This week’s home video releases range from a family film based on a classic cartoon character to a glitzy, international thriller starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
The fact that “The Tourist” was nominated for three Golden Globes should be viewed not as high praise for the film but as an indictment of the increasingly silly Globes show. It’s not that “The Tourist” is horrid, it’s that it’s simply not good enough to enter any serious discussion of the best movies of 2010. Nonetheless, Globes voters saw fit to place stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in their best actor and actress races while giving the overall project a nod for best motion picture musical or comedy. Don’t let that fool you.
“The Tourist,” although pleasant enough, is nothing more than a throwback to the lightweight spy romps of yesteryear. Co-writer and director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck never hides the fact that his film is about beautiful people and glamorous locales and that plot and emotion were secondary concerns.
One gets the feeling he was hoping to make a 21st century version of “To Catch a Thief,” the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock gem that also relies heavily on beautiful stars. Hitchcock used Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, and Depp and Jolie are decent modern-day stand-ins. Trouble is, they aren’t privy to the sort of whip-smart dialogue Hitchcock secured for his stars. Rather, they are dealing with a conventional mistaken-identity thriller that never rises above good-natured fun.
Depp is Frank Tupelo, an American on a sightseeing trip to Europe, and Jolie is Elise Clifton-Ward, a sophisticated European with a dark past. When her former lover – an international criminal on the run from the law – asks her to throw the police off his trail, she connects with Tupelo. He is captivated by her beauty, but it comes at a price.
Analyze the plotting too thoroughly and things start to unravel, but this isn’t the sort of film that places a premium on story. Viewers are meant to be satisfied by Jolie’s ravishing looks, Depp’s clown-like charm and the gorgeous European vistas that are laid out one after another.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include an outtake reel, a couple making-of features, an alternate title sequence and a director’s commentary.
Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and digital download
The idea of a precocious talking bear that spends his days stealing pic-a-nic baskets was an excellent concept for a Saturday morning cartoon series. In fact, the setup was practically built for short-form humor: The bear schemes, ruining the day of vacationing families and angering his park ranger nemesis. Translating that simple formula to feature length is a more difficult task, as director Eric Brevig’s “Yogi Bear” demonstrates.
Like the “Scooby-Doo” films from the early 2000s, “Yogi” is essentially a live-action feature, only the filmmakers don’t hide the fact that Yogi and his bear pal Boo Boo are computer animated. Clearly, Brevig chose this direction so both animals could be highly stylized, hearkening back to their early, animated roots.
Visually, “Yogi Bear” is solid, but the storytelling doesn’t live up to the colorful, larger-than-life world the characters inhabit. As in the cartoon series, Yogi (Voiced by Dan Aykroyd) is a clever, if overly confident, fellow who comes up with one outrageous plan after another to steal food from Jellystone Park visitors. Because this isn’t customer friendly, Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) begs Yogi to act more like the other bears and forage for his vittles. It doesn’t work.
This basic setup wouldn’t go far in an 80-minute movie, so we also have plot points about a filmmaker (Anna Faris) who travels to Jellystone to make a documentary and about the mayor’s (Andrew Daly) attempts to shut Jellystone down. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before, meaning there’s nothing surprising or thrilling about the film.
Cavanagh is likable, Aykroyd’s voice work is spot on, and younger children will no doubt be entertained by the bright colors and wacky concept of human-smart talking bears. Everyone else will do well to get their fill of cinematic pic-a-nic baskets somewhere else.
The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a Blu-ray 3D combo pack that includes a standard DVD, plus high-definition copies of the film in both 2D and 3D. Extra features vary.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language and brief sexual content
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
The alien invasion film is back, and southern California seems to be the most appealing landing spot for intergalactic baddies. For proof check out the current theatrical release “Battle: Los Angeles” or take a peek at “Skyline,” a film that hit theaters in November and is now available on home video.
“Skyline” focuses on a young, New York guy named Jarrod (Eric Balfour) who travels to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Elaine (Scottie Thompson). Their plan is to celebrate the birthday of Jarrod’s friend Terry (Donald Faison), a guy who recently made it big (presumably in movies but the film doesn’t make it clear). After a few establishing scenes, everything falls apart … literally.
Huge spacecraft descend from the sky, sending strange, blue lights into the atmosphere and plucking thousands of humans from the ground. Jarrod, Terry and company escape the initial assault along with a handful of others, and they spend the rest of the film trying to figure out how to escape L.A. without being killed or abducted by the increasingly frightening aliens.
There’s not much to the story, as the small crew of renegades essentially spends every minute trying to avoid painful, alien death. On the up side, the special effects are solid and the cast sells the material as best it can. Despite the science-fiction trappings, “Skyline,” directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause, is basically a one-killing-after-another horror film with an ending that doesn’t do enough to wrap up the broad scope of the tale.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted and extended scenes, alternate scenes, effects pre-visualizations and two audio commentaries.
How Do You Know
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
In “How Do You Know,” Reese Witherspoon plays Lisa, a softball player so talented and driven that she found herself on the U.S. Olympic team. She’s also beautiful, smart and focused. In other words, the type of woman who should be able to figure out if a guy is right for her.
Alas, Lisa spends most of the film vacillating between two men. One, Matty (Owen Wilson), is a self-absorbed professional baseball player who thinks it’s classy to keep women’s clothes in his apartment so he can send his conquests home freshly dressed. The other, George (Paul Rudd), is a nice-guy businessman who becomes the target of a federal investigation through no fault of his own. Know which guy she should pick? Of course you do. Nevertheless, writer-director James L. Brooks (“Spanglish,” “As Good As It Gets”) takes two drawn-out hours to get Lisa moving in the right direction.
In part, that’s because she’s suffering from a crisis that has nothing to do with men. Despite giving her life to softball, she finds herself in an unsure spot when she’s cut from the Olympic team due to her advancing age. Thing is, this part of the story isn’t very well explored because the usually reliable Brooks spends way too long hovering around the love triangle.
The film gets some juice from the cast, which is top-loaded with talent. Witherspoon looks great on screen, and her character is sexy in a quirky, fun way. Wilson is always a likable screen presence and he provides a nice counterbalance to the equally charming Rudd. Also, Jack Nicholson delivers an inspired performance as George’s morally bankrupt father. Sadly, all the work is for naught, as charismatic stars can only take a picture so far.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a making-of featurette and a filmmakers’ commentary track.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“The Times of Harvey Milk”: The Criterion Collection is delivering a two-disc treatment of director Rob Epstein’s Oscar-winning, 1984 documentary about Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians elected to public office in the U.S. Milk’s story is especially compelling and tragic because he was assassinated in 1978 while serving on the San Francisco board of Supervisors, and the shooter was fellow politician Dan White.
“Scarecrow and Mrs. King” – The Complete Second Season: Fans of the 1980s CBS TV series about a former housewife (Kate Jackson) working cases with a high-level American spy (Bruce Boxleitner) can get their fix with this 23-episode collection. Beverly Garland, Martha Smith, Mel Stewart, Paul Stout and Greg Morton also star.
Eclipse Series 26 – Silent Naruse: The Criterion Collection has made a mission of preserving and promoting important films. This five-movie set collects the only remaining silent movies of Japanese director Mikio Naruse: “Flunky, Work Hard” (1931), “No Blood Relation” (1932), “Apart From You” (1933), “Every-Night Dreams” (1933) and “Street Without End” (1934).
“The Venture Bros.” – Complete Season 4: Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show about an unusual family led by a famous super-scientist is getting a double duty home video treatment this week. Fans who already own the first eight episodes of season four (released previously) can purchase the final eight on DVD this week. Those who want the entire 16-episode season on a single set, can nab that as well, but only on Blu-ray.
“Firebreather”: Cartoon Network is also rolling out Blu-ray and DVD releases of its first CGI movie, “Firebreather.” The film focuses on the troubles of a 16-year-old high school student who is half human and half monster.
“The People I’ve Slept With”: Sex comedy about a promiscuous young woman (Karin Anna Cheung) who unexpectedly becomes pregnant and mounts a search for the father of her unborn baby.
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