Hannah Montana: The Movie (Blu-ray)

I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I was expecting plenty more oomph from “Hannah Montana: The Movie.” The Disney Channel show makes it a point to be as piercing to the senses as possible, which makes the molasses pacing and muted effort from the big screen incarnation definitely strange. It’s not like I’m demanding depth here, just a hope that the sparks stay ahead of the yawns, and maybe a genuinely inspired moment of slapstick or two. For a film that’s essentially a lengthy commercial for the soundtrack, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder why the adolescent electricity was dialed down for this tricky crossover attempt.

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Rating: C

Race to Witch Mountain

This is not Disney’s first encounter with Witch Mountain, and it most certainly won’t be their last. However, it’s their loudest contribution to date. A reimagining of the 1975 motion picture and the 1968 Alexander Key novel, “Race to Witch Mountain” does away with all that pesky character development stuff to put the pedal to the metal and offer family audiences an adventure packed with stunts, gunfire, and one-liners. It’s definitely a vibrant diversion, and kids will undoubtedly be glued to the screen, but the high tech, fist-happy approach leaves much to be desired.

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Rating: B-

The Soloist

“The Soloist” strikes me as a very special film handicapped by unfortunate marketing. Dreamworks seems unfairly bound to promote the feature as a feel-good snapshot of redemption, spotlighting the road-tested appeal of the privileged white man taking a handicapped black soul under his wing, guiding him to unimaginable greatness. “The Soloist” is not that film. Under no circumstances is this picture a perverse “Radio 2.” Put the marketing aside, block the promotion out, and absorb this feature for what it truly is: a masterful observation of genius trapped inside unimaginable distress. The studio would like to sell a candied inspirational story, but director Joe Wright avoids the sugared path at all turns, producing a stunning, transcendent celluloid event that fuses the tranquility of classical music with the unyielding frailty of humanity.

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Rating: A

Pushing Daisies: The Complete Second Season

There’s something a little disconcerting about a DVD release of a canceled show you loved. It’s almost like getting handed a cookie after someone kicks you in the nuts (or punches your boob if you’re a chick or a fat dude); you can’t really appreciate that you get to have this cookie because you’re too busy being in freaking pain.

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Rating: B+

Gran Torino

I’m still completely stunned that this film didn’t get as much acclaim as I thought it would.  It was virtually shut out of all the major award shows, to the point that I started thinking it was some kind of conspiracy against Clint Eastwood and his phenomenal streak of films. In his last acting role, Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a crusty, racist Korean veteran who becomes involved in the lives of his Hmong neighbors.

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Rating: A