Video Vedict: ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ ‘Knight & Day,’ ‘Going the Distance,’ ‘Vampires Suck’

Nicolas Cage, left, teaches Jay Baruchel a few things about magic in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

This week’s home video releases include an action-romance starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, a romantic comedy with Drew Barrymoore and Justin Long and a fantasy adventure inspired by a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

 

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language
Disney
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Often, filmmakers who attempt to turn shorts, video games and other minimalist pieces into feature-length movies make it obvious they didn’t have enough material. With “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” director Jon Turteltaub and his team of screenwriters had no such problem. In fact, the characters and situations they develop are so fully realized that it’s their homage to the Mickey Mouse cartoon that feels out of place.

In the cartoon – released as part of 1940’s “Fantasia” – Mickey is a sorcerer in training who gets lazy and animates mops to help him clean his master’s home. Things go awry. Turteltaub’s live-action “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” has that sequence, but it’s buried within a deeper story about an ancient sorcerer named Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) who has spent his life searching for his heir.

Balthazar was trained by none other than Merlin, and before the great sorcerer died – slain by his greatest enemy Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige) and her disciple Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) – he charged Balthazar with finding the one person with the potential to defeat Morgana. After hundreds of years of fruitless searching, he finds his charge in a gawky physics nerd named Dave (Jay Baruchel).

Although Dave is intrigued by the prospect of becoming a great sorcerer, he’s even more interested in landing the woman of his dreams, Becky Barnes (Teresa Palmer). So, Dave splits his time between training with Balthazar and wooing Becky until, of course, the two pursuits become linked.

Cage and Baruchel turn in nice performances, and they have an easygoing chemistry. Also likable is Molina, who plays a baddie with relish. Fans of the Mickey Mouse cartoon won’t find much of the source material in the movie, but that’s a good thing. Rather than try to do the impossible (stretch the cartoon to feature length), Turteltaub and company went in a new direction.

The resulting version of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” may not be an all-time classic, but it is great family fun.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a making-of feature.

 

 

Knight & Day
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Regardless of what one thinks of Tom Cruise’s off screen antics, he is a charismatic presence in front of the camera, and he uses that to his advantage in the lightweight but likable “Knight & Day.”

Cruise stars as Roy Miller, a mysterious secret agent who may or may not be a good guy. Audiences are left guessing about Miller’s motivations and loyalties, as is June Havens (Cameraon Diaz), a civilian whose life is turned upside down when she winds up on a plane with Miller.

During the plane ride, Havens takes a trip to the restroom and resurfaces to find that everyone except Miller is dead. In his confident, easygoing manner he tells her not to worry and then decides its time to land the massive aircraft.

From that point forward, June is caught in a web of intrigue she has no way of freeing herself from. There are people chasing Miller and they think she’s an accomplice. He says he’s a good guy, but who knows? It’s all pretty silly, but it’s also a good time.

Cruise and Diaz have great chemistry as they gamely flit about the screen … and the world. Director James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”) keeps the plot moving briskly, and the Patrick O’Neill screenplay offers an ideal mix of action, romance and comedy.

The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Extra features vary.

 

 

Going the Distance
2 stars
Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

The cover art for the “Going the Distance” DVD and Blu-ray is split into two vertical sections, each separated by a door. On one side, Drew Barrymoore and Justin Long embrace. On the other, their friends are pressed to the door eavesdropping. It’s appropriate because the movie – although built around Barrymoore and Long – gets most of its laughs and charm from the supporting cast.

The plot sees two thirty-somethings, Garrett (Long) and Erin (Barrymoore), hooking up in a New York City bar after a rough day. Garrett was just dumped by his girlfriend, and Erin is frustrated by the fact that she has become an aging intern trying to work her way into the struggling newspaper industry. So, they drink, take a liking to one another and decide to have casual sex. Erin warns Garrett that she’s returning to school on the West coast in weeks, but they carry on nonetheless.

When it comes time to split, neither one wants the relationship to end, so they do their best to keep their romance alive long distance. That means director Nanette Burstein (formerly a documentarian) treats viewers to gags about phone sex and hooking up after months apart. She also includes plenty of overwrought scenes describing just how hard it is to have one’s significant other living across the country. Frankly, it’s all pretty dull and that’s mainly because Garrett and Erin are the least interesting characters in the film.

Sure, Barrymoore and Long look cute together, but it’s Garrett’s wacky friends, Dan (Charlie Day) and Box (Jason Sudeikis), who have all the personality. The former is a goodhearted soul who knows nothing about personal boundaries. The latter has grown a 1970s mustache for the sole purpose of picking up older women. Also engaging are Erin’s stodgy housewife sister, Corrine (Christina Applegate), and Corrine’s laid-back husband, Phil (Jim Gaffigan). When these characters are on screen, the movie comes to life. When they aren’t, things stall.

DVD extras are limited to a blooper reel, a bit where the stars talk about dating and a music video by Boxer Rebellion (a band featured in the film). The Blu-ray release includes all those extras plus deleted scenes, a director’s commentary, a guide to long-distance dating and a short feature about the soundtrack.

 

 

Vampires Suck
½ star
The home video release contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received a PG-13 for crude sexual content, comic violence, language and teen partying
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

With vampire movies, TV shows and books demanding an ever-increasing amount of pop culture attention, it’s no surprise that the writing-directing team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer would take a shot at them.

These are the same satirists who parodied end-of-the-world flicks in “Disaster Movie,” romantic comedies in “Date Movie,” action yarns in “Meet the Spartans” and big-budget spectacles in “Epic Movie.” In each case, the movies Friedberg and Seltzer poke fun at are better than their spoofs, and that holds true with “Vampires,” a film that essentially follows the plotting of the first two “Twilight” movies.

The focus is on Becca Crane (Jenn Proske), a high school girl who moves to Sporks, Washington, where she lives with her father, Frank (Diedrich Bader). In short order, she falls in love with a moody vampire named Edward Sullen (Matt Lanter). It also becomes apparent that one of her new friends, Jacob White (Chris Riggi), is a werewolf.

With the plot of their film essentially written by “Twilight” scribe Stephenie Meyer, one would think Seltzer and Friedberg would have had ample time to write good gags. Alas, these guys just aren’t very funny. They were apparently at maximum wit when naming their characters – Sullen instead of Cullen – because the rest of their jokes are either painfully obvious or built around childlike pratfalls. What’s more, they spend way too much time focused on “Twilight,” giving only passing nods to other popular bloodsucking fare like “The Vampire Diaries,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “True Blood.”

How bad is “Vampires Suck”? Let’s just say it’s not often that I make my way through an entire Hollywood comedy without chuckling at least once. I saw “Vampire’s Suck” two days ago and I’m still not laughing.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray releases feature theatrical and unrated cuts of the film. Extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Twilight Saga – Eclipse”: The third installment of the “Twilight” movie franchise, about the romance between a human girl and an immortal vampire, will hit video Dec. 4. Look for a full review in next week’s column.

“Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000”: Disney decided the home video release of its live-action adaptation of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” offered the perfect opportunity to bring “Fantasia” back to its fans. Even better, Disney has paired the animated classic with “Fantasia 2000,” a movie that’s quite good in its own right. Both films mix animated shorts with classical music in a lively and exciting manner, and the two-movie collection is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Disney documentaries: Disney is rolling out three documentaries about the filmmakers behind some of its most beloved films. The movies are: “The Boys” (about the songwriting duo of Robert and Richard Sherman), “Waking Sleeping Beauty” (about the period in the ’80s and ’90s when the organization was transitioning to modern animation techniques) and “Walt & El Grupo” (about Walt Disney and a group of animators taking a goodwill trip to South America in 1941).

“Iron Man – Extremis”: Impressively animated motion comic that pits Iron Man against a terrorist who has gained super powers from a bio-engineered serum.

Looney Tunes Super Stars DVDs: Warner Brothers is releasing two new titles in its Super Stars series: “Foghorn Leghorn & Friends – Barnyard Bigmouth” and “Tweety & Sylvester – Feline Fwenzy.” Both discs feature 15 cartoon classics. Note that the Foghorn Leghorn disc is meant for adult collectors and includes material that may not be suitable for children.

“Samantha — An American Girl Holiday”: Film based on the historical fiction books about Samantha Parkington, a 9-year-old orphan living with her grandmother in the early 1900s. Mia Farrow and Anna Sophia Robb star.

“The Price of Pleasure”: Documentary that considers the pornography industry and the culture of sex in our society. The film features interviews with mass media and economic scholars as well as psychologists and pornography producers and performers.

“Valhalla Rising”: Action film about a Viking who falls in with a group of Christian warriors who believe they are headed to the Crusades. Helmed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn.

“Cairo Time”: Drama about a woman (Patricia Clarkson) who takes a trip to Cairo to be with her husband only to fall for his friend (Alexander Siddig). Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

 

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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