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.
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)
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)
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.
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!
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.
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)