“Confessions of a Shopaholic” DVD, Blu-ray: Here is a movie that could send financial guru Suze Orman into shock. You can imagine Orman lying on the floor after watching this film, sputtering “Denied!” The film is, after all, about a young woman so reckless when it comes to maxing out her credit cards for her best friend — her own closet — that the idea of pitying her when she lands into financial trouble might prove difficult for many in this particular economic climate. The good news is that the woman in question, Rebecca Bloomwood, is played by the winning Isla Fisher, who is pretty much impossible not to like despite her character’s being such a slight, financial screw-up. Life turns sour for Rebecca when the gardening magazine at which she works folds. Struck dumb by the amount of money she owes, this Manhattan-based fashionista hopes to land a position at Allette, a magazine not unlike Vogue, but instead she snags a job as a columnist at a financial magazine. The irony! Naturally, her new editor (Hugh Dancy) is young, single and good-looking. Predictably, a relationship blooms. Unfortunately, in an effort to retain his interest in her, Rebecca feels she must to lie about every corner of her unraveling life to be worthy of him. With bold, brassy strokes, she colors her world not in the red ink it deserves, but in the brightness of stability and financial responsibility, two qualities Rebecca lacks. Will it all catch up with her? Is that even a question? Based on Sophie Kinsella’s best-selling novel, the film is sandbagged by rote rhythms, but Fisher does find moments of spontaneity in her performance. She’s a good actress who deserves a better movie that takes chances, ditches the cliches, and comes through with all the freshness Fisher emotes. Rated PG-13. Grade: C+
“America at War”: From A&E and the History Channel, a well-done, 14-disc collection that explores our nation’s war efforts, beginning with the American Revolution and the Alamo and following straight through to conflicts in the Persian Gulf and our ongoing war in Iraq. Newsreel and archival footage add weight and interest to the already substantial commentary provided by experts in the field, and especially by those who lived through some of the events themselves. As with any undertaking this massive, there are sticking points. While the Vietnam, Korean and WWI coverage seem unusually truncated by being limited to only one disc each, the American Revolution warrants three discs, while World War II is offered explo-ration on only two discs. Finally, while the quality of this set doesn’t rise to the level of a documentary by, say, Ken Burns, it does an admirable job offering enough insightful angles to allow for a solid overview. Grade: B
“The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Complete Seasons 1-5”: A fascinating series that roams the world to study and explore 20 famous pieces of art, from such Renaissance masterpieces as Piero della Francesca’s “Resurrection” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” to such Impressionist works as van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Dance at the Moulin de la Galette.” Also in this award-winning set are revealing observations of Edouard Manet’s “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe,” Whistler’s iconic painting of his mother in the then-controversial “Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother,” and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The value of this collection is evident at the start: In spite of how well-known these works are, the art historians assembled to discuss them nevertheless manage to build drama through insight, such as when they explore “Michelangelo’s David” or Rodin’s “The Kiss.” In doing so, “The Private Life of a Masterpiece” neatly skirts the pitfalls of mainstream familiarity to offer the surprise of something new, a fresh angle we might not have considered, and the richness that rests within. Grade: A
“There’s Something About Mary” Blu-ray: Eleven years out, the film bears at least some responsibility for the decline of our culture, but it has held up and it remains funny. The film follows Mary (Cameron Diaz), a blond-haired, blue-eyed bombshell with a whole lot of chutzpah. There’s something about her smile, something about her golf swing, something about her hair gel, something about her choices in men, and even something about her neighbor’s dog that make her a target for tomfoolery, buffoonery and even blasphemy. The film begins with a young, nerdish Ben Stiller snagging his manhood in a zipper while on his way to the prom with Mary (“We’ve got a bleeder!”), and disintegrates from there with one sight gag after another — until those with weaker stomachs will be left gagging. But in a good way. Rated R. Grade: B+
“The Transformers: Special Edition” Blu-ray: With the sequel just out in theaters, now is the time check out the high-definition version of the original. It clocks in at nearly 2½ hours but it greases by without ever feeling as long. Shia LaBeouf is Sam Witwicky, a genial nerd caught in a plot that finds Earth under attack by the Decepticons, huge robots in search of the Allspark, a giant cube that will allow these creatures devastating powers of evil. Working against them are the Autobots, who also are seeking the Allspark but who want to use its power for good. Since neither the Decepticons nor the Autobots know where the Allspark is, anything goes in their efforts to find it. Though Megan Fox, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight and John Turturro co-star, the real stars of the show are the Transformers, whose incorporation into the film’s real-life surroundings is as seamless a feat as you could imagine. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+
“Waltz with Bashir” DVD, Blu-ray: Ari Folman’s Academy Award-nominated film explores the ramifications of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre that took the lives of hundreds of unarmed men, women and children during the Lebanon war. It uses animation not only as a means to generate the film’s stunning imagery — you’ve never seen a war movie quite like this one. More profoundly, it employs the animated form as a method of underscoring the surreal and hallucinatory aspects of war, and the difficulties of coping in its wake. It takes a medium best known for pleasing tots and uses it to inform its story and characters in ways real life couldn’t. This isn’t new (Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” did it, as did others) but the way it’s handled here is something of a contradiction — a beautiful-looking film about an ugly, unthinkable event. If Folman had chosen to tell his story in live action, it goes without saying that the film’s mix of horror and bloodshed would be anything but beautiful, but it is here. And what are we to make of that? Rated R. Grade: A
WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.