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'Julie & Julia'

Also: 'The Cove,' 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,' 'World's Greatest Dad'

December 06, 2009|By Noel Murray

Julie & Julia

Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95

The "Julia" half of Nora Ephron's comedy is absolute- ly wonderful, casting Meryl Streep as Julia Child and showing how the beloved TV chef developed an interest in French cooking (and a side interest in publishing). The "Julie" half stars Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a blogger who gained international attention for her attempt to cook every recipe in Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Ephron seems less enthused by Powell's story, perhaps because the young writer -- despite the best efforts of Adams -- comes off as weak-willed and self-absorbed, especially in contrast to the can-do Child. Still, it's a funny, heartwarming movie, with an unmistakable undertone of bitterness, anchored by two strong performances. The DVD includes an Ephron commentary track and a featurette; the Blu-ray is appropriately Julia-heavy, with tours of her kitchen, reminiscences from friends and cooking lessons.

The Cove

Lionsgate, $27.98

Louie Psihoyos' documentary is both an exposé of the horrors of dolphin-fishing and a blow-by-blow account of Psihoyos' attempt to sneak cameras and microphones into the secret cove where the waters run red with dolphin blood. While firing off facts and arguments about our over-fished oceans, Psihoyos is also staging a slick caper film, in which he assembles a group of like-minded individuals and embarks on a dangerous mission. The result is nail-biting to watch, if perhaps a little too eager to turn a complicated real-world problem into a battle of good versus evil. The DVD adds deleted scenes, a Psihoyos commentary and an additional short documentary about the rising mercury levels in the world's seafood.

Harry Potter and

the Half-Blood Prince

Warner, $28.98/$34.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

For this, his second outing with the mega fantasy franchise, director David Yates finds new emotional depth in a now-familiar premise, dramatizing how the heroic young wizard and his friends deal with unrequited love, death and the burden of expectation. Much of "Half-Blood Prince" feels like a setup for the series' two-part grand finale, but Yates and the constantly improving young cast invest a slight story (about a largely off-screen magic war) with real drama and moodiness. The double-disc DVD contains a generous assortment of featurettes, while the Blu-ray adds a detail-heavy picture-in-picture commentary.

World's Greatest Dad

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

As a stand-up comic, Bobcat Goldthwait was known for his mix of social commentary and inappropriate shrieking; as a filmmaker, his approach is much the same. Goldthwait's third movie stars Robin Williams as a miserable private school poetry teacher raising an obnoxious, sex-obsessed teenager. Through a couple of weird -- and dark -- twists of fate, the teacher becomes a successful author, though his popularity is based on a pathetic lie. The DVD and Blu-ray include deleted scenes, featurettes and a Goldthwait commentary, all packaged behind a cover that makes the movie look like some toothless family comedy. Be warned: While it has moments of warmth, this is one bleak, perverse comedy.

All titles available Tuesday.

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