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New on DVD: 'Inglourious Basterds'

Also: 'G-Force,' 'The Hangover' and 'Taking Woodstock'

December 13, 2009|By Noel Murray
  • Denis Menochet and Christoph Waltz star in the Quentin Tarantino film "Inglourious Basterds."
Denis Menochet and Christoph Waltz star in the Quentin Tarantino film "Inglourious… (Francois Duhamel / The Weinstein…)

Inglourious Basterds

Universal, $29.98/$34.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

Cannes audiences largely dismissed Quentin Tarantino's long-gestating World War II adventure, but actual moviegoers and a brilliant marketing campaign turned this talky, unusual action picture into a surprise hit.

It's heartening to know that a slow-building story (more than half of which isn't even in English) about cartoonish Nazi-hunting soldiers, tragic cinéastes and the perils of propaganda can win over crowds expecting a bloody romp. Credit the charismatic performances of Brad Pitt as a ruthless American soldier and Christoph Waltz as a pragmatic SS officer, and the bravura of Tarantino, who fills two-and-a-half hours with colorful chitchat, black humor, smirky pop culture references and shocking violence, yet leaves audiences with something serious to contemplate. This is a movie with a lot to give -- and one of the best of 2009.

The DVD and Blu-ray features are minimal but enjoyable, focusing mainly on the camaraderie of the cast and crew.

G-Force

Walt Disney, $29.99/$39.99; Blu-ray, $44.99

Parents looking to teach their young 'uns the grammar of summer blockbusters could do a lot worse than this bombastic action- comedy in which the heroes are rodents. Zach Galifianakis plays a young genius who's trained a group of guinea pigs to run covert missions for the government. When the G-Force gets sent back to the pet shop by its superiors, the team scrambles to reassemble in time to beat the bad guys. With humans, G-Force wouldn't be much, but with guinea pigs (voiced by Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan and Penélope Cruz), it's fairly entertaining. The DVD and Blu-ray features, which primarily focus on special effects wizardry, are more for adults than children.

The Hangover

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

Smart casting, a clever structure and tight direction elevate the otherwise routine dudecom "The Hangover." Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis star as friends who head to Las Vegas to give their buddy (Justin Bartha) a wild bachelor party, then have to piece together what happened when they wake up and discover they've lost the groom.

Most of the humor in the movie is based on macho misbehavior and humiliation -- subjects overdone in modern movie comedies, frankly -- but the mix of personalities makes for good company. The special edition DVD keeps the party going, with goofy behind-the-scenes footage and a gag reel; the Blu-ray adds a picture-in-picture commentary.

Taking Woodstock

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

The terrible pun in " Taking Woodstock's" title should be an indicator that something's not quite right with director Ang Lee's latest return to the social mores of the past.

Deadpan comic Demetri Martin plays a misunderstood artist who helps facilitate the staging of Woodstock, over the objections of his conservative Jewish parents and rural neighbors. That plot -- based on a true story -- would seem to be perfect for the director of "The Ice Storm" and "Brokeback Mountain," but Lee and screenwriter James Schamus miscalculate and go for broad comedy, turning a rich subject into a forced farce.

The DVD and Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, a Schamus/Lee commentary track, and featurettes that show why literal-minded filmmakers probably shouldn't try to crack wise.

All titles available Tuesday.

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