This week’s DVD releases form an eclectic group. There’s a star-studded comedy, a mainstream horror film, an easygoing family flick and a drama that earned multiple Critics Choice Award nominations.
Nothing but the Truth
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for language, some sexual material and a scene of violence
Available on: DVD
Kate Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga both received Critics Choice Award nominations for their outstanding work in this tale of a journalist who does jail time to protect a source.
Beckinsale plays the journalist, a hard-charging political reporter named Rachel Armstrong. When she reveals the identity of a U.S. secret service agent (Farmiga) as part of a story attacking the president, she finds herself in the midst of a legal nightmare.
The movie is loosely based on the real-life case where former New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail for refusing to testify about a leak involving a CIA agent, but writer-director Rod Lurie has crafted a fascinating work that stands on its own.
Much credit is due Beckinsale and Farmiga, who are outstanding in every scene, but particularly strong when playing across from one another. Other actors who deserve kudos include Matt Dillon, as a U.S. prosecutor; Alan Alda, as a superstar attorney; and Noah Wyle, as the lawyer for Rachel’s paper.
“Nothing but the Truth” occasionally bogs down in details, but that’s a minor problem with an otherwise outstanding picture.
DVD extras include a filmmakers’ commentary, deleted scenes and a making-of feature.
Rated PG for suggestive content, language and some rude behavior
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Despite the attraction of having two of today’s hottest actresses — Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway — play off one another, “Bride Wars” quickly devolves into a been-there-done-that comedy.
The action centers on Liv (Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway), lifelong friends who have always dreamed of marrying the perfect men at New York’s Plaza Hotel in June. When they get engaged at approximately the same time, they decide to plan their weddings together, with each woman being the other’s maid of honor. Alas, their nuptials are accidentally scheduled for the same day, and the popularity of the Plaza leaves no possibility for change.
Suddenly, the two friends are forced to decide who will get the Plaza, and neither is inclined to yield. So, they begin planning separate weddings, and both women do their best to sabotage the other’s big day. It’s all pretty silly, and director Gary Winick doesn’t do anything to freshen the tired “friends become rivals” plotting.
DVD extras are limited to deleted scenes, a feature on Vera Wang wedding dresses and trailers for other films.
Hotel for Dogs
Rated PG for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Director Thor Freudenthal has done more than pay tribute to our four-legged pals in “Hotel for Dogs.” He’s made a movie about what it means to be a stray in the human sense.
Sure, the plotting is routine and the young cast lacks polish, but this is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, and that heart is always in the right place. The story is built around Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin), a recently orphaned brother and sister.
Determined to stay together, they have learned how to cope with lousy foster parents and a sometimes cruel world. In an effort to maintain normalcy, they’ve even found a way to keep the family dog … without the knowledge of their caregivers. Just when it looks like they’ll have to give their pooch up, they discover an abandoned hotel that two other mutts have turned into a home.
Pretty soon Andi, Bruce and a few of their friends have converted the abandoned building into a sanctuary for every stray in their city.
Freudenthal throws in a number of gags built around the film’s furry co-stars, all the while ruminating on the true meaning of family. He never gets too deep or meditative, though, making “Hotel for Dogs” a lighthearted affair that plays nicely to kids and kids at heart.
Although the film is largely populated by youngsters, Don Cheadle turns in an extremely likable performance in one of the adult roles.
DVD extras include deleted scenes, a cast and crew commentary, and several making-of features.
2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic material, sexual content and teen drinking
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
The latest in a seemingly incessant string of Asian horror remakes, “The Uninvited” tries to adapt the 2003 Korean film “A Tale of Two Sisters” to a format palatable to Americans, and directors Thomas and Charles Guard get mixed results.
The movie starts well by introducing viewers to Anna (Emily Browning), a teen coping with the death of her mother. Although she is haunted by recurring nightmares, Anna’s psychiatrist decides it’s time that she return home to live with her father (David Strathairn).
It’s not an easy transition because Anna must also deal with the fact that her Dad has moved on and is now living with her mother’s former nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks). What’s more, Anna and her sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), become convinced that Rachael was responsible for their mother’s death.
“The Uninvited” moves quickly and is relatively entertaining despite its attempts to repeatedly manipulate the audience with false scares. In fact, the picture doesn’t unravel until the end, when viewers are hit with a twist that casts everything they’ve witnessed into doubt, considerably cheapening the viewing experience.
DVD extras include an alternate ending, deleted scenes and a making-of feature.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“What Doesn’t Kill You”: Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke play longtime friends struggling to survive on the rugged streets of South Boston. The movie follows their progression from a life of petty crime to their involvement with organized gangsters. Amanda Peet, Donnie Wahlberg and Brian Goodman also star.
“Legally Blondes”: Produced by “Legally Blonde” star Reese Witherspoon, this extension of the franchise focuses on British twins — cousins of Witherspoon’s Elle Woods — who travel to Southern California and turn an American prep school on its ear.
“Never Surrender”: Direct-to-DVD film about a Mixed Martial Arts champion who is lured into the world of illegal, underground cage fighting. Hector Echavarria stars.
“JCVD”: Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in this French thriller with a twist. When Van Damme — broke and unable to find acting jobs — returns to his hometown of Brussels, Belgium, he finds himself caught in the middle of a bank heist, and the police believe he is the culprit.
“In the Realm of the Senses”: The Criterion Collection is releasing three titles this week, including this controversial 1976 drama set in pre-war Japan. It tells the story of a hotel owner and maid who form a sexual relationship that blossoms into obsession. The unrated picture was directed by Nagisa Oshima and it is noted for its graphic sexual imagery. Criterion is presenting it in Japanese with English subtitles.
“Empire of Passion”: Also by Oshima, this Criterion release tells the story of a woman who murders her husband with the help of her lover. Then, they must face the consequences. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
“The Hit”: The third of this week’s Criterion releases, this 1984 drama stars Terrence Stamp as Willie, an underworld informer hiding out in Spain. His life comes unhinged when two gangsters show up with orders to drive Willie to Paris where he will be killed. The picture was directed by Stephen Frears, and John Hurt and Tim Roth star alongside Stamp.
“Hearts of War”: The story of a Nazi soldier who must choose between fulfilling his duty and his love for the daughter of a rabbi. Colm Feore, Kim Coates, Daryl Hannah and Roy Scheider star.
“X-Men” — Volumes 1 and 2: Disney is releasing two sets featuring the X-Men animated superhero series from the early 1990s. Volume 1 includes the show’s first 16 episodes and Volume 2 picks up at episode 17.
Frost/Nixon — The Complete Interviews: The title says it all. This two-disc set contains David Frost’s 1977 television interviews with former U.S. President Richard Nixon. If you loved director Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon” drama, this is a nice accompanying piece.
Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com