April 08, 2020
Column

DVD Corner

“The Break-Up”: It’s too cute and commercial to really get down and dirty when it comes to how ugly relationships can get when the ax is thrown down, but this light, derivative take does generate more heat than some might expect. This comedy about falling out of love follows Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) as their relationship dissolves. Cutting the well-choreographed drama with comedy is the film’s fine supporting cast, all of whom are so good, they join Aniston and Vaughn in creating one of summer’s better diversions. Rated PG-13. Grade: B

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: HD DVD”: Dark chocolate. The film joins its 1971 predecessor, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” in that it’s designed to bring out the very worst qualities of children. Once the groundwork is laid for that, stand back and let the mayhem ensue. Director Tim Burton gets a terrific performance from Johnny Depp as Wonka, Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket, and Deep Roy playing every one of the film’s Oompa Loompas. One of the best, brightest high-definition transfers yet. Rated: PG-13. Grade: A-

“Docudrama Film Festival, Vol. 2”: A smart, unusual set of 10 films, the highlights of which include Nina Davenport’s excellent 9-11 documentary “Parallel Lines,” Roger Weisberg and Pamela Harris’ “Waging a Living,” which focuses on the working poor; and the timely “Farmingville,” which follows the ripple effect of two Mexican dayworkers murdered in the town of the title. “Power Trip,” “The Education of Shelby Knox,” “Con Man” and the very funny (and insightful) “The Lady in Question is Charles Busch” also are good, with “The Shvitz,” “Passin’ It On” and “Original Cast Album – Company” rounding out a provocative collection that has plenty on its mind. Grade: B+

“The Omen”: A near duplicate of the 1976 original, but not without its pleasures. Here, after all, is a horror movie whose intent isn’t to be just a mere gross-out, which is what the horror genre has become, but a horror movie designed to tell a story, which is what the genre has lost. For that reason, you appreciate it in spite of its shortcomings. Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick all do fine work, but the reason to see the movie is for Mia Farrow’s genuinely creepy, reptilian performance as Mrs. Baylock, the kind-looking nanny with the mean syringe who comes to care for Damien. Her casting is the film’s one flash of inspiration. Grade: B-

“Over the Hedge”: Paramount’s computer-animated children’s movie is aided enormously by the excellence of its voice talent, which gives it the infectious personality it might have lacked without them in it. The cast is loose, funny and recognizable, selling their punchy lines in ways that help the film live up to its title. This is particularly true when the movie hits its stride at its midpoint, when anarchy and lunacy send it over the moon – never mind the hedge. As the movie unfolds, the moral of the story reveals itself – it isn’t right to cheat your friends and there are dire consequences if you do. Not a bad reminder. As a bonus, the film is relatively subtle in how it delivers that message. Rated PG. Grade: B

“The Polar Express: HD DVD”: A refrigerated sleeper car so devoid of life, it chills the screen. Using performance capture technology, the film uses real actors – Tom Hanks chief among them – to achieve photo-realism through computer animation. What we’re left with is a computer chip that renders stunning landscapes, but which fails to faithfully capture the human form. The children in this movie don’t look like real tots struggling to believe in Santa. They look like waxen, undead extras from “Night of the Living Dead.” A creepy movie with Nazi undertones that should have been released on Halloween. Rated: G. Grade: C-

“Sculptures of the Louvre”: For those who have visited Paris’ sprawling Louvre Museum only to come away feeling that a dark corner and a bottle of absinthe might be in order to help settle the nerves, this set is for you. For those who haven’t visited but have always wanted to, this set also is for you. This seven-part series offers a satisfying look into some of the most famous sculptures housed in one of the world’s most chaotic, comprehensive museums. What it does well is that it cuts through the din to offer clarity and perspective about each collection or artist it studies. The sections on Mary Magdalene and Ramses II are particularly satisfying in their attempt to demystify the time as well as the works. No easy feat, that. Grade: A-

“16 Blocks: Blu-ray”: The first time we see Bruce Willis’ Jack Mosley, a boozy, washed-up New York detective, dozens of cops are eager to take him down in a hail of bullets. How did he get here? It’s complicated. Jack is charged to take small-time thug Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) downtown to court, where Eddie will implicate several dirty cops. Problem is, as this movie sees it, cops don’t turn on cops, which leaves Jack’s colleagues eager to kill Eddie so they can move on with their lives. When Jack sees things differently, “16 Blocks” becomes a reasonably involving, claustrophobic chase movie in which Jack and Eddie suddenly are on the run. Rated R. Grade: B

“Syriana: Blu-ray”: Big and sprawling – too sprawling, really – with oil and the Middle East at the center of its corruption. George Clooney won the Academy Award for his performance as CIA operative Bob Barnes, a cagey man of measured words who knows too much of what nobody should know about. With Matt Damon in another shrewd career move as a devastated young oil broker, the film’s complexities are many and intriguing, with moments recalling the work of John Le Carre. Too dense to be great, but its timeliness and eagerness to take risks make moments riveting. Rated R. Grade: B+


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