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The Descendants (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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George Clooney delivers another great performance as Matt King, a land tycoon living a modest life in Hawaii, who is trying to get along with his two daughters while his wife is in a coma. Matt finds out some stuff about the wife—and his life takes some interesting turns.

Shailene Woodley is excellent (and should've received an Oscar nomination) as Matt's oldest daughter; also great is Amara Miller as the younger daughter. Robert Forster is both funny and sad as Matt's bitter father-in-law, while Matthew Lillard gets a good role as a real estate agent with a secret.

Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Election, Sideways), this is characteristic of his films: There are lots of good laughs to go with the heavy stuff. Clooney, based on who was nominated, deserved to win the Best Actor Oscar.

SPECIAL FEATURES: While this just left theaters, the Blu-ray is by no means a rush job. There are lots of featurettes on the making of the movie, including some dealing specifically with Clooney, casting and Hawaii. You also get an engaging conversation between Clooney and Payne, as well as some deleted scenes.

Young Adult (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Charlize Theron gets a nice chance to play one of the most irredeemably awful characters to come along in years.

In this funny—and nasty—movie from the team behind Juno (director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody), Theron plays Mavis, a writer of young-adult fiction who decides to return to her hometown and go after her ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), who is now married and has a child.

Patton Oswalt is remarkable as Matt, a former classmate who was legendarily beaten up at their school. Oswalt has some major chops, as do many of the participants in this movie.

This is one of those films that some might find a little too close to home to truly enjoy. However, I couldn't get enough of it. Be advised ... Mavis is one awful bitch.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary, a decent making-of doc, deleted scenes and more.

The Muppets (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Jason Segel and friends did a nice job of returning the Muppets to glory with this unorthodox treatment of the classic characters—a treatment that apparently irked the legendary Frank Oz.

Oz, the original director, took off because he didn't like the fart jokes—and he took his voice with him. He is missed, as is the late Jim Henson. But the movie works as an homage to what made the Muppets great (and, consequently, as an homage to Oz and Henson).

The plot is simple: An unofficial Muppet seeks out the likes of Kermit and Fozzie Bear to get them out of retirement and put on a show. It's cute, often funny, and nice groundwork for what will hopefully be further Muppet adventures.

A sequel is in the works, but Segel will apparently not be involved. That's a shame.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A fun commentary with Segel and company, a making-of documentary that includes plenty of new Muppet action, decent deleted scenes, and a lengthy blooper reel are the best supplements.

Battle Royale: The Complete Collection





(OUT OF 10)

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Fans of The Hunger Games might want to check this one out. Director Kinji Fukasaku had teens offing each other in death games long before Suzanne Collins started writing those popular novels.

While this is the first official DVD release for these films in the United States, it was never banned, as Internet scuttlebutt would have it; various distribution issues kept it from our shores. Anchor Bay apparently worked something out, so here it is, in all its bloody, all-out-wrong glory.

In the future, juvenile delinquency has reached epidemic proportions in Japan. Adults are so fed up that they come up with a program that pits kids against each other in fights to the death.

Fukasaku has made a movie that works as a thriller, horror movie and comedy, all in one. It's a shocker, and The Hunger Games will be hard-pressed to top it.

Fukasaku was hard at work on Battle Royale II when he died. His son picked up the baton and finished the movie—a film that is not nearly as good as the original. Grades: Battle Royale (A-); Battle Royale II (C-).

SPECIAL FEATURES: The discs come in a nice cardboard booklet. You get director and theatrical cuts of Battle Royale, a disc for the sequel, and a disc of special features containing documentaries and making-of featurettes. This should make fans—who previously had no choice but to buy bootlegs and overseas editions—very happy.

More by Bob Grimm

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    • Jan 4, 2018
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