Archive for the 'Recent DVDs' Category

Oz the Great and Powerful
A 3D Treat

Any movie inspired by L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is immediately behind the eight ball because the definitive film version already exists. It’s impossible to think of Oz without visualizing the beloved 1939 Judy Garland classic, despite the fact that there have been many versions since. The latest attempt is Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful, which takes the never-before-tried approach of telling the story of how the Wizard first found himself in the land that shares his name. It’s the Wizard’s origin story, so to speak, and it’s gloriously filmed and quite entertaining.


Jack the Giant Slayer
Not that Giant

It may not be time for the summer blockbusters yet, but the release of Jack the Giant Slayer certainly marks the beginning of what might now be called the spring blockbuster season. It used to be commonly accepted that the big budget movies didn’t hit theaters until May, but over the past few years, movies like Alice in Wonderland and The Hunger Games have made the month of March a popular one to release big budget spectacles. Jack certainly has all the elements: a fantasy story, plenty of action mixed with comedy, and lots and lots of computerized effects.


A Good Day to Die Hard
Time to Retire?

Detective John McClane’s world is ever-expanding. After first being trapped in an office building, he was then granted an entire airport to roam and destroy, followed by the entirety of New York City, and then most of the Eastern Seaboard. Now in his fifth cinematic outing, A Good Day to Die Hard, he is thrown into an entirely different country… much to the chagrin of innocent Russian motorists who are about to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Broken City
No Surprises in this City

On paper, the new crime thriller Broken City has all the elements of a classic film noir: a hero with a past is brought by a powerful, corrupt figure into a conspiracy that involves a dangerous femme fatale. Unfortunately, to paraphrase a popular sports idiom: that’s why they make the movies. Okay, so it doesn’t directly translate to the world of cinema, but you get the point. The elements of a great story are there, but the execution is lacking.


Gangster Squad
The Untouchables of L.A.

If Brian DePalma’s operatic 1987 cop drama The Untouchables and Warren Beatty’s colorful, machine gun-happy Dick Tracy from 1990 were to get together and have a cinematic offspring, it would probably look something like director Ruben Fleischer’s new cop flick Gangster Squad. Like the former, it’s the story of a determined cop and his equally devoted team as they attempt to bring down a mobster that has control of their city. Like the latter, it’s got lots and lots of machine gun fire. It’s definitely got the style to rival its cinematic parents, but the plot is a little too familiar for it to stand out on its own.


This is 40
They Like Each Other, They Like Each Other Not

This is 40 is being advertised as the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up.” That Judd Apatow-directed movie told the story of an unexpected pair of parents-to-be as they faced the consequences of their one night stand. Pete and Debbie were two of the supporting characters in that movie and now Apatow has decided to give them their own movie that focuses on the relationship between these two people who both turn forty in the same week. If nothing else, This is 40 works as a solid showcase for the acting talents of Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
It’s Going to Be a Long One

It has been nine years since director Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy concluded, an accomplishment that stands as one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema. Given the trilogy’s success, it was only a matter of time before that trilogy’s literature prequel, the much beloved The Hobbit, arrived in theaters. Delayed by, among other things, legal trouble, the tale of Bilbo Baggins has finally arrived in theaters; at least, part of it has. In a curious decision, Jackson has decided to tell the three hundred page story in three parts, each part epic in its own right. The first film in the new trilogy has been titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and it comes in at just under three hours.


Hyde Park on Hudson
There Will Be Hot Dogs

Following Lincoln, Hyde Park on Hudson is the second movie of the holiday season about a former president of the United States. Like the previous film, Hyde Park focuses only on a brief period of time in the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s, rather than trying to tell his entire biography. It’s an interesting story about an event that few modern Americans will know took place and although he may not disappear into his character as much as Daniel Day-Lewis, Bill Murray makes a good 32nd President of the United States.


Silver Linings Playbook
Excelsior!

Having already been seen by a number of people thanks to early festival screenings, Silver Linings Playbook’s early Oscar buzz can be seen as more than just hype. This movie is already earning a reputation on more than just pure expectations. The buzz is somewhat surprising, considering that the movie, at its core, follows the typical romantic comedy format. But it is because the writing is so sharp, the characters so deep, engaging, and well-played by talented, popular actors that this movie is running up to the podium draped in a garbage bag; you know, “for sweat.”


Life of Pi
A Visual Delight

Life of Pi, Yann Martel’s popular novel about a young boy stranded on a lifeboat with a deadly Bengal tiger, once seemed unfilmable. Multiple high-profile directors have been attached to the project, but none could figure out how to pull it off. Oscar-winner Ang Lee once thought the same thing, until he had a revelation: shoot it in 3D! It’s an unexpected direction to take a drama that doesn’t feature any giant robots or laser beams, but it’s a technique that works to bring the audience right into the center of Pi’s story of survival.


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