This week’s video releases range from a family friendly fantasy starring Brendan Fraser to an R-rated animated film that won a Golden Globe.
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
For a movie, “Inkheart” is oddly literary, not because it’s based on the Cornelia Funke novel but because the plotting is centered on the written word.
Brendan Fraser stars as Mo Folchart, a kind-hearted bookbinder with the ability to bring characters from literature to life by reading aloud. Unfortunately, he discovers that bringing a literary passage to his world requires that something nearby get drawn into the book, and he accidentally sends his wife to the land of prose.
Mo gives up reading aloud and, for years, raises his young daughter, Meggie (Eliza Bennett), alone. He also tries to find a way to bring his beloved wife back from the pages, but without success.
Everything comes to a head when Mo is taken captive by an evil figure (Andy Serkis) that he read into existence. Suddenly, he must tell his daughter the truth about his abilities and use all his wits to escape the unpleasant situation.
The plotting is fanciful and entertaining, and that makes up for several segments that drag on unnecessarily. Because the story lags, “Inkheart” isn’t in the upper tier of fantasy movies, but it is a pleasant distraction that should be warmly welcomed by folks who delight in the Harry Potter and “Chronicles of Narnia” features.
Fraser, Bennett and Serkis are solid, and they’re joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent.
DVD extras include a bit where Bennett shares a passage from the “Inkheart” novel, complete with illustrations by Funke.
Confessions of a Shopaholic
2 1/2 stars
Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Think you have a shopping problem? Chances are it’s not as bad as Becky Bloomwood’s. You see, Becky (Isla Fisher) is a New York City journalist who finds herself up to her eyeballs in debt and out of work.
This would be a problem for anyone, but it’s particularly distressing for Becky, who has taken to paying for things with three to four credit cards because it’s the only way she can avoid exceeding her balances. Oddly, Becky lands a rebound job as a writer at a financial magazine and, even stranger, her financial advice column becomes a sensation.
Based on the “Shopaholic” novels by Sophie Kinsella, the movie follows Becky’s course as she courts fame and tries desperately to hide the fact that her life is a financial disaster. She also develops a crush on her charming and handsome boss, Luke (Hugh Dancy), and the movie is at its best when they’re together.
“Shopaholic” is over-the-top but also patently cute, thanks in large part to the adorable Fisher. The movie’s slapstick shenanigans and ridiculous plotting wear thin, but screwball comedies have always relied heavily on the chemistry of the stars. While Fisher and Dancy aren’t Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, they’re good enough to do the job.
The movie is available on Blu-ray as well as one- and two-disc DVD releases. Extra features vary but all releases include bloopers, deleted scenes and a music video.
Pink Panther 2
2 1/2 stars
Rated PG for some suggestive humor, brief mild language and action
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Steve Martin’s reinvention of the Pink Panther series is about as lightweight as movies get, but at least this sequel is more entertaining than its 2006 predecessor.
Martin stars as Jacques Clouseau, the hapless yet clumsily competent police inspector who saved France’s Pink Panther diamond in part one. In the sequel, viewers learn that a daring thief known as the Tornado has been swiping priceless artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin, the Magna Carta and, of course, the Pink Panther.
Because of his past success, Clouseau is tapped to join an international dream team of detectives working to discover the Tornado’s identity. The group includes an Italian charmer (Andy Garcia), a British wunderkind (Alfred Molina) and a Japanese electronics specialist (Yuki Matsuzaki). Clouseau is also aided by his trusty partner Ponton (Jean Reno) and his beautiful assistant and love interest, Nicole (Emily Mortimer).
As usual, Clouseau bumbles his way through sequence after sequence, allowing Martin and company plenty of room for slapstick humor and broad physical comedy. The structure of the film is remarkably similar to that of the 2006 original, and director Harald Zwart’s gags miss as often as they hit.
There’s nothing daring about “Pink Panther 2,” and the inconsistent laughs assure its place as a second-tier comedy. Still, Martin and his supporting cast deliver a handful of good moments, and the movie’s PG rating makes it a reasonable — if not outstanding — choice for family movie night.
DVD extras include a gag reel and two making-of featurettes.
Waltz With Bashir
Rated R for some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content
Sony Pictures Classics
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
“Waltz With Bashir” received an extraordinary amount of attention last awards season, particularly for a movie that is both animated and foreign. It seems the serious subject matter — it considers Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon — and striking visual style were too much for critics to resist.
Although presented in feature format, the movie is considered a documentary because it’s centered on Israeli writer-director Ari Folman, who discovered he could remember little of his service in the Lebanon War. So, Folman tried to recover his past through therapy and conversations with friends, and this is depicted on screen.
“Bashir” is intensely original, and the visual style uses a unique mix of traditional and modern animation techniques. It is not, however, without flaws.
Because so much of the film centers on conversation, it has a tendency to get talky and overly cerebral. While high-mindedness is not the worst sin in cinema, there is a fine line between intellectually stimulating and just plain dull, and “Bashir” treads it like a tightrope walker.
The film won a Golden Globe for best foreign language film and it was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category. It was also nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.
DVD extras include both English and Hebrew voice tracks, a making-of featurette and a Q&A and commentary by Folman.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“My Dinner With Andre”: Criterion Collection release of director Louis Malle’s 1981 drama in which two friends sit in a New York restaurant and discuss everything from love and death to theater and money. The movie was written by stars Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn.
“Last Year of Marienbad”: Director Alain Resnais’ cryptic tale of a man and woman who may or may not have a shared past gets a two-disc release from the Criterion Collection. The film received the Golden Lion at the 1961 Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for original screenplay in 1963. The DVD set is packed with extra features. Presented in French with English subtitles.
“Tom and Jerry — Chuck Jones Collection”: Thirty-four animated Tom and Jerry shorts produced by Jones. Each was originally screened in theaters, and this two-disc collection presents the cat-and-mouse antics in their original, widescreen glory. Among the cartoons featured are “Penthouse Mouse” (1963), “The A-Tom-inable Snowman” (1966) and “Purr-Chance to Dream” (1967).
“Catlow”: DVD debut of the 1971 Western comedy starring Yul Brynner as an outlaw trying to pull off a heist despite being hunted by Indians, the Mexican Army, a nasty bounty hunter (Leonard Nimoy) and a marshal who used to be his pal (Richard Crenna).
“Reba” — The Complete Sixth Season: Final 13 episodes of the comedy series starring country singer Reba McEntire as a single mother raising her kids while maintaining an unusual relationship with her ex-husband (Christopher Rich) and his new wife (Melissa Peterman).
“The Code”: Direct-to-DVD release starring Morgan Freeman as a master thief who recruits a younger man (Antonio Banderas) to help him pull off a major heist.
“Dragon Hunters”: Animated movie about a little girl who hires two questionable warriors to help her uncle rid himself of a dangerous dragon. Features the voice of Forest Whitaker.
“Phoebe in Wonderland”: Story of a talented but “different” 9-year-old (Elle Fanning) and her journey through a school production of “Alice in Wonderland.” Also stars Felicity Huffman and Patricia Clarkson.
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
6 responses to “Video Verdict: New DVDs for June 23”
My Dinner With Andre is available again? Great! I love the part where the big robot smashes into a bus and collapses a interstate exchange! Oh, wait, maybe I’m getting it mixed up with something else …
I believe you’re confusing it with “My Dinner With Optimus,” a little-known Michael Bay effort released that same year.
I agree with your review of Shopaholic. I thought it was a harmless but unexceptional chick flick. The sad part is I enjoyed the books a lot. It is weird because they combined the first 2 books for the movie, which was unnecessary. The first book has the perfect plot for a romantic comedy. I wonder what made them change it?
The first 2 books in the series were surprisingly well written, witty and full of good observational humor about modern commercialism and the way we rationalize shopping. I felt I could relate to the character in a way that the film never delivered on. It’s a shame!
I can’t believe you watched “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” Must have been a slow week.
Josh — I watch them all. At least all the mainstream titles. Can’t review ’em if you don’t.
Smiling — I haven’t read the books but it does seem like an odd choice to combine the first two if there was no obvious reason.
Thanks for the comments!
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