New on DVD, Blu-Ray and On-Demand: 'Haywire' has awesome action, while 'New Year's Eve' offers plenty of stars, no matter how dim. Global conspiracy, love in New York, a '90s classic and two huge stars dominate this week.
What do you get when an Oscar-winning director decides to make a film around a Mixed Martial Arts fighter who's a beautiful as she is buff? 'Haywire' is the answer -- a brawny, sleek action film that owes more to 'Bourne' and early Bond than it does to the over-muscled, stuntman-filled money-and-tedium action films of today. Gina Carano stars as Mallory Kane, an ex-Marine freelance troubleshooter who gets into trouble herself, and has to shoot/kick/punch her way out of it. With a supporting cast of great male actors like Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGreor and Michael Douglas -- some of whom fight Carano in full-on action sequences where you can see both parties really giving, and taking, a beating -- 'Haywire' is a remarkably enjoyable throwback to a time when getting your pulse raised at the movies didn't necessarily mean also having your intelligence insulted. The disc is loaded with extras, but it's Soderbergh's supple camera work - the director shot the film himself - combined with Carano's graceful physicality that makes the film a must-see.
A follow-up to the similar -- and similarly awful -- 'Valentine's Day,' 'New Year's Eve' changes dates and coasts to bring another tale of vignettes about love and life. Director Garry Marshall is an abominable showman who never met a cliche he didn't like, and the huge cast, including Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and Hilary Swank all racing around New York in the pursuit of true happiness before the ball drops. (Especially notable is Ludacris, whose work as a high-ranking New York cop in a collar two sizes too big for him is simply, uh, ludicrous. Sorry.) Directed with the same ugly camerawork and let-em-talk laziness as 'Valentine's Day' by Garry Marshall, 'New Year's Eve' is the kind of movie destined to be deservedly mocked.
Setting stars Dolly Parton (in her first movie in 20 years) and Queen Latifah against each other -- as rival candidates to take over a church choir -- may be the smartest thing 'Joyful Noise' does. Full of music produced by Mervyn Warren -- who also gave us the 'Sister Act' films -- 'Joyful Noise' wisely lets Parton and Latifah clash until they reluctantly collaborate and then has them team up to save both the day, and their choir. There's also a star-crossed romance between Parton's grandson and Latifah's daughter to sweeten events and stir the pot, but it's Latifah and Parton -- including Parton singing all-new songs she wrote for the film -- who give 'Joyful Noise' as much joy and music as it clearly has.
Re-issued on Blu-ray with new special features, Amy Heckerling's 1995 romance isn't just worth it for the young-stars-of-the-future cast (including Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd and many more, nor is it worth seeing just as a modern spin on Jane Austen's 'Emma,' as Silverstone's Cher meddles in the love lives of everyone around her to try and create their happiness. It's ultimately worth watching for how Heckerling nails a specific slice of SoCal life that, for a while, determined the national temperature of teen-dom - the slang, the fashion, and more, not only classic comedy but an eye for human behavior that borders on sociology. With plenty of extras about casting the film plus the stars looking back on its legacy and more recycled from the 2005 DVD, 'Clueless' comes to Blu-ray in a way where every bright wardrobe piece and every shining snappy line of dialogue can be appreciated properly.
Next week: Vampires on Video with 'Underworld: Awakening' and more ...