Academy Award-nominated “A Single Man” out on DVD, Blu-ray

Posted July 02, 2010, at 8:49 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

“A Single Man” DVD, Blu-ray: Tom Ford’s Academy Award-nominated “A Single Man” might take place in 1962, but it’s timely as hell, particularly in the debate of equal rights for gay men and women, which have yet to be achieved. The film stars Colin Firth as George, a gay, middle-aged man who loses his longtime partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), in a horrific car accident. A professor of humanities, George finds himself caught in an inhumane world. Since nothing legally binds him to Jim, he is banned from Jim’s funeral when Jim’s family says they don’t want him there. When he learns about Jim’s death, it’s only in a brief telephone call. Humane? Hardly — especially since he and Jim were together 16 years. What that kind of cruelty does to a person and how the loss of a significant other can profoundly affect a person, straight or gay, is what “A Single Man” is about. In the wake of Jim’s death, George is caught in a haze of mourning. The passing of days don’t fulfill the cliche that states that time heals all wounds. For George, that’s something of a joke. His loneliness and heartbreak thrum onscreen. Grief is etched into his face, which Firth, in one of his finest performances, captures with haunting ease. Essentially, he has been asked to play a dead man walking, with suicide viewed as potentially the only way out of the pain and the injustice he feels. Another young man at George’s university tries to edge into George’s life. At another point, a James Dean knockoff closes in. But George is grieving, and while part of him is curious about this attention, another part of him is repelled by it. His love for Jim is deep. It’s not replaceable. For a reprieve from the ache, he turns to Charley (Julianne Moore), a beautiful drunk. The love between them is a different kind of love for Charley from what it is for George. Ford and David Scearce wrote the script, and the film punctuates the issues surrounding the move toward equality for gay couples. The movie doesn’t define the debate so much as it adds to it. Who’s to say whom we are to love? Why does the minority lack the equality of the majority? Are George’s emotions second-rate? He was with Jim for 16 years. Does that mean nothing? As a director, Ford is very good at holding back and letting his excellent cast do their jobs. Occasionally, he lapses into such tricks as sucking the color from the film in an effort to capture George’s increasingly colorless world, but the gimmick doesn’t work against the movie. The leads are too strong, the writing is too solid, and the ethics at hand are too dire to ignore to let a few lapses in judgment get in the way of George’s unfortunately realistic story. Rated R. Grade: B+

“Brooklyn’s Finest” DVD, Blu-ray: The irony! The problems with director Antoine Fuqua’s disappointing ensemble police drama have nothing to do with the performances, which are good, but with the execution of the flawed script, which too often gives itself over to predictability, melodrama and cliche. The film follows three policemen in one of New York’s toughest districts. All are in varying states of despair. There is Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), an alcoholic who likes his hookers and his drugs, and who has just a week left on the job. He’s a wreck. There’s Tango Butler (Don Cheadle), who spent three years working undercover and now must handle a tougher life on the outside. Specifically, his precinct, in which racial barbs and cruelty are the order of the day. Finally, there’s Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke), a father of many children with seemingly no way to provide for them all. Worse for Sal, his wife (Lili Taylor) is pregnant with twins and her health is failing. With each character needing some way into a better life, the script provides it. With Wesley Snipes and Vincent D’Onofrio in supporting roles, the cast works overtime to lift what follows — but it’s a struggle. Fuqua (“Training Day”) gets mired in the details, he can’t rein in his story, and he loses control of it. This movie had promise — and it was squandered. Rated R. Grade: C

“The Bourne Trilogy” Blu-ray: A tense, satisfying collection of thrillers that began in 2002 with “The Bourne Identity,” continued in 2004 with “The Bourne Supremacy” and ended in 2007 with “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Each is a travelogue of espionage that takes audiences around the globe as the amnesiac CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) seeks his true identity while taking down thugs and government agents along the way. Adapted from Robert Ludlum’s best-sellers, the movies shrewdly bring in the author’s iron-horse prose and update the gadgetry without sacrificing the hysterical mood. As Bourne, Damon is just right — he’s confident and brooding, all inward conflict assailed by an outside world trying to undo him. Solid supporting turns by Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox, Clive Owen and David Strathairn lift the franchise. Grade: B+

“Ocean’s Eleven” Blu-ray: At sundown Friday, the River City Cinema society will show the original 1960 version of “Ocean’s Eleven” in Bangor’s Pickering Square, so now is a good time to revisit Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Lewis Milestone’s Rat Pack caper, which downsizes the heist from five casinos to three casinos — the MGM Grand, the Bellagio and the Mirage. For Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his slick team of thieves, the job at hand is monumental, a heist that will net each a piece of a $160 million pot. Ocean’s motivation isn’t just the money; he wants to win back his ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), a grumpy woman fondling the tie and cufflinks of the casino’s sleazy owner, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). A good deal of what ensues is lively and fun — particularly in the interplay between Clooney and Brad Pitt, who are nicely paired. But with such an enormous cast, few are given the opportunity to leave a lasting impression, especially (and surprisingly) Roberts, who doesn’t appear until the film’s second hour and barely registers even then. Rated PG-13. Grade: B

“A Scanner Darkly” Blu-ray: From director Richard Linklater (“Waking Life”), an animated film for adults that fuses illusion to reality. This dizzying commentary on drug use and the drug wars is wrapped around stunning images reminiscent of those in a graphic novel. As his characters plunge into the depths of drug-induced paranoia, Linklater employs animation that allows his movie to literally burn, shimmer and jitter, thus creating a near-seamless marriage between the medium of film and the content of the story itself. Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1977 novel “Scanner,” the movie isn’t for those seeking a run-of-the-mill Hollywood film and it can’t be viewed with a trace of passivity. Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and a very good Robert Downey Jr. all are on board to mess with our minds — and they succeed. Rated R. Grade: B+

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

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