This week’s new video releases offer something for everyone, including a touching drama by two of America’s most-loved actors and a tasteless comedy from its prime purveyor of blue-collar humor.
The Bucket List
4 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play Edward Cole and Carter Chambers, aging men who discover that they’re dying of cancer and decide to go out with a bang. Despite vast differences in personality and background — Cole is a health-care tycoon and Chambers an auto mechanic — they make a pact to fulfill their dying wishes together.
Chambers is the sentimental sort, and his bucket list — things he wants to do before kicking the bucket — includes intangibles such as “see something majestic.” But Cole is into more materialistic experiences like skydiving, racing cars and great meals. Together, they’re a fine pair, and they change each others lives profoundly.
During it’s theatrical run, “The Bucket List” was criticized for being sentimental and manipulative, and it is those things. But I don’t have a problem being manipulated when a story is good and told with the type of conviction that director Rob Reiner offers here. It’s also tough to beat a movie featuring great outings from two of America’s most talented and charismatic actors.
DVD extras include an interview with writer Justin Zackham and John Mayer’s “Say” music video.
2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
If it weren’t for an ending that lacks all closure, “Jumper” would be a decent action film. The story is built around David Rice (Hayden Christensen), a young man who discovers he has the ability to transport himself anywhere in the world … as long as he’s been there at least once before. This, of course, opens the door to a unique lifestyle, as David is capable of lifting money from banks and traveling the world in the blink of an eye.
The catch is that there are other jumpers in the world, and a super-secret society of people — known as Paladins — have made a mission of killing them. David learns this when he meets a fellow jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell) while trying to show the Roman Coliseum to the love of his life, Millie (Rachel Bilson).
Rapidly, “Jumper” becomes a cat-and-mouse adventure as David and Griffin combat a lethal group of Paladins led by a nasty fellow named Roland (Samuel L. Jackson). The special effects are outstanding and director Doug Liman does a nice job with the action sequences, but there’s nothing deep or important about the film. Still, it is pretty entertaining right up until the conclusion, when things wrap so quickly and with so many cliffhangers that it feels like the first installment of a three-part miniseries. Sequel anyone?
The movie is available on two-disc and single-disc editions. Extras vary by release, but both versions have an audio commentary, and several making-of shorts.
Rated R for terror, violence and some language
Available on: DVD
Supposedly, writer-director Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” is an artsy exploration of the way violence is depicted in our society, but the project is so morally bankrupt that it doesn’t deserve that sort of credit, let alone an audience.
A remake of Haneke’s 1997, foreign version of the movie, the story is centered on an upper-class family taken hostage in their country vacation home. Naomi Watts is Ann, the family matriarch, Tim Roth is her husband, George, and Devon Gearhart is their son, Georgie.
Each cast member is a fine performer, which makes it all the more horrific to watch them undergo the horrors they endure when two white-gloved psychopaths (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) take over their home.
The movie may pretend to be an examination of violence, but the safe bet is most people who watch and enjoy it will get off purely on the suspense and adrenaline rush that comes from viewing the torture of the three family members. If Haneke actually believes the majority of filmgoers are taking more from his film, he is sadly mistaken. There is nothing funny or rewarding about his mess of a movie.
The DVD has no extra features.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
The world didn’t need another Larry the Cable Guy comedy, but writer-director Charles Robert Camer didn’t ask the world before charging forward with this ridiculously unfunny and sloppily produced picture.
It’s safe to say nobody other than Larry’s fans will want to watch this picture, but even fans will have to endure glaring continuity errors, rushed storytelling and poorly defined characters. Larry stars as Deputy Larry Stalder a small-town law man who dreams of one day joining the FBI.
When a beautiful woman (Ivana Milicevic) rolls into town accompanied by several men in black suits and shades, he assumes that she has been kidnapped. So, he nabs her and takes her into protective custody.
When Larry learns that she is due to testify in a high-profile criminal case in Chicago, he decides that he’s going to deliver her personally, even though she tells him that she was already in FBI custody. The plot gets increasingly convoluted, but further explanation is pointless, as Camer doesn’t unfold his tale with much grace or humor.
Throw in a handful of racist and otherwise offensive one-liners and you have a pretty good idea of what “Witless Protection” is about. In other words, the film doesn’t Git-R-Done.
The movie is available in both full screen and widescreen editions, and extra features include a few shorts on the making of the film.
Available on: DVD
Typically, this column sticks to the mainstream, but now and again it’s nice to watch a film made outside the Hollywood system to see what ambitious filmmakers are doing with perseverance and guts alone. It’s also nice to see what they can do without the seemingly endless flow of cash powering most mainstream flicks.
For “Sidekick,” an independently financed Canadian superhero movie, the budget was well below $50,000, and it shows. But that doesn’t ruin the experience. Although “Sidekick” lacks polish, production value and high-end acting talent, it has a lot of heart and, more importantly, a good story compliments of writer-producer Michael Sparaga.
The feature centers on Norman Neale (Perry Mucci), a nerdy computer tech who discovers that one of his co-workers has telekinetic abilities. Because he’s obsessed by comic books, and because he’s a generally nice guy, Norman approaches said co-worker, a handsome salesman named Victor (David Ingram), about refining his power.
At first Victor is reluctant, but it’s not long before he and Norman are engaging in nightly training sessions. When it becomes clear that Victor could do immense good with his abilities, Norman tries to convince him to become a costumed hero. But Norman is disappointed to learn that Victor isn’t as altruistic as he would like.
Because “Sidekick’s” shoestring budget is obvious, the film won’t be for everyone, but there are rewards for superhero fans who can look beyond the surface.
DVD extras include a filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, and outtakes.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
The Other Boleyn Girl: Historical drama starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman as Mary and Anne Boleyn, sisters competing for the affection of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) of England.
John Adams: HBO miniseries starring Paul Giamatti as America’s second president. Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Dillane, David Morse and Sarah Polley also star.
Heavy Metal in Baghdad: Documentary about the struggles of an Iraqi heavy metal quartet trying to stay viable despite the war-time violence surrounding it.