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DVDs In Brief: August 29, 2012 


DVD round-up

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Why did Battleship (Universal) fail where Transformers succeeded? More to the point, why did audiences laugh off one bombastic Hasbro adaptation about mechanized space invaders while opening up their wallets for another? There’s really no explanation for it, but the world certainly didn’t need a second dumb toy-to-movie franchise, and Battleship’s failure is a blessing on that front. The few moments that work are callbacks to the actual game, like a scene where a missile is directed to a guesstimated blind sea quadrant over a large obstruction. But director Peter Berg seems intent on getting some distance from the game—a certain catchphrase is conspicuously and shamefully absent—and making a militaristic noise machine instead… 

One of the best new shows of 2011, Showtime’s Homeland (CBS) has what would seem like a narrow premise for a long-running series: A paranoid CIA agent (Claire Danes) suspects that an American POW (Damian Lewis), having just returned home after years of captivity in Iraq, is a terrorist sleeper agent. The show drops the expected is-he-or-isn’t-he clues, but it’s not afraid to shake off its central question and explore the inner lives of two extremely troubled characters. Danes is particularly good as a fitfully brilliant investigator who teeters on the brink of insanity… 

Steve Harvey’s best-selling manifesto Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man explosively revealed that women enjoy commitment and drinking wine with their girlfriends while dudes like sex, playing videogames, and avoiding commitment. The surprise smash Think Like A Man (Sony) is less a straight adaptation of Harvey’s book (which would be difficult, if not downright impossible) than an absurdly hyperbolic celebration of it as a Rosetta Stone that unlocks the secrets to male-female romantic relationships. The super-slick surprise hit chronicles the travails of a group of gorgeous, successful black women who get the upper hand on the much less accomplished men in their life by reading Harvey’s book, before the fellas turn the table after they too discover the life-changing magic that is Harvey’s prose. It’s a glib, reductive romp through gender stereotypes that nevertheless struck a chord with the public…

The Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Lucky One (Warner Bros.) is just your typical boy-finds-photo-of-girl-while-serving-in-Iraq, boy-avoids-getting-killed-by-retrieving-the-photo, boy-comes-home-and-walks-to-Louisiana-to-find-girl, boy-doesn’t-tell-girl-why-he’s-there-when-he-meets-her story. It’s fundamentally silly, but director Scott Hicks (Shine) makes it look good, and Zac Efron continues to establish himself as a grown-up actor (even though his co-star, Taylor Schilling, is pretty dull)… 

Aardman Animations, the studio behind the Wallace & Gromit shorts, returned to stop-motion feature animation with The Pirates! Band Of Misfits (Sony) after the CGI outings Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas, and the transition back, like the animation itself, is seamless. Based on Gideon Defoe’s popular comedic books (and scripted by Defoe as well), the film is soft-pedaled, absurdist, low-stakes silliness that values affability over just about anything else, except maybe hand-crafted visual detail.