October 26, 2016
        Natalie Portman, Janelle Monáe, Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Stacy Keach at Hollywood Film Awards                Viola Davis will be campaigned in Best Supporting Actress for "Fences"                Mel Gibson to be Honored with the Hollywood Director Award at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Michael Moore drops a surprise new film with "Michael Moore in TrumpLand"                Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards        

Miley Cyrus sings her “Last Song,” while Fey and Carell share “Date Night”

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: HollywoodNews.com stays on top of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases so you know which films are worth your time and money. This week, we review:

“The Last Song” (Blu-ray)
Given the pop-culture crossover appeal of entertainer Miley Cyrus and novelist Nicholas Sparks, I half-expected “The Last Song” to perform better at the box office. (Disney might have, as well, though a $62 million gross against a meager $20 million production budget isn’t a bomb by any means.)

Then again, the movie wasn’t great, so success wasn’t exactly a guarantee. Disney princess Cyrus plays Ronnie, a disgruntled teen sent by her mom (Kelly Preston) to spend a long summer with her estranged father (Greg Kinnear). She raises turtles, falls for the town hunk (Liam Hemsworth), and finds herself in true, melodramatic Sparks fashion. A late-act medical twist is expected – given the author’s track record – as is most of this familiar “Song.”

The Blu-ray version of “Last Song” from Buena Vista Home Video, however, saves this title from the scrap heap. An alternate opening leads off the disc’s deleted scenes. There’s an audio commentary and a set tour with actor Bobby Coleman, who plays Cyrus’ younger brother. Speaking of, the pop star contributes a video for her song, “When I Look at You,” as well as a “Making of” reel for the video. Most of these features can be found on the set’s second disc, which offers a standard-edition version of the film for non-Blu-ray players.

The movie – ** out of 4
The Blu-ray – *** out of 4

“Date Night”
You go into a film like “Date Night” expecting its stars, Tina Fey and Steve Carell, to be funny. Each has a proven track record anchoring NBC’s Thursday night line-up and entertaining audiences through impossibly smart sitcoms “30 Rock” and “The Office,” respectively. Their roots trace all the way back to Chicago’s Second City improvisation program. And they honed their skills with stops at “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.”

What I didn’t expect, but was happy to discover, was sharp, unfussy direction from “Date NIght” helmer Shawn Levy. HIs plot is pure mistaken-identity piffle. Boring New Jersey spouses Phil (Carell) and Claire Foster (Fey) are mistaken for blackmailers when they steal another couple’s reservation at a trendy Manhattan seafood joint. Dirty cops, clean cops and Ray Liotta try and rub the couple out. A semi-naked Mark Wahlberg appears every so often to lend a hand (and provide eye candy for the ladies in the theater, since Carell can not).

Nowhere in Levy’s “Night at the Museum” films or “The Pink Panther” did I spot the restraint and control he exerts over “Date Night.” The movie bounces along at a solid clip. One-liners hit their marks, and visual gags involving a not-so-speedy boat or an historic revolver earn big laughs. A long stunt sequence involving two cars locked at the grills isn’t just competent. It’s excellent. And Levy’s smartest choice appears to be getting out of Carell and Fey’s way so they can rescue strip-club dance scenes with hilarious improvisation or charm their way through the predictable conclusion, where teamwork proves essential.

The Fey-Carell collaboration is explored on Fox’s “Date Night” DVD, which boasts the theatrical cut and an extended version of the film. Levy provides an audio commentary. Alternate scenes and a gag reel give us new insight to certain scenes. There are two “Making of” featurettes and a public service announcement.

The movie – *** out of 4
The Blu-ray – *** out of 4

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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