Video Verdict: ‘The Fighter,’ ‘Hereafter,’ ‘The Switch’

Christian Bale, left, and Mark Wahlberg star in “The Fighter.” Bale won a best supporting actor Academy Award for his work on the film.

This week’s major home video releases include an ill-advised Jennifer Aniston comedy, a drama by director Clint Eastwood and a film that was nominated for multiple Academy Awards.

 

The Fighter
4 stars (out of four)
Rated R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality
Paramount
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and on demand

If “The Fighter’s” seven Academy Award nominations and two wins (Christian Bale for best supporting actor and Melissa Leo for best supporting actress) haven’t convinced you that the movie was among the best to hit theaters in 2010, the home video release should do the trick.

Directed by David O. Russell, the movie follows up-and-coming fighter Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his attempts to make the big time. He has plenty of talent, but his potential is repeatedly quashed by his relationship with his brother-trainer Dicky Eklund (Bale), a fighter turned drug addict. It doesn’t help that his overbearing mother (Leo) insists that Micky sticks with Dicky despite offers to train with better people.

When Micky begins a relationship with a beautiful cocktail waitress named Charlene (Amy Adams), he begins to understand that his family might not have his best interests at heart. And that really gets the drama going.

Bale and Leo deserve their Oscars, as their performances are astonishing. Even more impressive is the fact that those two don’t outshine their co-stars. Adams was also nominated for best supporting actress, and early talk had Whalberg as a best actor contender. His commitment to the role – physically and emotionally – makes it a shame that he wasn’t actually tossed into the mix.

One part sports film, one part family drama, “The Fighter” is an outstanding picture that deserves all the accolades it has received.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of feature and an audio commentary by Russell.

 

 

Hereafter
3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, on demand and digital download

Movie viewers have become so accustomed to director Clint Eastwood delivering great films that it’s somewhat shocking when he makes something that’s merely good. Nevertheless, good is the best adjective to describe “Hereafter.”

Eastwood’s movie focuses on George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a sweet, quiet man struggling with the fact that a childhood trauma has left him capable of communing with the dead. Unlike many frauds who make a living passing themselves off as mediums, George is the real deal and he’s none too happy about it.

His brother, Billy (Jay Mohr), argues that George has a gift and there’s nothing wrong with making a dime off the ability to let the living communicate with lost relatives. But George long ago learned that his so-called gift made it impossible for him to live a normal life. So, he pretends his abilities don’t exist and works as an unassuming dock worker in San Francisco.

When “Hereafter” isn’t focused on George, it looks at Marie Lelay (Cecile De France), a French television journalist who escapes death in a tsunami and finds her life changed in the process. It also has a significant section devoted to Marcus (played by both George and Frankie McClaren), a young boy who lost his twin brother in a traffic accident. Of course, the film builds toward an intersection of the three characters’ lives.

As with nearly every Eastwood film, the craftsmanship is first rate and the acting is wonderful. Damon is one of his generation’s finest actors, and he is always believable as a man fighting to make peace with his lot in life. De France isn’t well known in the U.S., but she’s terrific. The same can be said for the McClarens, who are essentially making their debut.

Where Eastwood’s film occasionally falters is pacing. His subject matter is fascinating, and “Hereafter” gives viewers a lot to think about. Sadly, there are plenty of lulls where that thinking can be done.

DVD extras include a number of making-of features.

 

 

The Switch
1 star
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material, including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language
Lionsgate
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, on demand and digital download

Every now and then we find a project so misguided, so dimwitted and so atrociously bad that one wonders how the script escaped the paper shredder, let alone made it to production with major stars. Cue “The Switch.”

The movie stars Jennifer Aniston as Kassie Larson, an attractive career woman who’s never found time for a mate, so she decides to have a baby using a sperm donor. Her best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman), has been pining for her for years, but Kassie doesn’t see them as a match. Nevertheless, Wally attends Kassie’s pregnancy party, complete with a visit by her hunky donor (Patrick Wilson).

Unhappy with the situation, Wally gets plastered, heads to the bathroom and swaps his sperm with the donor’s. Hilarious right? Apparently directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck think so because that’s the full setup of their remarkably bad movie. Even worse? They attempt to turn it into a romantic comedy.

Only in some strange alternate universe could anything in “The Switch” be considered romantic, and I dare you to find a stitch of comedy in the movie’s laborious 101-minute run.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Hemingway’s Garden of Eden”: Film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s final novel about a young couple who get caught up in dangerous erotic games. Mena Suvari, Jack Huston and Caterina Murino star.

“Barbie – A Fairy Secret”: Animated film in which Barbie goes in search of Ken after he is whisked away by fairies. The film is available on DVD and digital download, and the DVD includes a music video, outtakes and other extras.

“Boathouse Detectives”: Family film about a group of youngsters who try to help a kid who’s about to be shipped off to boarding school by his stepmother. Ella Harris, Mason Johnson, Oscar Hoggan, Cameron Phelts, McKenzie Richard, Stacee Riekhoff and Darren Ewing star.

“Spooner”: Romantic comedy starring Matthew Lillard as a 30-year-old slacker who decides to get his life in order when he meets the girl of his dreams (Nora Zehetner). Christopher McDonald also stars. Directed by Drake Doremus.

“The Wildest Dream”: Documentary about the disappearance of climber George Mallory during his fatal attempt to climb Mount Everest. Includes narration by Liam Neeson and voiceovers by Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Dancy, Alan Rickman and the late Natasha Richardson.

“Sugar Boxx”: B-movie about a journalist (Geneviere Anderson) who goes undercover in a corrupt women’s prison where innocent girls are forced to do unspeakable things. Directed by Cody Jarrett, the film was inspired by the grindhouse-style prison films of the past.

 

 

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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