Video Verdict: New DVDs for Jan. 6

(Left to right) Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star in "Righteous Kill."

(Left to right) Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star in "Righteous Kill."

This week’s DVD releases target mostly male viewers, as they’re heavy on action and include a gritty Robert De Niro and Al Pacino cop drama, a Nicolas Cage thriller and a drug comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

Righteous Kill
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

There are certain actors who demand attention no matter what they do, and when two of them get together it’s just too good to resist. Enter “Righteous Kill,” a cop drama featuring the too-rare pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. They play Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino), homicide detectives who have been partners for years.

After a brief introduction establishing the intimacy of their relationship, Turk is seen on video admitting to 14 murders during the course of his career. He explains that all of his victims were hardened criminals who escaped courtroom justice, and viewers get a close-up view of the killings. They also follow the action as Turk and Rooster investigate the very murders that Turk is admitting to.

De Niro and Pacino are solid throughout the film, and their performances are bolstered by good outings from 50 Cent, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg and Carla Gugino.

As good as the cast is, director Jon Avnet’s feature lacks the suspense that would have made it a classic, and the ending isn’t nearly as strong as it should be. Still, that De Niro-Pacino pairing is too entertaining to pass up.

DVD extras include an in-depth look at the movie and an audio commentary by Avnet.


Pineapple Express
2 stars
Available in rated and unrated versions. The theatrical cut is rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence
Columbia Pictures
Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray and UMD for PSP

Moviegoers who think watching people get stoned and do stupid things is hilarious will be in comic nirvana with “Pineapple Express.” Everyone else can save the rental fee.

Written by “Superbad” scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, “Pineapple Express” tells the story of a slacker process server named Dale (also Rogen) who witnesses a murder. Stoned at the time, he freaks, tosses his joint out his car window and tears down the street, hitting parked cars in the process.

None of this would be a problem except the weed he discarded was so primo and rare that the killers are able to trace it to Dale’s dealer, Saul (James Franco), forcing both men to go on the run. What follows is an offbeat comedy that revolves around the lead characters getting stoned all the way up to the finale which becomes surprisingly action-heavy.

Despite the good cast, the annoying tonal shift and mostly lame gags cause “Pineapple Express” to go up in smoke.

The movie is available in multiple DVD versions including a Two-Disc Unrated Edition. Extra features vary.


The Wackness
3 stars
Rated R for pervasive drug use, language and some sexuality
Sony Pictures Classics
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

One part character study and one part coming-of-age tale, “The Wackness” focuses on Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), a high school outsider living in mid-’90s New York City. Luke isn’t popular, but he is well known because he supplies dope to pretty much everyone in his class.

He also sells to the neighborhood psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), and the two frequently sit down for sessions. It’s hard to say whether Squires’ offers any solid clinical advice to the boy, but the two become friends.

The movie follows Luke and Squires through a variety of interesting situations, but it isn’t so much about what happens as how it happens and how the characters react. Writer-director Jonathan Levine deserves credit for crafting a truly unusual and authentic relationship drama.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes feature and an audio commentary with Peck and director Jonathan Levine.


Bangkok Dangerous
2 ½ stars
Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Directors Oxide and Danny Pang (better known as the Pang Brothers) have reworked their 1999 Hong Kong debut into a distinctly Hollywood thriller.

This Americanized version of “Bangkok Dangerous” features Nicolas Cage as a hitman who knows it’s time to leave the profession. So, he travels to Thailand with plans to carry out a series of contract killings that will finance his retirement.

Normally a loner who avoids relationships, he takes a young street hustler (Shahkrit Yamnarm) under his wing and strikes up a romantic relationship with a beautiful pharmacist. Such bonds have always been against his “rules,” and they ultimately lead to a professional crisis.

Cage is satisfying in the lead role, and the film boasts nicely staged action sequences, but the movie’s plotting is so straightforward that it’s easy to see where everything is headed. What’s more, the romantic subplot is underdeveloped and doesn’t carry much emotional resonance.

Get beyond these significant problems, and it is possible to enjoy the film at an escapist level.

“Bankok Dangerous” is available in multiple DVD versions, including a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary.


Babylon A.D.
2 stars
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some sexuality
20th Century Fox
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Vin Diesel seems satisfied doing nothing more than caricatures of his own tough-guy persona. Gone is the exciting, young actor we saw in the 2000 drama “Boiler Room,” and in his place we have the guy from “The Fast and the Furious,” “xXx” and “Pitch Black.” The characters in all three films are essentially clones, and Diesel has gone back to the well for “Babylon A.D.”

He plays a mercenary named Toorop who threatens people in a deep, menacing voice and flexes his muscles through a variety of eye-popping action sequences. It might be fun if we hadn’t seen it all before.

“Babylon A.D.” itself is a strange hybrid of “Children of Men,” “The Transporter” and “Blade Runner,” and it is set in a not-so-distant future where the global economy has collapsed. Toorop is hired to transport an innocent, young nun (Melanie Thierry) across the violent Russian frontier to New York City. The nun’s guardian, Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) is along for the ride, and the trio run into plenty of problems along the way.

The movie has moments, but we’ve seen several better versions of a similar story. The aforementioned “Children of Men” is recommended for people who are intrigued. It’s not only better executed, it features a leading man (Clive Owen) who isn’t all about posturing and cardboard characters.

“Babylon A.D.” is available in multiple DVD versions, including a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary.


Disaster Movie
0 stars
Available in rated and unrated versions. The theatrical cut is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, drug references and comic violence
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer would have been better off titling their film “Disaster of a Movie.” At least that way viewers would be prepared.

Like “Scary Movie,” “Superhero Movie” and “Epic Movie,” this woefully disappointing comedy makes fun of recent films, television shows and celebrities. And, as a rule, the material being spoofed is far more clever and sophisticated than anything in “Disaster Movie.”

The film is supposed to make fun of disaster flicks, but it’s really just an excuse to lampoon everything from “Enchanted” and “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” to “The Dark Knight” and “Cloverfield.” Hollywood provides plenty of fodder for comic material, but Friedberg and Seltzer clearly aren’t the folks to mine it.

“Disaster Movie” is available in multiple DVD versions including the Cataclysmic Unrated Edition. Extra features vary.



“Behind Enemy Lines — Colombia”: This direct-to-DVD title is the third installment in the “Behind Enemy Lines” franchise, and it tells the story of Navy SEALs who engage Colombian forces. Wrestler Ken Anderson (a.k.a. Mr. Kennedy) stars.

“Battlestar Galactica” — Season 4.0: Few remakes garner critical acclaim, but everyone seems to love this reboot of the 1970s science fiction television series. Season 4.0 features 10 episodes of the show, including an unrated and extended version of the “Battlestar Galactica: Razor” television movie.

“The Tudors” — Season 2: Jonathan Rhys Meyers continues his portrayal of King Henry VIII’s younger years in 10 episodes from the Showtime series.

“The Waltons” — The Complete Eighth Season: During these tough economic times, it behooves everyone to look at the good things in life. This classic family drama — set during the Great Depression and World War II — reminds that we’ve faced hard times before and that family and friends are the only true treasures.

“Duckman” — Seasons Three and Four: The final two seasons of the Emmy-nominated animated series about a duck who works as a private detective in Los Angeles.

“The Secret Diary of a Call Girl” — Season One: This Showtime drama tells of a pricey London escort (Billie Piper) whose professional life is titillating and personal life is complicated.

 — Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose work has appeared in some of the largest publications in America. E-mail him at

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One response to “Video Verdict: New DVDs for Jan. 6

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