Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DVDs In Brief: December 15, 2010

A.V. Club Staff and Kyle Ryan

The Will Ferrell-Adam McKay collaboration has had its ups (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) and downs (Step Brothers), but it’s back on track with The Other Guys (Sony), a smartly conceived comedy about the desk jockeys who clean up after the top cops who get all the headlines—and movies. McKay’s visual brio is rare among comedy directors, and his impressive action setpieces don’t overwhelm the inspired pairing of Ferrell as a straight-arrow type and Mark Wahlberg as his wonderfully belligerent partner…

Universal Animation Studios has largely spent the last decade-plus churning out Land Before Time and Balto sequels, so when it came time to get in the ring with Pixar, DreamWorks, and the other theatrical-animation big boys, it subcontracted out to the new Illumination Entertainment, which itself farmed out the animation of Despicable Me (Universal) to a French animation house. The film doesn’t much bear the stamp of any of these parent corporations, nor does it try anything new and daring: It takes its visual design, storytelling, and thematic cues directly from Pixar, and its cute-orphans-redeem-cranky-villain plot is pretty stale. But it’s still executed with brio, and it’s entertaining much of the way, especially when the titular supervillain (voiced by Steve Carell) is still villainous…


Fans of smirking bastards chuckling at their own irreverent antics should love The A-Team (Fox): Smokin’ Aces auteur Joe Carnahan shapes it as an obnoxiously self-satisfied update of the ’80s TV series best known for launching Mr. T as a pop-culture phenomenon. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson makes no impression with a terrible Mr. T impersonation, while Bradley Cooper smirks and smarms his way through the role of the team’s resident lady-killer…

Ben Affleck chose to follow Gone Baby Gone, his subtle, beautifully acted directorial debut, with The Town (Warner Bros.), a large-scale studio caper that also takes advantage of the Boston locales Affleck knows so well. It’s a respectable effort, but regrettably middle-of-the-road, sacrificing much of Gone Baby Gone’s intimacy and heart for splashier shootouts, heists, and car chases. Was one great film all he had in him?

Nanny McPhee didn’t have to return. Her movie was made five years ago, and wasn’t that big a hit anyway. Yet here she is in Nanny McPhee Returns (Universal), played by a warted-up Emma Thompson (who also scripted), teaching another pack of ruffians to behave through “lessons” that mostly involve slapstick and gross-out opportunities. Though it doesn’t repeat the eye-searing color schemes of Nanny McPhee, the sequel continues the series’ nauseating mix of abrasive lowbrow humor and a sentimentality that Mary Poppins could never abide.

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