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New On DVD - February 23, 2010

The Informant! (Blu-ray) CityNews.ca Pick of the Week – Matt Damon gained 30lbs to play Mark Whitacre, a real life executive-turned-whistle-blower who helped the FBI take down his employer, food manufacturing giant Archer Daniels Midland Co., over alleged price fixing of the animal feed additive lysine. Although based on a very serious subject, director Steven Soderbergh took a comedic and raw approach to the film and it works well. Damon also gives one of the best performances of his career and it’s too bad he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination. Special features include additional scenes, commentary with Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns, and a digital copy of the film. Film **** Blu-ray **** (out of 5 stars).

Related story: Matt Damon Likes Being Fat And Thinks The Media Is Lazy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=com3dXUpTdI

The September Issue – Documentary on what goes into Vogue magazine’s biggest issue each year and a look at Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour. Fashionistas will definitely enjoy this behind-the-scenes look more than the average person, but I was surprised at how well The September Issue held my attention and was shocked to learn how much clout Wintour, and Vogue, still has in the fashion world. Special features include deleted scenes, commentary with director R.J. Cutler, over an hour of extra footage, and more. Film *** DVD *** (out of 5 stars).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9-bAwz9uWk

The House of the Devil (Blu-ray) – A throwback to ’80s horror films, The House of the Devil follows Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) as she takes a babysitting gig and then gets caught up in a satanic ritual. It’s a very slow-moving film but is extremely eerie and unsettling at times. Reminded me a lot of the 1988 film Bad Dreams. One downside of the Blu-ray release is that the film is meant to look old and the high-def video makes the intentional grain look terrible. Tom Noonan also stars. Special features include commentary with director Ti West, deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, and more. Film **** Blu-ray *** (out of 5 stars).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHvSkTDWFfk

Motherhood – I’m a huge fan of Uma Thurman and had high hopes for Motherhood — a film where she plays an exhausted mom who blogs about being a mom. Sounds fun and quirky but plays out more like a poorly written sitcom with scenes that drag on and on and characters with no point. Thurman does a decent enough job but at times you feel like she doesn’t know what she’s doing in the film. Minnie Driver and Anthony Edwards also star. Special features include interviews with the cast, and commentary with director Katherine Dieckmann and producer Rachel Cohen. Film ** DVD ** (out of 5 stars).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9SyLvwAcEQ

Penguins of Madagascar: Operation DVD Premiere
– A collection of episodes following the penguins from the 2005 feature film Madagascar as they go on crazy adventures at New York’s Central Park Zoo. Penguins of Madagascar: Operation DVD Premiere is cute and funny, and most kids between the ages of three and six will enjoy it. It’s purely entertainment though and parents looking for something educational or with a good message should look elsewhere. Special features include music videos, sneak peeks, and more. DVD *** (out of 5 stars).

Frantic / Presumed Innocent (Blu-ray)
– What’s not to like about two excellent Harrison Ford films packaged together on Blu-ray for one low price? In Roman Polanski’s Frantic (1988) Ford plays a man looking for his wife after she disappears from their Paris hotel room. In Presumed Innocent (1990) he’s accused of murdering a woman he had an affair with. Both films look excellent in high-def and fans of Ford will want to add this set to their collection even though there are no special features on either movie. Blu-ray set *** (out of 5 stars).

The Crazies (1973, Blu-ray) – George A. Romero’s The Crazies is an interesting concept that doesn’t really deliver anything on an emotional level. After the water is contaminated in a Pennsylvania town the townspeople go crazy, get violent and start to kill. The military is called in to take control of the situation but end up using excessive force and killing more people than they can save. For a Romero film it’s pretty boring and doesn’t live up to the camp factor one would expect. If you’re a fan the Blu-ray release looks clean but the sound is still as horrible as it ever was (that hollow studio voice recording of the men in HAZMAT suits makes me cringe more than laugh). Special features include commentary with Romero, an interview with cult film actress Lynn Lowry, trailers, and more. Film ** Blu-ray ** (out of 5 stars).

Sorority Row (Blu-ray) – After the girls in a sorority accidentally kill someone during a prank and decide to keep it a secret they get murdered one by one by a serial killer. Sorority Row is a remake of The House on Sorority Row (1983) and there was a lot of potential that was wasted on a bad script and bad acting (especially from Rumer Willis and The Hills‘ Audrina Patridge). My advice — skip it. Special features include deleted scenes, picture-in-picture commentary with the director and cast, outtakes, and more. Film * Blu-ray ** (out of 5 stars).

More New DVD releases this week: Nurse Jackie: Season 1, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Everybody’s Fine, The Damned United, Love and Savagery, The Box, Big River Man, Dirty Harry/Magnum Force (Blu-ray)

brian.mckechnie@citynews.rogers.com

Top image: Matt Damon in The Informant! Courtesy Warner Home Entertainment.