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'Unstoppable,' 'Waiting for "Superman,"' and 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.'

February 13, 2011|By Noel Murray, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Denzel Washington in the movie "Unstoppable."
Denzel Washington in the movie "Unstoppable." (Robert Zuckerman, 20th…)

Unstoppable

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

The movie business could use more unpretentious, unsmirking action pictures like "Unstoppable," a runaway train thriller that puts Denzel Washington and Chris Pine on one choo-choo and a load of toxic chemicals on another. If the two trains meet, there'll be a big kaboom, and a cloud of poison over a good-sized Pennsylvania city. Screenwriter Mark Bomback works in more backstory than "Unstoppable" needs, and director Tony Scott goes overboard with the helicopter shots, but Washington and Pine are engaging together — as are Rosario Dawson and Kevin Corrigan as the people trying to manage the crisis back at the trainyard — and anyway, what could be more exciting than two trains on a collision course? The premise alone provides most of what the movie needs. The DVD and Blu-ray add more: a Scott commentary track and featurettes.

Waiting for 'Superman'

Paramount, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Award-winning "An Inconvenient Truth" helmer Davis Guggenheim turns his attention to the United States' struggling educational system in "Waiting for 'Superman'," a documentary tasked with making viewers aware of the bureaucratic obstacles and economic inequities that are hurting our children's chances to succeed. Guggenheim seems to have gone into the project with a conclusion in mind, and then looked for anecdotes and statistics to support his cause, which has brought some high-profile criticism of the movie (along with, to be fair, plenty of praise). But the film has a beautifully burnished look and its anecdotes are compelling, as parents speak openly about what they want their children to achieve and how they worry about what will happen to them if schools continue with the same flawed methods. The DVD and Blu-ray extend the argument further, via additional stories and interviews — all moving.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Sony, $28.95; Blu-ray, $38.96

Woody Allen returns to London and to sprawling ensemble storytelling with "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," a complete nothing of a comedy about a dysfunctional family's romantic travails. Anthony Hopkins plays a fit older man who divorces his wife and marries a prostitute, while Naomi Watts plays his daughter, whose own marriage to a struggling author (Josh Brolin) is in such dire straits that they're both contemplating affairs. The only relationship in the movie that's on stable ground is the one between Watts' mother and her favorite psychic. Allen's aiming here for another fanciful film about how people don't know as much as they think they do (in the vein of "Hannah and Her Sisters" or "Everyone Says I Love You"), but while the cast and style are as impeccable as always, Allen forgot to bring a plot, or jokes. This is easily his weakest film in years. And, as is traditional with Allen, the DVD and Blu-ray contain no special features.

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