DVD Corner: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

By Christopher Smith,
Posted Jan. 23, 2009, at 7:42 p.m.

“Emergency! Season Five”: Set in Los Angeles, this ’70s staple follows the efforts of paramedics Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) and John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) as they aid the stricken. A scrambling ambulance ride pulls the rest of the story into the ER, where the smoldering Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller) and the no-nonsense nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London) tend to the wounded. More than 30 years later, the show is pure corn for the hungry, just dated enough to be satisfyingly retro. But only just. Grade: B-

“The Love Boat: Season Two, Vol. One”: Given its unbridled kitsch, there’s no waiting for this second season to hit its stride. Amid the romantic dilemmas offered by those love-pushing pimps — sorry, the cheerful staff — of the Pacific Princess, the show has lost none of its Club-Med vibe. The guest appearances alone are a faded red carpet of throwbacks, and they are reason enough to watch. In this edition, look for Grant Goodeve, Sonny Bono, Brett Somers, Vincent Price, Janet Leigh and Joan Blondell to take to the high seas for messy adventures in love, limbo and loss, all of which naturally are fueled by the incessant grind of the show’s looping laugh track. Grade: B-

“Matlock: The Second Season”: Andy Griffith’s career — recharged. After years of slogging through such humiliating guest appearances on such shows as “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” and “Hotel,” Griffith took a cue from Raymond Burr’s “Perry Mason” and realized one of his greatest career successes in a similar show that ran from 1986 to 1995. The second season includes 23 episodes, most of which focus on one culprit, such as “The Gigolo,” “The Annihilator,” “The Lovelorn,” etc. Griffith’s easy Southern charm is in stark contrast to the grisly crime series pop culture now favors, but for many, that’s exactly what will sell it. Grade: B+

“The Notebook” Blu-ray: From Nick Cassavetes, a beautifully shot melodrama that overcomes its contrivances by striking just the right romantic tone. It’s a retro heartwarmer filled with likable characters whose story weaves around the lives of two charismatic young lovers whose romance is threatened by class differences. The film is divided into two stories, with its core mystery allegedly hinging on how those stories will collide. Only the dimmest of bulbs won’t figure it out, so it’s good news that the movie’s success doesn’t rely on it. The film opens at a swank nursing home with the elderly Duke (James Garner) reading to the elderly Allie Calhoun (Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes’ mother), a handsome yet frail-looking woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. The story Duke shares with her is a romance set in 1940s North Carolina between working-class Noah (Ryan Gosling) and wealthy Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), who share a summer romance that blossoms into fierce first love doomed for failure. McAdams and Gosling are wonderful together — fresh and spontaneous — while Garner and the underused Rowlands make you pine for what can be lost in old age, and for what can be found. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“The Pink Panther” Blu-ray: Ooh-la-la-so-so. Steve Martin takes on Inspector Jacques Clouseau, which essentially means that the actor is taking on Peter Sellers — a bold move, for sure, but not entirely successful. Initially, Martin’s exaggerated French accent, squinting eyes, double-takes and endless pratfalls are funny, but midway through, they grow as tiresome as the increasingly uninspired script. Where’s the joie de vivre? It’s not always here. In the end, the movie lets Martin down, as well as us. Rated PG-13. Grade: C+

“Pride and Glory” DVD, Blu-ray: An overly long movie crippled with canned dialogue and sucked free of surprises. Set in Manhattan, the film stars Edward Norton as Ray Tierney, an Irish-American cop having all sorts of problems. Not only is he literally living in a sinking boat (subtle!) and dealing with a wife (Carmen Ejogo) who has left him, but Ray also has been urged by the chief of detectives — his drunk of a father, Francis Sr. (Jon Voight) — to lead the investigation into why four cops were gunned down in a bloody drug bust. For Ray, the complications mostly stem from his family. Since Ray’s brother Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich) was in charge of those cops, it’s Ray’s job to question what went wrong and whether Francis Jr. had any involvement in their deaths. Worse for Ray is that his sketchy brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell) is a dirty cop who can’t be trusted. As this relentlessly chatty film unravels — slowly, violently, methodically — and Ray comes closer to a truth most will see coming long before he does, the movie has gobbled up and spit out so many cliches about brotherhood, loyalty, Irish families and cops, the otherwise strong cast is consumed and laid to waste in the process. Rated R. Grade: D+

“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” DVD, Blu-ray: Bubbles along so smoothly within the elbows of writer-director Woody Allen’s wit and mischief that few will dismiss it for being the movie its trailer suggested it would be — a slight detour through one of the world’s great cities with last summer’s best-looking cast tagging along for the ride. The movie has a frothy candor that’s at once complex and funny. It skewers new money, old money, society, artists, poets, musicians, romantics and the like, but never at the cost of allowing us to lose affection for them. That’s the key to the film’s success, and Allen never loses sight of its importance. Given its location and its cast, the film is beyond heated and sexy — moments burn, but rarely without a comic undercurrent. It’s how well Allen strikes that balance that makes his movie one of last year’s best, most enjoyable romantic comedies. Stars Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, the latter of whom is a hot mess of the first order who looks as if she just tumbled out of a bar — by way of a yearlong Vogue fashion shoot. She’s so good in this movie, so unhinged and vital, the Academy Award buzz continues to build surrounding her performance. No wonder she has been nominated. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

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.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/01/23/living/dvd-corner-vicky-cristina-barcelona/ printed on December 27, 2014