Video Verdict: ‘The Green Hornet,’ ‘From Prada to Nada’

Jay Chou, left, and Seth Rogen run away from danger in the action-comedy “The Green Hornet.”

This week’s home video releases include an update of the beloved Jane Austen novel “Sense and Sensibility” and the latest cinematic take on the Green Hornet.

The Green Hornet
1½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content
Sony
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Funny man Seth Rogen isn’t the first actor most people would turn to if asked to cast a superhero film. Nevertheless, it’s Rogen who holds the title role in “The Green Hornet,” a film based on the popular radio drama from the 1930s.

Love him or hate him, Rogen’s Hornet isn’t the same guy who graced airwaves during the first half of the 20th century. Not only does this Hornet cuss up a storm, he and his unmasked persona, Britt Reid, have more in common with the laid-back party boy that Rogen played in “Knocked Up” than traditional comic champions. That may be because Rogen co-wrote the screenplay, creating a character that played to his strengths.

The movie begins by establishing Britt as an excess-prone playboy who has disappointed his newspaper publisher father (Tom Wilkinson) since childhood. When Dad unexpectedly dies, Britt inherits a fortune. He also learns that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou), can do more than oil changes. In fact, Kato is a veritable mechanical genius with the ability to turn average hot rods into weapons of mass destruction.

After the two men inadvertently rescue a young couple from a violent street gang, they decide it would be fun to play full-time superheroes, so they don masks and race around L.A. taking on organized crime. Although the guys seem to have their hearts in the right place, they don’t have much concern about destruction of private property, and most of their adventures end in explosion-filled mayhem that leaves them dodging the police as well as bad guys.

Director Michel Gondry (“Be Kind Rewind,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) does his best to make the movie funny as well as action packed, but he’s never very successful … on either front. In part, that’s because it’s difficult to buy into Rogen’s version of the title character. Despite his good intentions, Britt is brash, arrogant and more than a little bit sexist, all of which makes him a difficult protagonist to root for. Kato is an easier access point, but one can’t help but wonder why a guy like him – an expert martial artist who can build virtually anything – is playing second fiddle to Britt.

The movie features Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz in key supporting roles. She plays Britt’s secretary, and he plays a psychotic crime boss (what else). They’re likable enough and add a little life to the story, but only a little. When a movie is called “The Green Hornet,” viewers need to fall in love with the title character. As portrayed by Rogen, it’s a challenge just to like him.

The movie is available on multiple home video editions, including a Blu-ray 3D combo pack that also contains standard Blu-ray and DVD copies of the feature. Extras vary but every release contains a gag reel, featurette on the writing of the film and filmmakers audio commentary.

From Prada to Nada
2 stars
Rated PG-13 for brief drug use and a sexual situation
Lionsgate
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Director Angel Gracia’s lightweight modernization of writer Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” is harmless and pleasant enough but it’s lacks both depth and context.

Like Austen’s novel, the focus is on two sisters forced to give up their privileged lifestyles when their father dies. In the novel, the girls – Elinore and Marianne – live in England. In “From Prada to Nada,” sisters Nora (Camilla Belle) and Mary Dominguez (Alexa Vega) have to move from a high-rent Beverly Hills mansion to their Aunt Aurelia’s (Adriana Barraza) home in East L.A.

It’s a difficult transition, particularly for Mary, a partier who bristles at the thought of discarding her high-end clothing and handbags. It’s easier for Nora, a more accepting, serious type who is working tirelessly to earn a law degree. As the girls settle into life with their aunt, they slowly adapt and learn to appreciate people from other walks of life. They also develop romantic entanglements.

Gracia does a respectable job moving the basic plot points of Austen’s story to a new time and place, and Belle and Vega instill their characters with life. Unfortunately, at 107 minutes, the project seems rushed.

Nora’s and Mary’s romantic struggles are among the most important elements of the story, but Gracia doesn’t allow them to properly develop. The girls flirtatiously interact with their guys, but we rarely see anything more, and that makes it difficult to accept the bold declarations of love and despair that hinge on these relationships.

Like a condensation of a novel, “From Prada to Nada” moves from place to place hitting key story points, but fails to deliver the depth and detail that make a story great.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include bloopers, deleted scenes and a featurette on the making of the film.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Dilemma”: Dramatic comedy centered on the lives of two best friends, Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James). When Ronny sees Nick’s wife (Winona Ryder) kiss another man, he has to decide what to do. The film was written by Allan Loeb and directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, but it received largely negative notices when released into theaters. Jennifer Connelly also stars.

“Being Human” – Season Three: This BBC series focuses on two werewolves (Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan), a ghost (Lenora Crichlow) and a vampire (Aidan Turner) trying to live relatively normal lives amongst mortals. Season three features guest appearances by a number of English stars, including Lacey Turner, Robson Green and James Fleet.

“Ben 10 – Ultimate Alien – Power Struggle”: Final 10 episodes of the first season of “Ben 10: Ultimate Alien,” an animated children’s show that airs on Cartoon Network. The series focuses on Ben Tennyson, a teen who battles intergalactic threats with the ability to transform into a variety of alien forms.

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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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘The Green Hornet,’ ‘From Prada to Nada’

  1. smilingldsgirl

    Looks like a bad week for movies! All I can say is- they better be careful when messing with my Jane Austen! Prada sounds awful. I guess Clueless updated JA successfully but it is a rare exception. This year has been a bad year for movies. I have had a lot of other things in my life but the only movie I have had any interest in seeing is Jane Eyre. It was good.

    Like

  2. Great to hear from you … as always. I think the year in movies has been worse for women than men. Although there has been a lot of garbage (as there usually is between January and April), there have been some fairly high profile films that most people are liking. These include “Source Code,” “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Fast Five” and “Limitless.” Of course, those are all prototypical “guy flicks.”

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  3. smilingldsgirl

    I wonder if guys go to movies more then girls? There seems to be more guy flicks than girls (at least quality ones). Maybe that’s because most Hollywood producers and directors are men (with notable exceptions of course). The only movie I’m looking forward to this summer is The Help. I’m nervous that Cars 2 will be Pixar’s first flop…We will see.
    I have heard good things about Source Code. Need to see that.

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  4. Your question made me curious. So, I started Googling movie demographics and found this study: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/04/26/who-watches-movies/

    According to it, women buy more movie tickets than men. Now, I don’t know these folks, so I can’t speak to the quality of their research, but at first glance their credentials seem respectable.

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  5. smilingldsgirl

    That’s really interesting. I also thought the stats on ethnicity and age are interesting.
    I still think that because men run Hollywood the actual movies may contain more testosterone then estrogen. This despite the market craving the opposite. Although, Jane Eyre was directed by a man so maybe not? Sounds like a PHD thesis in the making!

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