A dozen DVD/Blu-ray reviews today including some must sees such as Cedar Rapids, Louie Season 1 and The Adjustment Bureau and several that you might not want to spend your time with.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back, looking at the fifteen disc Blu-ray of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy: The Extended Edition.
Fire up your queues…
Witness the end of civilization unfold as hostile alien invaders attack the planet. As people everywhere watch the world’s great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. Now it’s up to a Marine staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) and his platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered in this epic sci-fi action film.
Aliens attack various cities across the world causing so much intense chaos that this film does little more than capture the military assaults; no wasting time on story or character.
Battle: Los Angeles is a disappointing movie, in no small part because it’s premise holds infinite promise. Instead, we’re given cliché after cliché of militaristic mayhem, with character development being limited to screaming and conventional stock characters.
Aaron Eckhart plays Staff Sgt. Nantz, a career military man who’s given notice after a botched military conflict overseas, before he has to deal with one last mission: the alien invasion. Unfortunately, his talents (and those of capable co-stars such as Bridget Moynihan, Michelle Rodriguez, and Michael Peña) are wasted in a loud, uninspired video-game tableau of non-stop, virtually incomprehensible action.
The alien design work isn’t particularly interesting, and unlike similar films like Independence Day, Battle: Los Angeles is humorless. Extras are four featurettes. If find people running while shooting guns and screaming, you might enjoy this. Otherwise, not worth your time.
Warner / Released on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD & Digital Download June 14, 2011
Best buddies Rick and Fred (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) have both been married for a long time. They love their wives, but, like some guys, just can’t help checking out every other woman who crosses their paths. Fed up with this habitual rubber-necking, their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) take a bold approach to revitalize their marriages by granting their husbands a “hall pass”: one week of freedom to do whatever they want, no questions asked. Seven days to see exactly what it is out there they think they’re missing…or stop looking once and for all. At first, it sounds like a dream come true for Rick and Fred. But they quickly discover that their expectations of the single life—and themselves—are completely and hilariously out of sync with reality.
There was a period of time when the Farrelly Brothers dictated humor in U.S. cinemas. With their films Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin, outrageousness and sentimentality reigned supreme. Not long afterwards they started stumbling with misguided efforts as Me, Myself & Irene, The Heartbreak Kid, Fever Pitch, Shallow Hal and Stuck on You (which is the best of the lot). Unfortunately, Hall Pass doesn’t do much to save their filmography.
Here, Rick and Fred (in an I Love Lucy reference) are married, but so grossly immature that they can’t stop oogling other women. The wives suggestion of a “hall pass” from their marriage also doesn’t do an awful lot to endear these characters. Ultimately, none of these characters are particularly likable, which is a shame because the cast is particularly good (and includes Stephen Merchant, Nicky Whelan, J.B. Smoove, Joy Behar, Larry Joe Campbell and Richard Jenkins). The film never explores the real ramifications of putting a marriage on hold and instead there’s an awful lot of focus on schtick. DVD/Combo pack includes a digital download, an extended cut (on Blu-ray), deleted scene and gag reel.
Unfortunately, it’s also not particularly funny. Sudeikis and Wilson are affable, but ultimately as characters, there’s not an awful lot to them. Hall Pass, ultimately plays as a sitcom headed for cancellation.
A Thousand Clowns
MGM On Demand / Released April 20, 2011
In this four-time Oscar® nominated film (including Best Picture), Jason Robards stars as a nonconformist who is forced to find a conventional job. Barbara Harris and Martin Balsam co-star. Directed by Fred Coe.
Based on the Tony-nominated Broadway play, A Thousand Clowns, features terrific writing and performances marred by poor direction. As Coe’s first film, he overindulges with camerawork and locations. Jason Robards plays an unemployed television writer raising his nephew who faces the very real possibility of losing him when the Child Welfare Department gets involved.
Robards shines as the nonconformist who doesn’t want to sell out, as does Barry Gordon as his young nephew (both actors reprising their Broadway roles). The film tackles some very real issues, especially for any recent college graduate conflicted with conformity versus a more bohemian approach to life. Extras include a trailer.
Despite the clunky direction, the writing and performances are top notch and this film is worth seeking out. Recommended.
Bobbie Jo & The Outlaw
MGM On Demand / Released April 18, 2011
A stunning carhop who wants to be a country singer and her sweetheart who dreams he’s Billy the Kid become involved in robbery and murder. Stars Marjoe Gortner, Lynda Carter. Directed by Mark Lester.
A mash-up of Bonnie & Clyde meets The Dukes of Hazard, Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw is a perfect example of 70’s drive-in cinema. Like most movies of this ilk it includes crime sprees, stolen cars, a beautiful girl, and a determined sheriff. It’s got nonstop action and violence and might best be remembered as the film where Lynda Carter takes her top off. Extras include a theatrical trailer.
It all comes to a predictable ending with everyone going out in a blaze of glory, except for Bobbie Jo who gets handcuffed and carted away. Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw is an entertaining diversion, especially for fans of psychotronic cinema. And Lynda Carter’s boobs.
Those Lips, Those Eyes
MGM On Demand / Released April 4, 2011
Stagestruck adolescent learns about love the hard way while interning in Cleveland summer stock during the early ’50’s. Stars Frank Langella, Jerry Stiller. Directed by Michael Pressman.
A somewhat realistic look at life in the theater, although a bit romantic. Tom Hulce spends the summer working for a stock company and winds up becoming enchanted with all aspects and sets his sights on becoming a playwright (versus his career path in med school, as dictated by his father, Stiller). There he finds himself under the wing of the resident “star” Frank Langella, who gives the film’s best performance as Harry Crystal, long on charm, short on talent. Harry never made it on Broadway, television or film and underneath his bravado, is quite aware he is a “neverwas”.
The film’s greatest asset is nostalgia and some truly great actors including Langella, Hulce, Stiller, Kevin McCarthy, and Glynnis O’Connor. Those Lips, Those Eyes is a charming film, but not much more. Mildly recommended.
Warner / Released on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD & Digital Download June 28, 2011
Close your eyes. Open your mind. You will be unprepared. “Sucker Punch” is an epic action fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality. She has been locked away against her will, but Babydoll (Emily Browning) has not lost her will to survive. Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four other young girls to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors. Led by Babydoll, the girls engage in fantastical warfare against everything from samurais to serpents, with a virtual arsenal at their disposal. Together, they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive. But with the help of a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), their unbelievable journey—if they succeed—will set them free.
Director Zack Snyder’s first original work is not only a mish-mash of unrealized ideas, but also humorless and ultimately a disappointment.
Sucker Punch is a gorgeous film. Snyder is a strong visual director and this film attests to that. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have much to say and as a result the performances reek of overly melodramatic direction.
After accidentally killing her sister, Babydoll is committed by her evil stepfather in an asylum where fantasy serves as an escape for the harsh reality.
And that’s the film’s first major problem is that you’re never quite sure what you’re watching. It’s pretty and the visuals are neat (dragons, Nazi zombies, Orcs, etc.), but it doesn’t nearly amount to much. Snyder’s influence seems to be more from video games than cinema. It’s also a bit of a musical (with additional sequences in the extended Blu-ray cut), which could be exciting, but again falter because you don’t care about the characters and there isn’t enough story to make the film engaging.
Blu-ray/DVD Combo extras include both the Blu-ray of the theatrical and extended cut, theatrical DVD, digital download, animated shorts, featurettes and on the extended cut, Maximum Movie Mode with on screen commentary from Snyder.
Sucker Punch is an ambitious failure, but a failure nonetheless. Visually it’s worth taking a look at, but entertaining it’s not.
The Adjustment Bureau
Universal / Released June 21, 2011
On the brink of winning a U.S. Senate seat, charismatic politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a woman unlike any he’s ever known. As he realizes he’s falling madly in love with the beautiful, contemporary ballet dancer, strangers conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the men of the Adjustment Bureau, who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent the pair from spending the rest of their lives together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must decide whether to accept his predetermined path and let her go…or defy Fate and risk everything to be with the woman he loves.
Matt Damon is one of the most consistent actors today in both choices and performance.
Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau is a science fiction romance set around the premise of freewill versus destiny. Only here, destiny is enforced by agents of a higher power who make sure that nothing deviates from the “plan.”
Damon’s politician character randomly meets Blunt and their chemistry sets off red flags to the Bureau (portrayed by Terence Stamp, John Slatterly and Anthony Mackie among others) who must keep these two apart to keep the “plan” intact.
The Bureau can move around through doors (much like a typical Scooby Doo chase scene), but if you can buy into that, you’re in for a terrifically entertaining film. Extras include commentary, featurettes and deleted scenes (which include an additional character played by Daniel Dae Kim who was completely cut from the film).
The Adjustment Bureau is one of the three science fiction films in recent memory (the others being Source Code and Limitless) that is smart and exciting and focuses on character and story rather than spectacle. Highly recommended.
Warner / Released on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD & Digital Download June 21, 2011
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn’t recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by assassins, he finds himself alone, tired, and on the run. On his own in a strange country, Martin seeks aid from an unlikely and reluctant source (Diane Kruger) as he plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he’s willing to go to uncover the truth.
A neat little thriller with a great cast (again with the exception of January Jones who provides the acting range of a turtle). Neeson again finds himself in a semi-action hero role following his work in Taken and The A-Team. Here, he plays a scientist who awakens several days after a car accident to find that his identity is no longer his and nothing is exactly as it seems.
Aidan Quinn (who is always a welcome sight in a film) plays the other Dr. Martin Harris who is married to Jones and who shares the same past (including memories, photographs, etc.). On the run, Neeson finds the driver of the car as he tries to uncover the mysteries of his past.
Unknown is a fun little thriller, with a twist that although isn’t quite original, is still entertaining. Neeson is always good and I find myself liking his performances more and more. Extras in the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack include a digital copy and two featurettes.
A entertaining diversion that is self aware of it’s limitations, Unknown is helped enormously by it’s talented cast (sans Jones) and is well worth your time. Recommended.
Red Riding Hood
Warner / Released on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD & Digital Download June 14, 2011
Although I can’t call myself a fan of Twilight, I’ve never quite understood the venomous response to fans of the franchise. Both Twilight and Red Riding Hood share a director (Catherine Hardwicke) and frankly, I can’t understand where the haters are for this abominably dull and uninspired film.
Red Riding Hood tries to mix up the Grimm fairy tale by crossing it with M. Night Shyamalan’s misfire, The Village and adding a bit of the supernatural as well as the familiar Twilight love triangle.
The twists within are of course, predictable. The film is, however, beautifully well shot and production design is top notch. Amanda Seyfried tries her best with the material at hand, and Gary Oldman shows up long enough to remind you that he’s a much better actor in other films. Extras in the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack include a digital copy, featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes, music videos and video commentary.
Humorless, suspenseless and criminally dull, Red Riding Hood is a bold reminder that Twilight isn’t that awful.
Louie: Season One
Fox Home Entertainment / Released June 21, 2011
As a newly-divorced, well-meaning father raising two young daughters, Louie struggles to cope with his strenuous mid-life shake-up, and his stand-up comedy provides a gleefully warped reflection of his hectic, everyday reality. There are disastrous first dates, indecent proposals, high school bullies, booze-addled play dates—and more.
FX has become the network of dark comedy, with Louie C.K.’s show Louie, quite possibly being the darkest.
Previously the comedian (who not only stars in the show, but also writes, directs, produces and edits it) tried his hand at a traditional, albeit R-rated sitcom on HBO, and Louie often times feels like a semi-sequel; as this series features a now divorced Louie raising his two daughters while working as a comedian. Episodes don’t follow a traditional structure; there’s no happy ending or revelation at the end of the twenty two minute mark.
Like Seinfeld, each episode features some stand-up, often reflecting on the main plot. And also, like Seinfeld, the series is full of some morally reprehensible characters, but is shot with a single camera on location. No studio audience canned laughter within. Extras include 11 commentary tracks over the 13 episodes, a featurette and deleted and extended scenes. The release offers Blu-ray on one side and standard DVD on the other.
Self-deprecating and pessimistic, Louie is also a comedy that doesn’t go for any easy laughs. Highest recommendation.
Fox Home Entertainment / Released June 21, 2011
A naïve small-town Midwesterner is sent to represent his company at a regional insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his mind is blown by the “big city” and he finds himself in the midst of the most unexpected shenanigans.
An entertaining movie that fell under most people’s radar that features a truly fantastic cast including Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Alia Shawkat, Rob Corddry, Mike O’Malley, Sigourney Weaver and Thomas Lennon.
Although Helms’ character isn’t a far stretch from his role as Andy Bernard on The Office, he’s able to convey a sweet innocence as Tim Lippy, who is sent to represent his company in a regional convention after a colleague accidentally kills himself, the result of auto-erotic Asphyxia.
All of the characters in the film are trying to escape their own reality. Reilly plays the recently divorced, over the top agent that Lippy was warned to avoid, Heche is surprisingly sweet as an agent who finds that the annual convention is a departure from her role as a wife and mother and Weaver plays Lippy’s former middle school teacher, now single, who is sharing a bed with the smitten former student.
Whitlock is also fantastic as a fellow agent and Root plays Lippy’s boss, who runs a small agency who acts as a disappointed paternal figure toward him
The film is sweet, warm and funny, but at no point does the comedy reach unrealistic results, no matter how outrageous or tasteless. For many of the characters, their participation in this annual conference justifies their own self importance and helps define their identities for the other 51 weekends a year. Extras include deleted scenes, featurettes and a gag reel.
Screenwriter Phil Johnston (in his first produced feature screenplay) and director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl and the criminally not yet on DVD Star Maps, among others) deliver one of the most entertaining comedies of 2011 as Lippy learns that seemingly moral behavior sometimes hides the most immoral people. Highly recommended.
Trailers From Hell Volume 2
Shout! Factory / Released July 5, 2011
The award-winning Trailers From Hell website is the brainchild of noted film director Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) in which some of the best known names in the horror/sci-fi genre provide amusing commentary on rare vintage cult film trailers. (Viewers also have the choice of watching them without the critique as well.) Trailers From Hell! Vol. 1 (released last year) included most of this material but in Vol. 2, the trailers are only exclusively available in this DVD set. Entertaining coming attractions from long lost cult films including Donovan’s Brain, Little Shop of Horrors, The Invisible Ghost, Fire Maidens from Outer Space, Flesh Gordon, Deep Red, Gorgo!, Ski Troop Attack and many more! Includes commentary by Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis and Roger Corman.
This DVD also includes a bonus movie, one of Roger Corman’s first hits, Little Shop of Horrors! Featuring Jack Nicholson in one of his first roles, the film is seen for the first time in a new anamorphic widescreen transfer.
There’s not an awful lot to say. If you’re a cinegeek, you need this. It’s filmmakers providing commentary over trailers (the most entertaining being Del Toro and Landis, the worst being Ernest Dickerson). Curiously, Jaws is included (narrated by Josh Olson), which although is my favorite film, feels severely out of place with these schlocktastic films. Extras include the previously mentioned feature film, Little Shop of Horrors. Trailers From Hell is tremendous fun. Highly recommended.