Video Verdict: New DVDs for Jan. 13

Kevin Costner stars in "Swing Vote."

Kevin Costner stars in "Swing Vote."

This week’s new video releases include two mainstream comedies, a Kiefer Sutherland horror film, and a terrific Western with Ed Harris’ fingerprints all over it.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Rated R for some violence and language
New Line Cinema
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

The Western was alive and well in 2008 thanks to Ed Harris, co-writer, director and star of “Appaloosa.”

This well-crafted drama features Harris as Virgil Cole, an aging gunslinger who — along with his partner, Everett (Viggo Mortensen) — promises peace to a Western town that is being terrorized by a powerful rancher (Jeremy Irons). The newly appointed lawmen are well on the way to completing their mission when an attractive widow (Renee Zellweger) arrives and casts a spell on Virgil.

Suddenly, things get complicated, as the love of a woman makes ultra-tough Virgil more vulnerable than ever before. Most events are seen through Everett’s eyes, but Harris and Mortensen are so good that viewers get a rich portrait of both central characters.

Harris also proves adept as a director, giving “Appaloosa” an intensity and visual flair that makes it engaging from start to finish.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, several making-of features and a commentary by Harris and co-screenwriter/producer Robert Knott.


Swing Vote
2 stars
Rated PG-13 for language
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

When “Swing Vote” was released in theaters, our presidential election was yet to be decided, so it had timeliness on its side. Five months later, this gutless political comedy is pretty much irrelevant.

“Swing Vote” was never a good movie, but at least writer-director Joshua Michael Stern was able to use the theatrical release as a feature-length plea to “get out the vote.” Today, it’s just a sad reminder of the failures of our political system.

In the film, a technical glitch leaves one man — a slacker named Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) — the ability to decide who the next president of the United States will be. It’s a ridiculous setup because our political leaders have taken care to assure that a single vote can’t decide a national election. Don’t believe me? Think back to the 2000 race when the losing presidential candidate had about a half million more votes than President George W. Bush.

But I digress. Asking realism of a Hollywood comedy is too much. All we should really expect is a strong point of view, but “Swing Vote” lacks even that.

Stern portrays both of the movie’s presidential candidates (Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammer) as fine men who have our nation’s best interests at heart but are nonetheless willing to sell out their ideals to secure Bud’s vote. Note to Stern: Fine men do not give up their principles to win an election.

It is funny to watch both candidates pander to the hapless Bud, but the more one thinks about the plot, the easier it is to see that the filmmakers are politically clueless.

DVD extras include a making-of feature, deleted scenes and a commentary with Stern and co-writer Jason Richman.


My Best Friend’s Girl
2 ½ stars
Available in rated and unrated versions. The theatrical cut is rated R for strong language and sexual content throughout, including graphic dialogue and some nudity
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Comedian Dane Cook is often rude and crude in his films, and he continues that tradition with “My Best Friend’s Girl,” a raucous romantic comedy about a man who specializes in tormenting the opposite sex.

Cook is Tank Turner, a smooth-talking, manipulative Romeo, who seems perfect until the first date. Once he’s got a woman hooked, he does everything wrong so that she is certain to run back to her last boyfriend who, most likely, is paying Tank for the whole setup.

Tank is happy with this arrangement until he reluctantly takes a job for his best friend (Jason Biggs) and ends up meeting a woman (Kate Hudson) who is more than his match. Writer Jordan Chan and Howard Deutch rely heavily on off-color humor that will leave prude viewers blushing for days, and there is very little romance in this romantic comedy.

The good news is there are funny gags. Just don’t be surprised if you feel dirty for laughing at them.

The movie is available in multiple DVD versions including rated and unrated editions. Extra features vary.


2 stars
Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity
20th Century Fox
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

Kiefer Sutherland is a likable screen presence, but he’s only as good as his material, and “Mirrors” belongs toward the bottom of his resume.

Here, Sutherland plays Ben Carson, a disgraced former police officer who takes a job as night watchman for a department store that was shut after a terrible fire. Alone each night, he patrols the building and begins to experience strange and terrifying happenings, most of them tied to the facility’s many mirrors.

The movie has a generally spooky feel, several gross-out moments and plenty of manipulative sequences designed to make viewers jump from their seats. What it lacks is logic and reason.

Even movies boasting supernatural elements need consistent rules in order to maintain suspense and keep viewers engaged. Unfortunately, what goes one minute in “Mirrors” seems off limits the next, undermining the plot at every turn.

DVD extras include a making-of feature, a bit on the folklore of mirrors, deleted and alternate scenes and an unrated version of the film.



“Tyler Perry’s the Family That Preys”: Writer-director-actor Tyler Perry’s dramedy about two families on the verge of collapse due to scandalous behavior. Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard, Sanaa Lathan, Taraji P. Henson and Perry star.

“Brideshead Revisited”: Film adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel about a modest young man who becomes enchanted by the lifestyle of an aristocratic English family. Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Hayley Atwell, Ben Whishaw and Matthew Goode star.

“The Taking of Power by Louis XIV”: Famed director Roberto Rossellini’s 1966 television drama about the early years of France’s Louis XIV. The picture is getting a fresh release with a restored digital transfer courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Shut Up and Shoot!”: Direct-to-DVD satire about a sleazy producer (Joe Cortese) who convinces a hot leading actor (Silvio Pollio) that he needs to kill five people in order to extend his career. Pollio not only stars in the film, he wrote and directed it. Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, Gary Busey, John Savage and Roddy Piper also star.

“My Bloody Valentine”: Lionsgate is gearing up for the Jan. 16 theatrical release of “My Bloody Valentine 3-D” with a new DVD version of the original, cult classic horror film. The 1981 feature stars Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Carl Marotte and Helene


— Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose stories have appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at

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