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

By Sean O’Connell 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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