March 4, 2011
OSCAR CO-HOSTS James Franco and Anne Hathaway also co-host this week's DVD releases. Franco stars in the unfortunately notorious "127 Hours," playing hiker Aron Ralston, who cut off his arm to survive a fall in an isolated desert canyon. It's another inspiring endorsement of human connection from director Danny Boyle - two hours of inspiration, two minutes of amputation. Hathaway co-stars with Jake Gyllenhaal in "Love and Other Drugs," an ambitious story from Ed Zwick about a shallow Viagra salesman who falls for a woman with Parkinson's.
March 25, 2011
THANK HEAVEN for March Madness - you're going to want to bypass the DVD bin this week. There's "Skyline," a worse version of "Battle: Los Angeles," about aliens using a blue ray (available on Blu-ray?) to suck Angelenos into their spaceships for inspection and torture. That's how the aliens get you, they bore you to death. Also "How Do You Know?," a James L. Brooks movie every bit as bland as its title. Reese Witherspoon is a confused young woman torn between a shallow baseball star (Owen Wilson)
May 27, 2011
HOLLYWOOD must figure you'll be AT the movies this week, not watching DVDs, so it's releasing only "I Am Number Four" and "Gnomeo and Juliet. " "Gnomeo" is yet another riff on the Shakespeare classic. It's also so-so animation backed by some reworked Elton John songs. Skip this, take the kids to "Kung Fu Panda 2. " "I Am Number Four" is based on a not-bad young adult book about an alien refugee (Alex Pettyfer) hiding on earth, posing as a teenager. Interstellar ogres find him and chase him, and he's also got problems with the captain of the football team, because he's dating the guy's ex (it's true love!
September 24, 2010
RIDLEY SCOTT plus Russell Crowe plus Cate Blanchett plus Robin Hood should have added up to a spectacular movie, but Scott's "Robin Hood" was somewhat less than that. For that reason, it was regarded a failure, but the movie has much to make it recommendable - Crowe's gladiatorial performance, Scott's typically bold vision and attention to detail. You get more of that on the DVD, which arrives as Scott's extended director's cut, with some meaty extras including a substantial making-of documentary recounting the filmmaker's attempts to make something historical from a mythological icon.
June 24, 2011
ED HELMS' "Hangover 2" made 40 times as much money and was about half as funny as his indie comedy "Cedar Rapids," released a few months earlier, now on DVD. Helms stars as an impossibly square guy who attends a regional insurance convention, where he's hazed and ultimately helped by fellow delegates (John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr.). The movie is offbeat and has a good heart - it's unusually generous to its Midwestern characters, and resolves itself in surprising ways.
January 28, 2011
LOOKS LIKE old-timers week on the DVD front, with the fogy-comedy "Red" and the nostalgia-themed "Secretariat" and "Nowhere Boy. " "RED" stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous, adjectives that describe former networkers for American, British and Soviet intelligence (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox), now allied to fight high-level corruption in the United States. The action is pretty standard, but it's a good cast, and they have fun with it. "Secretariat" is an exceedingly wholesome (by Randall Wallace)
August 20, 2010
NICHOLAS SPARKS says that he wrote "The Last Song" expressly for Miley Cyrus, who plays a girl trying to reconcile with her estranged, dying dad (Greg Kinnear). I know he did not write it for me, or he wouldn't have included that scene at the end where the spirit of Greg Kinnear appears as a ray of sunshine that pierces the stained-glass window he built in life, just as Miley reaches the chorus of the song she's singing in his honor, at his funeral, in the church he helped restore. Yes, it's a tearjerker, or a smirk-stifler, depending on your opinion of Sparks, who includes other familiar Sparks elements - a story of young love (one rich, one poor)
November 26, 2010
THERE'S A turkey joke looming for the Thanksgiving DVD release of "The Expendables," but I'll leave it alone, because many people mysteriously liked this movie. Sylvester Stallone's sloppily made "Magnificent Seven" earned $100 million thanks to its reputed screen union of action stars Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and on and on. Most of these turned out to be bait-and-switch cameos, and those stars who did contribute something were stranded in a nonsensical story about mercenaries overthrowing the oppressive regime of a Central American government.
July 9, 2010
THE ART-HOUSE hit "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" arrives on DVD this week, headlining a group that also includes Antoine Fuqua's "Brooklyn's Finest. " "Tattoo," adapted from the international best-seller, tells the racy story of a middle-aged journalist and a punkish young woman who uncover the truth behind the cold-case murder of a Scandinavian girl. I can't help wondering if the consummation of its older-man, younger-woman relationship had something to do with its popularity on the AARP circuit, but it was well made nonetheless and a sturdy adaptation of the popular book.
May 6, 2011
YOU CAN RENT either "The Green Hornet" or "The Dilemma" this week, but if you rent both, you get enough laughs for one movie. "Hornet" is Michel Gondry's facetious take on the superhero genre, with Seth Rogen as the masked man, a playboy who decides to fight crime with the "help" of an Asian sidekick. Gondry's running joke is to have the sidekick be the actual brains/brawn of the operation. There are some inspired sequences (Rogen tries to master the gas gun), but the gags are stretched thin.