Video Verdict: New DVDs for Aug. 19

There’s plenty of variety in this week’s video offerings, as we’re getting everything from a children’s concert film to a Keanu Reeves action flick.

 

Street Kings
1 star
Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
Director David Ayer leaves no cliche unturned in his disappointing follow to 2005’s “Harsh Times.”

The film is centered on Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves), a brash Los Angeles cop who shoots first and asks questions later. He’s the sort of guy who would be run out of most departments, but Tom’s captain (Forest Whitaker) is more concerned about commendations than doing his job properly. So, he covers Tom’s behind and welcomes the strong-arm tactics.

Despite his unsavory approach to police work, viewers are supposed to like Tom because he has his heart in the right place. Never mind that he endangers civilians, places other police officers in harm’s way and acts like a lunatic while doing his job, which in this movie involves finding the folks who killed his former partner.

The fact that Tom is not a nice guy is a problem, but it’s not the only thing working against “Street Kings.” Screenwriters James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss threw in enough bad dialogue and melodramatic posturing to make every member of the cast look bad. And that’s an impressive feat when you have the great Forest Whitaker selling your lines.

Don’t let the name fool you. In the cinematic social structure, “Street Kings” is a peasant.

The movie is being released on a single DVD and as a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary by version.

 

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for some partial nudity and innuendo
Focus Features
Available on: DVD
Amy Adams is rapidly establishing herself as one of Hollywood’s great leading ladies, and she is in wonderful form in this sprightly romantic comedy.

A throwback to long ago, “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” tells of its title character, a down-and-out English governess (Frances McDormand) doing her best to survive during the tough times prior to World War II. Desperate for a job, she insinuates herself into the life of an up-and-coming actress named Delysia Lafosse (Adams), only to find that Delysia is courting three men simultaneously.

Although she dislikes Delysia’s shenanigans, Miss Pettigrew helps the young actress keep her complicated social calendar in order and … in so doing … becomes acquainted with a world unlike anything she’s seen.

The David Magee/Simon Beaufoy screenplay is delightful, and director Bharat Nalluri spins the story with grace and charm. The result is a lighthearted, farcical treat that feels as though it should have been made in the 1940s. And, yes, that’s a compliment.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, a making-of feature, and a short on the story’s lengthy road from book to screen.

 

Prom Night
1 1/2 stars
Available in rated and unrated versions. Theatrical cut is rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, underage drinking and language
Screen Gems
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, UMD for PSP
Although this film shares its title with a 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis horror flick, the two have few similarities. Both, of course, show nubile youngsters getting brutally murdered while celebrating prom, but the revenge premise that drove the first movie is gone.

Instead, viewers are introduced to a psychotic teacher who was so obsessed with a beautiful student named Donna (Brittany Snow) that he murdered her entire family. With three years passed since the tragic event, Donna is trying to settle into a normal life.

Alas, the whacked out teacher (Johnathon Schaech) escapes from a mental asylum and tracks Donna down again … on prom night. Pretty soon the blood is spurting and the bodies are dropping as the killer knocks off one poor high school student after another.

There is no suspense in the film because viewers know who the killer is almost immediately, and director Nelson McCormick telegraphs every attack. What’s more, the PG-13 version of the film, which was the one released in theaters, isn’t very gory. And all of the killings are off-the-shelf Hollywood moments. That means folks who watch movies like this just to revel in the sadism and squirting blood will be just as disappointed as those seeking a good story.

No suspense. No over-the-top gore. No redeeming social message.

No reason to watch.

The movie is available in an unrated version and in the PG-13 theatrical cut. Extra features include deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a gag reel, a director and cast commentary, and making-of features.

 

Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Concert: The 3-D Movie
3 stars
Rated G for general audiences
Disney
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
As a 40-year-old man, I’m not the target audience for Miley Cyrus’ bubblegum pop tunes, but it’s pretty clear why she’s become the toast of the Disney Channel. She is really talented.

Cyrus, who plays the title character in Disney’s “Hannah Montana” television show, has a great set of pipes, and she knows how to sell a song, even one that’s as generic and poppy as they come.

“Best of Both Worlds” is essentially a concert film with Cyrus performing half the tunes as her television alter-ego and the other half as herself. Honestly, there’s not much difference. She doesn’t change her voice from role to role, and the songs are all easygoing pop pieces. But Cyrus is a great performer, and she presents each number as though her career depends on it. For the kids who love her, the DVD will be heaven.

Both the standard and Blu-ray DVDs come with 3-D versions of the film and 3-D glasses, but the technology is far from perfect. While it’s interesting to watch the 3-D effects, I found it difficult to get the glasses positioned correctly. Fortunately, it’s possible to watch the film in the less-annoying 2-D mode.

DVD extras include additional songs and a sing-along feature.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

Camp Rock: Hannah Montana fans should also enjoy this Disney Channel movie about a young girl whose life changes for the better when she attends a camp for performers. Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers star.

The Life Before Her Eyes: “House of Sand and Fog” director Vadim Perelman delivers another solemn drama with this story of a woman suffering from survivor’s guilt. Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood star.

The Scorpion King 2 — Rise of a Warrior: This direct-to-DVD prequel to 2002’s “The Scorpion King” explains how Mathayus became the feared warrior that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson portrays in the original film. Because it wouldn’t be a “Scorpion King” movie without a professional wrestler in a leading role, Randy Couture stars.

House — Season Four: Hugh Laurie is back as the title character in this popular Fox drama, and as usual he and his team attempt to solve extremely complex medical cases.

Dexter — The Second Season: All 12 episodes of the Showtime series’ sophomore season. Michael C. Hall stars as a serial killer who works for the Miami Police Department and victimizes only people who “deserve” it.

Twenty-Four Eyes: Japanese drama about a rural teacher doing all that she can to give her students a sense of place and morality. Released in 1954, the film was directed by Keisuke Kinoshita. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

Terminator — The Sarah Connor Chronicles — The Complete First Season: This Fox television series spun off from the popular “Terminator” movie franchise, and it relays the adventures of Sarah and John Connor, who are constantly hunted by robots who have traveled back in time.

Gossip Girl — The Complete First Season: You can prepare for the second season of this CW series — due in September — by catching up on the drama. The show follows the lives of socialite teens living on New York’s Upper East Side.

The Small Back Room: The Criterion Collection is once again calling an oft-forgotten classic to our attention. This 1949 thriller was directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and it stars David Farrar as an explosives expert trying to deconstruct a new German weapon while battling personal demons.

Recount: HBO television drama about the battle to determine who won the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Denis Leary, John Hurt, Bob Balaban and Ed Begley Jr. star.

Chronicle of an Escape: Argentine drama about a soccer player who is apprehended by government troops and placed in a detention center. As his release seems unlikely, he begins to plot his escape. Presented in Spanish with English subtitles.

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