Cinefiles

February 11, 2010
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Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic (Blu-ray) (NR)

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Should I find it completely offensive that this DVD's credits don't say "Based on the novel by Dante Alighieri," but instead read "Based on the EA Video Game created by Visceral Games?" While it makes me feel like the 10th Circle of Hell should be "uneducated idiocy," I've got to say that, though extremely silly, this animated tie-in is pretty darn entertaining. Crusades-era knight Dante travels through the many layers of Hell in an effort to rescue his beloved Beatrice from the matrimonial claws of Lucifer. Along the way he encounters numerous grotesque "big bosses" whom he must defeat in order to pass to the next level. Made with a highly stylized anime look, with plenty of bloodshed, martial arts and pseudo-heretical biblical interpretations, it's all nonsense, but it's nonsense that looks good. Probably just like the video game. — Louis Fowler

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Love Happens (PG-13)

Universal Studios

There are moments underneath this film's Hallmark-card gloss in which Aaron Eckhart nearly breaks your heart with his grief. It comes in seconds that slide by like the raw emotions flickering across his face, as he plays a self-help author and recent widower who needs to keep all the ache tamped down because he cannot self-help himself. Oh, but here comes Jennifer Aniston — who plops on a funky hat and drives a pastel VW van and thinks herself adorably idiosyncratic — to help him over his pain. In one cringe-inducing segment, the mostly mopey melodrama veers into sitcom, but Eckhart saves it from becoming complete bullshit. He sells the hurting in a way that makes you wish the rest of the movie — and its story of anguish and recovery — was as dedicated to the whole endeavor as he is. — MaryAnn Johanson

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To Live and Die in L.A. (Blu-ray) (R)

MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Imagine if a Miami Vice-era Michael Mann, fully entrenched in his day-glo mid-'80s Nagel-inspired worldview, made a Scorsese-level crime epic along the lines of, say, The Departed. Well, don't imagine: just check out William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A., now out on Blu-ray complete with a soundtrack by Wang Chung! A pre-CSI William Petersen is a "cool" federal agent tracking down tortured artist/counterfeiter Willem Dafoe. Only it's not as routine as you'd think; there are more twists and turns here than on the 101, with multiple unexpected gruesome deaths, bizarre character twists and a fantastic chase down the wrong side of a freeway. Sadly, Friedkin has never reached these heights again — Jade, anyone? — but this is a true '80s crime classic, even with all the excessive Wang Chungage. — Louis Fowler

Country's Greatest Stars Live: Volume Two (NR)

Shout! Factory

Volume two of Shout! Factory's fantastic Country's Greatest Stars Live series has a hard time living up to its predecessor, but in the end manages to hold its own as a beacon of musical excellence in a time of atonal drudgery. With more of a low-key, Lawrence Welk-like atmosphere, these late '70s-era TV specials, hosted from the Grand Ole Opry by the likes of Crystal Gayle and Charley Pride, included must-see performances by Asleep at the Wheel, Charlie Daniels Band, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Paycheck, Eddie Rabbitt, Ronnie Milsap and, my personal favorite, Freddy Fender. It's four hours of incomparable music — most of it forgotten, sadly — that shows a real style, flair and honest appreciation for the audience. I seriously hope that they're planning more of these releases, produced in association with the Country Music Hall of Fame. — Louis Fowler

The Last King of Scotland (Blu-ray) (R)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

I missed this when it was originally released in 2006, but now thanks to Blu-ray, this need-to-see soon-to-be classic directed by Kevin MacDonald deserves another look. Forest Whitaker, in an Oscar-winning performance, truly transforms himself into infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, portraying him as a bipolar, egotistically fragile man-child who firmly believes that what he's doing is for the greater good of Uganda. This is all seen through the eyes of his fictional Scottish doctor, whose wild-eyed innocent friendship with Amin gradually turns into fear for his life as he sees the corruption and genocide around him. Populated with a killer soundtrack of '70s Ugandan pop — yes, it exists! — this film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. Powerful, potent and pulling no punches, Last King is a truly unforgettable movie. — Louis Fowler

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