Much variety in this week’s DVD and Blu-ray offerings

by Rich Heldenfels

Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

21 February 2012

J. Edgar 

This week’s offerings on DVD and Blu-ray include a cool cat and a powerful dog, a religious pilgrimage, a portrait of a lawman and a goofy caper.

The caper is “Tower Heist” (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 for a Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo), the ensemble comedy starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Gabourey Sidibe, among others. Stiller is the manager of a high-end condo building whose tenants include a wheeler-dealer played by Alan Alda. But Alda turns out to have swindled his clients, who include the people working in his building; when he won’t repay their losses, Stiller and associates decide the only path to restitution is an elaborate burglary.

Directed by Brett Ratner, “Tower Heist” is nothing more than a mild entertainment, with scattered laughs and a couple of surprises. But it works all right by that standard, especially if you want something to decompress with after a stress-laden week. Still, I kept feeling that the movie should have been funnier, or more clever, especially after four writers worked on it — and the two alternate endings included among the video extras are both better than the one the movie ended up with.

Other extras include deleted scenes, bloopers, a making-of piece and an audio commentary by Ratner, the film’s editor and two of the writers.

Far more serious, and more satisfying, is “The Way” (Arc Entertainment, $26.99 DVD, $32.99 Blu-ray), written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen. It’s about a man who decides to complete the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, a religious trek started by his now-deceased son.

“The Way” did not make it into a lot of theaters but had a strong effect on people who saw it. While the movie has some clunky spots, Sheen is very good and, as I said when it was in theaters, “The Way” has a firm understanding of human frailty, and of what people need to get through the pain that life too often bestows on them.

“J. Edgar,” the Clint Eastwood-directed film about the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, makes its way to video on Tuesday (Warner, $28,98 DVD, $35.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo; both sets also have a digital copy), The movie, written by Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), is often sluggish and fragmentary as it tries to cover the long life of a man who spent most of it in his tight little office. Still, Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover gives a fine performance, as does Armie Hammer as Hoover’s longtime aide Clyde Tolson.

“Puss in Boots,” an Oscar nominee for best animated feature, arrives on video Friday from DreamWorks in several packages: standard DVD ($29.99), Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo ($39.99) and a set including all the other versions plus the Blu-ray 3-D ($54.99). Extras on the Blu-ray sets include a new animated short, “Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos,” picking up where the movie left off; if you want only the standard DVD, the short is available in a two-disc set with the movie for $34.98.

The movie has its high points, notably a dance battle between two characters. But, as I said after seeing the 3-D version in a theater, when it has to serve the plot, the movie begins to drag.

After talking about a cat, I should give equal time to a dog — in this case, Underdog. The animated superhero, famous for speaking in rhyme, comes to DVD in “Underdog: Complete Collector’s Edition” (Shout! Factory, 62 episodes, $69.97). The set includes not only the Underdog segments but ones showcasing Go Go Gophers, Commander McBragg, Tooter Turtle and others. Some of the material is well worn — notes with the DVD point out that episodes were re-edited for syndication and the original masters not saved — and the animation was pretty basic. But it still made me smile.

Down video road: “We Bought a Zoo,” with Matt Damon, will be on Blu-ray and DVD on April 3. The Criterion Collection version of “Being John Malkovich” will be on DVD and Blu-ray on May 15. A Blu-ray set of all three “Mimic” movies, including a director’s cut of the first film, will arrive on May 1.

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