Actress Helen Mirren’s “The Last Station” out on DVD, Blu-ray

Posted June 18, 2010, at 8:58 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

“The Last Station” DVD, Blu-ray: For those who already have glanced at the grade for this film, let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room and be done with it. Yes, Helen Mirren was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress as Sofya Tolstaya in Michael Hoffman’s “The Last Station,” and true, Christopher Plummer joined her by receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as the Russian novelist Tolstoy himself. Let’s just offer them a polite round of applause — and then remember that each lost. There’s a reason. The film is a hullabaloo of histrionics, so much so that in one scene, Mirren becomes a human wrecking ball so wild with rage and frustration she goes on a plate-smashing frenzy that would cause any fan of “Antiques Roadshow” to expire in their seats. In another scene, she runs pell-mell from their estate, rushes across the grounds while shrieking in a white night dress, and heads straight for the pond, in which she eventually finds herself drowning. Gird your loins, people, because this movie is about those wacky Tolstoys and the movement of Tolstoyanism, which is supposed to be about reducing all religions to their common element of love. In the movement, sex isn’t allowed for the Tolstoyan (so much for love!), but you wouldn’t know it here — many of the characters are doing it, have done it or like to talk about it. A lot. There isn’t a moment in this movie that isn’t enjoyable, but not always in the serious-minded way Hoffman intended. When Tolstoy and Sofya come off an argument, for instance, and start clucking like birds and then crowing like roosters, the intent is meant to reflect a mix of passion and comedy, but be forewarned. You might want to toss a bit of birdseed their way because what’s unfolding onscreen is pure camp. The film co-stars Paul Giamatti as the mustache-twirling Vladimir Chertkov, who is trying to get Tolstoy to change his will and sign off his rights to his literary works so Vladimir can hand them over to Mother Russia, and James McAvoy as Valentin Bulgakov, through whom the story is told. McAvoy is good here, but is this the story Tolstoy fans deserved? Hardly. Still, in its way, there always is something fun about watching a talented cast miss its mark as \they shoot for the moon — or, in this case, the next level of enlightenment. There are moments in this movie when you want to shield your eyes, but good luck with that. Rated R. Grade: C+

“She’s Out of My League” DVD, Blu-ray: With a title like that, you probably already know whether she is or isn’t out of his league, but let’s push forward and assume that you don’t. “She’s Out of My League” is a middle-of-the-road romantic comedy that stars Jay Baruchel as Kirk, an airport TSA officer who meets Molly (Alice Eve) just as he’s getting out of a bad relationship. She’s pretty. He’s average. In such a shallow world, do they even have a chance at romance? That’s the movie’s crux, which has been cranked out time and again in other movies (many by Judd Apatow), so here’s the good news — Baruchel and Eve have chemistry. Better yet, the supporting cast is strong. As Kirk’s best friend, TJ Miller (Hud in “Cloverfield”), offers the film some of its brightest moments, slamming down the script’s cliches with clever asides that improve the movie. Kyle Bornheimer also scores a few laughs as Kirk’s irritating brother. This is far from a great comedy, but the dialogue is fairly lively and the two leads have a believable connection, even if the script falls short. Rated R. Grade: C

“Flash Gordon” Blu-ray: From 1980, a low-budget film that stars Sam J. Jones as Flash Gordon, a casting choice that confirms its low-budget status. Those in the know will know that it’s Jones who famously said next to nothing as Bo Derek’s love interest in “10” before going on to more revealing opportunities in Playgirl. So, with his feathered, dishwater-blond blowout and buff body, he arms himself against Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow), who naturally wants to destroy Earth while Queen’s over-the-top soundtrack wails in the background. It’s up to Gordon and the saucy Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) to stop him. The film’s phoniness rings through the cheap special effects, the risible dialogue and those cheaply conceived laser gunfights that will leave many stunned — but in a good way. This is not a film for the serious superhero movie buff — it’s a movie for those who want their camp hovering along the ether. They get that here — and how. Rated PG. Grade: C+

“The A-Team: Complete Series” DVD: Like the new movie on which it’s based, the complete series of “The A-Team” is beyond kitsch. Hell, it’s beyond belief. This go-for-broke, pop-culture oddity from the ‘80s features four Vietnam vets outrunning the law for a crime they were ordered to commit. Meanwhile, in their downtime, they fight crime in their tricked-out van. Mr. T is Sgt. Bosco “Bad Attitude” Baracus. Lovely man — and with all of that gold around his neck, likely the originator of bling. George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Tim Dunigan round out the cast, usually with a cigar and a machine gun at the ready. What do you say about a show like this? It isn’t good, but then it never aspires to be good. It’s overtly sexist, but since the men are presented as ridiculous stereotypes, a balance is struck. Essentially, “The A-Team” remains a live-action cartoon. If taken as such, it can be entertaining — for about 15 minutes. You know, not unlike the movie now playing in theaters. Grade: C+

“We Are Marshall” Blu-ray: We are not impressed. In the right hands, this could have been an insightful, moving drama about the difficulty of getting on with life in the wake of a horrific tragedy. What we have instead is a cliched, predictable sports movie with cloying inspirational overtones. The film follows the residents of Huntington, W.Va., after the Nov. 14, 1970, airplane crash that killed 75 people, including 37 Marshall University football players, eight of its coaches and many supporters. It’s about a town coming to terms with those deaths and with a university president, Donald Dedmon (David Strathairn), forced to acknowledge that the town’s residents might be caught in a haze of mourning if he didn’t find the means to start a new team. He did so by hiring Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), whose unfocused, caged energy is meant to be endearingly quirky, but which really is distractingly stupid. Matthew Fox and Anthony Mackie fare better in supporting roles, but Strathairn is sorely miscast, as is Ian McShane as a bitter, grieving father. This is a movie that leans hard on its hit-heavy soundtrack of popular music and as such, it just coasts, following its rote story of how Lengyel had to take a scrappy, underdog team and turn them into winners in spite of the odds stacked against them. Who wants to guess how that turns out? Rated PG-13. Grade: D

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 Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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