This week’s home video releases are anchored by two indie dramas and two mainstream comedies, each featuring at least one major star.
The Bounty Hunter
1 star (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
If one were to judge the intelligence of movie studio executives by the films they release, the only reasonable conclusion would be that most are dense. I say this not out of mean-spiritedness but out of awe at the fact that major studios never seem to learn from their mistakes.
For instance, it has long been acknowledged that plot, dialogue and thematic relevance are key to any good movie. Yet we continue to see a startling number of pictures like “The Bounty Hunter,” a project that exists only because filmmakers somehow convinced two A-list stars to lend their names to it.
In the film, Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston play Milo Boyd and Nicole Hurley, ex-spouses who are so bitter and angry about their divorce that they spend most of the film hurling insults at one another. Neither character is particularly likable because the hatred they are harboring toward one another makes them seem downright childish. Still, director Andy Tennant is under the mistaken impression that viewers will love Milo and Nicole … because they are portrayed by Butler and Aniston.
Even the premise of the film is nasty. Milo is a former police officer turned bounty hunter who is ecstatic to learn that Nicole – in legal trouble over a minor crime – has jumped bail. That means he has the chance to bring her in. So, he spends most of the film chasing her down and then gloating about how sweet it will be to make $5,000 for bringing his ex-wife to jail.
Nicole, a newspaper journalist, spends much of the film running from Milo and working on an investigative story that is supposed to prove she’s a great reporter. Never mind that the story she’s working on is dull and that Tennant takes way too long fleshing it out.
It’s enough to make you feel bad for Anniston and Butler because they aren’t the problem here. Not many actors can move beyond a sluggish plot and boring script, especially when they’re saddled with characters as likable as a root canal.
Blu-ray and DVD extras include two making-of features and a goofy promotional short called “Rules for Outwitting a Bounty Hunter.”
Rated R for some strong sexuality, drug use and language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Writer-director Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot at the Wedding”) specializes in gritty and realistic character dramas, and he’s delivered another solid one in “Greenberg.” The movie is set in modern-day Los Angeles, and it focuses on Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), an out of sorts New Yorker who has come to L.A. to housesit while his brother’s family is on vacation in Vietnam.
Roger, viewers learn, was once a Los Angeles guy himself, and he left behind plenty of baggage, including two friends that he used to play music with. One of them, Ivan (Rhys Ifans), is still his pal. The other, Eric (Mark Duplass), never got over the fact that Roger vetoed a record deal that could have made them all famous.
Making Roger’s life even more daunting is the fact that he is recovering from a nervous breakdown. Because of this, his immediate goal in life is to “do nothing,” and through much of the film, he succeeds. But Roger is pushed to connect with other human beings because of his attraction to his brother’s personal assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig).
Because not a lot happens in terms of plot, the enjoyment in “Greenberg” involves watching Stiller, Gerwig and Ifans deliver honest and moving portrayals of people living regular lives. Each actor is great, and Stiller is particularly strong in a role that allows him to show off his dramatic chops.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include several making-of features.
Our Family Wedding
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief strong language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Weddings may be joyous occasions, but they can also be stressful, particularly when the couple involved is working overtime to please everyone. Such is the premise of “Our Family Wedding,” a cute, but often-over-the-top, comedy about Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera) and Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross), an interracial couple who find nothing but grief when they announce their wedding plans to family.
Because Lucia comes from a traditional Hispanic background, expectations are that she will marry a nice Hispanic boy, and her father, Miguel (Carlos Mencia), and mother, Sonia (Diana Maria Riva), are shocked to discover she’s marrying a black man. It also doesn’t help that Miguel had a past altercation with Marcus’ father, Brad (Forest Whitaker).
Director Rick Famuyiwa allows his film to trot through pleasant, although overly familiar territory, as Lucia’s and Marcus’ families get to know each other. As one would expect from the setup, there’s lots of family tension. There are also plenty of predictable sequences, like the hunt for a wedding dress and the last-minute disaster that seems sure to spoil the ceremony.
Fortunately the cast, which also includes Regina King and Shannyn Sossamon, is affable enough to give everything a glossy, likable veneer. This is hardly great cinema, but it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a gag real and a collection of deleted and extended scenes.
Rated R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, nudity and language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Director Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter,” “Ararat”) has long been an indie film darling, and he’s certainly no stranger to character dramas. In his latest, “Chloe,” he explores the relationship between a husband and wife, Catherine and David Stewart (Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson), that gets complicated by jealousy.
Catherine, convinced that David is cheating on her, hires a beautiful call girl named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to seduce him and report back to her. But Catherine doesn’t seem as interested in proving her husband a cheat as she does hearing the stories that Chloe tells her. As the film progresses, Chloe gets increasingly tangled in Catherine’s and David’s relationship, creating a far more complicated situation than Catherine had imagined.
Moore, Neeson and Seyfried turn in fine performances, creating characters that are interesting and believable. Because of this, it’s easy to invest in the story. Unfortunately, Egoyan allows his film to take a melodramatic, third-act turn that extinguishes much of the tension he so successfully builds in the first half of the movie.
He also leaves the film’s most important moments open to serious interpretation. That isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it does obscure any message he might have been hoping to send.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of short, deleted scenes and an audio commentary by Egoyan, Seyfried and writer Erin Cressida Wilson.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“The Greatest”: The story of Allen and Grace Brewer (Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon), parents grieving over the tragic death of their son Bennett (Aaron Johnson). Although both are already shaken, their lives are thrown into further turmoil when a young woman (Carey Mulligan) shows up and announces that she’s pregnant with Bennett’s child.
“Parasomnia”: Horror film offering an evil twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Wilson) suffers from a sleep disorder that keeps her in a nearly constant dream state, and a hypnotist/murderer (Patrick Kilpatrick) is plotting to take control of her mind and body. Laura’s hope lies in an art student (Dylan Purcell) who meets her by chance and falls in love. Directed by William Malone, who also made the 1999 remake of “House on Haunted Hill.”
“Caught in the Crossfire”: Police thriller about two detectives (Chris Klein and Adam Rodriguez) who are targeted by gang members and crooked cops while investigating a crime. Rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson also stars.
“The Girl by the Lake”: When a young woman is discovered dead by a lake in a small Italian village, everyone in town becomes a suspect. The debut film by writer-director Andrea Molaioli, “Girl by the Lake” won 10 David di Donatella Awards (an important honor in Italy). Presented in Italian with English subtitles.
“Saint John of Las Vegas”: Comedy starring Steve Buscemi as a gambling addict who flees Las Vegas in an effort to clean up his life. Just when it looks like he’s got everything on track, he’s sent back to Sin City on a business trip. Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage and John Cho also star.
“Middle of Nowhere”: Story of several teens who connect while trying to escape the misery of their daily lives. Susan Sarandon, Anton Yelchin, Eva Amurri, Willa Holland and Justin Chatwin star.
Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu: The Criterion Collection is releasing a set of Ozu’s historical Japanese films: “The Only Son” and “There Was a Father.” “Son” is the story of a single mother who, with great difficulty, puts her son through school. “Father” is a World War II-era story about an overbearing widower whose actions push his son away.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVIII”: This comedy TV series cashed in on the fact that it can be just as enjoyable to make fun of bad movies as to watch good ones. In this set, the always sarcastic denizens of a space station watch and make wisecracks about “Lost Continent,” “Crash of the Moons,” “The Beast of Yucca Flats” and “Jack Frost”. Also included in the boxed set are four limited-edition mini-posters.
“Street Hawk” – The Complete Series: All 13 episodes of the 1985 action-adventure show about a police troubleshooter (Rex Smith) assigned to fight crime with a high-powered, all-terrain attack motorcycle.
“The Lucy Show” – The Official Second Season: This TV comedy starring Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance aired from 1962 to 1968, after “I Love Lucy.” Ball plays Lucille Carmichael, a widow with two children who is sharing a home with a divorcee (Vance).
“Sesame Street – 20 Years and Still Counting”: TV special aired in celebration of “Sesame Street’s” 20th anniversary. Although that was in 1989, the program is available on DVD and digital download for the first time. During the program, Big Bird, Grover, Bob and Maria consider clips from past episodes.
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