On DVD: Seth Rogen Protects and Serves

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Observe and Report
Warner Home Video
$29
Blu-ray: $36

Plot: A borderline psychotic mall cop (Seth Rogen) launches a reign of terror at his suburban shopping complex after his object of desire (Anna Faris) is assaulted by a flasher in the parking lot.

Opinion: When the infamous red-band trailer for Observe and Report surfaced online prior to its theatrical release last spring, people knew to expect a comedy that was a little darker than previous Seth Rogen fare like Knocked Up and Zack and Miri Make a Porno.  But I don’t think anyone could have anticipated how dark this hard-R rated comedy from writer/director Jody Hill would be.  Observe and Report feels like a movie that was conceived from the beginning to be a future cult classic and I’m sure the movie will attract a devoted following, particularly now that its on DVD.  Whether it deserves cult classic status is going to be a matter of intense debate.  In all honesty, I’m a bit conflicted myself.  There are scenes here that rank as some of the funniest moments I’ve seen all year and I admire how committed all of the actors are to their characters’ inherent nastiness.  Unfortunately, Hill lets the audience down by pulling back from the edge at the very moment he should be plunging over it.  The movie’s climax ends up transforming this psychopath into some kind of hero, a leap that is tonally inconsistent with everything that’s come before.  If Hill had stuck to his guns, Observe and Report could have been one of the all time great dark comedies.  As it is, it’s a twisted, daring movie that’s just not twisted or daring enough.

Bonus Features: Surprisingly there’s not a single extra on this disc.  C’mon guys-there had to be some great outtakes and deleted material, right?  And were Hill and Rogen to busy to sit down for a commentary track or something?

Verdict: Rent It

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Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection

Paramount
$90
Blu-ray: $140

Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection
Paramount
$56
Blu-ray: $70

Plot: Follow the crew of the starship Enterprise-both the NCC-1701 and the NCC-1701-C-on their continuing mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly go where no one has gone before.

Opinion: Now that J.J. Abrams has made Star Trek cool again, Paramount is wasting no time re-releasing the first ten installments in one of science-fiction’s premiere film franchises.  Previously available in individual 2-disc editions, all six films starring the Enterprise‘s first crew and the four movies featuring the Next Generation officers are now collected in their own box sets.  It’s common knowledge by now that the even-numbered Trek films are the best of the bunch, with No. 2 (The Wrath of Khan), No. 4 (The Voyage Home) and No. 8 (First Contact) being particular stand-outs.  Still, some of the odd-numbered entries–most notably No. 1 (The Motion Picture), No. 3 (The Search for Spock) and No. 7 (Generations)–have things to recommend.  On the other hand, the worst Treks–that would be No. 5 (The Final Frontier) and No. 9 (Insurrection)–have only gotten uglier with age.

Bonus Features: You name it, these two sets have got it.  Commentary tracks?  Choose from newly recorded commentaries as well as a few select tracks ported over from previous editions.  Featurettes?  Get all the behind-the-scenes scoop on every Trek flick from The Motion Picture to Nemesis.  There’s also tons of trivia, actor profiles and roundtable discussions with various cast and crew members.  All in all, this is the definitive DVD send-off to the first 10 Trek films.

Verdict: Buy It

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Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection

20th Century Fox
$90

Plot: Witness the evolution of one of Hollywood’s greatest movie stars from early movies like Rally ‘Round the Flag Boys to such late-career hits as The Verdict.

Opinion: Even though he had retired from acting several years ago, Paul Newman’s legacy still loomed large over Hollywood up until his death last September.  For many, he represented the ideal movie star: an actor of impressive dramatic range who led an exemplary life offscreen as well.  Even when stuck in bad movies–which happened more than once–Newman was a model of charm and charisma.  While this box set is missing some of the actor’s essential movies, most notably The Hustler and Hud, it does make room for a satisfying mixture of well-known and obscure titles, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Quintet.  With the holiday gift season about to begin in earnest, keep this set in mind if you have a budding film buff in your family.

Bonus Features: Most of the bonus features included in this set can be found on previous editions of the individual movies, so if you already own the 2-disc Butch Cassidy or Towering Inferno sets, don’t worry about missing anything here.  That said, if your DVD library suffers from a general lack of Newman, having 13 of his films in one place is a pretty damn good feature.  Fox has also included a handsome 136-page book that includes photos, biographic information and quotes from the star himself.

Verdict: Buy It

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Also on DVD

If you’re at all curious about how that nice cold brewskie in your hand got from the brewery to the liquor store to your refrigerator, the independently produced documentary Beer Wars ($20) is a must-see.  Directed by and starring Anat Baron, the former general manager of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, the film provides a comprehensive look at the challenges independent brewers face in getting their product sampled with corporate beers like Bud, Miller and Coors dominating U.S. shelves.  It’s been four years since the last Wallace and Gromit outing, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and now the pair are back in an all-new (and dependably hilarious) stop-motion animated adventure, A Matter of Loaf and Death available as an individual DVD or as part of the four-disc Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (Lionsgate, $30),which also includes their three previous award-winning short films. Three of Hong Kong’s most famous filmmakers-Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To-teamed up to direct the heist movie Triangle (Magnet, $27).  The result sadly isn’t quite as awesome as their fans might hope; although it has a few memorable scenes, the story is muddled and the action set-pieces disappointing.  The coming-of-age drama Lymelife (Screen Media, $28) feels like a loose sequel to Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, chronicling the troubled lives of a family in suburban New York in the late 1970s.  The ensemble cast-including Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon and two Culkin brothers (neither of which are Macaulay)-is solid, but the material is way too familiar.  The well-reviewed Norwegian comedy O’Horten (Sony, $29) tells the offbeat story of an elderly train engineer anticipating (or, to be more accurate, dreading) his impending retirement.  Finally, it’s a big week for TV-on-DVD as 30 Rock: Season 3 (Universal, $50) arrives just two days after the show won its second-straight Emmy for Best Comedy Series.  ABC releases box sets of two of their returning shows, Castle: The Complete First Season (ABC Studios, $40), in which Nathan Fillion plays a crime novelist turned cop-in-training and Ugly Betty: Season Three (ABC Studios, $60), which follows the continuing adventures of the title character in the topsy-turvy world of magazine publishing.  And last but not least, there’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles-The Complete Second Season (Warner Home Video, $60), which collects the last season of the cult Fox series based on the blockbuster movie franchise.

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