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.
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.
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.
October 29, 2010
I DON'T KNOW if it's the World Series or the NFL or some combination of the two, but somebody in Hollywood thinks women will be renting DVDs this weekend. The industry is releasing "Sex and the City 2," the reputedly awful (I had a headache) sequel to the "original," adapted from the popular cable series. The plot? Something about a grotesquely lavish wedding in Dubai. It looks like "Ishtar" for girls, but I'd have to watch it to find out. It's Halloween weekend, so maybe that's the connection - the DVD has a featurette about the women's scary costumes.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)