This week’s home video releases feature a Jason Statham thriller and a romantic comedy from the writing-directing team behind “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for strong violence throughout, and for language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Jason Statham has made a career out of playing dangerous men with golden hearts. In “Safe,” he rolls out his latest variation on that archetype: a down-and-out cage fighter named Luke Wright. When Luke fails to throw a fight, the Russian mafia exacts revenge by slaughtering his wife. Devastated, Luke considers suicide, but before he can throw himself in front of a train, he notices a Chinese child (Catherine Chan) being chased by the Russians who wronged him. He comes to the girl’s aid, dispatching the goons so easily that it’s obvious he’s more than just an athlete.
Writer-director Boaz Yakin reveals details about Luke’s background as the story unspools, and the plot eventually sees our hero chased not only by Russians, but Chinese gangsters and the New York City Police. As with most modern action movies, plausibility is strained at every turn, but that doesn’t mean the project is bad. Rather, it’s a mid-tier thriller that borrows heavily from earlier movies – most notably Luc Besson’s “Leon: The Professional” – yet maintains viewer interest with a stream of impressive action sequences. These include car chases, gun battles and plenty of hand-to-hand combat, all of which remind us that Statham is a stud.
The biggest problem with “Safe” is that Statham is essentially the same stud that appears in all of his other films. That means folks who have seen “Killer Elite,” “The Mechanic” or any of the “Transporter” movies know exactly what to expect. Fortunately, Statham has been playing this character so long, he’s really good at it.
Because of that, “Safe” is fun, as long as one goes in with appropriately lowered expectations.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include several making-of featurettes and an audio commentary with Yakin.
The Five-Year Engagement
DVD and Blu-ray releases contain rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for sexual content and language throughout
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
The last time director Nicholas Stoller teamed with writer-actor Jason Segel, they made one of the funniest comedies of 2008: “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” In co-writing “The Five-Year Engagement,” they didn’t match their earlier effort, but they did produce a worthwhile comedy.
The film revolves around Tom Solomon (Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt), a blissfully happy couple who put their engagement on hold when Violet gets a job offer forcing them to move across the country. Because it seems like a great opportunity for Violet, starry-eyed Tom willingly sacrifices his own career. Alas, the pressure of the move begins to strain their seemingly perfect relationship.
The script is smart enough to move beyond romantic comedy clichés and offer visions of love and courtship that aren’t often seen on screen. The screenplay also delivers a steady stream of worthwhile gags that poke fun at everything from psychology to life in the American Midwest.
Unfortunately, the beginning and end of “The Five-Year Engagement” are considerably stronger than the middle. For most movies that would be a killer, but “Engagement” remains afloat largely thanks to the cast.
Segel and Blunt have a nice, easygoing chemistry that makes them believable as a couple. They are also fine comedic actors, which is important because they dominate the screen time. The supporting players are equally good, and they bring an assortment of goofy background characters to life. In particular, Rhys Ifans is memorable as a controlling college professor; Chris Pratt is a hoot as Tom’s best friend; Chris Parnell is funny as a sweater-knitting hunter; Brian Posehn is strong as an eccentric sandwich shop employee; and Alison Brie is terrific as Violet’s free-spirited sister.
Collectively, that group overpowers the flaws that cause the mid-section of the film to drag.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, and an audio commentary with the filmmakers.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Person of Interest” – The Complete First Season: This terrific CBS drama imagines a world where Big Brother-like surveillance has become so sophisticated that computers can predict murders before they occur. In the world of the show, the U.S. government uses the technology only to prevent acts of terrorism. However, the man who built the system (Michael Emmerson) wants to prevent all killings. So, he hires a troubled former CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) to snuff out the crimes before they occur.
“2 Broke Girls” – The Complete First Season: Like “The Odd Couple” for women, this series focuses on unlikely roommates. Max (Kat Dennings) is street smart and used to living from hand to mouth, and Caroline (Beth Behrs) is a former rich girl forced to make it alone. When they wind up living together and working in a Brooklyn diner, comedy ensues.
Expiring HBO dramedies: HBO is rolling the final seasons of three shows to video this week: “Bored to Death,” “How to Make it in America” and “Hung.” For “Bored to Death” (about a writer-turned-private-detective) and “Hung” (about a male prostitute), viewers are getting the complete third seasons. For “How to Make it In America” (about aspiring fashion designers), the complete second season marks the end.
“Parks and Recreation” – Season Four: Twenty-two episodes of the popular NBC comedy about the employees of an Indiana parks department. Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones and Chris Pratt star.
“Grey’s Anatomy” – Complete Eighth Season: This influential medical drama kicks off its ninth season at the end of this month. For fans who can’t wait, this set contains 24 drama-filled episodes. Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr. star.
“Criminal Minds” – The Seventh Season: Most recent season of CBS’ long-running drama about the grim work of FBI profilers. Joe Mantegna, Thomas Gibson, Mathew Gray Gubler, Shemar Moore, A.J. Cook and Kirsten Vangsness star.
“The Good Wife” – The Third Season: Twenty-two episodes of the CBS legal drama about Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), a tough attorney recovering from a personal crisis. Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski and Alan Cumming also star.
“The Office” – Season Eight: These 24-episodes mark the show’s first full run without Michael Scott (Steve Carell). That means the other employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company have more important roles than ever. Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Ed Helms star.
“Haven” – The Complete Second Season: The third season of this supernatural drama based on Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid” debuts Sept. 21. That leaves fans about two weeks to get up to speed with the 13 episodes on this set. The plot centers on an FBI agent (Emily Rose) investigating strange happenings in a small Maine town.
“The Magic School Bus” – The Complete Series: This impressive eight-DVD set includes all 52 episodes of Scholastic’s animated educational series. Since the entire set is pricey ($79.95 suggested retail), Scholastic is also releasing scaled-down options. “The Magic School Bus: Blast Off! From Sea to Space” and “The Magic School Bus: Field Trip Fun and Games” include 12 episodes each, and they sell for a suggested retail price of $24.95. The least expensive options are themed releases – “The Human Body,” “Super Star Power,” “Takes a Dive” and “Takes Flight.” Those four titles contain only three episodes and have a suggested retail price of $12.95 each.
“Piranha 3DD”: This horror sequel is set a year after events depicted in “Piranha 3D.” Although attempts to eradicate man-eating fish from Lake Victoria have been successful, the residents of a nearby town find that the creatures are resilient. Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, David Koechner, Gary Busey, Christopher Lloyd and David Hasselhoff star.
“Fringe” – The Complete Fourth Season: All the most recent episodes of the cult hit about FBI agents exploring unusual events related to a parallel universe. Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and Jonn Noble star.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.