Selected home-video releases:
Sometimes there is no winning, especially when it comes to war.
“Stop-Loss,” director Kimberly Peirce's first picture since her 1999 “Boys Don't Cry,” falls into that category – not only in its story but because of the current state of the country.
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Films dealing with the ongoing Iraq war have not done well at the box office. (“Stop-Loss” was no exception.) That's not surprising; it took a number of years after the Vietnam War ended before films like “Coming Home” and “The Dear Hunter” (both 1978) and “Platoon” (1986) found audiences.
“Stop-Loss” is another film that's probably a bit too real (thus depressing) for many people. Too bad, because despite being a bit overcooked at times, it does give you a portrait of what young soldiers are going through.
Ryan Phillippe plays Staff Sgt. Brandon King, who along with pal Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), is elated to be shipped home to Texas after escaping a bad firefight in Iraq. But patriotic Southern boy Brandon feels betrayed when the Army requires him to return to Iraq for an extra tour. His response is to go AWOL, taking off – and here's the drama – with Steve's fiancee, Michele (Abbie Cornish).
Well-acted, “Stop-Loss” doesn't take sides – its goal is to shed light on Brandon's no-win situation.
“Batman – Gotham Knight” is a new direct-to-DVD anthology of six animated short films set between “Batman Begins” and the upcoming “The Dark Knight” (being released July 18). Like “The Animatrix,” which bridged the story gap between “The Matrix” and “The Matrix Reloaded,” “Gotham Knight” tries to establish what Batman/Bruce Wayne has been up to in the meantime.
Influenced by Japanese anime style, the six films – each by a different director, writer and illustrator – don't stack up evenly. (The looks of Batman change from episode to episode.) At about 12 minutes each, you can't expect much. But two episodes – “Working Through Pain” and “Deadshot” – seem to be more in line with the dark vision of Christopher Nolan's film.
In “Pain,” the fifth chapter, a wounded Batman remembers how, as Bruce, he learned secret techniques to overcome physical pain. “Deadshot,” the final episode, focuses on an assassin who lures Batman in a deadly cat-and-mouse game. The earlier four chapters are for hard-core fans, who, by the way, will be happy to know that Kevin Conroy, who has voiced Batman/Bruce Wayne since the early '90s, is onboard for the “Gotham Knight.” David McCallum (“NCIS”) is butler Alfred.
After two seasons, “Psych” has managed to keep its sassiness. It stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a slacker who was trained as a kid by his father (Corbin Bernsen) to heighten his observational powers. Now he pawns off his abilities as a “psychic” and works as a consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
The fun thing about “Psych” is that it never takes anything seriously while solving crime – not even death.
There are no sentimental moments.
Shawn and his friend Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill) seem more out of “Clerks” than “CSI,” which is a nice change.
Season two had some amusing moments, including a takeoff on “American Idol” with Tim Curry as the scowling Cowell clone and Gina Gershon as an Abdul-like ditz. Comedy vet John Landis (“Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers”) even directed two episodes. The USA show returns for a third season July 18.
“Joe Strummer – The Future Is Unwritten” is a documentary from Julien Temple about the Clash's guitarist and lead singer. More than a bio, the rock chronicler Temple – “Great Rock ‘n' Roll Swindle” (1980) and “Filth and the Fury” (2000) – captures the free spirit that was Strummer, who died from a heart attack at age 50 in 2002.