Film: 3 and a half out of 5 stars

Brian Merlos

Show’s foray into DVD unfortunately bare

Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“The Simpsons Movie” DVD

20th Century Fox

Considering most current DVD releases are tagged as “Special Editions,” it’s important to note that the recent “Simpsons Movie” DVD is spared that label. Because it’s nothing special – well, at least in the non-patronizing sense.

It’s unfortunate too, because while last summer’s animated blockbuster largely satisfied “Simpson” junkies and casual fans alike, the film’s initial foray into DVD and Blu-ray leaves a lot to be desired. The lone disk contains a few deleted scenes along with the requisite commentaries and promotional spots, but where is all the content producers have been talking about and die-hards have been oozing over since first seeing the film last July? Behind-the-scenes featurettes, concept art, storyboards and additional deleted scenes are noticeably absent from the release, yet one of the film’s two commentary tracks almost exclusively refers to unreleased material.

There’s sure to be a “Collectors Edition” soon but geeks don’t appreciate double-dip DVD releases: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) knows this – someone should tell Matt Groening.

-Matt Passman

‘P.S.’ is nothing to write home about

Rating: 1 and a half out of 5 stars

“P.S. I Love You”

Alcon Entertainment

At Showcase and Quality 16

Perhaps introducing a 19-year-old Holly (Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry”) in the first scene of a movie as shrill and passive aggressive is not the best way to make an audience fall in love with her. The cringe-worthy first impression mars “P.S. I Love You,” a movie with an interesting premise that unfortunately leads to just another mundane, Hollywood ending. Holly’s husband Gerry (Gerard Butler, “300”) sends her letters with assignments he wrote out before dying. She goes along with the plan, and it takes her from karaoke bars to Ireland.

The movie has moments of pure sweetness, and the beauty and romance of Ireland – and its men – is in full force. Swank is too accomplished and too good an actress for this drivel but her portrayal is hardly noteworthy. And the premise of the movie is similarly problematic. Gerry wrote the letters because he wasn’t ready “to let go yet.” But by keeping Holly waiting by the mailbox, she can’t move on either. It’s really a bit cruel, and while the postscript of love tries to make up for it, the damage is done. This film is for those who want to fall in love with Ireland, not with a movie.

-Sarah Schwartz

True story suffers from tepid devices

Rating: 2 and a half stars

“The Great Debaters”


At Showcase and Quality 16

Shades of greatness abound in the dishonest but engaging, Denzel Washington-directed film “The Great Debaters.” Based on the semi-true story of Wiley College’s debate team in the 1930s Jim Crow South, “Debaters” has a great story to tell – too bad it’s so unevenly told.

Melvin Tolson (Washington, “American Gangster”) rounds up some bright, charismatic and argumentative students at Wiley, hoping to put together an all-African American debate team – unheard of in the 1930s, especially at a Texas university. The rest of the film is your typical sports movie stuff, right down to the final debate and the internal struggles to bond as a team.

Though Wiley may have never debated Harvard as depicted in the movie or had students with such painfully-Hollywood parental issues, its debate team is still important to recognize and research. Ultimately, it is the racial and historical context of the team that makes “Debaters” worth watching. But “Debaters” suffers from maddeningly uneven melodrama. Everything else is admirable: Washington exhibits the proper kind of excitement and care needed for such a project, and the opening montage of arguments, religion and southern blues is brilliant. Unfortunately, the film never quite lives up to its initial promise.

-Blake Goble

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