DVD Corner

Posted Aug. 14, 2009, at 9:31 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

17 AGAIN, DVD, Blu-ray

We’ve been here before — most recently in “Freaky Friday” and “13 Going on 30” — but now we’re going there with men, specifically Matthew Perry as a 37-year-old man named Mike who is so far in the dumps with his wife (Leslie Mann), his kids and his bum career, he’d like to do it all over again. Thanks to a magic janitor, he gets his chance and becomes the 17-year-old version of himself, here played by a game Zac Efron. The movie is slight and predictable, but it does say something about the glory days some experienced in their youth, how they peaked too early and were set up for a lifetime of disappointments. Thanks to Efron, ‘tween girls likely will pass out in front of their television sets while watching it. Parents, don’t be alarmed — they’ll come around only to watch it again. All others will question the sanity of wanting to return to puberty in a movie that glosses over most of its many potholes. Rated PG-13. Grade: C

COACH CARTER, Blu-ray

Samuel L. Jackson as a high school basketball coach who could find work preaching at a pulpit — what do you suppose the odds are that he’s here to turn around a team trotting in the wrong direction? It’s how he does so that generates interest. He benches the whole team when a few get out of line. When controversy unfolds, it does so within a true story patted into shape by formula. Jackson and the rest of the cast are key. Without their good performances, this movie would have been suffocated by cliches. Rated PG-13. Grade: B-

DEAD SILENCE

Features a ventriloquist’s dummy named Billy who comes to life in crashes of thunder and lightning to savagely eat the tongues of those who come too close. So right away, you know if the movie is for you. For others, things are predictably bleak. The film sends out rays of stupidity. It’s pointless. It’s shabbily produced. It isn’t scary. It fears humor. It just is, which isn’t enough. What it misses is what the “Child’s Play” franchise embraced. If you’re going to feature a killer doll in your horror film, you better let loose and have a little fun. Otherwise, you’ve taken this way too seriously and cut your own throat. That’s the case here. “Dead Silence” couldn’t make a clown happy. Rated R. Grade: F

THE GEORGE ELIOT COLLECTION

From the BBC, a set of five films for the retro-Victorian — or the curious Edwardian — all derived from the works of George Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans, so you can imagine the complications he-she was able to compose. “Middlemarch,” “Daniel Deronda,” “Adam Beed,” “The Mill on the Floss” and “Silas Marner” all are assembled here and they’re just fine, with many themes reflecting Evans’ own life as an outsider. The highlight here is “Middlemarch,” with the eight-part miniseries “The Mill on the Floss” offering major insight into Eliot’s own life as Evans. Grade: B+

GODS AND GENERALS, Blu-ray

With its reams of endless speeches, forced emotion, whitewashing of history and interminable length, Ron Maxwell’s insufferable Civil War epic is a bloated bust, failing on almost every level to live up to its 1993 predecessor, “Gettysburg,” a better movie that wasn’t nearly as self-conscious or as self-important. This nearly four-hour prequel is the second in a planned trilogy. God help us if the next film is as dull as this. Instead of focusing on one major battle, as he did in “Gettysburg,” Maxwell focuses on three — the Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Chancellorsville — while also telling the stories of the three most influential men behind those battles: Confederate Gens. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (Stephen Lang) and Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall) for the South, and Maine’s own Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) of the 20th Maine Regiment for the North. With his purple script in hand, Maxwell sandbags his characters with florid sentiment. Nobody — nobody — talks as archly as these people. Faring better are the battle scenes. Each is given its due with grand re-enactments comprising 7,500 real-life Civil War buffs. Unfortunately, for the most part, Maxwell sabotages a good deal of the combat scenes by not getting behind them. His camera is literally a stick in the mud, panning and shooting the action while only occasionally plunging into the heart of it. Rated PG-13. Grade: D-

MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, Blu-ray

Jonathan Demme’s remake of John Frankenheimer’s jittery 1962 Cold War classic about political brainwashing arrives on Blu-ray disc to slay the political process, as well as corporate America, with Big Business viewed here as the real threat to our country, much in the same way the communists were feared in the original film. Gulf War veteran Maj. Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) discovers that during the war, he and other members of his platoon were implanted with computer chips that have brainwashed them into remembering events that never occurred. Of chief concern to Marco is Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), the vice presidential candidate backed by a vicious, powerful mother played by Meryl Streep, and also controlled by Manchurian Global, a mysterious corporate giant that has special interests in making sure that Shaw gets into the White House. Washington is so good, you almost take him for granted. Same goes for Streep. While the movie doesn’t match the raw, satirical power of the original, it nevertheless scores for being prescient, relevant and beautifully acted. Rated R. Grade: B+

THE SHIRLEY TEMPLE COLLECTION, Vol. 6

The set includes three films: the 1936 musical “Stowaway,” in which Temple’s “Ching-Ching” leaves Shanghai to work her magic in keeping Robert Young and Alice Faye together; John Ford’s 1937 “Wee Willie Winkie,” a so-so retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s story that finds Temple’s Priscilla Williams fighting the good fight in Colonial India; and 1940’s “Young People,” Temple’s final film with Fox. After making dozens of films with Temple, the studio decided that at the tender age of 12, she was too long in the tooth to play the roles that had made her a star. For viewers armed with this knowledge, it’s now something of a curiosity to watch Temple launch into the title song’s telling lyrics: “We’re not little babies anymore! We don’t play with dollies on the floor! We know how to act our age! We have passed the infant stage! That’s why we are in a rage! We think children are a bore!” Poor Shirley. The suits at Fox knew they were finished with her long before they hung her out to dry with this movie and that song. Grade: C

THE WARRIOR

Asif Kapidia’s debut film mines a sort of derivative beauty. Set in ancient India, the film is laced with inspiration and redemption. The inspiration comes from Akira Kurosawa, from whom Kapidia has learned plenty in staging and style. The redemption comes from the central character, Lafcadia (Irfan Khan), who has chosen to remove himself from a life of violence. It’s a decision that leads him to a spiritual awakening, one dramatically heightened when an assassin takes chase in an effort to chop off Lafcadia’s head. Some moments are undeniably powerful, while others languish. Still, a fine recommended first effort. Rated: R. Grade: B

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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