Video Verdict: New DVDs for Sept. 9

It’s a busy week on the home video front with new releases ranging from a sweeping martial arts adventure to a Tina Fey comedy.

The Forbidden Kingdom
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of martial arts action and some violence
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

The main selling point behind “Forbidden Kingdom” is that it’s the first film to feature martial arts legends Jackie Chan and Jet Li on screen together. That’s good news on its own, but there’s more to the film than this star-power gimmick.

“Kingdom” is centered on Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano), a teen-age American who loves martial arts films but has zero kung fu skills. That changes when he is magically transported to an alternate world where he must return a magic staff to its rightful owner. Aiding him on his journey are a drunken kung fu master (Chan), a powerful monk (Li) and an angry young woman (Yifei Liu).

These three teach Jason how to fight and guide him through a journey that is packed with high-flying combat sequences … including an impressive battle between Chan and Li. Although the movie is built around martial arts action, it’s surprisingly tame, often playing like a young adult film.

To enjoy “Forbidden Kingdom,” one must get comfortable with a story that makes no apologies for moving viewers from one fight sequence to the next. One must also accept that this is a fantasy-based tale that owes as much to “Lord of the Rings” as “Fearless.” Do those things, and martial arts nirvana awaits.

The movie is available in a single-disc version and on a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary.

Baby Mama
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

When career woman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) decides to have a baby even though she doesn’t have a significant other, she enlists a sperm donor. Sadly, she discovers that she can’t get pregnant.

Not one to give up, Kate goes one step further and hires an earthy working-class gal named Angie (Amy Poehler) to be her surrogate mother. Everything is fine until Angie gets in a fight with her piggish boyfriend (Dax Shepard) and moves in with Kate. Suddenly, the two women realize they’re nothing alike, and it looks as though they’re in for a nine-month nightmare.

Although “Baby Mama” is a straightforward odd couple comedy that treads familiar ground, it’s worth watching because writer-director Michael McCullers delivers a host of good gags that keep things moving. Also, Fey and Poehler have excellent chemistry … even if they do allow Shepard and co-star Steve Martin to steal a number of scenes.

Extra features include deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a feature on the making of the film.

The Fall
2 1/2 stars
Rated R for some violent images
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) isn’t the sort of director who can sell a film on name alone, so it took A-list helmers David Fincher and Spike Jonze to push “The Fall” into theaters earlier this year. Fincher and Jonze also get a “presented by” credit on the DVD box, but this is still Tarsem’s film.

The elegant visuals and sweeping narrative are unlike anything Fincher or Jonze have produced, but the artistic scope of the project is consistent with their ambitions. It makes sense, then, that they would push Tarsem’s unusual passion piece.

“The Fall” relates the story of a 5-year-old girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) who meets a Hollywood stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace) while both are recovering from injuries in a Los Angeles hospital. Roy was crippled when riding a horse off a bridge, but his real pain stems from the fact that his actress/girlfriend abandoned him. Alexandria, hurt herself by falling off a ladder while picking fruit with her family. The two talk everyday, and Roy tells her a fanciful story involving five bandits out to kill an evil ruler named Odius.

As the film pushes forward, Tarsem cuts between scenes of Alexandria’s and Roy’s relationship and of colorful re-enactments of the fantasy tale Roy is spinning. Soon, the two worlds intersect, particularly in the mind of the impressionable Alexandria.

Visually, Tarsem’s work is stunning, so “The Fall” is always beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, his storytelling — both in the real and fantasy worlds — lacks urgency. That means the movie bobs at a leisurely pace when it should be racing forward, dragging viewers along in anticipation.

Strong lead performances and breathtaking art direction go a long way toward making up for the movie’s flaws, but they don’t eliminate them.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, some short making-of features and two audio commentaries.

Smallville — The Complete Seventh Season
3 stars
Not rated
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

Although “Smallville” isn’t as fresh as when it bowed seven years ago, it remains one of the most enjoyable fantasy/science fiction series on television. The show is set during Superman’s younger years — long before he donned the costume — and it explains how Clark Kent (Tom Welling) went from farm boy to hero.

Even more interesting, is the program’s treatment of Superman’s arch villain, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), who started as a good guy but became pure evil by the end of the seventh season. Season seven also spends a good deal of time with the arrival of Supergirl (Laura Vandervoort), the introduction of the classic villain Bizarro, and relationship problems between Clark’s friend Chloe (Allison Mack) and her boyfriend, Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore).

One reason the show flagged in later seasons is that it’s treatment of Lois Lane (Erica Durance) isn’t as appealing as it’s take on other characters. Also, the love of Clark’s life, Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), has become increasingly dark and, oddly enough, less interesting. Still, the writing is consistently strong and the ever-present nods to Superman mythology are a lark.

DVD special features include commentary tracks on two episodes, short features on Supergirl and Jimmy Olsen, a digital comic book, and unaired scenes.


Grey’s Anatomy — Season Four: Seventeen episodes of medical drama featuring the doctors of Seattle Grace hospital. Key happenings include Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) taking over as head of cardiothoracics, Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) struggling with difficult clinical trials, and Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) settling in as a permanent cast member.

Cool Hand Luke — Deluxe Edition: Re-release of the classic Paul Newman film about a chain gang prisoner who refuses to bow to authority. The new DVD features a fresh, anamorphic transfer of the film.

C.S.I. Miami — The Sixth Season: More crime scenes and more investigations as Horatio Caine (David Caruso) and company solve case after case.

The Big Lebowski: New, two-disc edition of Joel and Ethan Coen’s quirky, 1998 comedy about a slacker who gets mixed up with unsavory characters through a case of mistaken identity. The DVD was produced to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the film’s release. Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore and Steve Buscemi star.

Ugly Betty — The Complete Second Season: The sophomore season of America Ferrera’s soap-opera-like dramatic comedy is spread over five discs. Ferrera plays the title character, who is not so much ugly as out of place at the ultra-chic fashion magazine office where she works.

Barbie & the Diamond Castle: Animated Barbie musical about young women who team up to defeat a selfish muse and preserve music for the world.

Medium — The Fourth Season: The continuing adventures of Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette), a Phoenix psychic who works with the district attorney’s office to solve cases. The show, which is a hit for NBC, also stars Jake Weber, Miguel Sandoval, Sofia Vassilieva and Maria Lark.

Wings — The Seventh Season: Next to last season of the 1990s, NBC comedy about two brothers running a small airline in Massachusetts.

Seed: Director Uwe Boll (“BloodRayne”) presents the story of a serial killer who survives repeated execution attempts and — after being buried alive — seeks revenge. The DVD, which contains extreme violence and gore, is not rated.

Jon & Kate Plus Ei8ht — Seasons 1+2: Reality television show that looks at life in the large family of Jon and Kate Gosselin. The young couple is raising a set of twins and a set of sextuplets.

I Want Candy: Direct-to-video comedy about two young men who secure funding for their film by agreeing to cast a popular adult film star as their lead. Carmen Electra, Tom Riley and Tom Burke star.

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