Ben Affleck is building a solid reputation as a filmmaker, and he scores on both sides of the camera as star, director and co-writer of this totally engrossing crime drama. He plays a Boston robbery-gang member who becomes involved with one of his past victims (Rebecca Hall) — who doesn’t realize he was in on the heist — while an FBI man (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) closes in on the thieves. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) is a cast standout as a hair-trigger-tempered accomplice; Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) and Chris Cooper also are featured.
DVD extras: “making-of” documentary; audio commentary by Affleck. Rated R and unrated versions; available on Blu-ray.
Steve Carell has a good animated match for his vocal talents in Gru, a master criminal who wants to be immortalized as the greatest bad guy ever. A rival (voice of Jason Segel) has his own designs on that title, so Gru takes several orphans under his wing, intending for them to infiltrate his competitor’s lair ... but they end up having an effect on him that he never anticipated. Russell Brand, Julie Andrews and Miranda Cosgrove also are heard.
DVD extras: three “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin; Gru’s Rocket Builder game. Rated PG; available on Blu-ray.
THE OTHER GUYS
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make an enjoyable odd-couple team in this action-comedy about a couple of New York police detectives who usually don’t get the big cases. That changes when the preferred duo (Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson) is taken out of commission, giving the other two their moment. Whether they can step up to it is another question. Michael Keaton plays their boss, and Eva Mendes is improbably (but amusingly) cast as Ferrell’s wife by director and co-writer Adam McKay, Ferrell’s frequent collaborator.
DVD extras: two “making-of” documentaries; deleted and extended scenes. Rated PG-13 and unrated versions; available on Blu-ray.
Turn the channel to
HIST at 9 p.m. for Modern Marvels
If you think the world around you is bustling, take a good look, if you could, under the feet of most Americans, where activity is buzzing in sites and activities ranging from tunnel networks and neutron lasers to experimental farms and secret military installations in the new episode “Secret Underground.”
ESPN at 8 p.m. for the 2010 Heisman Trophy Presentation
College football’s top individual award, the Heisman Trophy, is presented to the most outstanding player of the year in a ceremony from the Best Buy Theatre in New York’s Times Square. Top candidates hoping for an invitation include Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, Oregon running back LaMichael James, Boise State QB Kellen Moore and Stanford signal caller Andrew Luck. Last year, Alabama RB Mark Ingram became the award’s 75th recipient.
WXTX at 8 p.m. for The Simpsons
Homer ends up in Springfield Penitentiary after getting caught bribing an official, but an FBI investigator (guest voice Jon Hamm, Mad Men) offers Homer a way to reduce his jail time: by going under cover to investigate mob boss Fat Tony (guest voice Joe Mantegna, Criminal Minds) in the new episode “Donnie Fatso.”
WXTX at 9 p.m. for Lie to Me
It’s the holiday season, and Cal (Tim Roth) is in Afghanistan attempting to find two missing Marines. He meets an American expatriate with the Taliban who may be able to help ... if he can get the guy to tell the truth. Back home, Emily (Hayley McFarland) has a new love interest. Jason Gedrick (Desperate Housewives) guest stars in “Secret Santa”; Kelli Williams also stars.
WLTZ at 9 p.m. for The Biggest Loser
In the season finale, all this edition’s contestants return for a final chance to weigh in during this special reunion and show viewers how much they have lost since starting their weight-loss journeys. The third finalist, selected by viewers, is announced, then the eliminated contestants weigh in to vie for the $100,000 at-home prize. Finally, the winner of the $250,000 grand prize is announced. Alison Sweeney hosts.
USA at 9 p.m. for Psych
You know how it works: This time of year, if a series doesn’t put a character into a Christmas Carol scenario, he gets the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment. In this new episode, it’s Henry (Corbin Bernsen), who finds himself wondering how his life would have turned out if he’d never come back to Santa Barbara. James Roday and Dule Hill also star in “The Polarizing Express.”
Coming Attractions: For this week and Dec. 17
During an impromptu trip to Europe to mend a broken heart, Frank finds himself in a flirtatious encounter with Elise, a woman who deliberately crosses his path while attempting to flush out an elusive criminal with whom she once had an affair.
Against the breathtaking backdrop of Paris and Venice, their whirlwind romance quickly evolves as they find themselves unwittingly thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse in this remake of a 2005 French film. Rated PG-13.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace, are swallowed into a painting and transported back to Narnia and the magnificent ship The Dawn Treader. They join King Caspian and a warrior mouse named Reepicheep for a mission which holds the fate of Narnia itself. The courageous voyagers travel to mysterious islands; have fateful confrontations with magical creatures and sinister enemies; and reunite with their friend and protector, the “Great Lion” Aslan. Rated PG.
Sam Flynn, a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin, a man once known as the world’s leading video-game developer. When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn’s Arcade, he finds himself pulled into a digital world where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra, Sam and Kevin embark on a life-and-death journey across a cyber universe created by Kevin with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons and a villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape. Rated PG.
At the IMAX:
Polar Express 3-D
A young boy lies awake in his room one snowy Christmas Eve, excited and alert. The boy is startled by the roar of a gleaming black train that stops right in front of his house. He rushes outside, clad only in his pajamas and slippers, and is met by the train’s conductor. “Well, are you coming?” the conductor inquires. “Where?” the boy asks. “Why, to the North Pole — of course. This is the Polar Express!” The boy boards the train and embarks on a journey of self-discovery which shows him the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Rated G.