CATEGORIES DVDs, Movies, Blu-ray DVDs

As we fast approach the end of the holiday season, the home entertainment studios are going all out with one last gasp of DVDs for gift giving. There's something for everyone this week: The romantic-fantasy 'Midnight in Paris,' the family melodrama 'Dolphin Tale,' the mixed martial arts actioner 'Warrior,' and the violent and brutal remake of 'Straw Dogs.' Read on.

'Midnight in Paris'
What It's About: Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play Gil and Inez, a betrothed couple vacationing in Paris before their marriage; she's a spoiled, upwardly mobile young woman with wealthy parents, he's a dreamer of a screenwriter who falls in love with the City of Light. One night when she's off dancing with friends, Gil walks alone through the city and is -- spoiler alert -- magically transported to the Paris of the 1920s, where he meets up with the likes of Cole Porter, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. He's enamored with the idea that -- unlike the present -- the 1920s was a golden era, and he begins to spend more and more late nights in the past as his daytime present world proves more and more difficult to handle.

It's Kinda Like: 'Annie Hall' meets 'Somewhere in Time'

What We Say: Woody Allen's most accessible and enjoyable -- and profitable -- comedy in years. It's a romantic-comedy-fantasy with clever plotting (a screenwriter time travels in the past to meet some of the most creative people of the 20th century) and a wonderful love letter to Paris. The director tackles romance, love, memories, loss, artistic creation, hope and the illusion people have that a life different from their own would be much better. Utterly charming, with fine performances by Wilson, McAdams, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Alison Pill.

• Extras: For the first time, Allen has added a bonus feature to his film: a "Midnight in Cannes" featurette.
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'Dolphin Tale'
What It's About: Inspired by the amazing true story of a brave dolphin and the compassionate people who banded together to save her life. A young dolphin is caught in a crab trap off the Florida coast, severely damaging her tail; she's rescued and transported to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, where she is named Winter. But her fight for survival has just begun. Losing her tail could cost Winter her life and it takes the expertise of a dedicated marine biologist, the ingenuity of a brilliant prosthetics doctor, and the unwavering devotion of a young boy to bring about a ground-breaking miracle -- a prosthetic tail that will allow Winter to live. Stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman.

It's Kinda Like: 'Free Willy' meets 'The Day of the Dolphin'

What We Say: We're a sucker for this type of film, a sentimental, uplifting melodrama inspired by a true story that points up the values of friendship, family and love, while giving lessons in overcoming adversity through sheer will power and inner strength -- and tugs on your heartstrings and tear ducts. Director Charles Martin Smith throws in everything but the kitchen sink: the damaged dolphin, the boy who bonds with her, a wise old doctor, sympathetic parents, a cousin whose spine is injured in Iraq (mirroring the dolphin), and the struggling hospital saved at the last minute by the kindness of the community. It's a follow-your-dreams success story that kids and their parents will enjoy. And that it's basically true is even more inspiring -- check out SeeWinter.com.

• Extras: A pair of featurettes about the real Winter.
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'Warrior'
What It's About: Tommy Riordan, an ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, returns home and enlists his father, a recovering alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an mixed martial arts tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. Tommy's estranged brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to provide for his family as a public school teacher, also enters the competition. Naturally, the two brothers are on a collision course to meet in the cage for a final physical -- and emotional -- face off.

It's Kinda Like: 'The Fighter' meets 'Bloodsport'

What We Say: Brutally predictable actioner that finally legitimizes MMA for the big screen mainstream. Powerful acting and direction transcend the basically cliche-ridden, corny story line about an underdog Cain and Abel duo battling it out for respect and riches. The three leads are outstanding: Tom Hardy as the remorseless fighting brother who lives for the "kill," Nick Nolte as the bumbling father who basically abandoned his kids and is just now realizing the error of his ways, and Joel Edgerton as the straight-arrow teacher who will do anything to save his family from financial ruin. Director Gavin O'Connor hits all the right notes at just the right times.

• Extras: Commentary, a "making of" documentary, mixed martial arts strategy, gag reel, deleted scene.
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'Straw Dogs'
What It's About: Remake of Sam Peckinpah's classic drama. David and Amy Sumner (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth), a Hollywood screenwriter and his TV actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South so he can have the solitude necessary to work on his latest screenplay, a film about the siege of Stalingrad during WWII. Once there, the meek screenwriter runs afoul of he locals -- violent rednecks -- and tensions build in the couple's marriage. Throw in some lust -- in the form of Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) -- and you have all the makings for a violent confrontation when the good ol' boys decide to invade the homestead.

It's Kinda Like: 'Wait Until Dark' meets 'High Tension'

What We Say: Critic-turned director Rod Lurie closely follows Peckinpah's script, even going so far as to duplicate the ways in which Marsden defends his house and wife from the bad guys. He does, however, transport the film from rural England to the rural South, throwing in the violent ritual of Friday night football for good measure. The bad guys are stereotypically nasty and the revenge ends up being sweet -- that, after all, is the underlying point of the film: when threatened, even the most civilized of men can turn into a beast. If you've never seen the original, then the last 20 minutes of brutal fighting will be cathartic.

• Extras: Commentary with writer-director Rod Lurie and four interesting featurettes "Courting Controversy: Remaking a Classic," "The Dynamics of Power: The Ensemble," "Inside the Siege: The Ultimate Showdown" and "Creating the Sumner House: The Production Design."
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Other New December 20 Releases:
  • 'Blackthorn': (2011) Sequel of sorts to 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' posits the idea that Cassidy survived the standoff with the Bolivian military in 1908 and has more adventures as he tries to get back to the U.S. Stars Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea.
  • 'Burke & Hare': (2010) A black comedy about two 19th century grave robbers who find a lucrative business providing cadavers for an Edinburgh medical school. Directed by John Landis and starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry, Isla Fisher.
  • 'Catch .44': (2011) All hell breaks loose when three female hoods fail to intercept a double-cross drug shipment for their crime boss. Stars Forest Whitaker, Bruce Willis, Malin Akerman, Nikki Reed, Deborah Ann Woll, Brad Dourif.
  • 'Colombiana': (2011) Zoe Saldana plays a young woman who has become an assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents as a child, with her ultimate goal to hunt down and get revenge on the mobster responsible for their deaths.
  • 'Glee: The Concert Movie': (2011) A concert documentary shot during the Glee Live! In Concert! summer 2011 tour.
  • 'Margin Call': (2011) A thriller that revolves around the key people at an investment bank -- and the inside information they possess -- during a 24-hour period at the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.
Check out more December 20 DVD releases at OnVideo.



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