This week’s DVD releases are anchored by a Clint Eastwood drama that earned the veteran performer a best actor nod from the National Board of Review.
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for language throughout and some violence
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
It’s no surprise when Clint Eastwood makes a good film, but it is surprising when he makes one as intimate and low key as “Gran Torino.”
The movie, which Eastwood directed and stars in, tells of Walt Kowalski, a widowed former auto worker living in a transitioning Michigan neighborhood. Kowalski, a racist Korean War veteran, is disgusted that he’s surrounded by immigrants, but when one of the Hmong teens next door is roughed up by gang members, he plays savior.
Suddenly, Walt’s time-hardened — and often offensive — beliefs are put to the test as he forms a friendship with the neighbors, even putting himself at risk to keep them safe.
The movie works, in part, because Walt is a caricature of Eastwood’s earlier, tough-guy roles. One could even view him as Dirty Harry in retirement. But it also works because Eastwood is a master director who knows how to pace his material.
The racial slurs that dominate the movie are hard to take, but the dialogue is authentic for the characters portrayed, and the movie’s overall theme is one of acceptance.
This isn’t top-shelf Eastwood, but with an actor-director of his talent, even the second-tier work is appealing.
DVD extras include two short features focused on vintage cars, particularly the Gran Torino.
Rated R for some sequences of violence and language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Bankers aren’t anyone’s best friends these days, so audiences should be sympathetic to the plotting of this complex thriller by German director Tom Tykwer.
Inspired by a real-life scandal, the movie depicts an international depository so large and powerful that it is funding terrorists and destabilizing world governments. This doesn’t sit well with Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) or Manhattan District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), so they team their organizations for an investigation.
Alas, they are going against a corporation that is so connected that justice seems unlikely. Still, Louis and Eleanor persevere, leading viewers through a story that is as action packed as it is convoluted and difficult to follow.
The film has wonderful moments, including a lengthy and unforgettable shootout at the Guggenheim Museum, and such sequences make it all worthwhile.
DVD extras include several making-of featurettes, an extended scene and an audio commentary by Tykwer and writer Eric Warren Singer.
Rated and unrated versions of the film are available. The rated version received a PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, partial nudity, language and some teen partying
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and UMD for PSP
As bad movies go, “Fired Up!” is surprisingly charming. In fact, it’s the sort of film any self-respecting critic knows he should hate, yet somehow musters a smidge of guilty affection for.
Cheesy, underwritten and not nearly raunchy enough for a sex comedy, the picture has problems. But stars Eric Christian Olsen and Nicholas D’Agosto have enough charisma and comic timing to mine it for a handful of good laughs. More importantly, it’s tough not to like them and the goofy, womanizing characters they play.
Olsen is Nick Brady, a talented high school quarterback who is more interested in chasing tail than working with his tailback, and D’Agosto is his best buddy. When they learn that football practice will take them away from home for the summer, they decide to skip out and weasel into a cheerleading camp where they are surrounded by beautiful women.
D’Agosto and Olsen do their best with this setup, but the weak script leaves viewers with little to cheer for.
DVD extras include a gag reel, featurettes on the making of the film and an audio commentary with D’Agosto, Olsen and director Will Gluck.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Crossing Over”: Drama starring Harrison Ford as a Los Angeles immigration officer looking into the case of a missing illegal alien. Written and directed by Wayne Kramer (“The Cooler,” “Running Scared”). Also stars Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta and Jim Sturgess.
“Baby on Board”: Romantic comedy starring Heather Graham and Jerry O’Connell as a successful couple who have their lives flipped upside down by an unexpected pregnancy. John Corbett and Lara Flynn Boyle also star.
“The Cleaner” — The First Season: The initial 13 episodes of A&E’s drama about a recovering drug addict (Benjamin Bratt) who will do anything — even break the law — to help others beat their addictions.
The Norman Lear Collection: Massive, 19-disc set including the first seasons of seven television shows produced by Lear: “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” “One Day at a Time” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” The set also contains a bundle of extra features.
“Reaper” — Season Two: Thirteen fresh episodes from the terrific CW dramedy about a twenty-something (Bret Harrison) who reluctantly captures escaped souls for Satan (Ray Wise).
“The Shield” — Season Seven: Final season of the FX Network drama about an experimental division of the Los Angeles Police Department that is less than ethical. Michael Chiklis stars.
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