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John Allman

If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.

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New Releases for Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Posted Jun 3, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jun 3, 2012 at 06:15 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

This Means War
Genre: Action/Comedy/Romance
Directed by: McG
Run time: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: “This Means War” was touted as a BIG film, a high-concept, action-rom-com that would satisfy nearly every demographic.

The problem, of course, is that in trying to satisfy so many varied interests, you risk disappointing them all.

And therein lies the crippling flaw of director McG’s return to blow-em-up action and ribald comedy that defined his one true surprise hit, “Charlie’s Angels.”

So much veers off course in “This Means War” that you become frustrated, then angry, then perplexed.

Nothing makes sense.

There’s the clichéd way that the CIA is portrayed, from the har-har hijinks of Chris Pine and Tom Hardy’s overly cute-named special agents, FDR and Tuck, who have zero regard for national security or resources, utilizing a cadre of agents to spy on the woman they both fancy.

There’s the subpar romantic comedy of errors with both Hardy and Pine cooking up ridiculously clichéd “super dates” to woo Witherspoon, who never seems geeky or quirky enough not to have a boyfriend.

And the even more ridiculous battle of wills, and deployment of national resources, that Pine and Hardy use to undermine each other’s romantic advances. Really. Really? For example, FDR somehow commandeers an unmanned surveillance drone to follow Tuck on one date, and Tuck blows it up with a single shot, which his date somehow doesn’t notice, and they get away with this with zero repercussions. Doesn’t anybody in the CIA take notice of those type things? They also violate so many privacy laws by wiretapping and spying on Witherspoon that you ultimately wish neither of them would get the girl.

And, of course, there is the big reveal – surprise, the two suitors know each other – and then they beat hell out of each other in a very public setting, again with no repercussions or law enforcement involvement. And the expected big chase where Witherspoon and her best friend, played by Chelsea Handler as a boozing, bawdy mom who is too quick with increasingly off-color quips, get kidnapped by the bad guys and have to be rescued by Pine and Hardy, who must put aside their differences to maximize their abilities.

It’s one long mess of a movie that is punctuated by moments that you actually enjoy, which only serves to make the experience of enduring “This Means War” that much more frustrating.

Everyone involved deserved better, most of all the audience.

And poor McG, who last left the “Terminator” franchise in tatters, is looking more and more like a one-hit, one-trick pony with a ridiculously pretentious moniker and not the young director we expected to want to watch.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Reese Witherspoon, girl next door hot.
Nudity – No.
Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – A bunch of foreign bad guys who are forgettable.
Buy/Rent – Rent it, but only if desperate.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Not one, but two alternate endings, which just goes to show that nobody involved knew exactly what they wanted this film to be; commentary; deleted scenes; uncensored gag reel; a few featurettes.

The Woman in Black (Sony, 95 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Hammer Films returns to its gothic roots with a dark, dank supernatural haunting of a tale that tries too hard to play off its leading man, Daniel Radcliffe, in his first, post-Harry Potter, starring role.

Anyone familiar with Hammer’s heyday should champion the British company’s decision to go back to what used to work so well in the 1960s and early 1970s.

But “The Woman in Black” is so consistently dour, so devoid of any of the unintentional camp that made earlier Hammer films so much fun, that the story of a malevolent spirit who takes revenge and kills children in a small, remote coastal village, never really finds its groove.

Radcliffe, as a widower dispatched to the village to tie up the affairs of a valuable estate, seems so stoic, so earnest, hell, he rarely ever cracks a smile, that he becomes a difficult hero to root for.

And the few ambitious set pieces, full of shadowy jump scares and creepy antique toys and the title creature, the ominous shrieking Woman in Black, feel too slight. They lack a sense of true menace, or any urgency.

Had this been a sequel to “Sleepy Hollow,” with a game Johnny Depp playing a slightly befuddled Victorian-era detective, trying to solve the mystery of the curse afflicting the townsfolk, then, and only then, might “The Woman in Black” have been fun.

As it is, the film lurches along, with Radcliffe refusing to acknowledge any of the multiple warnings he receives, returning time and again to a haunted mansion with little acknowledgment that he might be swimming out too far in the deep end of the pool.

Also Available:

Lethal Weapon Collection – Warner Bros. has put together a nice package of all four Lethal Weapon movies, showcasing one of the 1980s best buddy-cop series that, sadly, lost its way amid formulaic retreads and recurring characters by the time the fourth sequel arrived in the 1990s.

“Lethal Weapon” and “Lethal Weapon 2” remain two of the genres best examples of the explosive, often go-for-broke action showcases that marked the decade’s best popcorn entertainment. As time went on, though, “Lethal Weapon” began to stale where other franchises, namely “Die Hard,” found fresh variations on the same story.

There’s not much that tops the first film, however,

“Lethal Weapon” is still one of the darkest mass-market slices of shoot-em-up to ever gain wide appeal, featuring a suicidal sociopath as a dashing leading man. And “Lethal Weapon 2” is still one of my all-time favorite sequels, taking the best of what worked so well the first time, adding effective layers of character development, introducing much needed comic relief and concluding with a rousing finale that truly satisfied.

The two subsequent sequels coasted along on familiarity, trusting that audiences had grown so fond of the characters that they would pardon the increasing detachment from reality simply because they liked detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh and wanted to see them prevail, regardless of the ridiculous scenarios that the producers cooked up.

Perfect Sense – Ewan McGregor and the red-hot Eva Green co-star in a apocalyptic love story.

Beyond – Jon Voight toplines this thriller.

Black Cobra – So many jokes come to mind. None of them printable.

Swat: The Final Season – Robert Urich’s S.W.A.T. swan song.

95 Miles to Go – What do Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld have in common? I don’t find either of them funny.

Carol Channing: Larger than Life – It’s sad to think how many young people today have no idea who Carol Channing is.

Worried About the Boy – BBC original chronicling the rise of Culture Club frontman Boy George.

Mutant Girls Squad – You either give in to these preposterous Japanese sci-fi orgies of severed limbs, gushing blood and mechanical-organic hybrids, or you don’t get the popcorn munching point. Me? When done well, like “The Machine Girl” or “Termanatrix,” they can be a hoot.

Route 66: The Complete Series – “Route 66,” which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964, pioneered classic TV serials that we love today. It also made expert use of the Guest Starring appearance, either showcasing some of the best actors working in that era, or giving a break to some up-and-coming soon-to-be-superstars like Robert Redford.

All 116 episodes of the cross-country narrative, which focused as much on America’s love for the automobile as its need for dramatic entertainment, are collected here – a whopping 6,000 minutes of classic television.

The Secret World of Arrietty – Disney keeps its street cred intact by putting out this old-school style animated delight.

My Babysitter’s a Vampire: The Complete First Season – Canadian teen vamps picked up by The Disney Channel. “The Vampire Diaries,” it ain’t.

Sherlock: Season Two – Lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch nabbed a super-secret role in the new “Star Trek.”

Teen Wolf: Season One – MTV recast the classic Michael J. Fox comedy as a “Twilight”-style teen soap. Lots of people supported the change, earning the series a second season.

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