unravels in diary-driven flashbacks. But the film's most distinctive and worthy characteristic ultimately proves to be the performances, particularly by Quinton, who vibrantly, poignantly captures the strong allure and emotional fragility of her character and her character's idol, Marilyn Monroe. The central mystery hook may culminate in somewhat anticlimactic fashion, but the captivating Quinton lends the film haunting staying power long after her end credits soundtrack cut fades out.

Prometheus poster Prometheus (R) *** The Films of Idris Elba
When Ridley Scott used the phrasing that his much anticipated return to sci-fi had "strands of DNA" of his 1979 game changing classic Alien, he meant it in more ways than one. While distinctly set in the Alien universe and predating the events of that film, the new film is not a prequel in the most direct sense, but perhaps in the most theoretically ideal one from a creative standpoint, taking not only a number of years back but also a number of steps back--that is, to reveal a more expansive picture where Alien and the subsequent films we all know follow but one direction in a universe teeming with bigger ideas and even grander questions. The latter is especially on the mind of Scott and writer Damon Lindelof (who extensively rewrote the initial script by Jon Spaihts, who also gets a credit), for the mission that sends the crew of the ship Prometheus deep into the far reaches of space is to investigate what could very well be the very seeds of humanity's existence on Earth, as postulated by a scientist couple (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green). But while they do indeed find what they came looking for, they also discover a lot more than they bargained for, thus setting the stage for a tense slow burn à la Scott's original Alien, with mysterious creatures (yes, the literal "strands of Alien DNA" included) and motives both human and mechanical (the latter embodied by Michael Fassbender as android David) threatening danger at every corner, not to mention the scientific and philosophical implications of various discoveries raising even more questions.

Clearly, Scott and Lindelof are aiming for something far headier than the normal summer thrill ride, and while such respect for viewer intelligence and ballsy, grandiose vision is certainly to be lauded, they are (much like Rapace and crew, fittingly enough) a bit of a victim of their own ambition. While quick and eager to offer food for thought with its questions raised, they are then far less sure to offer any sort of satisfying explanations or even at least the beginnings of them, the wishy-washy vagueness ultimately coming off as a willful decision less for intriguing, stimulating ambiguity than to rather gracelessly leave open back doors for sequels. Luckily Scott's formidable visual style and, more importantly, skill at the more down-and-dirty genre requirements is as sharp and confident as ever, the slow burn building up and paying off in thrilling fashion, delivering all the queasy body horror one would expect and then some with imagination and nailbiting suspense. Similarly on top of their game is the top-flight ensemble, led by Rapace, making a compelling heroine of Ripley-circa-original-Alien mix of vulnerability, smarts, and reserves of strength; Charlize Theron gives a second solid turn in as many weeks with a different type of wicked queen--the icy on-board exec for the bankrolling corporation; and Fassbender damn well steals the whole show as the Peter O'Toole-as-T.E. Lawrence-idolizing David, at turns funny and unsettling. The film may not be the game changing, instant new classic fans have been wishing for, but beneath the overreaching ambition (pretension?) lies a solidly entertaining creature feature of superior style--maybe not exactly the deep existential examination Scott and Lindelof were striving for, but no small feat all the same. The Films of Idris Elba

D V D / B L U - R A Y

Joyful Noise Blu-ray Joyful Noise (PG-13) full movie review
Movie: ** 1/2; Blu-ray: ***
A stirring and soulful soundtrack is what prevented Todd Graff's inspirational comedy-drama from being completely forgettable early year froth--appropriately so, what with no less than cross-genre music superstars Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton toplining the cast as the dueling divas at the head of a scrappy underdog competitive gospel choir--and so Warner's Blu-ray is on target with its tuneful emphasis. There are the standard behind the scenes extras, such as featurettes centering on the genesis of the film, the lead actresses, and young leads Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan, the best supplemental material are musically oriented. "Spotlight on a Song: Dolly Parton's 'From Here to the Moon'" focuses on the standout of Parton's three memorable original compositions, a hauntingly poignant ballad that deserves serious Oscar consideration; but the even better bonuses let the music speak for itself: extended (or, in the case of one of them, completely alternate) versions of four of the musical performances and a live performance of another of Parton's soundtrack contributions, "He's Everything," by Parton and Latifah, from an actual gospel choir competition in Los Angeles last year; the latter especially shows how well the music plays outside of the film context and will probably have an even longer life beyond it. A throwaway deleted scene between Parton and Jordan rounds out the platter, which features a lovely high definition audiovisual presentation of the film proper.

Blu-ray specifications: MPEG4 AVC, 1980x1080 2rpsf, 16x9 2.40:1 widescreen; English DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Surround; English, French, and Spanish subtitles. (Warner Home Video)

Kahaani DVD Kahaani (Story) full movie review
Movie: ***
While Vidya Balan was justly lauded for her commanding performance as a very pregnant woman on a desperate search for her missing husband in the crowded city of Kolkata, just as responsible for this thriller's effectiveness was the skill and focus of director/producer/co-producer Sujoy Ghosh. While Balan's presence in the extras on Viacom 18's DVD is disappointingly (if rather expectedly, given how solidly booked she most certainly is, especially after universally celebrated turns such as this) minimal, relegated to token soundbites in the three very brief making of featurettes--one focusing on the story, one on the Kolkata setting, and one on Balan herself--it brings Ghosh's intelligent approach to his equally smart material to the forefront. This especially comes through in his feature length commentary, where he eloquently talks about the challenges of working with a low budget and how he rather resourcefully worked around them; the amount of subtle CGI embellishment he used is both surprising and very impressive. There is also optional Ghosh commentary on the three extended and five deleted scenes that round out the disc; his remarks are considerably less illuminating here, more or less repeating that each excision was done in the interest of time, but it's nice to have some sort of explanation offered on deleted scene reels, which too often appear on DVD's without any sense of context.

DVD specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; Hindi DTS; Hindi 5.1 Surround; Hindi Dolby Surround; English, Arabic, Dutch, and French subtitles. (Viacom 18 Motion Pictures/Viva Entertainment)

Knockdown DVD Knockdown (R)
Movie: * 1/2
Don't let that action-packed title nor the image of one character brandishing a gun fool you; while the main character Jack (Casey Evans) is indeed a former boxer, director/co-writer Todd Bellanca's original title was The Bad Penny, which more accurately reflects what the film actually is: a downbeat drama about the ex-fighter's lifelong streak of misfortune, from witnessing devastating family tragedy as a child to a fateful doublecross by a bookie (Tom Arnold, doing decently in an against-type role) that sends him to exile in Thailand, where the promise of new life and love inevitably turns sour. Evans's physical transformation is remarkable, close to 100 pounds separating Jack as boxer to Jack as the dumpy sadsack Bangkok bartender who narrates his story to a fan (Nick Faltas) who has somehow tracked him down. But his uneven performance also divides along weight lines, oddly more comfortable as the latter day Jack and a general blank as the more confident younger Jack, thus making it hard to care about the bad luck that befalls Jack and renders the regret and sorrow of his later incarnation empty--which is actually also the best term to apply to the flashback structure as a whole, for it's only there to set up a gimmicky and completely arbitrary twist that indicates that Bellanca really had no clue how to satisfactorily end this story.

DVD specifications: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; English closed captioning. (Arc Entertainment)

Valley of the Sun DVD Valley of the Sun
Movie: ** 1/2
A porn star (Johnny Whitworth) who has grown tired of the grind (bad pun intended) suffers a nervous breakdown that sends him back into the care of his parents (Barry Corbin and Beth Grant), who--still believing their son to be a mainstream actor--take him home to their conservative retirement community in Arizona. The gags in Stokes McIntyre's film predictably falls under three categories: sex jokes, old people jokes, and sex jokes involving old people. While the generally groan-worthy humor makes the film far from the rollicking romp the premise would suggest--and, surprisingly, the raunch factor barely registers beyond mildly bawdy--the actors, particularly Whitworth, fully commit to the material, lending some surprisingly genuine heart to the expected message of tolerance in this otherwise overall forgettable enterprise.

The sole extra on the DVD is a five-minute behind the scenes segment, which isn't so much a making-of featurette than a gag reel type assembly of B-roll footage from the film's shoot.

DVD specifications: 1.70:1 anamorphic widescreen; English 5.1 Surround. (Monarch Home Entertainment)

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#671 June 1, 2012 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

Arjun: The Warrior Prince poster Arjun: The Warrior Prince *** 1/2
Of all the Hollywood studios making inroads into Bollywood, Disney, not so surprisingly, is the one taking the most care toward maintaining and culturally evolving its established brand identity as it ventures into the Indian film marketplace and diaspora. Arjun: The Warrior Prince, the Mouse's second Hindi language animated film and its first such collaboration with established Indian production house UTV, is the boldest and most effective Holly/Bolly meeting yet, taking the better aspects of both filmmaking schools and mixing them into something fresh and unique. It doesn't take any familiarity with the Indian myth, the Mahabharata, on which it's based--the classic hero's journey of Arjun, brother to a rightful king, whose skill, bravery, and honor saves his family and the people of his country from tyrannical rule--to be swept up in the iconic characters and epic story, and that is largely due to director Arnab Chaudhuri's distinctive art and animation style. While completely computer generated, it is primarily rendered in a mock cel 2D style, and though the character designs generally do bear resemblance to those of classic Disney of yore, there is also a distinct touch not just of anime but rather manga, what with the stylized, sometimes intentionally varying thickness of line work more recalling visuals from the printed page than the silver screen. This isn't to say Chaudhuri doesn't also make use of the digital tools at his disposal, for often backdrops and sets are rendered in ornately detailed 3D, and the blend with the 2D figures is a lot more seamless and effective than one would expect (think a far more advanced and refined 2012 take on something like Beauty and the Beast's classic ballroom scene); plus the fluidity of movement in the terrfically choreographed fight and battle scenes (which, much to Chaudhuri's credit, do not skimp on some rather brutal and bloody violence) could only be achieved with computer precision. One kind of wishes Chaudhuri went the extra mile--and further cemented this in the Indian film and Disney animation tradition--by showing off those impressive tools on full-blown musical numbers, but his restraint in not bowing to convention and instead using Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's rousing tunes as carefully deployed dramatic underscore and commentary reflects the intelligence with which he realized his vision on screen.

Chernobyl Diaries poster Chernobyl Diaries (R) **
The latest horror production from Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli, may actually not be of the "found footage" style (thankfully, mercifully), but hallmarks of his no-budget, no-frills style remain: a largely unknown cast (the most familiar face is former All My Children child actor and teen pop star Jesse McCartney) shot with shaky handheld camera as they deal with some sort of mysterious, deadly threat in a fairly confined location. As the title indicates, Peli (who co-wrote in addition to producing) and director Brad Parker's scope and concept is a bit more ambitious, what with the site of the infamous 1980s Soviet nuclear meltdown the location our hapless heroes--a mostly American group taking a horror flick-standard ill-advised off-the-radar tour of the long-abandoned, highly radioactive location--at which find themselves trapped. It's an interesting idea, to do frenzied travels through dark, labyrinthian haunted house-esque corridors as both creatures and rising radiation levels pose a threat, but Parker takes his sweet time getting down to the dirty business, and not long before an expectedly but no less disappointingly abrupt ending.

Crooked Arrows poster Crooked Arrows (PG-13) ** 1/2
The half-Native American head (Brandon Routh, who also executive produced) of a reservation casino becomes the coach of his old, perpetually losing high school lacrosse team in an attempt to win approval for his ambitious, big money expansion plans. One can easily predict the twofold formula direction this will go in: Routh will learn to appreciate and re-embrace his heritage while leading the scrappy underdog squad to glory--and, indeed, director Steve Rash and writers Todd Baird and Brad Riddell have no surprise tricks up their sleeve, hitting the expected beats with competence. It all makes for harmless enough, family friendly viewing, but the lack of anything distinctive in execution or performance makes the film instantly forgettable.

High School poster High School (R) *
To cover up his one-time indulgence in marijuana on the eve of a school-wide drug test, the valedictorian-to-be (Matt Bush), with the help of a stoner buddy (Sean Marquette), comes up with a desperate ass-covering scheme: screw up the results by getting the entire student body baked at the fund-raising brownie sale--"high" school, get it? While the likes of Adrien Brody and Michael Chiklis clearly relish getting the chance to cut loose in broad comedic caricatures as a violent drug dealer and the arrogant fascist principal, respectively, once the plot hook kicks in, director John Stalberg Jr. more or less hits the same one-joke stoned note ad nauseum, which is initially amusing but quickly grows old with no likable characters or anything else, much less genuine wit or humor, to engage.

Snow White and the Huntsman poster Snow White and the Huntsman (PG-13) **
Forget the title characters; Charlize Theron's deliciously wicked Queen Ravenna is all anyone is likely to remember--favorably, that is. Of the so-deemed "dueling" feature projects based on the Grimm Brothers' Snow White this year, Rupert Sanders's gritty, serious take is far more ambitious than Tarsem's light family comedy Mirror Mirror, but with greater ambition comes greater risk of failure, and Sanders has fallen flat here. After an engaging and visually striking opening half hour detailing the queen's rise to power, imprisonment of stepdaughter Snow (Kristen Stewart), Snow's escape, and Ravenna's hiring of huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down, the film gets lost once Snow and Eric become unlikely allies while roaming forests both dark and bright. The slowed-to-a-crawl action tediously leans on a nonexistent rapport between Stewart and Hemsworth and gratuitous, wasteful effects-for-effects-sake (i.e. the presence of pretty flora and fauna gets the idyllic message across; was it necessary to have tiny pixie creatures--who never appear nor are addressed again--suddenly crawl out of birds?). The entrance of an all-star cast of dwarves (including no less than Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones, all CG'ed down to size) fails to compensate for prolonged absence of Theron's commanding presence, for the script forces them in more as an expected obligation than for any narrative necessity; similarly, Snow's transformation from a rather passive figure into the commanding warrior princess as seen in the movie posters and trailers is rather sudden and unconvincing. In trying to make a "serious" take on this familiar story, the filmmakers somehow forgot to have fun with it; with the exception of her majesty Theron, one sees and feels everyone Working and Trying Really Hard--and such obvious and strained effort doesn't exactly translate into movie magic, much less fairy tale magic. One is better off checking out the already-made dark and serious version of the tale that is creepy, incredibly twisted fun: 1997's R-rated Snow White: A Tale of Terror, featuring Sigourney Weaver in a justly much-award-nominated turn as the evil queen.

D V D / B L U - R A Y

One for the Money Blu-ray New Year's Eve Blu-ray One for the Money (PG-13) full movie review
Movie: * 1/2; Blu-ray: ** 1/2
New Year's Eve (PG-13) full movie review
Movie: 1/2*; Blu-ray: ** 1/2
One doesn't need to have any familiarity with Janet Evanovich's popular Stephanie Plum novel series to immediately hear and see what an ill fit Katherine Heigl is for the role of One for the Money's bounty hunter heroine: her opening voiceover lands with a jarring clang, thanks to a remarkably forced attempt at a New Jersey accent; then once we see her in action, it becomes a challenge to determine which is more unnatural, that affected voice or this famously lightweight star's stab at a tough cookie persona. One then hopes that Heigl at least strikes rom-com sparks with Jason O'Mara, who plays Stephanie's main quarry, a cop--and ex-lover--now on the run from a murder charge, but no such rapport ever materializes with her equally poorly cast leading man. The last hope is that director Julie Anne Robinson and screenwriters Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray, and Liz Brixus would then tell an interesting mystery yarn peppered with some decent laughs, but it's a rough and not a terribly engaging ride, not helped by some painful groaners of would-be witty one-liners and banter en route to a predictable twist. The few moments of amusement come from Sherri Shepherd as a prostitute Stephanie befriends and Daniel Sunjata as no-nonsense bounty hunting veteran (with both of whom Heigl shares a much more comfortable rapport than with O'Mara), but they never stick around long enough to lend this limp film any lasting life.

"Bond Girls: Kicking Ass in the Bail Bonds Industry," one of the featurettes included on Lionsgate's Blu-ray, shows in its ten minutes that there is a potentially interesting film to be made about bail bondswomen, and the various stories and personalities of the real-life interviewees further reinforce how wrong Heigl was for the part. The other featurette, "Making the Money: Behind the Scenes," is standard EPK-level puff piece about how wonderful the material and everyone working on the film is. A typically "you had to be there" gag reel, a very brief alternate ending, and the film's theatrical trailer round out the platter.

Heigl is more in her light comedy element in Garry Marshall's second holiday-themed ensemble romancer New Year's Eve, but she and a gaggle of other name stars--including Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Jessica Biel, Lea Michele, Ashton Kutcher, Sofia Vergara, Ludacris, and Heigl's leading man Jon Bon Jovi--are at the mercy of a dreadful script and Marshall's inattentive direction as a number of love story scenarios play out in and around the chaos of the Big Apple on the titular holiday. Heigl plays a caterer with a past romantic history with Bon Jovi's (what else?) rock star, who happens to be playing the event she's working at; they are but one of many chemistry-free pairings here, and Heigl nor anyone else's proven sense of timing can do much with what little they're given.

The main extra on Warner's New Year's Eve Blu-ray is a running commentary by Marshall, who not only falls into the trap of simply describing either the action or dialogue of a scene instead of imparting much background information and stories about the production (going unaddressed, disappointingly so, is the widely reported last-minute Heigl-for-Berry recast, with the latter rejoining the project in a smaller capacity once her schedule cleared), he does so in a sing-song fashion that presumably is supposed to come off folksy-friendly but quickly becomes more than a little obnoxiously self-amused. Marshall's same delivery is in evidence in his introductions to the roughly eight minutes worth of deleted scenes and a gag reel; his introduction to the latter, where he states how he puts in a lot of effort into assembling his films' gag reels, probably reveals more about his entire approach to this project than the entirety of the commentary. Not much else of weight is offered by the series of behind the scenes featurettes elsewhere on the disc. "The Magic of Times Square" has cast and crew offering the usual awed comments about the atmosphere of the Big Apple on New Year's Eve; even less interesting is "New Year's Eve Secrets of the Stars," where various cast members relate their holiday rituals; and the only featurette to offer some modicum of substance is "Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele Rock New Year's Eve," which goes into the recording and shooting of the pair's musical performances, which arguably provide some of the brighter moments of the dreary enterprise.

One for the Money Blu-ray specifications: MPEG4 AVC, 1980x1080 24psf, 16x9 2.40:1 widescreen; English DTS-HD Master Audio; English and Spanish subtitles. New Year's Eve Blu-ray specifications: MPEG4 AVC, 1980x1080 24psf, 16x9 1.85:1 widescreen; English DTS-HD Master Audio; French and Spanish 5.1 Surround; English, French, and Spanish subtitles. (One for the Money: Lionsgate Home Entertainment; New Year's Eve: Warner Home Video)

Underworld: Awakening Blu-ray Chronicle Blu-ray Underworld: Awakening (R) full movie review
Movie: ** 1/2; Blu-ray: ****
Chronicle Director's Cut: The Lost Footage Edition (PG-13/unrated) full movie review
Movie: *** 1/2; Blu-ray: ** 1/2
Underworld: Awakening, the fourth installment of the science fiction action series, predictably continued the long-running franchise's lucrative run at the box office, especially as it marked the return of original star Kate Beckinsale as kick-ass vampire heroine Selene after sitting out the third film. But for all the talk about a timeline jump resetting the deck, with humans now not only aware of the existence of vampires and werewolf lycans living among them, but having exterminating most of them, within a half hour it's back to the familiar routine of vamps shooting up wolves, all under blue light filters--still relatively watchable, especially with a recharged Beckinsale back in action, but not much of anything that hasn't already seen before in the previous films.

If the film proper feels a bit like going through the motions, Sony's Blu-ray is an example of going through the extra mile and then some, for they reward the series' faithful following with one jam-packed disc. A slightly hour-plus-long documentary, divided into five 10-15 minute segments, comprehensively covers the film's making from conception to production, with a large amount of time spent on the elaborate digital and practical creature effects. Further illumination on the production is given in a less dry manner in the freewheeling commentary track featuring directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi, and executive producer/visual effects supervisor James McQuaide. The quintet was recorded together, and not only are they quick and eager to share anecdotes and secrets as well as point out problems and personal disappointments, they all have a great rapport, making it an entertaining listen as well as an enlightening one. A brief blooper reel and a music video for the Evanescence-esque soundtrack cut "Heavy Prey" by Lacey Sturm featuring Geno Lenardo are throwaways, and the Blu-ray exclusive "Cracking the Underworld: Picture-in-Picture Experience" initially seems like it would be as well, as such a feature, where various video and text clips can be accessed directly while watching the film, are often extraneous indulgences designed more to show off the technology than be of any practical use. However, considering how dense the Underworld mythology is and how each sequel/prequel hardly ever slows down to rehash backstory covered in previous installments (much to the franchise's credit), those in need of any sort of refresher in the world's now vast history will find this an invaluable resource, and the disc producers have executed it in such a way that it never disrupts the flow or skips and/or runs over any key scenes in the film.

A far more unconventional--and far more successful--early year genre hit was Chronicle, which rather cleverly applied the en vogue no-frills "found footage" approach to the comic book-ready tale of a trio of teens (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan) who develop superpowers after encountering an object of mysterious origin. While far more character-driven than its ilk (and, as such, all the more effective for it), to make such a nonetheless effects-dependent film on an obviously low budget undoubtedly presented a number of unique challenges--that had to be met with equally unique creative ideas--so it's all the more disappointing that 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray features neither a commentary track by writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank nor any sort of making-of featurette; the only insight into the making of the film is offered by a seven-minute pre-viz reel and a four-minute camera test. The main selling point is the inclusion of an extended director's cut as well as the theatrical version, but the alternate cut, running about five minutes longer, is of no substantial difference, positive or negative, to the film. The only other extra included is a single deleted scene, running a little over a minute, that isn't included in either version of the film.

Underworld: Awakening Blu-ray specifications: MPEG4 AVC, 1980x1080 24psf, 16x9 2.40:1 widescreen; English DTS-HD Master Audio; English and Spanish subtitles. Chronicle Blu-ray specifications: MPEG4 AVC, 1980x1080 24psf, 16x9 1.85:1 widescreen; English DTS-HD Master Audio; English descriptive audio, French; and Spanish 5.1 Surround; English and Spanish subtitles. (Underworld: Awakening: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; Chronicle: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

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