This week’s home video releases are anchored by a pair of thrillers, one featuring John Travolta and one starring Leonardo DiCaprio under the direction of Martin Scorsese.
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
In adapting novelist Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” for the screen, director Martin Scorsese has created a brisk, noir thriller that is beautifully acted, gorgeous to look at and supremely entertaining. That the third-act twist leaves much to be desired, both in terms of credibility and execution, is forgivable, considering how much fun the film is until that point.
The movie centers on Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), a U.S. Marshal who viewers meet as he’s taking a boat ride to a mental asylum for the criminally insane on the remote Shutter Island. Viewers learn that one of the facility’s violent patients has gone missing and Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), are supposed to investigate.
As the plotting unravels, it’s revealed that Daniels is interested in more than the missing person. He believes that the asylum is being used for dangerous human testing and is intent on shutting it down. Trouble is, he’s on an island in the middle of nowhere and all the prison guards seem fiercely loyal to the chief psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley). Daniels is also having strange dreams involving his dead wife (Michelle Williams) and suffering from frequent flashbacks to his days as a soldier in World War II.
The atmosphere Scorsese has created is dark and ominous and the plotting is suspenseful and engaging. DiCaprio, Kingsley and Ruffalo are outstanding, and they receive fine supporting work from Williams and others in the cast, including Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley.
The only letdown is the big twist at the end of the film. Although not an utter failure, it doesn’t feel properly set up, leaving viewers with a film that kicks off with energy and panache but closes with a forgivable-but-damaging whimper
The DVD release has no extras. The Blu-ray includes a making-of feature and a short that looks at psychiatric therapies during the 1950s.
From Paris With Love
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
It’s tempting to call John Travolta’s character in “From Paris With Love” a shoot-first-question-later action hero. Only, he never pauses to ask questions … even when it seems he should.
Case in point: Travolta’s character, a veteran U.S. spy named Charlie Wax, introduces himself to his new partner, a low-level operative named James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), by starting a raging gun battle in a Paris restaurant. Reece and Wax have been teamed because the CIA is low on operatives in France and Reece’s day job as a personal aide to the U.S. ambassador in Paris allows him to do spy work on the side. Reece has not, however, been trained for the field, which makes his partnership with the ultra-violent Wax daunting.
The elder spy enters Paris in a huff and promptly leaves French morgues overloaded and Reece in shock. When Wax breaks from his killing spree long enough to talk, he informs his young partner that the two of them are attempting to stop a terrorist attack, and that ups the stakes in Reece’s mind.
The plotting in “From Paris With Love” is silly, and director Pierre Morel seems comfortable allowing the story to play second fiddle to the action sequences. That’s not a terrible choice, as it is entertaining to watch Travolta bounce around like a madman. Although Rhys Meyers plays second fiddle in every scene, he proves a capable co-star because Reece is supposed to be overwhelmed by Wax’s audacious approach to the spy game.
Sadly, a film cannot live on action alone, and if one removed the gunfights in “From Paris With Love,” there wouldn’t be much left to look at.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a bit on the International Spy Museum, several making-of features and a commentary by Morel.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It”: Direct-to-video comedy spoofing the films of Judd Apatow. Bryan Callen, Noureen DeWulf and Mircea Monroe star. Directed by Craig Moss.
“Tales of the Gold Monkey” – The Complete Series: This TV series ran for a single season in 1982 on the heels of the Indiana Jones franchise. Set in the South Pacific in 1938, it focuses on pilot Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) and the adventures he and his friends embark on. Also stars Caitlyn O’Heaney, Roddy McDowell, and Jeff Mackay.
Bob Hope – Thanks for the Memories Collection: A selection of Bob Hope films from the 1930s and ’40s. Included are “Thanks for the Memory,” “The Cat and the Canary,” “The Ghost Breakers,” “Nothing but the Truth,” “Road to Morocco” and “The Paleface.”
“Nip/Tuck” – The Sixth and Final Season: This five-disc set contains the last 19 episodes of the popular FX series about a plastic surgery practice and the doctors who work there. Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon, Joely Richardson and Mario Lopez star.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” – The Complete Seventh Season: The most recent season of “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David’s hit HBO comedy about a fictionalized version of himself. This season is particularly noteworthy because one episode reunites the “Seinfeld” crew.
“Ice Road Truckers” – The Complete Season Three: The reality TV series, which airs on History, focuses on truckers who travel the deadly Dalton Highway in Alaska, a frozen road system that crosses rivers and open ocean.
“StarStruck” – Extended Edition: Extended cut of the Disney Channel original movie about Michigan-based sisters Jessica and Sara Olson (Danielle Campbell and Maggie Castle) who travel to Los Angeles to visit their grandmother. While there, Sara insists that they try to find her favorite pop star, Christopher Wilde (Sterling Knight), and they succeed. “StarStruck” is available on a single DVD and as part of a DVD-CD set that includes the movie and the full-length soundtrack.
“Family Matters” – The Complete First Season: This comedy series about the Winslows, a middle-class suburban family, ran for nine seasons starting in 1989. The show is best remembered for uber-geek Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), the Winslows’ wacky neighbor who had a crush on one of the Winslow daughters.
“Jim Henson‘s Dog City – The Movie”: This TV movie was originally broadcast in 1989, and it relates a noir gangster story with puppet dogs as the stars. Muppet creator Jim Henson masterminded the project.
“American Pickers” – The Complete Season One: This History TV series focuses on two men who own an antique shop and search for pop culture objects of historical or collectible value.
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