- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Angels & Demons (Sony Pictures, $36.95, for two-disc extended edition DVD, $39.95 for Blu-ray) — Based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, “Angels & Demons” was heartily embraced by conspiracy lovers and history buffs.

The follow-up to 2006’s “The DaVinci Code,” the film darts through the streets of Rome, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Archives, following Langdon on “the path of the Illuminati.”

The special-features disc will give viewers fresh insights into the film and book. The disc includes a discussion with the movie’s prop master, who re-created the many books and documents Langdon finds in the archives, and the costume designer, who talks about the challenge of creating robes and cassocks for the cardinals.

Perhaps the most interesting special feature is the section on the mysterious ambigram, the positioning of a word so that it can be read the same way from various viewpoints, supposedly invented in the 16th century as a tribute to Galileo’s obsession with symmetry.

Stephanie Green

Four Christmases (New Line, $28.98 for DVD, $35.99 for Blu-ray) — This holiday film did big business at the box office last year — $118 million domestically — and no wonder. Though the critics mostly hated it, there’s no denying the plot has universal appeal: Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as a happily unmarried couple who usually spend their holiday in a sunny locale, until they’re trapped at the airport and a TV station broadcasts their whereabouts to their four divorced parents. Goodbye pina coladas, hello painful family reunions — the pair are forced into a marathon Christmas Day, with four homes to visit. Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen star as the parents, while siblings are played by Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw.

There are no extras on this disc, a surprise for such a popular film.

Santa Buddies (Disney, $29.99 for DVD, $39.99 for Blu-ray) — “Air Bud” gave birth to “Air Buddies,” a spinoff series that’s become a popular direct-to-DVD destination for young children. In this holiday-themed installment, the five buddies — a cuddly collection of canines — meet Puppy Paws, the son of Santa Paws, who is bored with the North Pole until the world is in danger of forgetting the magic of Christmas. Christopher Lloyd co-stars as a villainous dogcatcher.

Some Christmas singalongs and a music video are the only extras.

Funny People (Universal, $29.98 for DVD, $34.98 for two-disc DVD, $39.98 for Blu-ray) — This film was king of comedy Judd Apatow’s first foray into more serious territory. The critics mostly liked it, but audiences prefer a laugh — it made under $52 million at the U.S. box office. Adam Sandler stars as an actor who returns to his stand-up comedy roots after being diagnosed with leukemia, and Seth Rogen is the young comedian the newly sensitive comic tries to mentor.

There are plenty of extras on the two-disc and Blu-ray editions of the film, including an additional unrated cut of the film. Also included are audio commentary, a making-of featurette, a gag reel, an extended scene from the fake sitcom “Yo Teacha!,” clips from Mr. Apatow’s high-school radio show and a prank phone call made by Mr. Sandler when he and Mr. Apatow were wannabe comedians and roommates.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Gomorrah (Criterion Collection, $39.95 DVD and Blu-ray) — The world of organized crime in Naples (the “Camorra”) is brought to life in this stunningly naturalistic tale of crime and violence from director Matteo Garrone.

Adapted for the screen from a book by Italian journalist Roberto Saviano (for which the author received numerous death threats), “Gomorrah” revolves around five stories that delve into the far-reaching tentacles of the Naples underworld; everything from drug-dealing to dumping toxic waste to high Italian fashion falls under their purview, and the Camorra is willing to kill anyone who messes with their businesses.

Extras are plentiful, the highlight being an hour-long interview with Mr. Saviano, who explains just how the Camorra works and what some of the more opaque moments of the film represent. Also included are deleted scenes, trailers, video interviews with the director and a booklet with an essay from critic Chuck Stephens.

Sonny Bunch

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