DVD Corner

Posted Jan. 16, 2009, at 6:49 p.m.

“Antwone Fisher” Blu-ray: From Denzel Washington, a movie about a troubled sailor forced to face his demons with the help of a psychiatrist forced to face his own at home. The film is predictable, but it’s also confident and well-acted, a movie about a man overcoming a dark life of murder, incest, abuse and abandonment. Derek Luke is Fisher, a young seaman whose blistering temper leads him to an appointment with Dr. Jerome Davenport (Washington), a Navy psychiatrist unprepared for the emotional connection that forms between them. Fisher is equally unprepared, particularly when he opens up to Davenport and shares his life, a horror story of the first order that began with his birth in prison to a mother who refused to care for him. With a terrific performance by Luke and fine supporting turns by Joy Bryant as his love interest and Viola Davis as his mother, “Antwone Fisher” wisely holds back on delivering its emotional wallop until its well-deserved ending, which lifts this powerful movie off the screen while transcending the race and color boundaries that unfortunately limited its commercial appeal. In the end, “Antwone Fisher” is about all of us. Rated PG-13. Grade: A-

“Election” Blu-ray: On the surface, Alexander Payne’s “Election” may appear to be just another high school film about high school students living high school lives, but Payne wanted more — much more — and he got it. “Election” is high among Reese Witherspoon’s best films. In it, greed and deceit, failure and sabotage, lust and hypocrisy come together in the wicked form of Tracy Flick (Witherspoon), a driven, blond bombshell whose willingness to do anything, absolutely anything, to win a high school election sets the tone for a film that brilliantly mirrors society. At once a satire and a tragedy, “Election” is too smart to fall victim to cliché, but the big news here is Matthew Broderick, whose winning role as Tracy’s nemesis schoolteacher is not to be missed. Rated R: Grade: A

“Igor” DVD, Blu-ray: Ironically, this animated film is set within the land of Malaria, and as bad luck would have it, the film itself feels as if it were written and conceived under the haze of some unwanted, lingering malaise. John Cusack is the voice of Igor, a hunchback who slaves for Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese), but whose own creativity is stifled by a system that refuses to embrace it. For reasons that won’t be revealed here, the sun never shines in Malaria, so the film turns to its screwball characters for flashes of color. Most amount to Igor’s failed experiments — an immortal rabbit named Scamper (Steve Buscemi), who tries to commit suicide throughout (tough to blame him), and Brain (Sean Hayes), who lives in a jar. When Glickenstein unexpectedly offs himself due to an experiment gone awry, Igor is able to build Eva (Molly Shannon), a giant Frankensteinlike monster who doesn’t want to be evil so much as she wants to be an actress on the stage. (Some will argue whether there’s a difference.) For villains, the movie chooses Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) and his cruel minx of a girlfriend, Jacylyn (Jennifer Coolidge, whose marvelous, warbling voice is its own special effect). As promising as it all sounds, what it adds up to is a whole lot of nothing. The trouble with “Igor” isn’t just that it lacks laughs, but that it also lacks action — there are too many long stretches of silence in which you realize a better title for this baby would have been “Ibore.” Rated PG. Grade: C-

“King Kong” Blu-ray: What’s ironic about Peter Jackson’s “Kong” is that in spite of being a movie in which size matters, the script and the actors shrink against the technical chaos, becoming almost secondary to the work being done by computer. The film’s best parts come when it just stops, when beauty (Naomi Watts) and the beast can — oh, I don’t know — share some downtime together and appreciate a sunset. At least during these moments you feel the weight of their odd bond, which is critical if Jackson is going to bring audiences to their knees during Kong’s climactic fight atop the Empire State Building. If it’s spectacle you want, the movie succeeds. But if you want something that evokes the original, overkill killed the beast. Rated PG-13. Grade: C

“Saw V” DVD, Blu-ray: Put this one in the business end of a wood chipper. The film offers zero suspense, an ongoing run of stupidity and absurdity wrapped around some dumb morality tale, and enough murky twists to make you scratch your head bald. Working from the Crayon-written script of Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, director David Hackle puts his audience’s necks on the chopping block and shows them no mercy for just under 100 minutes. As the movie opens, stretched out on a slab is a young man who must “learn his lesson” and “atone for his sins” because Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), who is dead but still an aggressive moral activist here (don’t ask), has another chip on his shoulder and wants to make a point by taking a human life. A boring police procedural ensues. Torture is a mainstay in this movie (you know, like sitting through it), but what’s happening to the torture-porn genre — what’s ruining it, really — is that none of the presumably disgusting scenes create the desired effect of revulsion. After being exposed to so many similar movies for so long now, we have become immune to it. Rated R. Grade: BOMB

Also on DVD and Blu-ray:

Rounding out the week are three recommended offerings, while two other films fail to make the cut. The former include the Showtime series “The Tudors: Second Season,” with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII. In this season, his relationship heats up with Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) and then suddenly cools in ways that pop culture recently explored in “The Other Boleyn Girl.” The final episode in which Anne puts her “little neck” on the line is the show at its best, with Dormer nailing the emotions assailing her character. Also good is the DVD and Blu-ray release of “The Express,” a conventional football drama based on the life Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), who played for Syracuse University and later died of leukemia at 23. Dennis Quaid co-stars. Another football movie just out on Blu-ray disc is “Friday Night Lights,” an against-the-odds high school sports movie that joins such films as “Million Dollar Baby” in that it’s about much more than just the sport. It’s about the game of life, with Billy Bob Thornton giving one of the best performances of his career. Less successful offerings include the Mark Wahlberg action film “Max Payne” (DVD, Blu-ray), which is based on a popular video game — and feels just as wooden and as overblown. The movie is hollow, with Wahlberg apparently onboard to pay the mortgage. Finally, there’s Kiefer Sutherland in “Mirrors” (DVD, Blu-ray), an initially promising but ultimately underwhelming horror movie based on the Korean original. Though the movie isn’t about vampires, it should have been. Stand in front of these “Mirrors” for a spell, and you realize what you’re seeing is nothing.

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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