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DVD reviews: 'Runaways' biopic veers off track

| Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'The Runaways' (Sony Pictures)

A feature about iconic rock group The Runaways holds lots of promise. This group of teen girls turned the male-centered rock industry on its ear in the 1970s, producing an air of fascination from men and women of all ages, bound together by a love of rock and roll. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, who has a musical background in work with David Bowie and Sheryl Crow, "The Runaways" offers a peek into the success of the band, which featured Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Jackie Fox, but it spreads itself thin across too many storylines. The interesting parts of the film center on the group's relationship with the eccentric guy who made them a success. The always-excellent Michael Shannon stands out in his role of Kim Fowley, a hard-driven jack-of-all-trades in the rock world. It's in his dealings with the group where this film finds its edge. The rest plays like a glossed-over Hollywood show packed with the rock biopic cliches of drug use and problems with authority. Next to Shannon, it's also nice to see Kristen Stewart of "Twilight" fame and Dakota Fanning break away from the routine and show some range. The picture finds its root with a look inside the lives of Joan Jett (Stewart), Cherie Currie (Fanning) and Kim (Shannon), three loners on the outside, looking in to the rock industry. The feature rolls forward when Kim comes in contact with Joan, a talented guitarist looking for a band. On a hunt for sex appeal for the band, Kim and Joan find Cherie Currie, and things comes together with three additional members. From practicing in a trailer in California to world tours, the group explodes into the conscience of rock and roll. Extras include a couple of nice featurettes. One explores the making of the film, which is based off of Currie's book "Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway." A second featurette has the cast and crew sharing their feelings on the band, which was hot before most of them were even born. Commentary with Joan Jett included is also here. R; 2010. 2 Stars.

'The Losers' (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Director Sylvain White's "The Losers," an adaptation of the Vertigo comic book series of the same name by Andy Diggle, takes the baton from 2005's "Elektra" and 2003's "Daredevil" as the worst comic-book adaptation to date. With the exception of a couple of decent action sequences and a few stylishly slick touches, "The Losers" drowns in a collection of lousy special effects, boring characters, spotty story development and cliches. It's too bad the filmmakers couldn't find some substance for this "A-Team" lookalike that stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba and Jason Patric. The film tracks a group of elite soldiers thought to be left for dead after their helicopter is shot down in Bolivia. The fellows know who's responsible for the murder attempt, but they are framed for the death of 25 children. So, it's not too easy to re-emerge from hiding until they're presented with an opportunity to take out the villain who made the attempt on their lives. Now with a beautiful mercenary (Saldana) who shares the same enemy, they strive to put the ruthless killer Max (Patric) out of commission. The best buy for fans of "The Losers" is a two-disc set that includes Blu-ray, standard and digital copies of the pic. Extras are also plentiful for this package, and they're boosted by "Band of Buddies: OPS Training," a featurette that details the training of the actors for their physical roles. Additional special features are also available. PG-13, 2010; 1.5 Stars.

'Cop Out' (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Bruce Willis teams with comedian Tracy Morgan for this clever homage to cop movies. The chemistry between the tough guy (Willis) and the ham-it-up character (Morgan) is enough to save this otherwise bland cop comedy from stinking. Kevin Smith directed "Cop Out," but didn't write it. That's clear based on the motion picture's collection of stagnant jokes and several slowdowns that keep the picture from capitalizing on some decent action sequences. It's as if the filmmakers slowed down the picture to get in the right number of give-and-take sequences between Willis and Morgan. Sure, these moments are filled with some levity, but they ruin the movie's pacing. "Cop Out" follows these two mismatched cops closing in on a drug ring in New York City. While on suspension, they still cruise around town trying to figure out the set of events that put them in trouble with the NYPD. The best buy for consumers is a combo pack with digital, standard and Blu-ray DVDs. The best feature with this package is the "Maximum Comedy Mode," a sort-of pop-up commentary presentation that includes focus points, deleted scenes, walk-ons from Smith and more. Two versions of the film are also here. R; 2010. 2.5 Stars.

'A Town Called Panic' (Zeitgeist Films)

Pixar's "A Town Called Panic," a hilariously trippy picture from Belgium, is one of the more memorable animated films of the past few years. Best described as a throwback combination of "Robot Chicken" and "Wallace and Gromit," the stop-motion film is a spinoff of a 2000 puppetoon series. The pic follows a pack of zany characters (a horse, an Indian, a cowboy, a farmer, a policeman, a teacher, sea creatures and more) through daily life and a fun-filled, worldwide adventure to solve the case of a missing house. The world created here by Aardman Studios — the same company responsible for the "Wallace and Gromit" series — is a magical loony one that packs in 75 minutes of fun for all ages. The Zeitgeist release has some great special features including an enjoyable 52-minute documentary that explores the making of the film. Also available are video interviews with directors Vincent Patar and Stephane Aubier, deleted scenes and an additional animated short. NR; 2009. 3.5 Stars.

'The Bong Joon-Ho Collection' (Magnolia Pictures)

Bong Joon-Ho is one of the best Korean film directors working today. The filmmaker's status took a giant leap in 2006 with "The Host," a critically acclaimed monster movie that offered a chilling collection of frights. This one film isn't the only thing Joon-Ho has going for him, though, and a great new collection houses some of the director's best work. In addition to "The Host" (Song Kang Ho and Byun Hee-Bong, R, 2006), the collection includes "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (Bae Doo-Na and Lee Sung-Jae, NR, 2000) and "Mother" (Hye-ja Kim and Bin Won, R, 2009). "Barking Dogs Never Bite," about a young student who is driven crazy by a barking dog in his apartment complex, is Joon-Ho's debut. His latest feature is "Mother," a story about a driven parent attempting to clear her son who has been charged with a girl's murder. All three titles are adventurous experiences and carry with them the director's dark, and sometimes twisted sense of humor. Each feature is accompanied by loads of special features. These three titles will also be sold individually. NR; 2010. 3.5 Stars.

OTHER MOVIE RELEASES:

"Entre Nos" (Paola Mendoza, NR, 2009, Indiepix Films): Mendoza, best known for the 2007 foreign film "Sangre de Mi Sangre," makes her directorial debut and also stars in this acclaimed picture about a single mother (Mendoza) trying to find a home for her kids in New York City. She arrives from Colombia to reunite with her husband, but he deserts the family for an opportunity in Miami. This leaves the mother and children alone to fend for themselves in a city they barely know. Mendoza received help from Gloria La Morte in directing the picture and writing the screenplay. Extras.

"I Do & I Don't" (Jane Lynch, R, 2007, Phase 4 Films): Steve Blair makes his writing and directorial debut with this screwball comedy that follows a young couple to the chapel. The walk down the aisle gets a little wilder when the couple is forced to go through pre-marriage counseling with a bitter couple who've been together for 17 years. Extras.

"The Bannen Way" (Mark Gantt, NR, 2010, Sony Pictures): This title is the feature-length picture from Crackle's highly acclaimed online series of the same name. The film, also starring Robert Forster, Michael Ironside and Vanessa Marcil, tracks the life of Neal Bannen (Gantt), a charming con looking for his big payday to call it even with a notorious crime boss. Extras.

"The Wronged Man" (Julia Ormond, NR, 2010, Sony Pictures): In this Lifetime TV movie, a single mother (Ormond) with a rough past, takes a pro-bono case to defend a young African-American husband wrongfully accused of raping a neighborhood girl. Extras.

OTHER TV RELEASES:

"Jersey Shore: Season One" (The Situation and Snooki, three discs, 11 episodes, extras, Paramount/MTV Home Entertainment).

"My Boys: Seasons 2 & 3" (Jim Gaffigan and Jordana Spiro, three discs, 18 episodes, no extras, Sony Pictures).

"Matlock: Season Five" (Andy Griffith and Clarence Gilyard Jr., six discs, 21 episodes, no extras, Paramount/CBS DVD).

"Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season One" (voices by Thea White and Simon Prebble, two discs, 13 episodes, no extras, Warner Bros. Pictures).

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