DVD reviews: 'Monsters University' and 'R.I.P.D.'
“Monsters University” (2013, G, 104 min., $29.99). Walt Disney's Pixar Studios really has a handle on this animated movie thing. However, it's still trying to work out the kinks with its sequels. Yeah, the “Toy Story” franchise was fantastic, but let's not mention that follow to “Cars.” “Monsters University” is Pixar's latest picture, and it's more of a prequel to 2001's wildly popular “Monsters, Inc.” The film follows the two main characters from the initial movie — Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sullivan (John Goodman) — and this time, the boys are finding their scares at Monsters University. It's a coming-of-age flick that has the youngsters surviving a rough college experience and eventually becoming friends. “Monsters University” almost lives up to its mighty Pixar predecessors, but it doesn't separate itself from the pack by taking chances with an original plot and new characters. It's done well, but there's nothing new here. As usual, Pixar offers a treasure of special features with its films, and this one has lots to offer. The Blu-ray package packs in a heavy dose of featurettes that explore every angle of the film. Commentary and an animated short are also in the mix. As for standard DVD sets, commentary and the animated short are the lone extras. 3 Stars.
“R.I.P.D.” (2013, PG-13, 96 min., $29.98). When it hit theaters this year, “R.I.P.D.” was written off as the biggest flop of 2013. It's not bad, but it's not good either. The chemistry between the leads — Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds — is the one thing that saves the film adapted from the Peter M. Lenkov comic book “Rest in Peace Department.” Otherwise, the formulaic “R.I.P.D.,” a science fiction action comedy, is a predictable flick viewers will be able to compare unfavorably to “Ghostbusters” or the “Men in Black” franchise. When Nick (Reynolds) is killed by his partner in the line of duty, he's recruited by the Rest in Peace Department. It's a band of dead cops targeting lost souls that make it back to Earth. Nick is partnered with Roy (Bridges), who has been around the department for a long time. Together, they catch wind of a conspiracy that could threaten the future of all living souls. Consumers will find much more in the way of special features in Blu-ray and 3D packages. A pack of featurettes exploring the making of the film and its adaptation from the comic book is available. Deleted scenes and a gag reel can be found on standard DVD and Blu-ray. 2 Stars.
“The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete Collection” (2013, NR, 70 hours, $249.95) Way before celebrities such as James Franco, Bob Saget and Pamela Anderson were being roasted on Comedy Central, Steubenville native Dean Martin was hosting his own roasts. “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts” kicked off in the 1970s and ran through the middle of the 1980s. Actors (Jackie Gleason, Kirk Douglas, Lucille Ball), entertainers (Don Rickles, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope), athletes (Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Namath) and even a future president (Ronald Reagan) were all roasted by Martin and a slick pack of comedy legends. The complete collection includes all 54 roasts from “The Dean Martin Show” and “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts,” and 15-plus hours of bonus materials, including interviews, Martin home videos and additional TV specials. While the dress code is a bit outdated in these roasts, the jokes are timeless, as some of the best entertainers in the biz refuse to hold back in roasting some of the most famous people ever. Martin truly had an eye for entertainment, and this collection is a fine example of that. 4 Stars.
“Byzantium” (2012, R, 118 min., $24.98). Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan lead a solid cast in “Byzantium,” a film that follows two vampires — a mother and daughter — to a coastal European town after a series of mysterious deaths drive them from their home. Once relocated, the mother and daughter face a tough existence in this Neil Jordan picture.
“Margarita” (2012, NR, 90 min., $24.95). Filmmakers Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert team up for a picture about a talented nanny named Margarita who takes care of a power couple and their teenage daughter. When financial troubles hit the family, Margarita's job is in jeopardy. Thankfully, the nanny has friends around to help her stay afloat.
“Free Samples” (2012, R, 80 min., $19.98). Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Ritter star in this dramedy about a law school dropout who decides to fill in for a friend in running an ice cream truck for a day. Jillian (Weixler) finds out that the opportunity gives her a new lease on a life that hasn't been too great lately.
“The Way, Way Back” (2013, PG-13, 103 min., $29.98). A remarkable cast — Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Steve Carell and Liam James — can be found in this coming-of-age comedy about a teen trying to find his way through life on a family summer vacation. With the help of a new friend, the young man finds much to like about life.
“As Cool As I Am” (2013, R, 92 min., $24.98). Claire Danes and James Marsden star as self-centered parents in a coming-of-age dramedy about a young woman facing life on her own. Lucy (Sarah Bolger) struggles to make sense of her life, as she struggles with her future and a suddenly fledgling sex life.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“The Beauty of the Devil” (Michel Simon and Gerard Philipe, 1950, NR, 97 min., $34.98)
TV ON DVD
“Family Tree: The Complete First Season” (two discs, eight episodes, $29.98)