Video Verdict: ‘Battle Los Angeles,’ ‘Hall Pass,’ ‘Red Riding Hood,’ ‘Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son’

Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie in “Red Riding Hood,” a modernization of the classic fairy tale.

This week’s major home video releases include two mainstream comedies, an update of a classic fairy tale and a science-fiction thriller starring Aaron Eckhart.

Battle: Los Angeles

3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language
Sony
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

“Battle: Los Angeles” isn’t going to win awards for depth – either in characters or plotting – but viewers looking for a special effects blockbuster could do much worse.

The film centers on Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a combat veteran who is set to retire. Before he can ride off into the sunset, however, what appear to be meteors pummel the coasts of countries around the world. Then, the “meteors” reveal themselves to be an invading alien force.

Once this happens, “Battle: Los Angeles” becomes a full-throttle combat movie, as Nantz, the soldiers around him and a handful of civilians attempt to find the weaknesses of the overpowering alien invaders. There are a handful of subplots, the most important being the scars Nantz carries from a horrendous tour of duty in the Middle East, but these aren’t nearly as important as watching alien beings wreak havoc on a major American city.

Yes, “Battle: Los Angeles” is essentially action porn, but it has the advantage of a strong lead actor in Eckhart. Add to that a host of great special effects, and you’ve got a respectable Friday-night popcorn flick.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a number of shorts about the making of the film.

Hall Pass

2½ stars
Rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

Watching “Hall Pass,” one wonders what happened to the Peter and Bobby Farrelly who directed 1998’s “There’s Something About Mary.” That film had its share of sex gags and gross-out moments, but it also had an underlying sweetness that permeated the project, and the Farrellys have never made a movie to rival it.

What they have done is produced a long string of comedies with marginal story lines that do little more than set the stage for crass humor. “Hall Pass,” written by Peter and Bobby with the help of Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett, is the latest example of this. It’s based on the highly unlikely premise that two suburban wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), give their husbands, Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sedeikis), a week off from marriage. That means they’re free to chase other women without fear of reprisal.

Any right-thinking man would, of course, be smart enough to see the pitfalls in this plan, but Rick and Fred take their wives’ offer at face value. The fact that this sort of thing only happens in the movies doesn’t help the Farrellys. The fact that they fail to milk the absurd situation for consistent laughs kills them.

That’s not to say there aren’t funny moments in “Hall Pass.” As Rick and Fred embark on their womanizing ways, they learn that they aren’t the studs they imagine themselves to be. There is some humor in that, just not enough.

The best comedies are funny from start to finish, and when they aren’t making us laugh, they’re helping us identify with and empathize with the characters. “There Something About Mary” did that. “Hall Pass” does not.

The movie is available for download, on standard DVD and as part of a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The only extra on the DVD release is a deleted scene. The Blu-ray combo has both extended and theatrical cuts of the film, a deleted scene and a gag reel.

Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son

2 stars
Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and brief violence
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Martin Lawrence decided to return to the well for “Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son,” a second sequel to his 2000 comedy “Big Momma’s House.” Unfortunately, that well has officially run dry.

Lawrence reprises his role as FBI agent Malcolm Turner and uses a plot twist to force both he and his son, Trent (Brandon T. Jackson), to dress as women and go undercover at an all-girls performing arts school. Since Lawrence has already delivered his Big Momma shtick in two previous movies, there’s nothing new or intriguing here, and adding a second man in drag doesn’t improve things.

“Like Father, Like Son” has all the expected gags, including Trent ogling women from the safety of his female disguise and Big Momma attracting a male suitor. What it doesn’t have are surprises and laughs, and that’s a killer for any comedy.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a gag reel, deleted scenes and audio commentary track.

Red Riding Hood

1½ stars
Rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

The “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale may not, on its surface, have much in common with romantic horror offerings like “Twilight,” but director Catherine Hardwicke has gone well beyond the surface for her interpretation. In fact, her take – based on a screenplay by David Johnson – shares many similarities with the “Twilight” film franchise that she helped kick start in 2008. For starters, there’s a love triangle.

The film is set in a Medieval village and follows the life of Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman in love with a handsome woodsman named Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). Alas, her parents (Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen) have arranged for her to marry the well off Henry Lazar (Max Irons). Upset, Valerie considers running away with Peter, but her older sister is suddenly found dead, the victim of a werewolf who has broken a long-standing truce with their small village.

When a priest/werewolf expert (Gary Oldman) arrives on the scene, he tells the villagers that the creature lives among them, posing as a normal man or woman during the day. This turns the movie into a sort of whodunit, as everyone becomes a suspect. Valerie even finds herself wondering if the wolf could be one of her suitors or even her dear, old grandmother (Julie Christie).

Hardwicke deserves credit for building a creepy atmosphere and creating a host of attractive visuals. When Valerie struts through scenes wearing her trademark red cloak, the images are particularly striking.

Sadly, beautiful imagery isn’t enough to save the film from its plot, which gets downright tedious in the third act. The fact that almost anyone could be the werewolf is likely meant to keep viewers on the edges of their seats, actively trying to discern the villain. But the film is littered with so many red herrings that the quest becomes tiresome.

“Red Riding Hood” is available for download, on standard DVD and as part of a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The only extra on the DVD is a collection of deleted scenes. The Blu-ray combo has those, plus an alternate cut of the film, a picture-in-picture commentary with several filmmakers, a gag reel and a number of making-of features.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Kill the Irishman”: Crime drama based on the life of actual Irish-American gangster Danny Greene. The film, written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, was inspired by the book “To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia.” Ray Stevenson, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken star.

“Haven” – The Complete First Season: This series, based loosely on Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid,” follows an FBI agent (Emily Rose) who moves to a small town in Maine and finds herself involved in a string of supernatural happenings. Eric Balfour, Lucas Bryant and Nicholas Campbell also star.

“Insignificance”: Criterion Collection release of director Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 drama centered on four unnamed characters who bare a strong resemblance to Albert Einstein, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Joseph McCarthy. Gary Busey, Tony Curtis, Michael Emil and Theresa Russell star.

“The Makioka Sisters”: Japanese director Kon Ichikawa’s 1983 movie about four sisters running a kimono business in the days leading up to World War II. This Criterion Collection release is presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

“Shot in the Dark”: HBO documentary about actor-musician-filmmaker Adrian Grenier’s search for his biological father. The DVD release includes an audio commentary by Grenier and producers Jonathan Davidson and Jim Mol.

“Spider-Woman – Agent of S.W.O.R.D.”: Motion comic focused on the adventures of Jessica Drew, a costumed crime fighter who goes by the name Spider-Woman. This release was developed by the Eisner Award-winning team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.

“Supernatural” – The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray: The second season of this popular CW drama is hitting Blu-ray for the first time. The show focuses on brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) who hunt demons and other evil beings.

“Happiness is … Peanuts: Snoopy’s Adventures”: This Warner Brothers release pairs a first-time-on-DVD episode from “The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show” with the TV special “Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown.”

– 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

Filed under Video Verdict

5 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘Battle Los Angeles,’ ‘Hall Pass,’ ‘Red Riding Hood,’ ‘Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son’

  1. Sika

    I couldn’t agree more about the Farrelly brothers. What happened there? I did kind of like Hall Pass, but only in part. And as you state; they did make “There’s Something About Mary” and wherein that one succeeded on every level, Hall Pass is sadly a forgettable mess.

    And when it comes to Red Riding Hood… I am a big fan of Amanda Seyfried, but I do wish Hollywood would stop making this kind of movies. Bad ones that is.

    Like

  2. Agreed Sika. Thanks so much for the comment!

    Like

  3. smilingldsgirl

    Its weeks like these I do not envy your job…Some real clunkers. Red Riding Hood looked especially bad. To me the trailer looked like a Saturday Night Live joke, not a real movie. What’s next the gothic teen version of Goldilocks?

    Like

  4. Gothic Goldilocks! Don’t say that too loudly. Hollywood might be listening. 🙂

    Like

  5. Pingback: Video Verdict: Reviews of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ ‘The Maze Runner,’ ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ and ‘This is Where I Leave You’ |

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