This week’s crop of videos includes something for everyone: a fast-paced family adventure, taut crime thriller, trite romantic comedy, and touching documentary. Surely, there’s something appropriate for that upcoming movie night.
4 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
With its over-the-top visuals, stylized acting and fast-moving plot, “Speed Racer” is one of the greatest cartoon adaptations ever put to screen. The only down side is that most people don’t have a home theater capable of recreating the theatrical experience. But don’t let that stop you from renting the DVD. Nab the biggest TV you can, crank up the sound, and enjoy.
It’s no small challenge to take a classic Japanese cartoon series, introduce it to a new generation of fans and convert it to live action. Fortunately, filmmaking brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski — the guys behind “The Matrix” films — were up to the task. Visually, they have created one of the most astounding films to hit theaters this year. They also relate a pretty good story.
Emile Hirsch stars as Speed Racer, a young man who has dreamt of racing cars his entire life. He’s haunted by the fact that his older brother, Rex, died in a car accident, but that doesn’t prevent him from driving like a madman. It’s apparent that Speed is one of the finest drivers in the world, and that draws the attention of a schmaltzy corporate race team owner named Royalton (Roger Allam). He offers Speed a racing contract, but the young driver turns him down, leading Royalton to start a vendetta.
What follows is a smart-but-easy-flowing story that addresses corporate greed and family honor. Of course, those things take a backseat to the futuristic racecar action that drives the film. Every racing sequence is dominated by saturated primary colors, and Speed’s car careens through physically impossible stunts that make it seem as though the old-time cartoon has actually come to life.
“Speed Racer” is a near-perfect movie.
DVD special features include a tour of the movie set, a piece on the cars and racetracks, and a short about the racecar drivers.
Made of Honor
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
Director Paul Weiland’s latest boasts the most overused premise in the romantic comedy genre: old friends falling in love.
Sure, this happens in real-life, but it rarely happens as depicted in “Made of Honor,” a trite bit about a womanizing guy named Tom (Patrick Stewart) who finally falls for his pal Hannah (Michelle Monaghan). Trouble is, he realizes he loves her after bedding countless women and making it pretty clear that he’s not marriage material.
Still, he’s set to convince Hannah otherwise when she announces — of course — that she is engaged to a perfect guy named Colin (Kevin McKidd). And, guess what? Hannah asks Tom to be her maid of honor. Intent on breaking the engagement, Tom agrees.
If the plot sounds like the much-better “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” that’s because it is. “Made of Honor” is also like countless other “friends falling in love” flicks, and that makes it slow-moving, dull and predictable.
An audio commentary by Weiland is the only extra on DVD, but the Blu-ray disc adds deleted scenes and a couple making-of features.
Rated R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity and language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray
When “88 Minutes” was released in theaters, it was hammered by critics nationwide, and that makes me the odd man out. Maybe I’m getting soft, but I didn’t find it half bad. In fact, I’ll argue that it’s plenty entertaining in that “turn off your brain and enjoy” sort of way.
Al Pacino stars as Jack Gramm, a psychologist who testifies against serial killers in court, a profession that has served him well until now. On the eve of the execution of a nasty murderer named Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), he receives a call saying that he has just 88 minutes to live. As it becomes clear that the threat is serious and that Forster ordered it from behind bars, Gramm tries to discover who’s trying to kill him.
Too deep an examination of the plot — and its ridiculous complexity — will surely lead to disappointment. But folks who can simply hang on and enjoy Pacino’s performance will be rewarded with a fast-moving and enjoyable thriller. Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman and William Forsythe also star.
DVD extras include a director’s commentary, a discussion with Al Pacinco and an alternate ending.
Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements.
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD
Director Stephen Walker’s 107-minute documentary about the Young@Heart chorus of Northampton, Mass., is inspiring, funny, touching and, sometimes, quite sad. He followed members of the chorus — all age 70 or older — through preparations for a new show including performances of Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia,” Cold Play’s “Fix You” and James Browns “I Feel Good.”
Although the group draws attention through the gimmick of senior citizens performing rock music, the documentary focuses on the vitality of individual members and the leadership of chorus director Bob Cilman. Audiences get a feel for the group’s rehearsal process, and they are also exposed to the real-life drama surrounding the health concerns of several members.
It’s saddening that several Young@Heart singers passed away during the making of the film, but it is stirring to see the dedication and love every member has for performing. Although it likely wasn’t his intent, Walker has crafted a piece that speaks to the power of music and its ability to bring out the best in people of all ages.
DVD extras include deleted scenes and a short feature about a Young@Heart appearance in Hollywood.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
Chuck — The Complete First Season: Offbeat comedy series about an easygoing computer geek named Chuck (Zachary Levi) who accidentally downloaded top secret information to his brain, making him a hot property for the U.S. government and its enemies. Most episodes revolve around Chuck balancing his life as a box store employee with near-daily intelligence exploits courtesy of a smoking hot spy named Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski).
Private Practice — The Complete First Season: This “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff got its start when Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) left Seattle Grace Hospital to set up shop in California. Don’t remember what happened? It’s all here.
Pushing Daisies — The Complete First Season: New drama based on the adventures of a pie maker who learns that he can bring the dead back to life. Only thing is, his power comes with a price.
Dirty Sexy Money — The Complete First Season: ABC drama focused on Nick George (Peter Krause), an idealistic lawyer drawn into a world of dirty deeds after he becomes the personal attorney to an ultra-rich family.
The High School Flashback Collection: Classic teen movies “The Breakfast Club,” “Weird Science” and “Sixteen Candles” packaged together in a boxed set.