Feb. 27 DVD Corner

Posted Feb. 26, 2010, at 7:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:56 a.m.

“Where the Wild Things Are” DVD, Blu-ray: Out of all the ways “Where the Wild Thing Are” could have gone wrong, it didn’t. Spike Jonze’s film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved, 1963 illustrated children’s book, which consists of a mere 338 words, takes its subject seriously, which is critical to its success. Childhood, after all, is serious — it’s not Romper Room. The world is a scary place — it still is, maybe even more so when you’re an adult — and so what Jonze achieves through his and Dave Eggers’ script is a movie that fleshes out Sendak’s book, but which does so in ways that are thoughtful, meaningful and real in spite of the story’s underlying elements of fantasy. Jonze sees childhood for what it is right now — fractured families fraught with divorce, unhappy children unable to fully sort out feelings of anger and rage, growing pains tossed in with fleeting moments of happiness — and he taps into the unrest that stems from this. Handheld camera in tow, Jonze follows Max (Max Records, terrific), a boy who just wants to be a boy, but who is becoming undone by the pressures surrounding him. His mother (Catherine Keener) is divorced and dating (Mark Ruffalo). His older sister is of that age where older sisters have zero time for younger brothers. And so, in the face of his stinging loneliness, Max slips into fantasy and sails across fantastic waters that lead him to another land. There he meets the enormous Wild Things themselves. They’re an unhappy bunch — not unlike Max’s own family — and so when he is deemed their king when he lies about possessing special powers, he realizes that he now must try to make them happy. For a while he succeeds, but nothing lasts forever. And what is Max to do when he realizes that he has let these enormous beasts down, and fooled them along the way? Life lessons unfurl, but not to the point of whacking audiences over the head with them. Jonze is more subtle than that. He always has been sort of childlike himself, and so he allows Max his difficult mission of self-discovery by observing him with unforced insights that are revealed in his multitude of mistakes. Rated PG. Grade: B+

“Everybody’s Fine” DVD, Blu-ray: The gag-inducing melodrama “Everybody’s Fine” hails from Kirk Jones, whose phone calls, kisses, handshakes and hugs no longer will be returned the moment this baby hits the shelves. OK, so maybe that isn’t true — it’s tough to crush a mother’s love — but what is true is that this movie is so lame, it should see a specialist. The film is based on Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 Italian movie, “Stanno Tutti Bene,” which starred Marcello Mastroianni as a man coming to terms with his five estranged children. It was a good film — and one better left alone. As for Jones’ moist remake, he swiftly crushes it with cliches and sentiment at every opportunity he gets. This wannabe windbag of weepiness is schlock, a gross wallow through an emotional sinkhole. Robert De Niro is Frank Goode (of course, his last name is Goode), he’s battling lung cancer (of course, he’s battling lung cancer), he recently lost his wife (of course, he recently lost his wife), and he’s struck by disappointment when his four children stiff him for a visit even though he spiffed up the joint for their arrival. Not taking that snub lying down, Frank goes to his doctor, ignores the man’s pleas for Frank to “take it easy and stay home,” and instead boards a train that carries him all over the country while he visits those grown-up children (Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore) who didn’t want to visit Daddy. The film is about connections, with Jones so determined to make them, he offers this cheek-biting metaphor: Throughout Frank’s adult life, his job was to make the thousands of miles of wires strung along telephone poles across the country. The movie follows those wires from child to child, and by the end of it all, nobody should be surprised that those wires have gathered together to form one mother of a noose. Rated PG-13: Grade: D+

“2012” DVD, Blu-ray: Roland Emmerich’s “2012” is now out on DVD and Blu-ray disc, so right away, audiences know what to do. Given Emmerich’s penchant for destruction, it’s time to duck and cover, and slap bandages on the world’s landmarks. Or at least what’s left of them. This latest epic once again finds the director wandering around the world, casually smashing it to bits with joyous ease, and all while delivering the destruction with some of the most risible and predictable writing of the year. Any year. Doesn’t matter the year. About the movie. Well, it’s just a work of art, and to some degree, I’m serious. Special effects have come a long way, baby, and this movie is a showcase for the cheesy best of the best. The movie is such a spit-and-shine miracle of special effects, you marvel at how talented computers have become. If only it were so easy for some writers. Talk about devastation — they can take out the world (and ruin a good time) with the swipe of a pen. That’s sometimes the case here, with the film’s slim shred of a plot going like this: The year is 2012. John Cusack is Jackson Curtis, a divorced dad of two trying to be civil to his ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet), when the Earth’s crust starts to shift. Though the scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) predicted this day would come and has warned the president of the United States (Danny Glover) as well as his staff, few others knew, with the exception of Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a pot-smoking hippie living high up in Yellowstone, where he has a radio show that long has declared the end of the world. When the end comes, it hits hard (that’s the fun part), but who wants to bet that Jackson and Kate will be thrown together, in spite of the fact that Kate is remarried to another man (Tom McCarthy)? Will they all suck up their differences in an effort to survive? Will they squeak out creaky old dialogue that could crumble Rio? What about their daughter, who is 7 and must wear pull-ups because, for sheer character development alone, we learn that she has bladder issues? Will those be solved by the end of the movie? Will the world live on? What do you think? Rated PG-13. Grade: C-

Also on DVD and Blu-ray disc:

Also new this week is the Blu-ray version of “Analyze That,” a tepid retread of 1999’s “Analyze This,” with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro reprising their roles as the shrink who comes to help the mobster, and in turn, helps himself. Stuffed with less this and far more of that (as in crap), “Analyze That” is a one-joke film that has the stink of old ideas and tired cliches all over it. See it only if you want to become depressed. Looking up are the television series “Army Wives: Season Three,” the first season of “Gary Unmarried,” and the third season of “Night Court,” in which Harry Anderson is Judge Harry Stone and Markie Post joins the show as Christine, the public defender who catches Harry’s eye. The series deepened with this season, specifically because the focus was less on the courtroom antics and more on the characters’ personal lives, which are explored. Finally, on DVD and Blu-ray disc, there’s the first season of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” a terrific series starring Edie Falco as the pill-popping nurse with a syringe large enough to match the size of her attitude. Falco’s Jackie Peyton has her own set of rules — a few of which could land her in jail — but her character is softened by the stress she endures, the show’s solid supporting cast, and the edgy humor the writers bring to each script. Set in New York City, the series is tight and funny, with the gifted Falco tearing through the scenery as one hopes she would.

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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