DVD Corner

Posted July 10, 2009, at 6:05 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

“Knowing” DVD, Blu-ray: From Alex Proyas, a B-movie movie charged with science fiction undertones. It’s about the end of the world and how one young girl named Lucinda (Lara Robinson) saw it coming 50 years ago. At the start, this grim girl with the dead eyes and the blank face taps into something otherworldly when she joins the rest of her class by drawing her idea of what the future will look like in 50 years. Instead of drawing happy little spaceships, Lucinda goes all crazy in the classroom, and scribbles a rush of numbers on a piece of paper that gets tucked within the time capsule. Cut to the present and to Nicolas Cage’s John Koestler, a widower doing his best to raise his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) while also spending time with a whisky bottle. It’s when the time capsule is opened and Caleb comes in contact with Lucinda’s handiwork that their lives are turned sideways, with John, an astrophysicist at MIT, realizing that the numbers Lucinda wrote correlate with the dates and locations of worldwide disasters, such as 9-11. The list states that the next day, 81 people will die, which indeed happens when a plane crashes near John in New York City. A few days later, a subway train skips the tracks and smashes through crowds of people, killing the exact number Lucinda predicted. Each of these scenes is beautifully handled, so seamless in their special effects, they add a nice rush to the movie. Deepening the film’s creepy factor are the men in black who hover around Caleb like a murder of crows. They’re known as the “Whisperers” and they appear mostly at night, standing watch over Caleb in ways that suggest malicious intent. Draw into this story a subplot that involves Lucinda’s daughter Diana (Rose Byrne) and granddaughter Abby (Robinson), who also can hear the Whisperers, and “Knowing” becomes a satisfying thriller that doesn’t cheat its audience when it comes to its harrowing end. Rated PG-13. Grade: B

“ER: Complete 11th Season”: The melodrama escalates to a fever pitch, but then it had to, didn’t it? This is the 11th season of “ER,” and the producers aren’t willing to allow fans to move away from the water cooler quietly. As such, we get 22 episodes laced with chaos and disorder, with romance and broken hearts hurtling through the doors of Chicago’s County General Hospital almost as frequently as the injured and the dying. Here, Noah Wyle’s Dr. Carter carries a season that includes sharks attached to aquarium workers, a frat boy with an arrow through his stomach, and plenty of other horror stories, a good deal of which are dealt with humor or drama. Since this also is the season in which Carter leaves County General — and thus the show — the season ends in a maelstrom of over-reaching, moist melodrama. Grade: B

“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” Blu-ray: It’s still obvious they didn’t spend it making a good movie. This slasher sequel follows what happens when Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) tries to mellow out in the Bahamas after having nightmares about the Fisherman killer who took down so many in the last film. At first, it’s all laughs, booze and good times for Julie and company. But then lightning literally strikes as those around Julie start to get knocked off. See Julie run! The movie features characters that scream as if they just had their pigtails pulled, which can be fun since it’s tough to like any of them, but the story is so bogged down by its “been there, seen that” feel, it’s a disappointment. Rated R. Grade: C-

“Jesus’ Son”: Since this is a family newspaper, there’s no way I can tell you the name of the main character in Alison Maclean’s first American film, “Jesus’ Son,” just re-released by Lionsgate, so we’ll leave it at this: His initials are FH and the H stands for “head.” Memorably played by Billy Crudup, FH is a sweet, likable junkie who nevertheless destroys everything he touches. Caught in a continuous, drug-induced haze, he’s a hapless bit of bad luck who blows through the nightmare of his life in a giddy, semiconscious state that sometimes gives itself over to moments of absolute clarity, as witnessed in an early scene in which he leaps out of a truck to whirl about in a field. The way Crudup plays him, FH comes off as an innocent, lumbering dolt who seems as astonished as we are by the grave mistakes he keeps making in his life. At times hilarious and other times disturbing, the film fractures time while also sustaining a similar staccato rhythm. Though FH’s life is tragic, the movie doesn’t play out like a tragedy — it’s more hopeful than that. At its core, it’s about the character’s relationships, the most important of which centers around his junkie girlfriend, Michelle (Samantha Morton), who is more afloat than FH — and far weaker. Rated R. Grade: A-

“Torchwood: Complete Second Series” Blu-ray: From the BBC, a sci-fi spinoff of the network’s “Doctor Who” franchise, with a solid dose of sex meant to spice up the proceedings. Often, it does. Thematically, the two shows are so closely interlinked, the very name “Torchwood” is an anagram of “Doctor Who,” but in terms of quality, this second season of the series suggests it still has a ways to go before it matches the sheer inventiveness of its inspiration. That said, it’s a major improvement over the first series. Set in Cardiff, Wales, the show stars John Barrowman as Capt. Jack Harkness, who leads a small task force of geeks who use alien technology to undo their share of aliens, while in this season Harkness is faced with his former lover (James Marsters), not to mention the fleeting, unexpected presence of his brother Gray (Laclan Nieboer). Grade: B+

Also available on DVD and Blu-ray disc:

The horror movie “The Haunting in Connecticut” is just out on DVD and Blu-ray disc, and along with it comes a haunted Victorian house with an ugly past and a young man and his family who are undone by it. Virginia Madsen stars and though the film has a promising start, the lingering question is why she signed on to star in it? Obviously, for the money, honey. When the film isn’t an unintended riot, it quickly sags and drags beneath the weight of its cliches. Joining it soon in the bargain bin is the DVD and Blu-ray release of “Push,” with Dakota Fanning and Chris Evans slumming through a muddled story that involves a few scenes of compelling action and a bunch of characters with psychic powers, including some who scream so loud, they literally can pop a vein. It’s a waste of time. For tween girls, things do look up in “The Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience,” which also is presented on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s just what you expect — glimpses of Kevin, Joe and Nick brooding behind the scenes, the boys rocking out onstage to a hive of contrived songs. Extras include two bonus songs, a digital copy of the movie for use on computers, and 3-D glasses. Finally, ending on a higher note, look for several recommended television series, such as the second season of “Petticoat Junction” from Paramount, which is a welcome throwback; the Blu-ray release of “The Universe: Complete Season Two”; the first season of “Leverage,” which recalls a modern-day “Robin Hood” in that it features a group of thieves who, in this case, take down corrupt corporations in an effort to help out those ruined by them; and the terrific second season of “Mad Men,” a show about advertising executives in the 1960s who — to put it lightly — know how to work a boardroom as well as they do a bedroom.

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

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