Film » View from the Couch

Lady and the Tramp, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas among new home entertainment titles

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DREAM HOUSE (2011). Between the tell-all trailer and the tell-all poster both employed for its brief theatrical run, there's not much to tell about Dream House except that it's a crushing disappointment considering all the Herculean talent on display. A bastard child of a movie that got caught in one of those ugly divorces between a studio and a filmmaker, this was wrested away from director Jim Sheridan (In America) and reshaped by Universal Pictures into the mess that's been foisted upon paying viewers. To be honest, I'm not sure that Sheridan's version would have been a rousing success — the script was written by David Loucka, whose past credits include Whoopi Goldberg's shot-in-Charlotte turkey Eddie — but I have to assume it would have been better than this cut, which doesn't even have the support of the stars who initially were excited enough about the project to sign up but quickly refused to promote it. That would be Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, playing a married couple who move into a quaint house with their two young girls. Before long, they learn that the house was previously owned by a man who murdered his wife and children, and that said killer has just been released from prison. Craig and Weisz are fine (Naomi Watts is on hand as well, but she's wasted as a supportive neighbor), but this movie will prove to be obvious and illogical even to those who weren't privy to what surely must rank as the clumsiest marketing campaign of last year.

Blu-ray extras include a making-of featurette; interviews with Sheridan and his three stars; and a piece in which the production designers discuss the creation of the title edifice.

Movie: *1/2

IN TIME (2011). Can a movie survive on premise alone? That would be a resounding no, since its success also rests squarely on the shoulders of the execution. Yet in the case of In Time, the premise is ingenious enough to cut some slack elsewhere. The movie may not probe as deeply into its subject as desired, but it's nevertheless an enjoyable watch, full of propulsive action and intriguing scenarios. Comparisons to Logan's Run are absurd, since this picture sports its own ideas on what the future might hold. It's a world order in which everyone is genetically designed to live until 25 years of age, at which point they're given one extra year to keep for themselves or use as currency. Because in this story, time literally is money, as a cup of coffee costs four minutes, a bus ride costs two hours, and so on. The rich have the means to acquire hundreds of years to tack onto their lives, while the poor barely have enough time to struggle from day to day. In Time focuses on one of the 99%: Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), whose life is turned upside down after a disillusioned millionaire (Matt Bomer) transfers a full century to him. Amanda Seyfried co-stars as the rich kid who joins Will on the lam, Cillian Murphy plays the Timekeeper (aka lawman) who's in hot pursuit, and writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) is the one who deserves credit for crafting this heady mix of science fiction and social commentary.

Blu-ray extras include deleted and extended scenes; The Minutes, a featurette about the origins of the film's time-based society; and access to the In Time game app.

Movie: ***

LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955). Ranking the Disney animated features is an exercise in futility along the lines of ranking Beatles singles or ranking James Bond flicks: Each person has his or her own personal favorite, and woe be to the foolish mortal who tries to convince them otherwise. For me, it's "Eleanor Rigby," Goldfinger and Lady and the Tramp — and that's my final answer. In the case of the Disney flick, it transcends being merely one of the greatest animated movies ever made — it's accomplished enough to rest alongside live-action features as one of the best love stories ever filmed. Taking the notion of "puppy love" to another level, this adds another variation to the "wrong side of the tracks" theme, as the incorrigible mutt Tramp woos the prim and proper (and hopelessly naïve) Lady. The candlelit dinner sequence, with "Bella Notte" playing in the background and our canine protagonists struggling with that long strand of spaghetti, is as romantic a movie scene as any since Rick said farewell to Ilsa at the Casablanca airport. That's not to say Disney and his minions ignore the crowd-pleasing comedic elements: The devious cats Si and Am provide some malicious fun, while the word-whistling beaver (voiced by toon mainstay Stan Freberg, still active today at 85) proves to be a potent scene-stealer.

Blu-ray extras include a making-of piece; three deleted scenes; the never-recorded song "I'm Free as the Breeze"; a dramatic reenactment of transcribed conversations between Walt Disney and his staff that led to the creation of the film; a reminiscence from Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller; PuppyPedia, a feature that includes facts about the characters' real-life breeds; and a music video for "Bella Notte."

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