Coolest extra: “Visualizing TRON” featurette (DVD); Ability to synch the Blu-ray disc with an iPad and watch behind-the-scenes videos as the movie plays (Blu-ray)
Complex says: Regardless of whether you own a miniscule TV or a 64-inch flatscreen, TRON: Legacy won’t look nearly as lush and digitally advanced as it did on big theatrical screens. So what’s left? Well, the long-awaited sci-fi sequel is still a visual triumph, but the shrunken projection draws more attention to the areas in which the film lacks—script, characters, and general story. You know, the elements that make a film an actual narrative and not just a special effects extravaganza.
Watching the Joseph Kosinski-directed spectacle at home allows for a more intense dissection of the flimsy screenplay, written by two Lost veterans, Andy Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, who should know better. Garrett Hedlund blandly stars as the estranged son of Jeff Bridges’ character from the 1982 original. Together, they duke it out with Bridges’ evil digital clone alongside Olivia Wilde in a skin-hugging black latex suit—a minor victory for us one-track-minded guys in an otherwise dull affair.
Even though everything aside from the superficial parts misfire, TRON: Legacy is never boring, which should be attributed to Daft Punk’s bombastic electronica soundtrack, one of 2010’s best original film scores. Casual movie watchers seeking brief, mindless escapism should gain some pleasure from the overall product, but anyone who either adores the original’s revolutionary spirit or simply appreciates intelligent science fiction are better off revisiting ’82’s TRON while holding one of Olivia Wilde’s swimsuit photos. That’d certainly cover all the bases.
Buy it now: TRON: Legacy
Friday Night Lights: The Fifth Season
Coolest extra: “The Lights Go Out” featurette (DVD)
Complex says: Best. Sports. Drama. Ever. Strong words? Sure, but we stand behind them wholeheartedly.
Friday Night Lights (2006-2011), which was initially sportswriter H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's 1990 account of life in a small, economically depressed, racially divided town in football-mad Texas, then Peter Berg's 2004 film adaptation, completes an excellent examination of America both inside and outside the lines. The critical darling was never able to huddle up huge audiences (it was saved from cancelation by a deal with DirecTV’s The 101 Network, which aired episodes in advance of NBC) but those who watched know it rarely fumbled the ball.
Over the course of five seasons, high school football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), his wife Tami (the lovely Connie Britton), and a superb ensemble cast of characters deal with sport-related issues like steroids, concussions, and peaking in life as a teenager, but also with larger societal ones like poverty, racial division, infidelity, teen pregnancy, and the impact of war. You don't have to be a jock to enjoy. In fact, if you are a football player, you may occasionally roll your eyes at the abundance of highly improbable finishes or undersized athletes.
We won't even bother describing the stellar fifth and final season, which is on sale today, because chances are you've either been hooked and already know, or you're a rookie who needs to get their ass in gear and catch up from episode one. The point is, now that the entire series in available on DVD, you have no excuses for not getting in the game.
Buy it now: Friday Night Lights: The Fifth Season
Coolest extra: “Making of a Godfocker” featurette (DVD); “Bob and Ben” featurette with Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller (Blu-ray)
Complex says: Is there anything worse than watching a movie and thinking, “The cast is clearly having more fun making this than anyone ever will seeing this piece of shit?” Ensemble comedies are most prone to this audience sensation; Couple’s Retreat and Grown Ups instantly come to mind. Yet both of those lazy duds are leagues above Little Fockers, a sequel that sounded unnecessary on paper and plays ten times worse than ever imagined.
Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, and the rest of the franchise’s key stars can’t need the money that badly, right? If not for financial purposes, then the gang reunited for this lifeless installment merely to hang out and riff before director Paul Weitz’s camera. Before the first act even finishes, though, you’ll say something else to yourself: “I guess you had to be there.” Maybe the jokes and the sight of De Niro suffering the aftereffects of too much Viagra were hilarious to all those on set, but in Little Fockers every bit disconnects.
When Meet The Parents first hit in 2000, the unexpected chemistry between opposites Stiller and De Niro made for a sharp and highly quotable film; four years later, their shtick began to wear thin in Meet The Fockers. Now, the Stiller/De Niro pairing is completely emaciated in Little Fockers, shriveling into a pile of stale drivel. Lord help us if Mother Fockers is ever green-lit.
Buy it now: Little Fockers
I Love You Phillip Morris
Coolest extra: Making-of featurette (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: In 1994, when Jim Carrey was ass-ing people questions with his derriere in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, we never could’ve guessed that the guy had such impressive dramatic acting skills. His earlier journeys into serious performance art, namely Man On The Moon and The Majestic, showed that his abilities stretched far beyond toilet humor, facial contortions, and goofy accents. But I Love You Phillip Morris, which was released last December after extensive delays, is Carrey’s finest work.
He plays Steven Russell, a real-life ex-con who just happens to be openly gay. While in the clink for an assortment of con moves, Russell meets the guy of his dreams, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor); he vows to free Morris and start a life with him, so Russell strategizes a series of all-new cons that land the lovestruck criminal in even hotter water. I Love You Phillip Morris pays equal attention to comedy and drama, which makes sense once you realize that Bad Santa screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra both wrote and directed Carrey’s passion project.
Arguably 2010’s best romantic comedy, I Love You Phillip Morris is guilty of over-reaching for laughs at times, veering dangerously close to Carrey’s earlier comedies while nearly trivializing Russell’s fascinating life story. But Requa and Ficarra find ways to restrain themselves whenever the tone feels too dependent on gags; their top method of self-grounding is to sit back and let Carrey naturally charm his way onto viewers’ good sides, and he does that in bulk in I Love You Phillip Morris. Don’t sleep, one-time Jim Carrey aficionados, because his upcoming slate seems pretty awful; one look at the recently issued trailer for Mr. Popper’s Penguins will make I Love You Phillip Morris seem like a more than welcome fluke.
Buy it now: I Love You Phillip Morris
Taxi Driver (Blu-ray edition)
Coolest extra: The original 1986 commentary track with Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader recorded by The Criterion Collection
Complex says: If you ever want to start a cinephile war of words, simply ask the question, “What’s Martin Scorsese’s best movie?” Outspoken purists might cling to Raging Bull, gangster fiends will no doubt salute Goodfellas, and delusional nincompoops will angrily defend Bringing Out The Dead. And then there are those film heads who appreciate darker subject matter; for them, Scorsese’s top work is most likely Taxi Driver, and we’re not about to argue.
Decades before Robert De Niro crapped the bed and signed onto every project sent his way (scroll up to see Little Fockers), the New York City native starred as Travis Bickle, a disturbed Manhattan cabbie who’s pissed off at society and decides to avenge the less fortunate by rescuing a young prostitute (Jodie Foster) from a suave drug dealer’s (Harvey Keitel) clutches. Released in 1976, Taxi Driver holds up as one of cinema’s greatest portraits of a fractured man’s descent into madness, stinging the brain with eerie music, a blood-drenched finale, and several iconic images, such as Bickle’s iconic “You talkin’ to me?” monologue.
For those who’ve yet to see Scorsese’s masterpiece, we first must say, “Shame on you.” Secondly, now’s the perfect time to catch up, with this 35th anniversary Blu-ray edition that’s loaded with extras, including six HD featurettes and a commentary track with Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader that was recorded back in 1986. See it now, or forever resort to citing The Departed as your favorite Marty movie, historically disinclined film buffs.