This week’s major home video releases range from a quirky drama starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray to an animated film featuring the voice talents of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill.
3½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG for action and some violence
Available Feb. 25 on DVD and Blu-ray
Anyone who has seen “Despicable Me” will find the setup of “Megamind” familiar, as both films ask viewers to sympathize with characters who walk on the dark side of life. The fact that the two animated movies have similarities should not, however, discourage anyone from giving both a spin. “Despicable Me” – previously released on home video – is a fun romp. “Megamind” is even better.
Directed by Tom McGrath (“Madagascar”), “Megamind” focuses on a blue-skinned baddie whose name inspired the film’s title. Like Superman, Megamind’s parents jettisoned him from his home world just before it blew to pieces. Simultaneously, another toddler was blasted from a neighboring planet. The latter tot has considerably better luck, landing on Earth at the home of a wealthy, childless couple. Poor Megamind, on the other hand, crash lands in prison, where he is raised by inmates.
Naturally, the two alien babies grow up adversaries, Megamind using his intellect to invent evil gadgets while the other child discovers he has super powers and becomes a caped hero named Metro Man. For years, Megamind battles Metro Man in an endless cycle of prison, jailbreaks and failed schemes to take over Metro City. Then, one of Megamind’s plans works, giving him absolute power. And he discovers it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
McGrath moves his story nimbly, offering cute references to Superman mythology without going over the top. The animation is terrific, and the voice cast delivers some truly great work.
“Megamind” had the misfortune of hitting theaters behind “Despicable Me,” giving the unfair impression that it was a copycat. Despite the similar themes, each film is unique, and each has a lot to offer.
“Megamind” is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Extra features vary, but all releases include a deleted scene, meet-the-cast featurette, short about DreamWorks animation and audio commentary by some of the filmmakers.
Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
The trouble with producing a breakout hit like “The Hangover” is everyone expects you to follow it with something equally impressive. Director Todd Phillips tried to live up to expectations by fielding an outstanding cast for “Due Date,” another wild comedy built around wacky characters and ludicrous situations.
At the heart of the action is Robert Downey Jr., who plays Peter Highman, a buttoned-down businessman anticipating the birth of his first child. As the film begins, Peter is preparing to fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles where his wife (Michelle Monaghan) is awaiting a planned cesarean. Everything goes awry, however, when Peter runs into a would-be actor named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). A misunderstanding gets both men kicked off their airplane and placed on the no-fly list.
Ethan then offers Peter a ride to California and, with few options, Peter accepts. In short order, the film becomes a road-trip comedy with most of the gags based around the fact that these guys are polar opposites. Ethan is a sensitive, free-spirited pothead trying to recover from the loss of his father. Peter is a stoic perfectionist who doesn’t deal well with the unexpected.
There’s certainly room for comedy in conflicting personalities, but it helps when the audience can identify with at least one of the main characters, and that’s where Phillips goes wrong. Ethan is so strange and off putting that it’s hard to imagine anyone siding with him, and Peter is so aloof and rude that feeling bad for him isn’t an option.
In Phillips’ defense, the movie has three or four scenes that are not only humorous but gut-bustingly funny. Had he been able to come up with three or four more of these sequences and tie them to likable characters he would have had a memorable movie. Instead, he’s got an off-kilter comedy that can only draw unfavorable comparisons to “The Hangover.”
“Due Date” is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Extra features vary, but all releases include a gag reel and deleted scenes.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic material and brief violent content
Sony Pictures Classics
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Robert Duvall may not have been nominated for an Oscar for his work on “Get Low,” but he did generate considerable attention early in awards season. Most notably, Duvall’s performance received a best actor nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The upshot– Academy Award nomination or not – is that his work in the film is very good. He plays Felix Bush, a mysterious hermit, who has been living alone for 40 years when he travels to town and announces that he wants to stage a “funeral party” for himself … while he’s still living.
Because business has been bad, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), owner of the local funeral parlor agrees. Soon, Frank is jumping through hoops to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, even though his young employee, Buddy (Lucas Black), has misgivings about the whole thing.
The setup is comical, but director Aaron Schneider’s movie has serious underpinnings, all of them centered on the events that convinced Felix to become a hermit in the first place.
Duvall’s strong lead performance is bolstered by equally good work from Murray and Black. Sissy Spacek is also strong in a key supporting role. In fact, the cast keeps things interesting even when Schneider lets his pacing go slack, as he does several times during the first half of the movie. Fortunately, the slow moments are more than outweighed by a terrific third act that is legitimately moving.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include several behind-the-scenes featurettes, a Q&A with the cast and an audio commentary with Duvall, Spacek, Schneider and producer Dean Zanuck.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“All-Star Superman”: Full-length animated movie in which Superman mounts a heroic rescue mission that leaves him oversaturated by radiation and seemingly sentenced to death. The film focuses on the preparations he makes for the end. The plotting is based on DC Comics’ Eisner Award-winning graphic novel, and the movie features a voice cast that includes James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia, Frances Conroy and Ed Asner.
“Mesrine – Killer Instinct”: Part one of a two-movie series about the exploits of French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Vincent Cassel plays the title role, and the film was directed by Jean-Francois Richet (“Assault on Precinct 13”). The second movie in the series – “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1” – is slated for a home video release March 29. Both films are presented in French with English subtitles.
Stieg Larsson’s “Dragon Tattoo” Trilogy: All three Swedish-language film adaptations of author Stieg Larsson’s books – “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” – are available as part of Blu-ray and DVD boxed sets. This marks the first time all three films are being sold collectively, and the set also includes nearly two hours of new bonus material.
Criterion Collection releases: The ever-great Criterion Collection is trotting out three films this week: “Fish Tank,” “Senso” and “Sweet Smell of Success.” “Fish Tank” is a 2009 coming-of-age drama by director Andrea Arnold. The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. “Senso” is a classic Italian melodrama from director Luchino Visconti. Originally released in 1954, the movie is set during the 19th century, when Italy was at war with Austria. The drama is built around a daring romance between an Italian countess and one of the Austrian officers occupying her country. “Sweet Smell of Success” is a 1957 drama starring starring Burt Lancaster as a gossip columnist and Tony Curtis as a press agent that he manipulates.
“Weeds” – Season Six: Thirteen episodes of the Showtime TV series about single mom Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) who turns to drug dealing in order to make ends meet. During season six, the Botwin family’s dangerous dealings have them on the run. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
“Nurse Jackie” – Season Two: All 12 season-two episodes of the Showtime drama about a drug-addicted nurse (Edie Falco) juggling the many aspects of her life. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
“Les Miserables” – 25th Anniversary In Concert: Live recording of the 25th anniversary “Les Miserables” tribute concert staged at the O2 Arena in North Greenwich. Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers and Tony Award winner Lea Salonga are among the many artists and musicians featured.
“Memento”: With writer-director Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” competing for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, Lionsgate decided to roll out a 10th anniversary Blu-ray release of the film that put him on the map: “Memento.” In the movie, Guy Pearce plays a character hunting the man who killed his wife. Adding to his difficulties is the fact that he has a brain disorder that doesn’t allow him to store new memories.
Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at email@example.com