Hey, kids! Ya like superheroes? Toys? Then has Hollywood got your taste quadrant covered with this week’s release of Max Steel, based on the action figure line first introduced by Mattel in 1997. Youth-focused cross-media filmmaking has been a thing since the early 1980s, and in this week’s gallery we cover every theatrical movie based on toys, cards, and board games that got a Tomatometer!

It’s time for another comic book convention, and we at RT are hitting WonderCon in Los Angeles the whole weekend to take photos of the most creative and dedicated cosplayers at the convention. Scroll down for our selection.



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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

The G.I. Joe team, an elite crack squad of muscle-bound good guys, take on a whole host of bad guys, including an evil organisation and some arms dealers who are on the hunt for the very latest in metal-eating weaponry… Oh sure, the plot is ludicrous, but then this is a film that was inspired by a line of plastic action dolls.

This is popcorn cinema at its purest and it delivers some serious bang for its buck. The CGI is thrust into overdrive as explosions take out European landmarks with some serious gusto. And lines such as “The French are pretty upset” — in response to the annihilation of Paris — will have you grinning like an eight-year-old boy who likes to smash stuff. There are chases and ninjas and explosions and underground secret desert lairs and super-cool accelerator suits.

Enjoy this film for what it is: a hyperactive pre-teen boy fantasy, and you are in for 118 minutes of adrenalin-pumping, blowing-stuff-up bliss.


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Public Enemies

It is the Depression and John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) are walking the line between crime wave and heroes as America’s most notorious bank robbers. J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) are the men who want to bring them down.

As we can expect from director Michael Mann, the film is heavily stylised. The hand-held camera will annoy some but for others it adds to the chaos, and allows us to get even closer to the violence. And this film is violent. It is also a little confusing. The movement, the jumble of characters and the slightly disjointed plot all work to separate us from the story and it succeeds in keeping the portrayal of these historically fascinating characters at a very surface level. But, as with many pieces of art that work at the surface, it is very slick and very beautiful and extraordinarily sexy. The sexy, of course, comes not just from the atmospheric moodiness of this dark gangster flick, but from the likes of Johnny Depp and his exquisite love interest, a hat-check girl played by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard.


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Tyson

It is hard to imagine a world where Iron Mike Tyson is a sympathetic character, but this documentary about the world-famous heavyweight shows a new side to a man so often dismissed as an enraged monster.

It helps here that Tyson tells his own story to camera with the support of photographs and gripping archival footage. Despite the obvious bias that comes from Tyson’s involvement in the making of the film, this remains a mesmerising documentary. While the story Tyson tells might be his own version of the truth, he’s still telling a truth and that is very moving.

The split screen technique works well. To see Tyson telling his story, in his almost gentle lisping voice, side-by-side to imagery of such base violence, reminds the audience at all times they are watching not just a sportsman and a pop-culture icon but also a man defined by barely-contained ferocity.

For those who are not a fan of the man, or indeed the sport, do not be put off. Tyson himself described this film as a Greek tragedy the first time he watched it, and it is. It is also a powerful and emotional portrayal of an extraordinary life.


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My Sister’s Keeper

Based on the best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult, this movie tells the story of a mother fighting desperately to keep her cancer-ridden daughter, Kate, alive. Her other daughter, Anna, was conceived as a donor for her sick sister but now when asked to go through yet another procedure, this time to donate a kidney, she hires a lawyer to regain control over her body and stop the operation.

Cameron Diaz takes on the role of the mother in this half-a-box-of-tissues drama. Jodi Picoult writes novels designed to make you cry into your pillow. Director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) makes films designed to make you weep into your popcorn. Combine the two and you should be advised to keep your fluids up because there will be sobbing. It is beyond your control. You will cry.

Fans of the book should be warned, the film does deviate from the original plot. Much of the moral and ethical debate has been exchanged for family angst and, oh my, is there a lot of family angst. Also, we are not in the practice of giving spoilers but the ending is radically different.


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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

The whole gang are back for the third instalment of this ice age animation — now the third highest grossing film of all-time at the international box office — complete with Scrat and his never-ending hunt for the final acorn. Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and Denis Leary may sound a little like they are going through the motions but Simon Pegg makes a lovely addition to the cast as a one-eyed weasel.

The animation in this series has always been exceptional and in this film it is no different. The discovery of a new world filled with even more prehistoric beasts will thrill young fans. And that is the point. This is a film for the very young. While many of the best animations of recent years have worked on a number of levels, allowing adults to take as much pleasure as their children, this one does not translate well for the over-sixes.

However, kids will love this bit of ice-aged craziness, which makes it a perfect distraction at this hectic time of year.


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Four Holidays

Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) have a routine. Every Christmas this self-absorbed couple skip town in an effort to get as far away from their families as is humanly possible. This year their plans are dashed when a rogue fog grounds their plane and a local news crew splashes their faces across the TV, alerting their ‘loved-ones’ that they will indeed be home for Christmas. With two sets of divorced parents between them they have no choice but to grit their teeth and get through four manic Christmases.

The movie has a knockout cast. Vaughn is a force of nature and drives the pace of this somewhat frenzied film. Witherspoon’s comedy is a bit subtler but she certainly holds her own. Robert Duvall and Jon Favreau are standouts as Brad’s alpha male father and testosterone-heavy brother and the rest of the cast — Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight — do their best at the various stereotyped horrors they have been given to play.

There are a handful of funny scenes in this film, sadly revolving around baby vomit, but in large the comedy is very slapstick, usually founded on humiliation and you can see the set-ups a mile away. The message about only truly knowing someone once you know where they came from feels a little too sweet after the mean-spirited barrage that has come before.

If you like your Christmas with a dose of cynicism you will enjoy the hard edges of this romantic-comedy.

To mark this week’s release of the action hit G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra on DVD and Blu-ray, Paramount and Rotten Tomatoes are giving you the chance to win one of these movie prize packs. Each contains a copy of the film, torch, magnet, figures and a Snake Eyes vehicle — just in time for Christmas, in fact. There are five to give away.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less why you enjoyed the film. Send your reply, along with your mailing address, to: GI Joe Giveaway Tickets.

Entries close Monday, December 7. Winners will be notified by mail.


G.I. Joe is released on DVD and Blu-ray now
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This week, another Hasbro toy franchise’s debut hits DVD, as well as a modern remake of a suspenseful thriller, a couple of classics, a doc on the food industry, a couple of perennial Christmas favorites, and a box set of arguably the greatest sports film franchise. Check out our list of recommendations and see if a few of them don’t make it onto your shelves!



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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

With Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise reaping box office profits like gangbusters, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to bring its Hasbro partner G.I. Joe to the big screen. For The Rise of Cobra, Paramount enlisted another blockbuster director, Stephen Sommers (the Mummy films), and secured a list of veteran actors like Dennis Quaid, as well as up-and-comers such as Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Rachel Nichols. Unfortunately, though the movie followed through on its promises of explosive action, much like Transformers, critics found fault with its story and campy, over-the-top nature. Nevertheless, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra still scored over $150 million at the box office, proving summer audiences sometimes just want an excuse to watch larger-than-life heroes save the world once in a while. You can pick it up this week on DVD and Blu-Ray.



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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

In the recent tradition of unnecessary remakes, director Tony Scott (probably best known for Top Gun) decided to revisit 1974’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (which had actually already been remade as a TV movie in 1998) earlier this year, and the result was a mixed reaction from the critical community. Starring powerhouse actors John Travolta and Denzel Washington, Pelham depicts an intense showdown between a New York subway hijacker (Travolta) and an MTA dispatcher (Washington). While the performances were bolstered by a strong cast (including supporting roles from John Turturro and James Gandolfini), most felt that Tony Scott’s direction was a bit too frantic and that the film lacked the punch of the original. Still, those looking for a tensely acted thriller, Pelham may not prove to be such a bad ride to take.



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I Love You, Beth Cooper

High school humiliation is typically pretty funny, especially when seen through the detached lens of adulthood. This is perhaps why high school comedies lean on style… But then there are style-free humiliation fests. Here, for example, is I Love You, Beth Cooper, a sitcom tidy comedy about the fair-weather love of a valedictorian for the High School Hottie. Chris Columbus’ film, based on the bestselling novel of the same name, fails to live up to the grandeur of the book, but the nostalgia the silly HS revamp drums up may make that all seem unimportant. With deleted scenes, alternate endings, featurettes and more, this notebook is stocked for the summer – which is good, because freshman year is a whole new bundle of humiliation.



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Food, Inc.

The idea that dinner is dangerous should conjure up the memories of bad dates past, disgruntled Thanksgiving celebrations or maybe visions of zombie lobsters. But for Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, the men who wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Fast Food Nation,” respectively, the grossest, most callous, inhumane and ultimately destructive part of your supper happens months before you even enter the restaurant. Director Robert Kennar’s expose on the government ally protected policies that force scientists to modify, farmers to overproduce, livestock to suffer and citizens to get sick will leave you with lots to consider. The Blu-Ray includes deleted scenes, celebrity PSAs on the issue, “Nightline’s” interview with the CEO of Chipotle, and 40 minutes of previously unseen footage.



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Forrest Gump (Chocolate Box Gift Set)

Does Forrest Gump present an overly-simplistic perspective of the Baby Boom generation’s trials and tribulations? Sure. Did it deserve to win best picture over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption? No way. But c’mon, cynics: why all the Gump hate? The movie has a few big laughs, some of the best special effects of its time, and a protagonist who, as played by Tom Hanks, is one of recent cinema’s most fundamentally decent heroes. The new Forrest Gump Chocolate Box Gift Set is loaded with making-of docs, interviews, and audio commentary from director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Sharkey, and art director Rick Carter. And that’s all we have to say about that.



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It’s A Wonderful Life – 2-Disc Collector’s Gift Set

Like Yule logs and eggnog, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life. Which, come to think of it, is pretty strange; Frank Capra’s 1946 classic is darker and more disquieting than most noirs, as its hero George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) embarks on a tumultuous journey of the soul before arriving at his titular conclusion. If you haven’t seen this heartrending classic, the It’s a Wonderful Life Two-Disc Collector’s Gift Set, on DVD and Blu-Ray, is a good way to take the plunge (no pun intended). And though, this set contains no wings, it does come with a limited-edition Christmas ornament that will make you the envy of Bedford Falls, or whatever your hometown happens to be.



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Wings of Desire – Criterion Collection

A substantial arthouse hit, Wings of Desire launched Wim Wenders to the forefront of world cinema, inspired a Hollywood remake (City of Angels), and almost certainly made Bono cry like a baby. And why not? It’s a wonderful film, full of grand romantic gestures and haunting black-and-white cinematography. Bruno Ganz stars as an angel who yearns for the messy complications of everyday life instead of the coldness of immortality. This new Criterion edition features a ton of interviews with the film’s cast and crew, as well as outtakes and audio commentary from Wenders and star Peter Faulk.



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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Ultimate Collector’s Edition

In 1983, National Lampoon’s Vacation earned its spot as a tried and true comedy classic, which made the failure of its follow-up, 1985’s European Vacation, that much sadder. Who knew the franchise would return with a vengeance in 1989 with Christmas Vacation, which saw the Griswold family playing host to their decidedly less classy (is that even possible?) extended family during the holidays. Though critics still found Christmas Vacation inferior to the original, it found its niche as a classic holiday family comedy, sneaking its way into DVD players and onto TV channels every winter. Though this new release, available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, doesn’t offer any new special features, it does come nicely packaged in a nifty collectible tin, along with stocking stuffers like fake snow, a moose figurine, coasters marked with memorable quotes, and Clark’s Santa hat.



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North by Northwest – 50th Anniversary Edition

North By Northwest is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most enjoyable thrillers, for reasons that are readily apparent. Featuring the ultra-suave Cary Grant at his wittiest, this espionage caper follows a hero on the run both from the authorities and a sinister cabal; his journey takes him across the country, where danger awaits at every turn. This 50th Anniversary Edition contains documentaries on Hitchcock and Grant, two in-depth looks at the film and its impact, an audio commentary from screenwriter Ernest Lehman, and a music-only track.



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Rocky: The Undisputed Collection (Blu-Ray)

Alright kids, hold on to your gloves, because the ultimate collection of Rocky films is about to hit your video store shelves. Coming exclusively to Blu-Ray this week is Rocky: The Undisputed Collection. This seven-disc set contains not only every Rocky film, from the 1976 multiple Oscar-winning original to 2007’s Rocky Balboa, but hours of special features, including a boatload of featurettes, tributes to various contributors to the films (including Burgess Meredith), a video commentary track with Sly Stallone himself, and more. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the whole collection is on Blu-Ray, so you’ll get to see all the spatters of blood and spit in high definition.


Star Wars – The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One

Like a Korean War vet at the local VFW, Ben Kenobi wouldn’t stop yapping to young Luke Skywalker about his service as a Jedi Knight in the Clone Wars. Now you can discover what all the fuss was about. Chronicling the events between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the animated Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One hits DVD shelves with a tie fighter-load of extended episodes and bonus materials, including a 64-page book of production stills and sneak peak at season two.