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Pop In These DVDs And Enjoy The Holidays!

Merry Christmas, my lovely STA readers! I know many of you are laying low today, enjoying some time with your loved ones (and maybe even rejoicing over whatever trinkets were in your stocking). If you feel like getting a DVD to watch, consider these great options — and happy holidays!

Public Enemies (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD), $21.49. Buy at Amazon.com

One of the year’s greatest films (yes, I place it above Star Trek, Transformers 2, and all the other blockbuster sci-fi/action flicks), Public Enemies is an action-packed, thrilling ride and a semi-biopic (though it’s not billed as such, many of the scenes were based on real-life footage). Johnny Depp delivers yet another brilliant performance as John Dillinger, the notorious bank robber who wrought havoc on the Chicago area in the years following the Great Depression. Directed by Michael Mann, the film includes some of Dillinger’s most famous jobs (and even the jail breakouts he masterminded), but it goes beyond gun-slinging to capture the feel of that era.

Dillinger targeted the financial and governmental institutions that had brought on the most dire of financial conditions, with people across America losing their homes, their land, their jobs, and all their belongings as a result of the bank system’s collapse. At a time when there was so much anger towards these institutions, then, Dillinger was seen as a hero of sorts — sure, he wasn’t leading an uprising, but he was raising a giant middle finger to the system that had failed America’s middle, working, and lower classes. During his bank-robbing sprees, he was aid to have told the customers inside the banks to put their money away, as he sought only the banks’ money. The average person, then, didn’t see him as any sort of villain — if anything, they cheered him on. Plus, Dillinger possessed a charisma and a charm that made him positively endearing.

Michael Mann does a superb job, studying archival footage of John Dillinger (during press conferences after his capture and such), studying news articles from the era, and even shooting on location at the jail where Dillinger was held (even inside the cell where Dillinger had been locked up). Each of the film’s players, particularly Christian Bale (who stars as the FBI agent who leads the Dillinger task force) and Marion Cotillard (who plays Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie Frechette) seemed equally invested in accurately capturing the personality traits, the mannerisms, and the overall feel of their characters. And the showdown between the FBI agents and Dillinger’s crew? Well, that alone is reason to watch.

Extract DVD, $17.99. Available at Amazon.com

Many critics have labeled this workplace comedy a return to the type of wry, clever humor that made director Mike Judge’s Office Space a cult classic,  focusing on the banality of the workplace and the redundancy of our home/life routines — themes that prove relatable to almost any viewer. Jason Bateman plays Joel, a relatively affluent man who owns an extract company that fares well and is being courted by General Mills. It’s a boring and uninspiring job, but hey, it pays the bills. His marriage is even more unremarkable since his wife seems to never be in the mood for any type of lovemaking Disgruntled and confused, he confides in his druggie, slacker, bartender best friend (played by Ben Affleck with surprising charm), who doles out some positively ludicrous advice.Things get even more complicated when a freak workplace accident threatens the company’s financial buoyancy, and a sexy new temp (played by Mila Kunis) shows up at the extract plant and tempts Joel into considering an affair.

While it doesn’t contain as many quotable moments as Office Space, Extract does hit some high notes, mainly thanks to Jason Bateman, who deftly captures the malaise of the average working stiff.

Weeds Season Four DVD, $29.99. Available at Amazon.com

At the end of Season 3, our favorite pot-dealing suburban mom was forced to leave her old nabe, after the goons she hired for “protection” from a biker gang set fire to not only the bikers’ pad, but the entire neighborhood. At the start of Season 4, then, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) is uprooting her family (older son Silas, younger son Shane, and brother-in-law Andy) and finally decides to head for her father-in-law’s home, which is situated right by the border between California and Mexico). Once there, Nancy starts to work on a plan, teaming up with Guillermo (the same man who was responsible for torching her old nabe) and asking for a piece of the action. She soon becomes their designated smuggler (but she’s bringing in more than pot, folks!) — and, after she earns Guillermo’s trust, he sets her up to operate a maternity store (which is, of course, a complete front).

As Nancy starts to learn more about Guillermo and who his associates are, she realizes she’s now part of an elaborate criminal network that literally stretches all the way to the top tiers of government in Mexico. Impetuous and impulsive, she starts asking too many questions, makes some very questionable decisions, and manages to incur the wrath of both her criminal association and the authorities.

Though entertaining, Season 4’s plot lines prove rather outlandish and far-fetched, and we end up longing for the good old days when Nancy was setting up grow houses with Connor. Also, Nancy’s personality and demeanor change this season, as the writers try to transform her into more of a badass, fearless female — and instead, wind up making her a caricature of her earlier self and one whose intentions and motivations we have a much harder time understanding.

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