September 10, 2010
NOT EVEN a movie company would be this crass, so it's surely a coincidence that "Solitary Man" arrives on DVD as star Michael Douglas goes public about his cancer. The movie features one of Douglas' better recent performances - he plays a self-destructive business tycoon doing emotional damage to himself and those around him, including Mary Louise Parker, Jesse Eisenberg and Susan Sarandon. The movie is unusually well written, even if the writers provide a third-act revelation that tries too hard to undo the riddle of Douglas' character.
July 2, 2010
THIS WEEK'S DVDs allow us to gauge which is more horrifying: Rampaging zombies, the seeds of Nazi Germany, or the '80s. There are two legit horror movies on the menu, including "The Crazies," a very sturdy little movie featuring Timothy Olyphant as a sheriff who watches the peaceful citizens of his small town go zombie, one by one. Special features include a look back at the George Romero original, and tutorials on makeup and effects. There's also Michael Haneke's creepy black-and-white German movie "The White Ribbon," Oscar-nominated, about a rural prewar village where soulless, repressed children start acting out in nasty ways.
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.
May 13, 2011
THERE ARE new DVDs this week featuring Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher, which is either the best or worst news ever. Bieber's "Never Say Never" is a bio/concert movie that offers lots of background about his upbringing as a street performer in the theater town of Stratford, Ontario, then concludes with a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. In theatrical 3-D, it more than satisfied his teen female fan base. Kutcher co-stars with Natalie Portman in "No Strings Attached," a high-concept comedy about best friends who attempt a "with benefits" sex life with the understanding that neither has the time for romance.
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)
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.
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.
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.