David Wharton
Former Contributor

WRITTEN BY David Wharton

Rocky [Blu-Ray Book]

After 35 years and countless imitators, how does the original Rocky stand up? Yours truly, having somehow never seen the original Rocky despite nearly that many years of moviegoing, sits down with Mr. Balboa for the first time to see if the old guy's still got the moves.

I Am Number Four [Blu-Ray]

I Am Number Four has all the ingredients to have become a surefire hit amongst the young adult set. It's got a handsome, mysterious boy who falls for a shy but cute high school girl. It's got aliens and superpowers as metaphors for teenage feelings of isolation. Hell, it's even got an ass-kicking Australian chick for the fellas. It's a shame, then, that I Am Number four spends most of its time focused on its least interesting elements.

All-Star Superman [Blu-Ray]

The latest animated endeavor from the DC Universe adapts Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's 12-part All-Star Superman series, seeking to answer the question, What would Superman do if he knew he only had one year to live? With gorgeous animation and plenty of memorable moments, All-Star Superman has plenty to recommend it, but unfortunately suffers from an overly episodic nature that leaves the narrative feeling disconnected.

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol [Blu-Ray]

The Doctor's roundabout way of solving problems and reluctance to turn to violence is one of his greatest strengths, and the concept of granting someone a second chance by forcing them to reexamine their life fits perfectly into both this universe and The Doctor's established character...only here, we get time travel rather than supernatural specters

Hunter Prey

Director Sandy Collora and co-writer Nick Damon take us to the stars on a budget, proving that you don't have to have a huge studio backing your imagination to tell a ripping science fiction yarn. While Hunter Prey has its weak points, it's hard not to admire the vision and ambition on display in this old-school tale of...well, hunters and prey.

Dinner for Schmucks [Blu-Ray]

Dinner for Schmucks also downplays the one element that is potentially the funniest and most interesting: the actual dinner. Given how much that strange gathering monopolized all the trailers and marketing for the movie, it's surprising that it doesn't actually occur until the final half-hour of the 114-minute run time. (On a related note, why the hell is this movie almost two hours long?)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice [Blu-Ray]

Add one part Nic Cage dry humor to one awkward-hero's worth of Jay Baruchel. Simmer on light heat, then sprinkle in a scene-chewing dose of villainous Alfred Molina, a dash of Criss Angel parody, and a smidgen of pseudo-Arthurian lore. Continue to cook until half-baked.

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 [Blu-Ray]

One of the most iconic, referenced, and imitated shows in science fiction history finally comes to Blu-ray. And while the quality of the presentation is unquestionable, the quality of the writing is what still shines the brightest.

Predators [Blu-Ray]

After a few unfortunate forays into high-budget fan fiction, the Predator franchise gets back to the basics: hunters, prey, and clever attempts to flip those roles around before anybody gets their spines yanked out. Unfortunately, while Predators is handily the best Predator movie since the original, it's often a little too in love with the adventures of Arnie.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand: The Complete First Season

If you didn't watch the show and are wondering if it might be for you, it's best described as a sort of crazy hybrid of HBO's excellent Rome series and the movie 300. The creators often say they were going for a "graphic novel" feel, so the action is bloody and over the top. No one in this show is simply stabbed and then falls over; they die trying to stop their guts from spilling out onto the sand, or with a fountain of blood arcing from their neck stump, or with their face demolished against a tile floor.

Pretty Bird

Billy Crudup hires Paul Giamatti to build him a rocket belt. Then things get weird.

Batman: Under the Red Hood [Blu-Ray]

Comics fans will find continuity galore in this story, penned by comics veteran Judd Winick, but even casual fans will find plenty to love in this dark little tale. Under the Red Hood is packed to the gills with fan service, but it still explains everything sufficiently to entertain the folks who didn't even know there had been more than one Robin.

The Good Guy

Every once in a while I think you should step outside your comfort zone and try something new. An indie romance about a love triangle between young New Yorkers easily falls into this category for me (unless one leg of the triangle has superpowers, or is an alien, or maybe a serial killer, or a super-powered alien serial killer).

The Guild: Season Three

While The Guild is absolutely chock-full of references and inside jokes to World of Warcraft in particular and gaming in general, you don't have to be a devotee of either to enjoy the show. Behind all the talk of DPS and tanks, The Guild is almost a weird sort of workplace comedy. Sure, these characters must theoretically have jobs (at least the ones that don't live at home), but for all intents and purposes The Game is their job.

The Wolfman [Blu-Ray]

If you've ever wondered what sort of damage a seven-foot feral werewolf with talons the length of a grown man's finger could do to the human form, The Wolfman -- especially the extended, unrated cut -- answers the question with vigor and variety. One can't help think that if Del Toro's wolfman were locked in a room with the characters from Twilight the entire "Jacob versus Edward" question would swiftly be rendered moot.

Minority Report [Blu-Ray]

Science fiction offers new toys to play with, new technologies and concepts and cultural variations that allow a writer to take well-worn crime clichés and tip them on their head. Minority Report excels in this area, telling a taut, twisty murder mystery that could only be told in this specific world, with this specific set of circumstances. And like all the best mysteries, it explains how everything works right up front, so you have all the pieces you need to figure out what's really going on, if only you're clever and observant enough.

Avatar [Blu-Ray]

Once you get a feel for where the story is heading early on in the film, it's not difficult to predict nearly every story beat thereafter. Of course Jake is going to fall for the native girl. Of course they're eventually going to discover his reluctant betrayal of them. And of course he's going to reconcile with them and lead the charge in the final battle. The story unfolds exactly as you would expect it to, with little or no variation. It's as if Cameron expects us to be so wowed by the admittedly stunning landscape of Pandora that we don't notice what's lacking.

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

If I had to sum up the problems of Boondock Saints II in a few words, those words would be "trying too hard." This movie, just like the original, thinks it's way, way cooler than it is. Both movies introduce the MacManus brothers by having them light up synchronized cigarettes. It's supposed to make them look bad-ass, and if I were a twelve-year-old boy who had never seen an action movie before, maybe it would. And it stands, it's such an obvious, clichéd shorthand that it's just a little sad. If these guys are God's chosen weapons against evil, I'm rooting for Old Scratch.

Cabin Fever (Unrated Director's Cut)

So, yeah. Your average below-average horror-movie yahoos. I'm not saying I expect my horror flicks populated with MENSA members or anything, but it'd be nice if these kids didn't continually demonstrate such a pervasive and fatal lack of common sense. It's one thing for a slasher film to give us nothing but annoying, paper-thin cut-outs -- they exist for no reason other than to be murdered and maimed in creative and amusing ways. That's fine. And I realize the Cabin Fever kids ultimately serve the same purpose, but Roth and Randy Pearlstein's script toys with Thing-like explorations of paranoia and the struggle between self-preservation and empathy, only to undercut any such narrative aspirations with stupid, unlikable characters.

Bonekickers

Mixing the team's investigations with flashback footage of the events they're uncovering, Bonekickers is heavy on forgotten artifacts, mysterious manuscripts, and malevolent conspiracies. It also finds the team getting held at gunpoint rather more often that most academics who don't own fedoras and aren't named after the dog. This is the perilous balance a procedural must walk. Very little police work actually involves car chases or rooftop gun battles, but you're likely to tune out if Vic Mackey spends 20 minutes of every episode filling out paperwork.

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