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Reviewed: 'Catfish,' 'Dinner for Schmucks,' 'Machete'

January 02, 2011|By Noel Murray, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Catfish

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

The controversial documentary "Catfish" follows three New York artists who take a road trip to confront some Michigan fans who might have duped them. Did the fans really do anything wrong? Are the artists exploiting them? Did any of this actually happen, or is it all staged? There's been a lot of debate over the implications of "Catfish," but none of those conversations would be happening if the movie weren't so riveting. "Catfish" comes together piece by astonishing piece, all linked by Google Maps animation and YouTube clips and GPS instructions and IM exchanges and other reminders that we're living in a world at once more connected and more disconnected than ever. The DVD and Blu-ray keep all the arguments alive via new interviews with the filmmakers/subjects.

Dinner for Schmucks

DreamWorks, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Paul Rudd and Steve Carell have appeared in some of the subtlest, most sophisticated movie comedies of the past decade, but "Dinner for Schmucks" is not among them. Based on a Francis Veber French farce, the film stars Rudd as a corporate climber who recruits a dorky would-be artist (played by Carell) to be his guest at a dinner party thrown by his boss, in which the employee who brings the biggest loser is the "winner." The pace is slow and the jokes are bland — overall, a waste of a talented cast. All concerned look like they're having more fun on the DVD and Blu-ray's featurettes and deleted scenes.

The Last Exorcism

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

One of the more clever recent low-budget horror films, "The Last Exorcism" is framed as a documentary about a charismatic preacher who intends to expose the methods that he and his church use to defraud the devout. But when he gets called in to perform one of his mock-exorcisms, the preacher discovers that the subject in question actually might be possessed by demons. The movie starts as a low-key character study, turns creepy, and then ends with a twist that might anger some viewers — but only because they'll have so much invested in the story up to that point. The DVD and Blu-ray add commentaries and featurettes, including a look at some real-life exorcisms.

Machete

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

Unlike his pal Quentin Tarantino, writer-director Robert Rodriguez doesn't revive the style and mood of old exploitation films to make a larger point; he does it because he thinks they're a blast. Rodriguez's "Machete" is an overt piece of trash, with the beefy Danny Trejo playing an illegal immigrant who stands up to corrupt Texas politicians (amid an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan and Steven Seagal). "Machete" is energetic and silly in the right ways, and in keeping with the spirit of the piece, the DVD and Blu-ray add an "audience reaction track," so viewers can whoop along with the crowd.

And...

"Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season" (HBO, $59.99); "Bitter Feast" (MPI, $24.98); "Case 39" (Paramount, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99); "Howl" (Oscilloscope, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99); "The Lena Baker Story" (Lionsgate, $14.98); "The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete First Season" (Warner, $29.98)

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