DVD reviews: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2,’ ‘Tammy’ and ‘Happy Christmas’
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” (2014, PG, 102 min., $29.98) Few thought “How to Train Your Dragon 2” would have a chance of matching its predecessor, but they were wrong. Director Dean DeBlois and DreamWorks Animation have provided another fantastic family film of accomplished animation and a strong story packed with adventure, emotions and lots of fun. The film picks up with the Viking village of Berk enjoying its new relationship with dragons. Main character Hiccup leads the way with his dragon Toothless, and they take to the skies whenever possible. When Hiccup finds out about an evil man named Drago, who’s using dragons to rule the world, the boy and Toothless try to find a way to stop him. Unfortunately, Drago isn’t one to compromise, and Hiccup has a fight on his hands. Those looking to further explore the world of Hiccup should pick up the Blu-ray package, as it’s loaded with making-of featurettes. Standard DVDs carry a few extras, but not as much as Blu-ray sets. 3.5 stars
“Tammy” (2014, R, 97 min., $28.98) This comedy marks the directorial debut of Ben Falcone, who’s married to Melissa McCarthy, the film’s star. The couple also wrote the script, in which McCarthy stars as Tammy, a down-on-her-luck woman who just lost her job and found out her husband is cheating on her. Tammy decides to hit the road with her alcoholic grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) to drive to Niagara Falls. They never quite get there, running into pitfalls that include Pearl continually getting drunk or Tammy getting into it with the law. As usual, the experiences force Pearl and Tammy to look in the mirror and alter their destructive paths in life. “Tammy” isn’t a good debut for Falcone, but there are moments of comedic brilliance. McCarthy, as usual, is abrasively funny, but she doesn’t have much to work with in the way of a storyline. Considering its casting (Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates and Allison Janney also star), it’s a letdown. The Blu-ray set is the best buy, as it carries two cuts of the film, deleted scenes and a gag reel. Standard DVD packages are light on extras. 1.5 stars
“Happy Christmas” (2014, R, 88 min., $21.99) Joe Swanberg is an independent director known and respected by hardcore movie fans, but he’s not mainstream. It’s unfortunate considering the quality of his work. His latest, “Happy Christmas,” is another superb offering. The film explores the relationship between Jeff (Swanberg), Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their young son and Jeff’s irresponsible sister Jenny (Anna Kendrick), who’s come to stay with the family in Chicago after a breakup. The visit puts an immediate strain on Jeff and Kelly, as they try to raise their son and make ends meet in a quiet suburban setting. Jenny only wants to head out, get drunk and hook up, and it won’t work out if Kelly and Jeff need another mature adult in the house to help with their son. “Happy Christmas” feels authentic. The cast does a superb job of bringing the story to life, and it’s even more impressive when considering all of the dialogue was improvised. Unfortunately, “Happy Christmas” doesn’t have extras; and it’s only available on standard DVD. 3 stars
“Jersey Boys” (2014, R, 134 min., $28.98) Clint Eastwood’s latest effort as a director is based on the award-winning musical of the same name. The pictures tells the story of four young men from tough backgrounds in New Jersey getting together to form The Four Seasons. Of course, the group went on to find success as a rock act in the 1960s.
“I Am Ali” (2014, PG, 111 min., $19.98) Featuring interviews with boxing legends like Mike Tyson and George Foreman, “I Am Ali” is a comprehensive look at the life of the iconic Muhammad Ali. Mostly known as a boxer, Ali was so much more, and documentary director Clare Lewins attempts to shed even more light on the icon’s many roles.
“Let’s Be Cops” (2014, R, 104 min., $29.98) Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr., Rob Riggle and Andy Garcia star in a comedy about two guys who dress as cops to a Halloween party and enjoy it so much they decide to keep it going. First, it’s a lot of fun, but then, the guys get wrapped up in real cop work that turns out to be more dangerous than expected.
“Drive Hard” (2014, NR, 92 min., $34.97) John Cusack and Thomas Jane star in an action-packed thriller about a talented race car driver who’s hijacked by a mysterious criminal to be his driver in a heist that will net millions. After pulling off the job, the guys find themselves on the run from ruthless mobsters and the cops.
“I Am Santa Claus” (2014, NR, 89 min., $19.99) Tommy Avallone directs this interesting documentary that takes a look behind the scenes at five professional Santas for an entire year. The documentary follows the bearded pros as they prepare for the holiday season. More importantly, it takes a look at their lives when the season of Santa is over.
“Deepsea Challenge 3D” (2014, PG, 90 min., $24.99) Director James Cameron steps in front of the camera in this exciting documentary that takes viewers to the depths of the sea. Cameron makes a solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench — nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface — in a submersible he designed himself.
“Summer of Blood” (2014, NR, 86 min., $24.98) Onur Tukel wrote, directed and plays the lead role in a vampire comedy about a lazy slob who’s life is headed nowhere after rejecting a marriage proposal from his girlfriend. After a string of bad dates, Erik has a run-in with a vampire, who bites him. Erik becomes an undead ladykiller with a taste for blood.
“Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story” (2014, NR, 90 min., $24.95) Directors Mark Herzog and Sandrine Orabona present the story of former U.S. Navy Seal Christopher Beck, heading into a new chapter of life as a transgender woman and changing his name to Kristin. After 20-plus years in the military, he came out publicly online and on CNN in 2013.
“Iceman” (2014, R, 104 min., $24.98) A remake of the 1989 movie “Iceman Cometh,” Donnie Yen stars as a Ming Dynasty palace guard who’s wrongfully accused of murder. Hunted by three vengeful brothers, the guard is set to fight for his life when all four of the men are accidentally frozen. Thawed out 400 years later, they resume their struggle.
“Patema Inverted” (2013, NR, 98 min., $29.95) From director Yasuhiro Yoshiura, this animated adventure follows a princess named Patema who lives in an underground world of tunnels. One day, while exploring a forbidden zone in her territory, she is sucked up into a new world where the opposite gravity has the potential to be lost forever in the wide-open sky.
New on Blu-Ray
“White Christmas: Diamond Anniversary Edition” (1954, NR, 120 min., $19.99)
“Welcome to the Space Show” (2010, NR, 136 min., $19.97)
“Nocturna” (2007, NR, 80 min., $29.95)
TV on DVD
“True Blood: The Complete Series” (33 discs, 80 episodes, $249.99)
“True Blood: The Complete Seventh Season” (four discs, 10 episodes, $59.99)
“Getting On: The Complete First Season” (one disc, six episodes, $29.98)
“Sons of Anarchy: The Collector’s Set” (19 discs, 88 episodes, $169.98)
“Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1-6” (23 discs, 82 episodes, $99.98)
“Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” (one disc, six episodes, $19.99)
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions” (three discs, 13 episodes, $39.99)