Video Verdict: ‘Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,’ ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper,’ ‘Aliens in the Attic,’ ‘Food, Inc.’

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER

Left to right, Denis (Paul Rust), Treece (Lauren Storm), Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), Rich (Jack T. Carpenter) and Cammy (Lauren London) share a wild evening in “I Love You, Beth Cooper.”

This week’s DVD releases range from a Denzel Washington thriller to a documentary film that may forever change the way you think about food.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for violence and pervasive language
Columbia Pictures
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and UMD for PlayStation Portable

Director Tony Scott never explains why Ryder (John Travolta), the bad guy in “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” is such raving lunatic, but he paces his movie so briskly that many viewers won’t even notice.

Scott starts the picture by introducing us to Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a New York City subway manager being forced to work as a dispatcher while he’s investigated on charges of corruption. Although he’s stressed, Walter is a fine employee who becomes the only intermediary Ryder is willing to talk to after he hijacks a subway car filled with passengers.

Much of the movie is presented as a standoff, with Ryder issuing his demands — occasionally punctuated by the murder of a passenger — and Walter trying to calm him and minimize the body count.

Because Travolta and Washington are such engaging actors, and because Scott is good with pacing, “Pelham” is enjoyable even though viewers never get a real sense of who Ryder is and why he acts so loony. Walter’s character is better defined, but Scott leaves us with questions about him as well.

If you’re the sort who likes everything wrapped up with a tidy, little bow, you may find the uncertainties maddening. But, if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and take a wild ride with two great actors, you’ll probably have a lot of fun.

DVD extras include a making-of feature and two audio commentaries, one by Scott and one by writer Brian Helgeland and producer Todd Black.

I Love You, Beth Cooper
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

When Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is allowed to give a speech as valedictorian of his high school class, he decides to say all the things he kept bottled up for four full years, most importantly that he’s head over heels for his classmate Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). Most people are shocked by his speech, but the ultra-popular Beth tells Denis she thinks it was sweet and she even agrees to come to a party at his house. The result is a wild evening where Denis and his best friend Rich (Jack Carpenter) find themselves doing things they’ve never even dreamed of.

“I Love You, Beth Cooper” bears similarities to earlier teen comedies, including more substantial works like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Risky Business” and “American Pie,” but it’s still original enough to merit a viewing. You may not love it, but if you have a weakness for teen comedies, you might just wind up nursing a crush.

DVD extras include an alternate ending, deleted scenes, a making-of feature and short pieces on Panettiere, Rust and screenwriter Larry Doyle.

Aliens in the Attic
3 stars
Rated PG for action violence, some suggestive humor and language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

The computer-generated aliens in this children’s science-fiction effort don’t always look convincing, but they’re well-rendered enough to keep kids in stitches and adults reasonably entertained.

The story is centered on Tom Pearson (Carter Jenkins), a frustrated teenager who is forced to take a rural vacation with his parents and two sisters, Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) and Hannah (Ashley Boettcher). Shortly after they arrive at a rented country house, Tom and several cousins, who are also vacationing there, discover tiny aliens bent on taking over the world.

The aliens have an advanced technology that allows them to turn human beings into zombie-like robots, controllable by handheld remotes, and this leads to a number of goofy yet funny slapstick sequences. Fortunately for Tom and his cousins, the alien technology only works on adults, meaning the children in the family are able to fight back without fear of falling under alien control.

The plotting is silly and over the top, but the cast is likable and the overall tone of the movie is surprisingly fun.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a gag reel, and an “Aliens in the Attic” video comic book.

“Food, Inc.”
4 stars
Rated PG for some thematic material and disturbing images
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Think corporate corruption is limited to the banking and insurance industries? Then director Robert Kenner’s “Food, Inc.” is a must-see. In the movie, Kenner argues that multi-national corporations have taken over America’s food supply, leaving small farms unable to compete and consumers with products that are often unsafe and unhealthy.

Key to Kenner’s argument is a horrifying depiction of the way cattle, chickens and other farm animals are raised for our corporate food companies. We see video of chickens and cows living in quarters so cramped that they’re forced to stand in their own excrement, barely able to turn from side to side. And many of those with free movement have been genetically altered to the point that they can barely support their own weight. Kenner paints such a bleak picture that he might have converted hundreds of viewers to vegetarianism, except that the film also criticizes our production of non-animal crops. In fact, Kenner and some of the experts he interviews, argue that government subsidization of corn has created a false perception that food is cheap.

Upon its theatrical release, “Food, Inc.” created controversy in the food industry, and several large corporate players have rebutted the film’s arguments. Personally, I think Kenner has done an extraordinary job proving his case, and I encourage everyone who eats to give the film a try.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, public service announcements from celebrities who are sympathetic with the movie’s viewpoint, a “Nightline” episode about food with integrity, and a list of resources to help viewers eat better.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“G.I. Joe — The Rise of Cobra”: Screen adaptation of the “G.I. Joe” toy and cartoon franchise. The focus is on an elite military unit determined to take down an evil organization run by a weapons dealer. The film was directed by Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy,” “Van Helsing”).

“The Answer Man”: Jeff Daniels plays Arlen Faber, the best-selling author of a spiritual self-help book that claims to have all the answers to life’s challenges. Faber is confronted by two people — a single mom (Lauren Graham) and a man recently released from rehab (Lou Taylor Pucci) — and he learns that he may not have all the answers after all.

Will Ferrell — You’re Welcome, America. A Final Night with George W. Bush: In this HBO production, Ferrell debuts his many caricatures of George W. Bush on Broadway.

“Watchmen” — The Ultimate Cut: Warner Home Video is releasing only 70,000 copies of this set, which features the theatrical release of the “Watchmen” movie blended with the “Tales From the Black Freighter” storyline seen in the graphic novel. The Ultimate Cut is available on Blu-ray and DVD and it includes “Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic” as an extra feature.

“Star Wars The Clone Wars” — The Complete Season One: Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda are featured in this enjoyable animated series set between “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”

“Wings of Desire”: Director Wim Wenders’ story of an angel (Bruno Ganz), who gives up his immortality for the chance to find love with a human. Presented by the Criterion Collection in German, English and French with English subtitles.

“Zorro” — The Complete First Season and Complete Second Season: Released as part of the Walt Disney Treasures collection, these two multi-disc sets offer a full restoration of the 1950s black-and-white television show about a masked crime fighter. Each limited-edition release is housed in a collectible, individually numbered tin case with an authenticity certificate, lithograph and Zorro pin.

The Claudette Colbert Collection: This set of six classic films is part of the Universal Backlot Series, and it highlights the career of Colbert, a popular actress in the 1930s and ’40s. Titles include “Three-Cornered Moon,” “The Maid of Salem,” “I Met Him in Paris,” “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife,” “No Time For Love” and “The Egg and I.”

“Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series Collection” and “A Merry Fraggle Holiday”: These new DVD releases feature Jim Henson’s classic “Fraggle Rock” creatures in fun, musical adventures that teach children valuable lessons of acceptance and diversity. The complete series includes all episodes of the show, and the holiday set is self-explanatory. “Fraggle Rock”: The Complete Final Season is also out this week.

“Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse”: Bummed about being trapped in the house because of a snow storm, Mickey and the gang make the best of the situation. They dish up some cookies and hot chocolate and reminisce while watching home movies.

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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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,’ ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper,’ ‘Aliens in the Attic,’ ‘Food, Inc.’

  1. I found your blog on Google. Ive bookmarked it and will watch out for your next blog post. 🙂

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