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DVD reviews: 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' loaded with special effects

| Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' (Walt Disney Pictures)

“The Sorcerer's Apprentice” tells a fun story, features likable characters and makes the best of a bevy of superb special effects. But director Jon Turteltaub's film is formulaic and predictable. This one finds an accomplished sorcerer named Balthazer (Nicolas Cage) looking for a protege to his master Merlin. When he comes across the reluctant Dave (Jay Baruchel), all signs point to him being the chosen one. Dave is simply a nerdy college student, though, and it will take a lot of work for Balthazer to train him in the ways of magic. Problem is, they don't have much time. Balthazer's nemesis, Maxim (Alfred Molina), is back to release the dark forces of Morgana (Alice Krige), an ultra-powerful sorcerer who wants to raise the dead. Cage and Baruchel are a nice team, but the back-and-forth dialogue gets tiresome quickly. The real reason to see “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” is the special effects, a certain staple of films that are produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Plenty of special features are in a combo pack that carries Blu-ray, standard and digital copies of the film. “The Science of Sorcery” and “The World's Coolest Car” are two of the better featurettes. Also includede are deleted scenes and outtakes. PG; 2010. 2 Stars.

'Going the Distance' (Warner Bros. Pictures)

With titles like “On the Ropes” and “American Teen," documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein has accomplished plenty in the genre. But the romantic comedy “Going the Distance” is her first foray into feature-length films, and the results just aren't any good. Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long and Christina Applegate, “Going the Distance” is another formulaic addition to the plummeting world of romantic comedies. Screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe tries to amp things up with some colorful language, but it gets annoying, and certainly hurt the film in the long run, earning it an R rating. Sure, the cast is strong, but it's a plotline viewers have seen before. The movie focuses on the loving relationship between Garrett (Long) and Erin (Barrymore). After spending a summer together in New York City, they fall in love. When Erin has to return to San Francisco at the end of her internship, the couple tries to stay together in a long-distance relationship. Erin and Garrett try their best to make things work, but they're forced to break things off and start anew. But, in the world of romantic comedies, hearts are rarely broken for the long term. A Blu-ray combo pack is the best option for fans. Standard DVDs only carry a couple extras, but the combo is heavy on featurettes. Commentary and deleted scenes are also included. R; 2010. 1 Star.

'The Sicilian Girl' (Music Box Films)

This fact-based picture, recently in town for the Three Rivers Film Festival, is based on the true story of 17-year-old Rita Atria, a girl who saw her connected father and brother killed by the Mafia in her village in Sicily. Fed up with the deaths and the criminal elements going unchecked, Rita (a great Veronica D'Agostino) turns to the authorities. Despite numerous threats, she moves forward to set up investigators with evidence that puts the Mafia in a corner. Performances from D'Agostino and Gerard Jugnot add great strength to this picture from director Marco Amenta, who also had a hand in writing the screenplay. Coincidentally, Amenta knows the story of Rita very well, as he also directed “One Girl Against the Mafia: The Diary of a Sicilian Girl,” a 1997 documentary about Rita. The film plays like a great thriller, dosing in edgy action sequences with intelligent and believable dialogue. Amenta's film — much like 2008's “Gomorrah” — does an outstanding job of presenting the real danger Rita's facing from a powerful criminal force that holds a tight grip over parts of Italy. Special features are slim for this package, including only a behind-the-scenes featurette. NR; 2009. 3.5 Stars.

'Valhalla Rising' (IFC Films)

Director Nicolas Winding Refn's film centers on a group of Vikings charting a path to the Holy Land, but a wrong turn shipwrecks them in the New World. It's a place that has these battle-bound Vikings getting knocked off one at a time by the inhabitants. At the center of this story is a Viking named One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) who's lived as a slave and been forced to kill in competitions for a Norse holder. Once One-Eye escapes, he brutally dispatches of his captors and moves on with a young Viking boy named Are (Maarten Stevenson) to join a group headed for the Holy Land. The sequences of violence in this film are cranked up, but it stands as a quiet movie that makes use of colorful cinematography and bits of symbolism. Mikkelsen, a star worth remembering, presents a in-depth character — despite not having any lines. Unfortunately, the DVD is without any special features. NR; 2010. 3 Stars.

OTHER MOVIE RELEASES:

“Cairo Time” (Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig, PG, 2010, IFC Films) The always-excellent Clarkson lifts this sweeping romantic adventure about a woman falling for her husband's friend (Siddig) in the exotic city of Cairo. These feelings come as a surprise to Juliette (Clarkson), and they serve as the mighty draw for this feature film written and directed Ruba Nadda. Extras.

“The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story” (Documentary, PG, 2009, Walt Disney Pictures) Sweet and familiar sounds resonate from this picture about Richard and Robert Sherman, two brothers who served as a legendary and prolific songwriting team for film and TV. This one focuses on the Shermans' work at Disney as they wrote songs for titles such as “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Extras.

“Walt & El Grupo” The Untold Adventures” (Documentary, PG, 2008, Walt Disney Pictures) History is at the center of this documentary that adds insight into the 1941 South American expedition by Walt Disney and a team of animators — named El Grupo — working on generating goodwill during World War II. The trip ultimately lead to the classic films “Saludos Amigos” and “Three Caballeros.” Extras.

“Waking Sleeping Beauty” (Documentary, PG, 2009, Walt Disney Pictures/Buena Vista) It might be hard to believe — based on Disney's successful run of animated hits — but things weren't always peachy with Mickey Mouse and company. This documentary covers Disney's rebound, between the years of 1984 and 1994, and certain ascent back to the top with titles such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” Extras.

“Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family” ( Chandra Currelley-Young and Cassi Davis, NR, 2010, Lionsgate Pictures) Filmmaker Tyler Perry brings back his beloved character Madea for a harmonic play about the importance of bringing the family together no matter the hurdles. Extras.

“Alarm” (Ruth Bradley and Aidan Turner, NR, 2008, IFC Films) This psychological thriller tells the story of a young woman moving from the big city of Dublin to the countryside to escape the violent crime that's traumatized her. Unfortunately, the woman finds life out of the city even more difficult as she deals with isolation and paranoia. Extras.

“Life in Flight” (Patrick Wilson and Amy Smart, NR, 2008, IFC Films) A talented cast stars in this dramedy about a successful businessman questioning the well-planned steps in his professional and personal life when he comes to meet a young urban designer (Lynn Collins). It leads Will (Wilson) on a bumpy journey. Extras.

“Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: Two-Movie Collection Special Edition” (Four-disc set includes animated hits “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000,” voices from Steve Martin and Bette Midler, G, extras, Walt Disney Pictures).

OTHER TV RELEASES:

“Parks and Recreation: Season Two” (Amy Poehler and Rob Lowe, four discs, 24 episodes, extras, Universal Pictures).

“Sid and Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits” (Cartoons; one disc; seven episodes including episodes of “H.R. Pufnstuf,” Electra Woman & Dyna Girl” and “Bugaloos”; NR; extras; Vivendi Entertainment).

“Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct: The Complete Series” (Ted Shackelford and Rob Youngblood, five discs, 24 episodes, extras, Image Entertainment).

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