DVD Corner

Posted Sept. 18, 2009, at 5:33 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

“Observe and Report” DVD, Blu-ray: Here’s an observation — Jody Hill’s bum comedy fails to live up to the potential of its two talented stars, Seth Rogen and Anna Faris, the latter of whom is the best part of the movie. Her ditzy shtick has yet to wear thin. As for the story, here’s the report. It’s stupid, nor is it very funny. It’s centered on bossy, unlikable Ronnie (Rogen), a mall cop hooked on pills — and saddled with a boozy mother (Celia Weston) — who craves power regardless of the cost and who falls hard for pretty Brandi (Faris). How does he get close to her? In this case, by protecting her from a flasher (Randy Gambill) at the mall. Cut to scenes that involve Ronnie and Brandi on a date that involves too much tequila, too much vomiting and — right on the tail of all that vomiting — offensively wet kisses. Add it up, and you’ve got a good idea of the lack of ideas that collaborate to sink this movie’s script. Rated R. Grade: C-

“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” DVD, Blu-ray: A deluge of dim jokes and rote romantic interludes between Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner that are intended to recall Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” God help us all. Don’t expect a classic, but do expect to hear Dickens rolling over in his grave and for good reason. Looking surprisingly cleaned-up, McConaughey is womanizer Connor Mead, who is forced to face his reckless romantic past when his dead Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas, awful) appears to make him come to terms with how he has treated his bevy of women. One of them, Jenny (Garner), stirs old feelings within him, the likes of which are enough to want to make Connor want to be a better per-son. Too bad it didn’t happen in a better movie. This ball and chain creates a noose that fits easily — too easily — over its own neck. Rated PG-13. Grade: D

“Fringe: Season One” DVD, Blu-ray: From executive producer J.J. Abrams, a well-done detective show with echoes of “The X-Files” that’s concerned with pop culture’s favorite topic du jour — the paranormal. Anyone who took note of the first season’s engrossing episodes knew there would be more to come (which there were, as the second season began Thursday). Olivia Dunham, Joshua Jackson and John Noble are at the core of a cast that must keep pace with the restless cinematography and the eager (and occasional bombastic) storylines, all of which conspire to keep the action moving at an admirable clip. The swell acting and the imaginative special effects are of note. Grade: B+

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Three”: A dark, irreverent series that continues to feel like a hybrid of “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Arrested Development,” with a dash of “Cheers” thrown in since the show takes place at a bar. The premise is simple — in fact, it’s about nothing. The three male owners of Paddy’s Irish Pub (Rob McEl-henney, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day) spar daily with their bartender, Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), who will remind plenty of Elaine from “Seinfeld” — only amplified. Danny DeVito joined the cast in the second season and, as you’d expect, his involvement helps to lift an already engaging comedy. Grade: B

“The Mentalist: First Season”: Simon Baker is Patrick Jane, a famous psychic with a quick wit, a face made for prime time and a mind made for crime. Little in this budding series is new. Mirroring “Medium,” the show taps into Jane’s brain for clues as to who knocked off whom and why. Still, Baker is very good. As his cop sidekick, Robin Tunney matches him quip for quip. In this series of odd, unraveling mysteries, some of which are silly, others of which are intriguing, it’s the dialogue and the performances that sell it. Each is refreshingly smart. Grade: B-

“Misery” Blu-ray: One of the better film adaptations of a Stephen King novel, with Kathy Bates winning an Academy Award for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes, the psychotic nurse who loves too much. Wilkes cares for her favorite author (James Caan) after she finds him near death from a car wreck. Trouble is, when she learns during his convalescence that he has killed off her favorite character in his latest novel, she decides she’s having none of that, and she starts to terrorize him. Director Rob Reiner creates an atmosphere of tense horror wrapped around rich dialogue (“Cockadoodie dirty birdie!”), and in the process, he gets sterling performances from Caan and Bates. Rated R. Grade: A

“Shaun of the Dead” Blu-ray: A romantic zombie comedy that tips its hat to George Romero and mines one very funny spoof that never forgets the rules of the zombie horror genre — even though it tampers with them. Britain is lovingly skewered here, with director Edgar Wright suggesting that its living citizens really aren’t so different from the living dead. The film’s co-writer and star, Simon Pegg, has an excellent sense of the arcane. His co-star, Nick Frost, is a winning boob. For those seeking something different, “Shaun of the Dead” hits different out of the pub. Grade: B+.

“30 Rock: Season 3”: From Tina Fey, this Emmy Award-winning series is a sketch comedy show in which pretty much everything goes wrong. Once again, the series underscores Fey’s ear for dialogue, which now has been honed to a point that’s even deadlier than her infamous impersonation of Sarah Palin. Beyond the writing, what makes the series work as well as it does is the obvious insight Fey brings to each script she either co-writes or oversees; this woman knows network television. In each episode, you can smell the authenticity in the behind-the-scene dramas, even when heightened beyond reason. Disaster is a mainstay here, particularly thanks to co-starring roles with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan — but so are the laughs. Grade: B

“Wrong Turn” Blu-ray: The understatement of the year. Essentially, ax-wielding rednecks unite in a slasher flick that drives itself into a brick wall of no return. Broad nods to “Deliverance” and to the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” abound, but they just make the movie worse. Watching it — the bad acting from Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto and Emmanuelle Chriqui, not to mention the dialogue and over-the-top gore — makes you want to hose down your television screen with Lysol when the last body part has been lopped off. As for the hillbillies in question, there isn’t enough moonshine in the world to make them — or the film — seem even passably right. Yee-haw? Please. More like yee-yawn. Rated R. Grade: F

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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