Boy Wonder (R, 2010, Inception Media)
As a kid, Sean (Caleb Steinmeyer) watched from the backseat while a carjacker killed his mother. And as you might guess, there’s more to the story than a simple carjacking gone awry. Now 17, Sean has parlayed his obsessive search for that killer into an accidental career as a vigilante whose violent methods of restoring order would make Batman recoil. Naturally, there’s more to the story than that as well. Believing in the promise of more is imperative to watching “Boy Wonder,” which deliberately and confidently withholds revelations similar movies might spill as quickly as possible. Along with a foreboding tone and the introduction of two detectives (Zulay Henao and Daniel Stewart Sherman) who initially give the movie a heavy police procedural air, “Wonder” initially holds its cards so close that it’s hard to discern what it’s even trying to do. But once the movie starts pulling the curtain back, it doesn’t really stop, and every little revelation about this seemingly random crime — some immediately impactful, some buried inside small clues that ignite scenes later — is better than the one before it. “Wonder” never stops feeling narratively erratic, but the shakiness works as a reflection of Sean’s similar ability to shake off his hinges at a moment’s notice. And when the final scene pays off the way it does here, all the bumps in the road leading to it are immediately and easily forgiven.
Extra: Behind-the-scenes feature.
Life in a Day (PG-13, 2011, Virgil Films)
Kevin Macdonald and his seven co-directors didn’t film “Life in a Day.” Instead, some 80,000 people from 192 countries handled the filmmaking duties, while Macdonald’s crew had the less glamorous task of distilling 4,500 hours of footage — all of it shot on a single day, July 24, 2010 — into a 90-minute film. The result of that impressive editing job is a story that comes together both thematically as well as chronologically, with vignettes illustrating things both mundane (waking up, eating, daily routines) and profound (love, fear, violence sometimes to a graphic degree). Within those themes, the pendulum swings wildly between self-depreciating, narcissistic, moving and many things in between, and because “Day” is continually at the mercy of amateur auteurs filming within a strict timeline, the merits of one scene versus another will vary as much to you as those moments did to the filmmakers who shot them. But that’s the beauty of the experiment. This is July 24, this is what happened, and for better or worse, this is what makes that single day unlike any that preceded it or has followed since.
Extras: Three batches of deleted scenes, seven behind-the-scenes features.
The Change-Up (R/NR, 2011, Universal)
Did you think it was over for the 1980s wacky body switcheroo comedy? Nope! It’s back, and in keeping with the times, it’s stupidly lewd enough to make its predecessors run for cover. In this case, our body-switchers are best friends Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) — the former a stereotypical husband/father/overworked lawyer, the latter a stereotypical playboy/wannabe actor/slacker. A night of drinking leads to them flippantly making simultaneous wishes to trade lives while urinating in a magical public fountain, which naturally goes missing right around the time Mitch and Dave discover they’re in the wrong bodies. Have you seen this movie before? You probably have, because “The Change-Up” follows the playbook right down to the dual music montages it unleashes when our two heroes inevitably decide to take ownership of their new lives while waiting for the fountain to reappear. The wrinkle, as the unrated tag implies, is that this movie has no issue reveling in nudity, toilet humor, diaper humor and numerous other things that weren’t allowed within 10,000 feet of these movies in the ’80s. But while that makes for a novel shock in the first scene, that’s pretty much where it ends. “The Change-Up” offers an amusing chance to see Bateman and Reynolds play against type after switching bodies. But you’ve seen this premise and these gags many times already, and seeing them mingle in the same movie doesn’t make them funnier or fresher.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scene, behind-the-scenes feature, bloopers.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I (PG-13, 2011, Fox)
It must be supremely aggravating to make a movie based on one-third of Ayn Rand’s massive literary classic. If you want to feel that frustration for yourself, just see the movie. “Atlas Shrugged” is a sprawling, philosophically polarizing story about what happens after a country’s brightest minds willingly take themselves off the radar when their flagging country — mired by financial meltdowns, resource scarcities and a government’s abuse of power — needs their ingenuity more than ever. The film adaptation, set in 2016, makes the smart call not to cram the entire opus into two hours. But the drawback there is that the overwhelming majority of “Shrugged’s” most interesting storytelling sits two whole movies away — a discouraging prospect considering “Atlas Shrugged: Part I” spent roughly four decades in development limbo. “Part I,” by contrast, is bone dry, overly expository and carried by unlikable characters who merely name-drop the man, John Galt, who eventually emerges as this story’s lynchpin. If you already knew that, the movie’s a lukewarm and (for now) incomplete adaptation that does nothing to enhance a book that’s endured just fine without it. And if you don’t know who Galt is, the periodic drops of his name — often in the company of characters whose impact also goes tabled until next time — will perplex and probably annoy you. Or rather, that’ll be the case until the closing scene, which plainly reveals Galt’s purpose before laughing at you and kicking you right into the credits. Meanwhile, “Shrugged” the book has had the payoff in hand for half a century. Even if the sequels ever get made, why wait several years simply to settle for less?
Extras: Writers/producer commentary, two behind-the-scenes features, “The John Galt Theme” slideshow.
13 (R, 2010, Anchor Bay)
Our first glimpse at “13” — Vince (Sam Riley) with a gun to the head of a man who has a gun pointed right back at him while both wait for a referee to give them clearance to fire — is brief. But it’s also telling, and even if you haven’t seen the Swedish film (“13 Tzameti”) on which “13” is based, you pretty much get the gist of what faces Vince when we flash back four days and find him in need of very fast cash. Vince’s needs are noble, family-related and understandably desperate, and “13” wisely attempts to give us some attachment to him before he stumbles into a bizarre game of Russian Roulette in which he either scores a massive payday or dies trying. But the movie’s efforts are half-hearted, with its strongest push coming during a last-act turn that arguably undoes it with how unnecessary it is. The in between fares little better, too. “Tzameti” at least surprised us by keeping the game a secret for nearly half the movie. “13” spills that secret in minute one, and with that surprise off the table, all that remains is a sloppy competition featuring contestants we barely meet, spectators and gamblers whose motivations make little sense, and a story that manages to be illogical and predictable at the same time. The original ultimately fell apart, too, but it’s sturdier than this needless remake, so see that one if you must see one. Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, 50 Cent and Alexander Skarsgård also star. No extras.
The Perfect Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll (R, 2009, Entertainment One)
As “The Perfect Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll” begins, Spyder (Kevin Zegers) has finally granted an interview to discuss a rocky career that made him a superstar after his first album, a has-been after his second and a recluse in the 20 years that followed. And with the flashback that takes us to 1991, “Age” engages in the first of an absolutely relentless string of rock star movie cliches. “Age’s” most potentially interesting storyline — that Spyder more or less stole that first album from a childhood friend (Jason Ritter as Eric) who had all the real talent but lacked the guts to put it out there himself — unloads its potential on a flat friends-fighting-in-the-rain scene that’s as unsatisfying as it sounds. From there, it plays second fiddle to an honor roll of tropes — drugs, the girl (Taryn Manning) they both want, the shadow of Eric’s famous musician dad (Peter Fonda), music montages that remind everyone it’s about the music, man — that go exactly where you expect them to go. Movies about tumultuous careers in music have multiple gold mines’ worth of untapped story and character ideas just aching for someone to do them justice, but “Age” either shares Eric’s lack of courage or simply isn’t interested in taking Spyder’s story down roads a ton of other movies and VH1 specials haven’t already worn out.
Extras: Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature, music outtakes, music video.
— “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” (PG-13, 2011, Warner Bros.): Though the day really belongs to veterans, it was all but prophesied in the Book of Marketing that some DVD/Blu-ray release would take advantage of the 11/11/11 date. Few releases this year are bigger than the final movie in the eight-film “Harry Potter” saga, so the Friday release is no more surprising to Potter fans than how the movie ends. Deleted scenes comprise the only extra. An eight film box set also releases the same day, so if you bought the seven-film box set that came out earlier this year… wait, why did you do that?
— “Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection 1960-1977” (NR, Shout Factory): Shout Factory’s year of incredible cartoon fan service restorations continues with this set, which compiles Magoo’s illustrious television career — “The Mr. Magoo Show,” “The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo,” “What’s New Mr. Magoo?” and the “Uncle Sam Magoo!” prime time special — into one festive 11-disc collection. Extras include commentary, a behind-the-scenes feature, a storyboard/drawing gallery and a 19-page liner notes booklet.
— “Band of Brothers/The Pacific” box set (NR, 2001/2010, HBO): In a move more befittingly tied to Veteran’s Day, HBO has combined two of the best things Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have ever made into a single giftset. The set includes a new documentary, “He Has Seen War,” that chronicles the postwar lives of the real veterans whose stories were told in these miniseries. The extras from each series’ standalone release — the documentaries “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company” and “Anatomy of the Pacific War,” 30-minute making-of features for both series, profiles of actual marines portrayed in “The Pacific,” footage from the “Brothers” premiere in Normandy — are here as well.
— “LeapFrog: Scout & Friends: Phonics Farm” (NR, 2011, Lions Gate): If you aren’t the parent of a child who enjoys LeapFrog’s toys, books and other media, you may not realize Scout the little green puppy has become a breakout star in that universe. And if you do know that, here’s your warning: The Scout revolution is in full swing. “Phonics Farm” marks his debut DVD starring role, and it accompanies a line of toys, books and more bearing his likeness. (Here’s hoping the frogs are OK with sharing the spotlight.) Extras on the disc include curriculum commentary for parents, a music video for The Scout Song, a storybook and sing-along songs.