DVD reviews: 'Frankenweenie,' 'Dredd' and 'Game Change'
“Frankenweenie” (2012, PG, 87 min., $29.99). In discussing the best-animated films of 2012, No. 1 might come down to two pictures with paranormal storylines. “ParaNorman” is a ghoulish favorite for 2012, and it's right there with the terrific “Frankenweenie,” the latest from the odd mind of Tim Burton. The film follows Victor, a young boy who calls his dog, Sparky, his best friend. When Sparky is killed in an accident, Victor is broken up. Sometime later, in his science class, Victor learns of the powers of electricity, and how it can possibly wake the dead. The science lesson gives Victor the idea to take a shot with Sparky, and it works out. But Victor can't keep Sparky a secret for long. The longer Sparky lives, the more people find out, and the more dangerous it becomes for Victor. “Frankenweenie” is one of Burton's best, as far as animated movies go. It has an endearing story involving interesting characters. Burton's usual dark animation plays well with the plot, too. A remake of Burton's '84 pic of the same name, “Frankenweenie” proves the director can still bring it. As far as extras go, “Frankenweenie” gets the Disney treatment, and that's a good thing. Blu-ray buyers will finds loads of special features, and that includes an animated short, making-of documentaries and a music video. The best of the bunch is the touring exhibit, giving viewers a look at the film's puppets. 3.5 Stars
“Game Change” (2012, NR, 118 min., $19.97). Upon its release in 2010, “Game Change,” a book about the dramatic 2008 presidential election from journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, had movie written all over it. Thankfully, filmmaker Jay Roach and HBO were in the mix. In 2008, the director and the cable network teamed up to make the riveting “Recount,” a highly entertaining film that took viewers behind the 2000 presidential election. So, they were perfect to handle “Game Change,” adapted from parts of the book. The experience paid off. “Game Change” is a wonderful retelling of interesting aspects of the 2008 election. The focus of the picture is Republican presidential candidate John McCain's pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain and his team were looking for a game changer heading into the election, and thought they had it with Palin, a relative newcomer to the political scene. Roach's picture takes a look at the good and bad times the GOP team faced in bringing the outspoken Palin onto the national scene. “Game Change” benefits from a strong script from Danny Strong and excellent performances from Julianne Moore (Palin), Ed Harris (McCain) and Woody Harrelson (campaign strategist Steve Schmidt). Two captivating featurettes — exploring the film's production and its politics — are available. 3 Stars.
“Dredd” (2012, R, 95 min., $29.95). Imagine if some filmmaker put together a picture that carried the grit of a 1980s action flick with the great technological special effects available today. You'd have a hard-nosed piece of work like “Dredd,” directed by Pete Travis. Adapted from the British comic “Judge Dredd,” and unrelated to the 1995 “Judge Dredd” film with Sylvester Stallone, Travis' picture is an entertaining ride packed with explosive action. It's not complicated, and that's OK, because concentration is on over-the-top CGI and masculine action. The film is set in the future, where the U.S. — from D.C. to Boston — is one gigantic city filled with hordes of violent criminals. Law enforcement officials called judges dish out justice. One of the top guys is Dredd (Karl Urban), and on this day, he's sent out with a rookie (Olivia Thirlby) to investigate a triple homicide at a large housing complex. On the scene, Dredd and the rookie figure out the homicide is from a ruthless gang run by a woman named Ma-Ma (Lena Headley). When the officers try to take in one of Ma-Ma's top lieutenants (Wood Harris), she shuts down the housing complex, attempting to kill the judges. On Blu-ray and standard DVD sets, extras are excellent. Featurettes exploring the history of the Dredd character, as well as the film's special effects, settings and weapons are available. 3 Stars.
“Hit & Run” (2012, R, 100 min., $29.98). Dax Shepard wrote, directed and stars in this fast-paced comedy about a guy who busts out of witness protection to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles for what could be the job opportunity of a lifetime. Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Kristin Chenoweth and Beau Bridges join Shepard in the cast.
“Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best” (2012, NR, 97 min., $29.99). A musician hits the road with a friend after being dumped by his girlfriend. Together, the buddies play a series of bizarre shows using children's instruments, and it comes off as a surprise to their fans. Ryan O'Nan stars in the lead role, and he also wrote and directed.
“The Wise Kids” (2011, NR, 91 min., $24.95). Stephen Cone wrote and directed this Southern flavored coming-of-age drama that grew in popularity during its run on the film festival circuit. Cone's picture follows three friends preparing for the next step in life after high school. Do they head to college or head in another direction?
“Guns, Girls & Gambling” (2011, NR, 90 min., $19.98). The title basically explains it all here, as a group of criminals go on the hunt for a priceless Apache war mask that's been stolen from a casino. An impressive cast joins in the fun, as Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, Helena Mattsson and Dane Cook star in the film.
“The Inbetweeners Movie” (2011, R, 97 min., $26.98). Known as the United Kingdom's version of “American Pie,” this raunchy comedy follows a group of friends on a trip to the Greek Isles that's filled with lots of alcohol and good-looking ladies. Simon Bird, James Buckley and Blake Harrison star.
“Sleep Tight” (2011, NR, 102 min., $24.98). Jaume Balaguero, the filmmaker behind the 2009 Spanish hit “[Rec],” is back in the horror genre with “Sleep Tight,” a film about a doorman in Barcelona who sets his sights on making the life of one of the people in his building miserable. The motion picture stars Luis Tosar and Marta Etura.
“Stella Days” (2011, NR, 100 min., $26.95). Inspired by Michael Doorley's memoir of the same name, this drama from Thaddeus O'Sullivan stars Martin Sheen. The actor portrays Father Daniel Berry, a priest trying to open a cinema in Ireland in the 1950s. Unfortunately, a politician and his supporters want nothing to do with it.
“Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden” (2012, NR, 89 min., $19.98). Director John Stockwell gives viewers a dramatic look at the hunt for the most-wanted man in the world and the raid on his compound. The film, which made its debut in November on the National Geographic Channel, drew 2.7 million viewers.
“Lapland Odyssey” (2010, NR, 92 min., $24.95). A big winner on the film festival circuit, this comedy from Finland follows a group of guys on a road trip that's supposed to be short, but soon turns into an insane journey. From filmmaker Dome Karukoski, the journey takes several mysterious turns, and the police are in hot pursuit at every turn.
TV ON DVD
“Dance Moms: Season 2, Volumes 1 and 2” (reality series, three discs and 12 episodes per volume, $24.98 each)
“Enlightened: The Complete First Season” (Laura Dern and Mike White, two discs, 10 episodes, $39.98)
“Smash: Season One” (Debra Messing and Katharine McPhee, four discs, 15 episodes, $44.98)
“Episodes: The Complete First and Second Seasons” (Matt LeBlanc and Stephen Mangan, two discs, 16 episodes, $41.99)
“Dallas: The Complete First Season” (Jesse Metcalfe and Patrick Duffy, three discs, 10 episodes, $39.98)
“Anger Management: Season One” (Charlie Sheen and Selma Blair, two discs, 10 episodes, $29.97)
“George Lopez: It's Not Me, It's You” (standup comedy from Los Angeles, NR, 56 min., $19.97)