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The Adjustment Bureau, Unknown among new home entertainment titles 

The Adjustment Bureau - UNIVERSAL

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011). One person's religious beliefs is often another person's existentialist theories, and The Adjustment Bureau offers plenty of theological fodder to go around. Because it tinkers with notions involving God and chance and destiny and all that other stuff that's fun to discuss, it might turn off those types of folks who misunderstood Martin Scorsese's brilliant and heartfelt Christian ode, The Last Temptation of Christ. Other viewers, however, might appreciate the movie's ability to question omniscient authority with the proper mix of reverence and reflection. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, this stars Matt Damon as aspiring U.S. senator David Norris, who meets promising dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt); the pair are instantly attracted to one another, but David soon learns from the members of a shadowy cabal that they are never meant to be together. But David refuses to accept his fate, leading the mysterious enforcers to resort to strong-arm tactics to contain the situation. The film's notion that true love conquers all would fall flat with the wrong leads, but Damon and Blunt possess a lovely, laid-back chemistry that allows us to believe in their union. Because their casting is so apt, this often feels like a romantic yarn first and a fantasy flick second, with some nifty chase sequences thrown in for good measure.

Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by writer-director George Nolfi; six deleted and extended scenes; three making-of featurettes totaling 20 minutes; and The Labyrinth of Doors, a nifty interactive map of New York that allows viewers to check out various portal locations and access movie clips and behind-the-scenes snippets.

Movie: ***

Extras: ***

HEIL MYSELF: Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator - COURTESY OF THE CRITERION COLLECTION

THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940). Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length talkie doesn't hold a candle to his triumvirate of silent masterpieces (Modern Times, City Lights and The Gold Rush), but it still qualifies as a rousing success from one of the supreme screen comedians of the 20th century. Chaplin essays two roles in this picture: the fascist dictator Adenoid Hynkel, hellbent on world domination but willing to start with the Jews, and a befuddled Jewish barber toiling in the wartorn ghettos. Despite the identical wardrobe, the barber isn't supposed to be the Little Tramp — Chaplin retired that character in 1936's Modern Times — but he carries with him the same innocent charm and penchant for getting into slapstick situations. Chaplin's Hynkel, meanwhile, is a priceless figure, a ruthless Hitler caricature who speaks in gibberish-German ("cheese und cracken!" he often exclaims) and constantly tries to one-up fellow dictator (and Mussolini caricature) Benzino Napaloni (Jack Oakie). Chaplin's humanist picture is often more clever than outright funny, but it does contain many choice sequences, including the famous one in which Hynkel plays with an inflatable globe. This earned five Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Oakie). Original Score, and two for Chaplin (Actor and Original Screenplay).

DVD extras include audio commentary by Chaplin historians Dan Kamin and Hooman Mehran; 2001's The Tramp and the Dictator, an hour-long documentary (narrated by Kenneth Branagh) that parallels the lives of Chaplin and Hitler (who were born a few days apart); a 19-minute visual essay by Chaplin archivist Cecilia Cenciarelli that looks at Chaplin's long-gestating Napoleon project (which eventually morphed into The Great Dictator); a 21-minute visual essay by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance that discusses the creation and influence of The Great Dictator; a deleted barbershop sequence from Chaplin's 1919 film Sunnyside; and 27 minutes of behind-the-scenes color footage shot by Charles' half-brother Sydney Chaplin.

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***1/2

LOOK WEST: Will Sampson and Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales - WARNER BROS.
  • Warner Bros.
  • LOOK WEST: Will Sampson and Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales

THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976). An important movie in the maturation of Clint Eastwood as both actor and director, The Outlaw Josey Wales finds the legend cast as a Civil War-era farmer whose wife and son are killed by rampaging Union soldiers. Josey Wales seeks those responsible for the senseless slaughter, but this isn't a mere "revenge yarn" pitting a taciturn loner against impossible odds. Instead, Wales finds himself picking up sidekicks throughout the film like so many stray puppies — he's in effect still a family man without reaizing it — and the finality of both killing and dying, weighty issues that would dominate later Eastwood efforts like Unforgiven and Mystic River, is treated with some measure of import (at least most of the time; when the victims are worthless, villainous rednecks, Wales spits out his chewing tobacco on their lifeless corpses, a running gag that never grows old). Progressive in its sympathies for the plight of Native Americans, the film offers a plum supporting role to Chief Dan George as Wales' talkative companion — he's as delightful here as in his Oscar-nominated turn in 1970's Little Big Man — and even finds a spot for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's Will Sampson as a Comanche chief (the single scene between Sampson and Eastwood is superb). Philip Kaufman, who would go on to co-write Raiders of the Lost Ark and direct The Right Stuff, co-penned the screenplay with Sonia Chernus (adapting Forrest Carter's book Gone to Texas) and actually began as the film's director until Eastwood elected to take over. An Academy Award nominee for Jerry Fielding's score, this was added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1996.

Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by film critic Richard Schickel; Clint Eastwood's West, a half-hour look at Eastwood's cowboy roles; a 30-minute making-of piece; and a vintage 8-minute featurette.

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***

Red Riding Hood - WARNER BROS.

RED RIDING HOOD (2011). The idea of combining a werewolf tale with a whodunit is an interesting one, and the notion of adding layers of Freud and feminism onto the wolfman saga is positively genius. These angles have been tackled before (The Beast Must Die and The Company of Wolves, respectively), but Red Riding Hood ambitiously tries to conquer the lycanthrope tale on both fronts. A well-cast Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, a young medieval maiden whose village has long been plagued by a werewolf. A visiting moral crusader (Gary Oldman, in camp mode) reveals that the wolfman is actually someone from the village, and this causes everyone to view their neighbors with suspicion and — shades of The Crucible — hurl accusations of witchcraft. Had director Catherine Hardwicke and scripter David Johnson buried themselves in the lore and atmosphere of their setting while accentuating the legend's leaps into sensuality, violence and the allure of latent desires, it could have worked beautifully. Instead, the focus is on the love triangle between Valerie and the village's two cutest boys (Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons), and while the teen angst that Hardwicke brought to the original Twilight was appropriate, here it creates a modernity that's at odds with the rest of the film. After all, it's hard to bury oneself in the moody period setting when the central thrust remains that Valerie basically has to choose between Justin Bieber and a Jonas Brother.

The Blu-ray edition includes both the original theatrical cut and an alternate version with a different ending. Extras include picture-in-picture commentary by Hardwicke, Seyfried, Fernandez and Irons; four deleted scenes; an 11-minute featurette on the film's score; six minutes of rehearsal footage; a three-minute gag reel; and the entire film shown in 73 seconds.

Movie: **

Extras: **1/2

Unknown - WARNER BROS.

UNKNOWN (2011). I don't mind that Unknown is utterly ridiculous. Why? Because within the constraints of its absurdity, it always manages to play fair with the audience. This is a radical departure from many contemporary thrillers in which the filmmakers are so focused on the twist ending that they barrel toward that destination with little rhyme or reason. It starts with Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife (January Jones) arriving in Berlin to attend a conference. A subsequent accident while riding in a taxi cab leaves him with a moderate case of amnesia, able to recall his identity but not the details surrounding the accident — and utterly unable to explain why his wife insists that another man (Aidan Quinn) is the real Martin Harris. Alone in a foreign land, Martin tries to piece the mystery together with the help of the cab driver (Diane Kruger) and an elderly private detective (international treasure Bruno Ganz). Neeson is as compelling here as he was in his previous Euro-action yarn Taken, and the picture even makes some modest political jabs by presenting Kruger's illegal immigrant as a heroine who's smart, resourceful and tough, an asset to the population of any country. Mostly, though, the film keeps its focus on its central mystery, and when everything is finally explained, we can quietly smile at its outlandishness while simultaneously applauding it for not insulting our intelligence.

Blu-ray extras include a 5-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and the 5-minute short Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero.

Movie: ***

Extras: *1/2

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