- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Star Trek (Paramount, $29.99 for DVD, $34.99 for two-disc DVD, $39.99 for Blu-ray) — It’s rare to find in Hollywood a prequel that not only stays true to the original but reboots the franchise with wit and style. J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” did just that and might end up as the most purely entertaining film of the year. The plot is complicated but clever, spinning an alternate world in a way that satisfies purists while extending the franchise’s appeal beyond fans of the original television show and its many big- and small-screen spinoffs. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are here not as trusted friends but suspicious rivals, adding an amusing layer of tension to the well-worn story of the Starship Enterprise.

Extras on the two-disc DVD and Blu-ray include a digital copy of the film, commentary with Mr. Abrams and his talented team and nine deleted scenes. You might recall seeing the scene of Spock’s birth in the film’s trailer and then missing it in the theater. It was deleted from the final cut but is included here. It’s one of three scenes featuring extra footage of the much-missed Winona Ryder, who plays Spock’s human mother.

Bruno (Universal, $29.98 for DVD, $39.98 for Blu-ray) — Many critics wondered how Sacha Baron Cohen could possibly top his huge hit “Borat,” one of the funniest films ever made and one that relied upon few people in America knowing just who Mr. Baron Cohen was. “Bruno” proves that a Hollywood hit can still be unknown to scores of those in Middle America but not that a sui generis success can be repeated: “Bruno” got neither the box-office or critical love that “Borat” did.

Of course, Bruno isn’t quite as funny a character. In the film, a combination of documentary and set-up pranks, the gay Austrian fashion journalist tests the limits of American tolerance — and of good taste.

Extras include a full hour of alternative and deleted scenes plus commentary from Mr. Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles on just how they accomplished some of those pranks. The Blu-ray edition also includes some video commentary from the pair.

The Limits of Control (Universal, $29.98) — It’s a shame Jim Jarmusch’s latest film isn’t being released on Blu-ray: It’s a visual and aural delight, a deliberately made film that rewards close watching and listening. There’s the almost silent but determined Lone Man on a mission, played by the arresting and, yes, controlled Isaach De Bankole. And there are the talkative — and just as striking — contacts with whom he exchanges information, played by an enviable cast, including John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal and Paz de la Huerta. Bill Murray makes a cameo at the end to prove the film’s title, but don’t expect a neatly tied-up ending. This is existential filmmaking at its best, a fascinating thriller that forces viewers to question the very idea of meaning at the same time it asks them to create it for themselves.

Fittingly, there aren’t the conventional extras on this disc. “Untitled Landscapes” includes footage from the interesting places Mr. Jarmusch shot, and “Behind Jim Jarmusch” takes a look at his singular directing style through interviews with the cast.

My Sister’s Keeper (Warner, $28.98 for DVD, $35.99 for Blu-ray) — Message movies are moving from the small screen to the big screen. In this one, based on the best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult, an 11-year-old girl hires a lawyer in a fight to make her body her own after being forced to undergo constant medical procedures to help her sister, who’s suffering from leukemia. Cameron Diaz, who stars alongside young Abigail Breslin and Alec Baldwin, has been making a play for more dramatic roles like the one she sinks her teeth into here. Nick Cassavetes, after making interesting films such as “She’s So Lovely,” has settled into the sentimental with films like this and “The Notebook.”

Fifteen minutes of deleted scenes are included on both the DVD and Blu-ray, while the latter also includes the featurette “From Picoult to Screen.”

Kelly Jane Torrance

Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, $89.99) — “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” come to Blu-ray Tuesday, separately and in this new collection.

Those who own previous iterations of “Clerks” on DVD — the Collector’s Series, 10th Anniversary and “Snowball” versions — won’t find anything new here except an upgraded picture (and the upgrade bar is set low because the source footage wasn’t all that great). Still, those who have yet to pick up this classic 1994 movie should do so. It remains one of the definitive films of the new-new Hollywood and as perfect a look into Gen X slackerdom as you’ll find.

“Chasing Amy” remains Mr. Smith’s best film and is the only disc in this set to feature new bonus materials, including a new audio commentary, a documentary about the film and a 10-year-anniversary question-and-answer session with the director and cast.

“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” is disposable save for the Kevin Smith completists among us. Intended as a capstone to the universe Mr. Smith created in “Clerks,” “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy,” it was rendered somewhat unnecessary by the far superior “Clerks II.” Still, it’s a fun little movie and worth checking out given an afternoon to kill.

Sonny Bunch

MTV Unplugged/Katy Perry (Capitol, $11.99 for CD + DVD) — The pop starlet’s fans should be delighted by the spunky acoustic renditions of her hits, including “I Kissed a Girl,” “Waking Up in Vegas” and “Ur So Gay,” recorded live last summer in New York for MTV’s iconic showcase of stripped-down music. Yet, while Miss Perry can strum a guitar, her performance lacks the gravitas of classic “Unplugged” sets a la Nirvana and Eric Clapton.

Released today in a CD + DVD package, Miss Perry’s set includes a new cover of the Fountains of Wayne’s “Hackensack” and a previously unreleased original, “Brick by Brick.” The DVD also includes exclusive interview footage. Available for streaming now on MTV’s Web site, the full set airs on MTV’s high-definition music cable channel Palladia on Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. and 12 a.m.

Elizabeth Glover

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