Video Verdict: ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,’ ‘Battle for Terra,’ ‘Observe and Report’

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner star in the romantic comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner star in the romantic comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."

This week’s new DVDs cover several genres, and they are anchored by a romantic comedy featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

 

 

 

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
2 1/2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference
New Line Cinema
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner prove how important strong leads are in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” a lightweight and predictable romantic comedy that owes nearly all its successes to them.

As the title hints, the film is an extremely loose remake of “A Christmas Carol,” with Matthew McConaughey playing Connor Mead, a 21st century approximation of Scrooge. But it’s not money that Connor is tight with. It’s his emotions.

For most of his life, Connor has been a fast-talking, womanizing photographer who thinks commitment is for saps. Nevertheless, he agrees to serve as best man at his brother’s (Breckin Meyer) wedding, a role that Jenny (Jennifer Garner), a bridesmaid and one of his former conquests is sure he’s going to botch.

Connor does make an ass of himself, but before he can go too far he’s visited by the ghost of his beloved Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), who warns him to change his ways or face a life of loneliness and despair. Even worse, Wayne is just the first of four ghosts determined to show Connor the error in his ways.

Anyone whose seen “A Christmas Carol,” will have a good idea where the movie is going, and that’s a major strike against it. Also, Emma Stone, who plays the Ghost of Girlfriends Past, made the character so annoying that it’s tough to watch any scene she’s in. Fortunately, McConaughey and Garner have the opposite effect. They are remarkably charismatic performers with good screen chemistry, and they put a nice sheen on an otherwise dull romantic comedy.

The DVD release of “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” has no extras, but the Blu-ray version has several making-of featurettes and nearly 10 minutes of deleted scenes.

 

 

Battle for Terra
3 stars
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements
Lionsgate
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This animated science-fiction effort is set in the distant future after warfare has destroyed Earth and the surviving humans are considering the hostile takeover of a planet called Terra.

The action centers on Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood), a Terrian girl who is devastated when humans kidnap her father. In hopes of finding her dad, she decides to nurse an injured human fighter pilot named James Stanton (Luke Wilson) back to health.

When he recovers, he forms an uneasy friendship with Mala. Unfortunately, for both of them, the military leader of the human race is determined to kill all Terrians and claim their planet for humanity. This leads to an all out assault that forces the residents of Terra to turn to violence for the first time in decades.

“Battle for Terra” has a smart script and it is surprisingly action packed for a PG-rated film. Also, the computer-animation is very good, and the film’s aerial combat sequences are particularly stellar. Even more important, the movie packs a powerful message that encourages peace and laments the hardships that wars create.

DVD extras include a filmmakers’ audio commentary, several making-of features and deleted scenes.

 

 

Observe and Report
1 star
Rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Imagine a version of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” that is crude, dark and populated by characters so damaged that they are sad rather than funny and you have a pretty good grasp on “Observe and Report.” That writer-director Jody Hill found humor in this script is worrisome. That he found a studio to bankroll it is cause for all-out alarm.

Bad comedies are nothing new, but “Observe and Report” is so spectacularly unfunny that it lowers the bar for the industry. The lone bright spot for Hill is his cast, which includes Seth Rogen, Michael Pena, Anna Faris and Ray Liotta. These are good performers given the right material, but if “Observe and Report” is right, I’m thrilled to be wrong.

Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, a manic-depressive mall security guard who dreams of being a real cop and takes his job far too seriously. Because he’s psychologically warped, Ronnie thinks he’s hit the big time when a chubby flasher begins exposing himself to mall patrons. His pursuit of the runaway flasher even gives him an excuse to get closer to a cosmetics-counter saleswoman (Anna Faris) that he’s hot for.

As the movie plays out, we see Ronnie make life Hell for an actual detective (Ray Liotta) and cruise through the mall engaging in generally offensive behavior. It’s difficult to take a liking to Ronnie — or even laugh at his antics — because his warped life is just too depressing.

It’s fairly obvious that Hill was trying to make a dark comedy, but the film’s many goofy moments don’t meld with the sadness permeating every scene. The result is a picture that’s too offbeat to take seriously yet way too serious to laugh at.

The DVD version of “Observe and Report” has no extras, but the Blu-ray release has more than 60 minutes of special features including outtakes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and an audio commentary.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Rage”: A look into the lives of several people working on a New York fashion show over the course of a week, documented solely by a schoolboy with a cell phone camera. Adding intrigue to the story is an accident on the catwalk that leads to a murder investigation. Simon Abkarian, Lily Cole, Jude Law, Steve Buscemi and Judi Dench star. Directed by Sally Potter.

“Adam Resurrected”: The story of Holocaust survivor Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) who uses his magic and comic skills to cope with life while hidden away in an insane asylum. Ayelet Zurer also stars. Directed by Paul Schrader.

“O’Horten”: Norwegian drama about an aging train engineer who ends up re-evaluating his life on the eve of his retirement. The film was directed by Bent Hamer and it is presented in Norwegian with optional English subtitles.

“Lymelife”: Based on the childhood experiences of director Derick Martini, this coming-of-age story is centered on Scott Bartlett, a teen boy growing up in suburban Long Island during the 1970s. The title refers to an outbreak of Lyme disease that sends two families — including Scott’s — into a tailspin. The impressive ensemble cast includes Alec Baldwin, Emma Roberts, Rory and Kieran Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon.

“The Mentalist” — The complete First Season: Using his keen skills of observation and analysis, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) assists the California Bureau of Investigation in solving brutal crime cases in this popular television drama. The DVD release includes all 23 first-season episodes on a six-disc collectors set with bonus features.

“SpongeBob Squarepants” — The First 100 Episodes: This mammoth, 14-disc collection features 38 hours of SpongeBob entertainment. Every episode from the first five seasons of the animated show is included along with bonus features ranging from audio commentaries to a SpongeBob documentary.

“Castle” — The Complete First Season: First 10 episodes of this new ABC drama about a mystery novelist (Nathan Fillion) who is enlisted to help a New York City detective (Stana Katic) solve real-life crimes. The second season of the show bowed Sept. 21 on ABC.

“Ghost Whisperer” — The Fourth Season: Jennifer Love Hewitt is back as Melinda Gordon, a psychic medium who uses her ability to communicate with the dead to help ghosts and the living. This set is hitting stores just days before the Sept. 25 kickoff of season five.

“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” — The Complete Second Season: Science-fiction fans can delve ever deeper into the Terminator saga, as Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her son, John (Thomas Dekker), try to stay ahead of the deadly robots that want to destroy them.

“Ugly Betty” — The Complete Third Season: Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) continues her climb up the ranks of the publishing world in the third season of this popular ABC dramedy. Eric Mabius, Michael Urie, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz and Vanessa Williams also star.

 

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

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8 Comments

Filed under Video Verdict

8 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,’ ‘Battle for Terra,’ ‘Observe and Report’

  1. smilingldsgirl

    I think you are far too kind to Girlfriends. It was one of the worst movies I have seen in years. Laughably bad and a disgrace to Dickens. The Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories in any format except for this one…

    Like

  2. Another great batch of reviews, Forrest. Keep up the good work!

    I’m looking forward to what you say about “Terminator: Salvation.” It seems like it’s been awhile since it came out in theaters, so I’m guessing it should be on DVD soon.

    Like

  3. Forrest Hartman

    smilingldsgirl: I may have been too soft on “Girlfriends,” but I do have a soft spot for Garner and McConaughey. It’s definitely not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years, though. Pop in “Crank 2” if you want to move it up a spot or two.

    Allen: Thanks for the kind words. “Terminator: Salvation” is due to hit DVD on Dec. 1. I think they’re rolling it out a little later than most summer titles to take advantage of the Christmas sales push.

    Like

  4. smilingldsgirl

    Like I said, I think I hated it especially because it was trying to update one of my favorite books. At least Crank 2 wasn’t a new telling of Great Expectations!

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  5. Forrest Hartman

    Good line, smiling. Wish I had thought of one so clever. 🙂

    Like

  6. jnagelreno

    Forrest,

    Seen anything good lately? I caught “Extract” last weekend and thought it was kind of a quirky, change-of-pace film. Not bad. Get in touch.

    Josh

    Like

  7. Forrest Hartman

    Hey Josh:
    I haven’t been watching much lately, aside from what I review for this column. Between daily newspaper work and my freelance assignments, I have way too much going on. I’m looking forward to the Christmas season. I’ll have a little break then.

    Like

  8. Hello,thanks for this useful blogg, i really find much interesting things on it and i really loved the design of the blogg. I found it on yahoo. I also want to wish you a happy new year.

    Like

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