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Popeye the Sailor, Volume 3: 1941-1943. (Warner Home Video; 219 minutes; unrated; 2008). Continuing the chronology of the celluloid cinema’s celebrated swabbie, this third installment of the DVD box-set series marks the transition between the Popeye cartoons helmed by the longtime production team of Max and Dave Fleischer (both left Paramount Pictures’ cartoon department in 1942) and the creation of Paramount’s in-house ’toon shop, Famous Studios. Thus, the first 18 of this two-disc set’s 32 black-and-white cartoons are from the fraternal Fleischers, the rest from Famous Studios, and casual observers will likely note a seamless handover. There are a few differences, however, such as the Fleischers’ fondness for inventive situations and colorful characters (the irascible Poopdeck Pappy co-stars in several shorts) compared to Famous Studios’ accent on breezy, brassy action. Yet World War II would have surely changed the franchise, anyway, with Navy man Popeye naturally pressed into patriotic service.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army. (Universal; 121 minutes; PG-13; 2008). Director Guillermo del Toro’s Academy Award-winning treat Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) apparently earned the Spanish auteur such industry clout that he could shape this Hellboy sequel into the wildest and most surreal of comic-book-to-cinema translations. And since del Toro also guided the 2004 original, which spent much time detailing the origin of the Dark Horse Comics’ horned superhero created by Mike Mignola, the follow-up finds more room for creepy crawlies galore as well as the occasional hellacious smackdowns.
The Nightmare Before Christmas. (Disney; 77 minutes; PG; 1993). Producer Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated classic, a musical mixture of spooky satire and yuletide whimsy, has revisited multiplexes in a three-dimensional version for the last three Halloween seasons. The recent double-disc DVD from Walt Disney Home Entertainment doesn’t have that 3-D option, presumably because it would put the kibosh on the movie’s annual reissues, but there are other pleasures that serve as compensation.
The Love Guru. (Paramount; 86 minutes; PG-13; widescreen; 2008). And now a brief obit for Mike Myers’ unloved comedy, one of last summer’s bigger box-office meltdowns, and now available as a DVD offering from Paramount Home Entertainment. Myers hasn’t been seen much since Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), aside from a Shrek sequel and Myers’ memorable double take alongside rapper Kanye West, the latter uttering his famed “George Bush hates black people” comment during a Katrina fund-raiser. West, however, makes a cameo in Myers’ latest farce, a jumbled affair that merges Myers’ fondness for wacky caricatures and Canadian hockey.
Step Brothers. (Columbia; 98 minutes; R; widescreen; 2008). With each movie Will Ferrell seems to be pushing the limits of audience acceptance regarding his nutty screen persona, and his zesty participation as an infantile, potty-mouthed, middle-aged slacker in this slob comedy just might be the litmus test—and this time around he’s got John C. Reilly as formidable competition.
in Robert Davi’s comedy The Dukes
By Bill DeLapp
They had faces then: At least that’s what Gloria Swanson, portraying the once-famous silent actress Norma Desmond, affirmed in Billy Wilder’s corrosive Tinseltown drama Sunset Boulevard (1950). Norma’s belief that a movie star’s distinctive countenance could sell tickets even if the films weren’t talkies has, of course, always been a part of Hollywood’s emphasis on face value, with actors routinely getting typecast simply for how they look. The craggy kisser of Robert Davi has always kept the actor employed, mostly as a menacing sort (the nemesis in the 1989 James Bond outing Licence to Kill, the gung-ho fed in the chopper for Die Hard), although he has occasionally sent up that mean image in the family flick The Goonies and Rob Schneider’s The Hot Chick.
Bolt. (Disney; 95 minutes; widescreen; PG; 2008). The Mouse House’s computer-animation department has tried several times to replicate that distinct brand of magic found in Pixar Animation Studios’ flicks, yet the respectable results of Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons didn’t meet the artistic achievements of a Toy Story or Monsters, Inc. Now that Pixar has gained equal footing amid the Disney empire, Pixar vet John Lasseter’s participation as executive producer on Disney’s brand-new Bolt suggests that the former chasm between separate Disney and Pixar cartoons seems to have been bridged. While not an instant classic in the same league as other Pixar outings, Bolt delivers pleasant, occasionally flat-out fun—and it’s even better when peering through those 3-D spectacles at certain multiplex engagements, like the digital screenings at Regal Carousel 17.
Four Christmases. (New Line/Warner Bros,; 88 minutes; PG-13; 2008). Moviegoers in a festive, what-the-hell, I’ll-see-anything mood helped anoint this tacky yuletide farce to the top of the Thanksgiving box-office heap. Too bad this blah knockoff on in-law comedies like Meet the Parents and Meet the Fokkers is more leaden than last year’s fruitcake.
Silents are golden: Our Dancing Daughters, starring Joan Crawford and Johnny Mack Brown, screens Sunday as part of the 80th anniversary program at Rome’s Capitol Theatre.