THE THREE STOOGES COLLECTION: VOLUME SEVEN (1952-1954). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment continues to release their knuckleheaded sets at a rapid clip, earning the gratitude of Stoogephiles everywhere. The third collection to be released in 2009 (following the March and June compendiums), this collects the 22 shorts that Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard made toward the end of the team's long and successful run. This volume includes Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire, two shorts originally shot in 3-D during the height of that gimmick's popularity (both films were made in 1953, the same year as the quintessential 3-D effort, House of Wax); both are presented here in 2-D and 3-D versions. This period in Hollywood history also saw the birth of widescreen cinema, meaning that a handful of the later titles in this set are presented in that format. As for the material itself, there's plenty to enjoy, even if eight of the 22 titles are remakes of earlier Stooge pictures and some shorts contain recycled footage. Among the offerings are Cuckoo on a Choo Choo, Booty and the Beast, Scotched in Scotland, and the High Noon parody Shot in the Frontier.
There are no extras in the collection, although it does include two pairs of 3-D glasses.
THE UGLY TRUTH (2009). Look, it's only fair. If impressionable frat boys could enjoy The Hangover this past summer and impressionable teenagers had Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to call their own, then why not give impressionable women their own imbecilic film? An abhorrent romantic comedy, The Ugly Truth is so inept and ill-conceived on so many levels that mandatory sterilization seems to be the only punishment suitable for everyone involved in this mess. We wouldn't want these folks breeding like rabbits. In a typically bad performance consisting primarily of exaggerated reaction shots, Katherine Heigl (also serving as executive producer) plays Abby, a TV news producer who's also a frigid control freak loved only by her cat. Into her world enters Mike (Gerard Butler), a chauvinist whose cable access show (The Ugly Truth) gets absorbed into Abby's news program in an effort to boost ratings. Mike's segment, in which he claims that men can't be taught anything once they pass toilet training and that there's no such thing as a romantic male, offends Abby, but eventually she finds herself turning to Mike for help on how to land her hottie neighbor, Colin (Eric Winter). He's only too happy to assist her, until he begins to fall for this pill himself. It's inconceivable that a movie with such an unsympathetic female lead was written by three women; the male characters don't come off much better, but they do come off better. While Abby is painted as a repugnant caricature to her very core, Mike is revealed to only be a misogynist when the script calls for it; the rest of the time, he's nursing a broken heart caused by past relationships or lovingly hanging out with his sister and his nephew. Ignore this in favor of fellow summer release (500) Days of Summer (out on DVD next month), a romantic comedy that's as smart, perceptive and charming as this one is stupid, clueless and, well, ugly.
DVD extras include select scene commentary by director Robert Luketic and producer Gary Lucchesi; a 16-minute making-of featurette; six deleted and extended scenes; and two alternate endings.
UP (2009). Pixar's summer hit proved to be merely one more winner for an outfit that refuses to compromise its high level of quality, to say nothing of its artistic integrity. It tells the story of Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), a 78-year-old balloon salesman who, after the passing of his beloved wife, decides to hook his house to thousands of helium-filled balloons and drift off to an uninhabited part of South America. The launch goes smoothly enough, until he discovers that he has an unwanted passenger in the form of 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer member Russell (Jordan Nagai), whose boundless energy wears out the curmudgeonly Carl. Nevertheless, the senior citizen pushes upward and onward, only to encounter a plethora of unexpected developments once they reach their destination. In addition to providing the requisite thrills (those afraid of heights will tense up during the exhilarating climax), Up is as emotionally involving as we've come to expect from our Pixar pics, with themes of longing, loneliness and self-sacrifice coursing through its running time. In fact, its PG rating alone hints that this is one of those toon tales that will resonate more powerfully with adults than with kids, and never more so than in the early sequences between Carl and his wife Ellie (did we really just witness a miscarriage in an animated film?). Of course, this wouldn't be a family film without some colorful sidekicks to provide added entertainment value, and the picture provides one keeper in Dug, a happy-go-lucky dog who, along with several other (fiercer) canines, has been equipped with a device that allows him to speak (he's voiced by co-director Bob Peterson). Thus, here's a movie that ultimately goes to the dogs – literally – and it still deserves enthusiastic thumbs up.
DVD extras include audio commentary by director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson; a 22-minute behind-the-scenes piece; Partly Cloudy, the animated short that preceded Up in theaters; Dug's Special Mission, a new animated short; and an interesting 5-minute piece in which the filmmakers discuss their difficulties in determining the fate of Muntz (Christopher Plummer).