Video Verdict: ‘Red 2,’ ‘Jobs,’ ‘Getaway’

From left to right, Mary-Louise Parker, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich star in the action-comedy “RED 2.”

From left to right, Mary-Louise Parker, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich star in the action-comedy “RED 2.”

This week’s home video releases are anchored by a biopic about one of the most innovative businessmen of our time and a sequel to the action film “RED.”

Red 2

3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material
Summit Entertainment
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

In 2010, filmgoers received an unexpected treat in the form of “RED,” a surprisingly pithy action-adventure centered on the exploits of retired covert operatives. The title of the film is an acronym for “Retired Extremely Dangerous,” a label that accurately describes most of the film’s major characters.

In the first movie, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) learned that he and several of his buddies had become targets of an assassination plot. Rather than await death, they returned to action and fought back.

In “RED 2,” Frank is trying to settle into what he considers a “normal” life with his girlfriend, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). Alas, Frank discovers that he and his best buddy, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), are once again being hunted. Because of their supposed involvement in a Cold War operation, multiple parties want them dead.

Although Frank, Marvin and Sarah don’t understand what is happening, they are forced to run because the deadly contract killer Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee) has been hired to eliminate them. Things get even worse when their old pal, Victoria Winslow (Helen Mirren), tells them that MI6 has also asked her to assassinate them.

“RED 2” has a serviceable plot with plenty of twists and turns, but the real fun is in watching Willis and Malkovich mug for the camera as they prove that old spies are just as deadly as their younger counterparts. Mirren, of course, adds to the fun, as does a supporting cast that includes Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Like many sequels, “RED 2” is inferior to its predecessor, primarily because the element of surprise is gone. The actors are still fun to watch, and material is entertaining enough, but the quirky idea of elderly secret agents just isn’t as funny the second time around.

Director Dean Parisot does a reasonable job with the action sequences, and he maintains the brisk pacing that a film like this requires.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel.

 

Jobs

2½ stars
Rated PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language
Universal Studios
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

During its theatrical release, “Jobs” received mostly negative reviews, but the critics seemed more concerned with the perceived potential of the project than the movie itself.

As many have pointed out, “Jobs” – a biopic about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs – is imperfect. The movie skips large portions of the man’s life, including some of his most productive years. It glosses over his interpersonal relationships and focuses almost entirely on his business acumen. It also, necessarily, fictionalizes bits of the man’s legacy.

Although a perfect film would have corrected these problems, “Jobs” is far from the abject failure that some would have us believe. Director Joshua Michael Stern’s film at times feel more like a television drama than a big-budget biopic, but it also hits many fine notes and serves as a decent primer for anyone curious about the man who helped pioneer the home computer industry.

The film begins in 2001 with Jobs introducing the first iPod. Stern then transports viewers back to the 1970s when Jobs, portrayed capably by Ashton Kutcher, was a college dropout living in Portland, Oregon. Even then, Stern would have us believe, he was a visionary, the sort of man who audited classes for no credit, seeking only to expand his mind. Fortunately, the movie avoids idol worship, also painting Jobs as a ruthless egomaniac whose brilliance was overshadowed only by his self-absorption. Some may see the portrayal as unfair, but avoiding these well-documented elements of his personality would seem equally wrong.

The movie focuses primarily on the early days of Apple, meaning viewers don’t gain any insight into the development of the iPhone or the iPad, devices that expanded on Jobs’ already impressive legacy of innovation. But it’s difficult, really, to identify this as a flaw. Modern audiences had a front-row seat to the rollout of both devices, so it makes sense to travel through time and focus on things they might not know. In doing this, the movie offers interesting insights into the days when Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) were manufacturing computers in the garage of Jobs’ adoptive parents (John Getz and Lesley Ann Warren). The movie then follows the rise and unceremonious fall of Apple Computer, paying special attention to the period where Jobs was forced out of his own company.

For those who have little knowledge of the founding of Apple, the film offers a nice primer as well as an introduction to the multiplicity of Jobs himself. Although the content is dramatized, Stern checks the most important historical boxes, giving viewers at least a sketchbook understanding of Apple history.

Kutcher is solid in the title role, and Gad does a nice job portraying Wozniak, a man who is arguably never given enough credit for the company’s success. Along with Getz and Warren, the supporting cast includes J.K. Simmons, Matthew Modine, Lukas Haas and Dermot Mulroney, and each actor does fine work. Stern’s presentation is straightforward and old-fashioned, a strange choice considering Jobs’ fondness for cutting-edge design and innovation. Nevertheless, it gets the job done, offering one look at the man who helped Apple become one of the most important companies in the world.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, several making-of features and an audio commentary by Stern.

 

Getaway

1 star
Rated PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures and language
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Ethan Hawke is a fine actor who turned in memorable, 2013 performances in both “Before Midnight” and “The Purge,” but his latest effort, “Getaway,” is so bad that fans may forget the earlier hits.

Hawke stars as Brent Magna, a former racecar driver who returns to his Bulgarian home to learn that his wife has been kidnapped. A mysterious caller then tells Magna he must do whatever he is told to keep her alive. This means taking a heavily modified Ford Mustang Shelby and driving like a madman through city streets. He also picks up a passenger (Selena Gomez) who is forced to accompany him throughout the mayhem.

That Magna would, no doubt, be caught and jailed almost immediately doesn’t seem to matter to director Courtney Solomon or screenwriters Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker. They tell the ridiculous story with a sense of gravity better suited to legitimate drama, and they keep the action moving faster than Magna’s Mustang.

“Getaway” isn’t so much a movie as a 90-minute car chase. Magna spends 95 percent of the film in the Mustang, and Solomon is constantly cutting to close ups of the actor’s foot pounding the clutch. A nonstop car chase may sound exciting, but it’s not. Since the plot is so thin, the film goes from zero to boring at an astonishing rate.

The biggest problem – other than the terrible screenplay – is that Solomon isn’t particularly skilled at filming chases. It’s often hard to tell what’s going on, and he relies on the same cinematic tricks again and again and again. Because of this, the movie isn’t even visually appealing.

Gomez may be a talented actress, but it’s difficult to tell from her work in “Getaway.” She spends most of the picture complaining about being stuck in the car, and her character isn’t given enough development to justify some of the choices she makes. Hawke is a better performer, but he’s on autopilot here.

Once Magna learns that his wife has been kidnapped, he agrees to do whatever he is told without pausing to think. That he would so willingly become a puppet demonstrates how shallow the character is, and Hawke doesn’t even attempt to milk depth from the role. It’s hard to blame him, though. When a film is this poorly conceived, the best an actor can do is play his part and move on.

DVD extras include several features on the making of the film.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman”: The Criterion Collection delivers an impressive boxed set containing all 25 Zatoichi films released between 1962 and 1973. The Japanese action movies are centered on a talented swordsman who is quick to dole out justice, despite the fact that he can’t see.

“Breaking Bad” – The Complete Series: Sony is releasing all five seasons of the AMC drama “Breaking Bad” on one deluxe set. The show focuses on a high school teacher (Bryan Cranston) who begins dealing drugs when he learns that he has terminal cancer.

“Bill Cosby… Far From Finished”: On Nov. 23, Comedy Central aired Bill Cosby’s first television special in three decades. Now, fans can own an extended version of the show, which captures Cosby in a stand-up setting.

“JFK Assassination – The Definitive Guide”: Just days after the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, History delivers a 90-minute film examining the many theories surrounding the president’s untimely death. The film also considers the results of an extensive, nationwide survey that asked citizens what they believe happened.

“Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me”: Documentary film about the 1970s rock band Big Star, a short-lived group that failed to achieve mainstream fame yet influenced a variety of major artists. Directed by Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori.

“Samson & Delilah”: Australian drama focused on two Aboriginal teens (Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson) who leave their small community for a perilous journey toward a new life in Alice Springs. Writer-director Warwick Thornton won the Cannes Film Festival Golden Camera award for best feature film for his work.

“Kristina Wong – Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: Video of actress Kristina Wong’s one-woman theatrical show addressing the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women. Despite the serious subject matter, the show is presented as comedy.

“The Horror Show”: Blu-ray debut of director James Isaac’s 1989 horror film about a detective (Lance Henriksen) haunted by a supernatural serial killer. Brion James also stars.

 

– 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 forrest@forresthartman.com.

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