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The Shelf: PAIN & GAIN, WINNIE THE POOH, THE WALKING DEAD

Shelf Aug 27

This week is about as eclectic as Neil Young’s David Byrne tribute band. We’ve got your zombies, we’ve got your criminals, we’ve got cartoon bears stuck in trees; it’s a random act of Blu-ray on the Shelf, folks!

Pain & Gain

Does crime pay? It seems to in Michael Bay’s non-blockbuster blockbuster Pain & Gain. Mark Wahlberg stars as a fitness instructor who wants to be a winner, but is generally the opposite. He teams up with an ex-con (Dwayne Johnson) and a steroid abuser (Anthony Mackie) to steal from a notorious swindler (Tony Shalhoub) and get in much deeper trouble than they expected. This was based on a true story, though Bay clearly indulged quite a bit, as is his way. I imagine we’re supposed to feel somewhat sympathetic for these three, but it’s hard to do so when they’re such raging ass-hats. Still, it’s entertaining and much deeper than it has any right to be.

The Blu-ray comes with a DVD and a UV digital coupon, but no other special features. Strange, given Bay’s proclivity toward doing commentaries. Unless you really love this movie, a rent would be sufficient. For more info, read our interview with the film’s screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

In 1977, Walt Disney Pictures released their 22nd animated feature, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. However, this was really just a compilation of three of their previous shorts: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974). Some new material was added to connect the three stories, but the bulk of the work was done. It was a pretty genius move on Disney’s part; the Winnie the Pooh characters had become (and remain) among their most popular brands, spawning toys, clothing, and other bric-à-brac for decades. My mom had more Eeyores than I can count. Despite what could be construed as a late-’70s cash-grab, the actual film is still a delight.

Yes, the Hundred-Acre Wood characters were, are, and will always be adorable and engaging. Why do you think they brought them back in that film the other year? Because people like them! Each of the stories is entertaining and fun, from Pooh getting stuck in a tree for days on end to being freaked out by the Heffalumps and Woozles. You know, they really are confuzzle. At only 74 minutes, it’s one of Disney’s shortest features (and is actually shorter than the 75 minute minimum the MPAA has today) but you’ll have a quick and good time.

The Blu-ray, being for a family movie, skews young, with features mainly amounting to more Pooh shorts and sing-along stuff. But there’s a 25-minute making-of ported over from the DVD release that will speak to the animation historian in you (or me).

The Walking Dead Season Three

After a relatively stable season at the Farm, the third season of AMC’s smash hit The Walking Dead took the heroes to the Prison, where they had a whole new set of problems. It also introduced us to David Morrissey as The Governor, one of the smarmiest, creepiest, yet charmingly folksy villains on television. He does some real nasty stuff to people while attempting to keep safe the citizens of Woodbury and seducing the all-too gullible Andrea (Laurie Holden). Also properly introduced in this season is Michonne (Danai Gurira), who you wish would just tell people things, and Tyreese (Chad Coleman), whose group adds a new dynamic to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the band of survivors. Lots of folks die this season also, but you’d expect that from a show about the dead who are walking.

The set includes commentary on five episodes by various members of the cast and crew, eight featurettes about the making of the series, and 13 minutes of deleted material. If you want to spring for the deluxe limited edition set (akin to the ones from the first two seasons), you can get the Blu-rays in a box containing severed zombie heads in aquariums as seen in the Governor’s private room. If you want to have that somewhere in your house, have at it, but don’t call me, because you’re weird.

ALSO AVAILABLE

The Great Gatsby – Another failed attempt by Baz Luhrmann to make a movie I like. This one’s based on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and features anachronistic music and a glancing blow at the plot.

Q – The Winged Serpent - Larry Cohen’s weird stop-motion monster movie set in early-’80s New York. Cohen staple Michael Moriarty gives one of his most fidgety performances opposite Candy Clark, David Carradine and Richard Roundtree.

Dark Angel – Get this: Dolph Lundgren plays a vice cop in Houston who ends up chasing an extraterrestrial drug dealer who looks kind of like a Mad Max He-Man. This movie exists, you guys.

Sons of Anarchy Season 5 - The best motorcycle gang show on television has a fifth season full of Adam Arkin, Peter Weller, and more Ron Perlman than you can shake a snake-and-steel boot at.

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