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Behind-the-scenes commentary boosts a flat 'Che'

Also being released: 'Gamer,' 'The Invention of Lying,' 'No Impact Man.'

January 17, 2010|By Noel Murray


Criterion, $49.95; Blu-ray, $49.95

Steven Soderbergh's four-hour, two-part Che Guevara biopic lingers in the mind like a stimulating conversation, but the movie is ultimately a noble failure, more interesting for its ambitious structure and charismatic Benicio Del Toro performance than for its rote history lessons and dull wilderness shootouts. That said, Criterion's double-disc DVD and Blu-ray "Che" package is a stunner, in part because it features interviews with Soderbergh and his collaborators in which they cop to some of the movie's problems. Between the behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and fiery commentary track by historian Jon Lee Anderson, this set accomplishes what "Che" was meant to do, reveal the grinding work of winning hearts and minds.


Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

The "Crank" series' writer-director team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor takes a baby step away from hyperbolic black comedy with "Gamer," a grim sci-fi action movie about a future in which video-gamers control actual human beings. Gerard Butler plays a death row inmate who's become a first-person shooter game's most successful "character," while Michael C. Hall appears as an amoral gaming entrepreneur and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges is a hacker. Neveldine and Taylor retain their amped-up style and preoccupation with sex, violence and gross-outs, but their depiction of a dehumanizing cyber-culture is well-imagined and sharply satirical -- a sign that they might be maturing. The DVD includes a Neveldine-Taylor commentary track; the Blu-ray adds more interactive commentaries and featurettes.

The Invention of Lying

Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

"The Office" and "Extras" creator Ricky Gervais co-wrote, co-directed, co-produced and stars in "The Invention of Lying." Here, he concocts a world where no one ever lies and plays a screenwriter who rises to the top when he starts making stuff up -- including a story about a man in the sky who promises eternal happiness. At first, the film seems more interested in developing its premise than being funny, but Gervais eventually finds a steady comic rhythm and comes up with something unique. If you skipped it in theaters, give it a shot on DVD, where you can enjoy deleted scenes and outtakes, or on Blu-ray, which throws in four distinctly Gervais-ian featurettes.

No Impact Man

Oscilloscope, $29.99

For one year, journalist Colin Beavan tried living as eco-friendly as he could (by reusing and consuming as little as possible), all while writing about the experience for a blog and a book. The experience also became a documentary directed by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, and in some ways, the movie version of "No Impact Man" is the superior product. Beavan's writing might be more detailed, but Gabbert and Schein's film contains a measure of objectivity, as they observe how Beavan's efforts test the patience of his family and friends. The DVD also practices recycling well, adds film festival Q&As and bonus footage.

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