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My name is Wayne Chamberlain and I'm a geek daddy who is into Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, books, movies, video games and talking to creative people about their work in these mediums. And that's what you'll find here, along with news, previews and reviews. I'm a journalist, an editor and co-host of the Star Wars Book Report podcast. So come on in and feel free to geek out in a fun, friendly environment.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hardy, Pine outshine Witherspoon in action-comedy This Means War

It’s been a busy few weeks, dealing with some rather nasty salmonella poisoning of me and my younglings.
But if there is any bright side to be taken from all of that blech-ness, it’s that movies and DVDs are a real life saver at times like that.
And I’ve been getting lost in a number of films lately. So here’s a look at what has captured my eye from what I’ve received the past few weeks.
The main new flick out there is from director McG, which is at times a bro-mance, an action-buddy comedy, as well as a rom-com.
This Means War stars Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon. Now, as any good reviewer should, time to reveal my own personal biases. First, I have a man-crush on Tom Hardy. I think the guy is one of the best actors of his generation and I’ve yet to see a film with him in it where I wasn’t impressed by his performance. Second, I really don’t much care for Witherspoon. I don’t find her sexy or attractive in the least, so two guys fighting over her makes about as much sense as two guys battling over a copy of Vanity Fair.
And finally, McG … I have a love-hate thing with him. I love Supernatural, which he produces, as well as We Are Marshall and Terminator Salvation, which he directed. But I detested the two Charlie’s Angels movies and the completely unnecessary TV reboot of Nikita.
OK, there. Biases revealed.
This Means War features a pretty basic plot. Hardy plays Tuck, a divorced, absentee dad. Pine (best known for his role as Kirk in the Star Trek reboot) plays FDR, a lover of all things female. Tuck and FDR are CIA agents and best friends.
When some bad guy targets the duo, the agency tells them to take a break for a bit. Tuck decides to post a profile on a dating website, which catches the eye of Witherspoon’s Lauren. They meet, have chemistry and agree to meet again.
FDR, meanwhile, bumps into Lauren at another time and hits on her. She’s intrigued. She wants to see him again.
The boys find out they’re both after the same woman. Out of respect, they agree to let her choose. But their competitive nature drives them to start using their training and gadgets to monitor the other’s dates and sabotage him whenever possible.
And then, of course, there’s that bad person who wants them both dead.
Like I said, basic plot.
This is one of those cult of personality movies, where how much you like the characters goes a long way to determining whether you’re going to enjoy your 99 minutes with this trio. And to me, the movie works best when Hardy and Pine are working together or against one another. Thankfully, that’s a large section of the movie. The plot-necessary stuff with Witherspoon is predictable and moves by relatively quickly. Give McG credit for knowing what an audience is really interested in.
Hardy and Pine have great chemistry between them … far better than either does with Witherspoon, although Pine and Witherspoon do seem to click a little more than Hardy and the blonde actress do.
The action scenes are crisply shot and there are some fun comedic moments as the boys try to destroy one another’s date nights.
Overall, This Means War is a decent buddy flick with a little rom-com thrown in, making it a date night movie that both sexes can get beside.
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Here’s a quick look at some other DVDs now available:
* The War: Ken Burns absolutely brilliant documentary about the Second World War comes to Blu-ray.
And while the film itself has been given the high-def treatment, there are no new extras and the extras that are carried over from the low-def version are all in standard 480p.
If you don’t already own this amazing 15-hour set, which features personal stories, letters and stirring voiceovers read by the likes of Keith David, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Lucas and Bobby Cannavale, then I would say rush out and get this set if you’re at all interested in learning about the U.S. involvement in WWII.
But if you already have the standard-def set, I don’t see much reason to upgrade. It’s still the same great documentary, just at a lower resolution.
* Ray Romano: 95 Miles to Go: Part road trip, part comedy show, this documentary features a slightly stunned Romano learning that his opening act and friend, Tom Caltabiano, has hired a film student to shoot their seven-day, eight city comedy tour through the southern U.S. Caltabiano points out that Romano refused to have a big film crew shoot his tour so this was his solution.
The result is a mixed bag, with some truly hilarious bits between the buddies in the car as they banter back and forth, along with some tedious Ray’s an everyday-kinda-guy stuff.
Of course, any ‘reality’ TV or documentary always has to be viewed with some skepticism as people do play to the camera and hold back their true nature most of the time. But what film student Roger Lay Jr. captured here is more often than not funny – if you like Romano. If you’re not a fan, then there’s not much in this 79-minute doc that will convert you.
Extras include more than two hours of extra question and answer sessions, commentary tracks, Romano’s Kansas City stand-up show, as well as deleted and extended scenes.
* Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season: Stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul take their drug-making characters through another gut-churning, intense 13 episodes that sees them dealing with a growing animosity between them, as well as issues with Walt’s (Cranston) estranged wife, his DEA Agent brother-in-law and the drug lord calling all the shots, played by the brilliant Giancarlo Esposito.
Extras include more than 15 hours of cast and crew commentaries, eight featurettes, video podcasts, five uncensored episodes, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel and an extended version of the season finale. Available on standard def DVD and Blu-ray.
* Route 66: The Complete Series: This massive 24-disc set would be an ideal father’s day gift for the grampas out there who remember this popular series, which ran from 1960-64.
Featuring Martin Milner, George Maharis and later Glenn Corbett, the show focused on a pair of guys driving across the U.S. Route 66 in their corvette, doing good and righting wrongs wherever they stopped along the way.
The show ran for 116 episodes and featured some top-name guest stars, including Buster Keaton, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Boris Karloff, Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman.
Extras include a look at vintage commercials, a documentary about the Corvette, as well as a 1990 TV panel featuring Maharis, writer/producer Herbert Leonard and directors Arthur Hiller and Elliot Silverstein.
* G.I. Joe: Renegades: Season One, Volume One: Duke, Scarlett, Roadblock, Snake Eyes and the rest of the Joes do battle against Cobra and another group called the Falcons in this 2010 animated series. The regular voice cast includes Charles Adler, David Marsden, Kevin Michael Richardson and Matthew Yan King, as well as spot performances from Clancy Brown, Peter MacNicol, Lee Majors, Nika Futterman, James Arnold Taylor, Corey Burton and Phil LaMarr.
* Transformers Super-God Masterforce: Part two of the rare Japanese TV trilogy, this five-disc set features 52 episodes of the robots in disguise wrapping up their battle on Earth against the Decepticons. A small group of Autobots remain behind to help protect the planet, while the rest of the crew head off-planet. However, a new force of Decepticons (called Destrons here) come calling, the outnumbered Autobots will need to find help if they’re to win this battle.
Extras include the original Japanese language tracks, English subtitles and an art gallery.
* Victorious: The Complete Second Season
* Cat Dog: Season Two, Part One
*Hey Dude: Season Three
* Hazel: The Complete Third Season
* The Walking Tall Trilogy: Contains all three feature films.
* Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Third Season
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Next week, watch for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and a new Asian film called Accident.

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