DVD Corner

Posted July 10, 2010, at 12:23 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

“The Bounty Hunter” DVD, Blu-ray:

There isn’t a surprise to be had in Andy Tennant’s “The Bounty Hunter.” There isn’t a moment that isn’t telegraphed. The story already has been told in countless other movies. So, the question is obvious. Why does this baby exist? Beyond the studio’s hope of making a profit, two good reasons are the eye candy generously provided by its stars — Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. On-screen, it’s undeniable that they look great together, but where is the chemistry between them? They smile on cue, they shout on cue, they twinkle on cue, but somebody should have clued them in to the fact that struggling to generate a chemistry isn’t the same thing as possessing real chemistry. You can’t go through the motions and expect your audience to buy manufactured emotions, because they won’t. They’re smarter than that. It’s curious. Before the movie hit theaters, much was written in the tabloids about how these two had it hard for each other in their private lives, but this movie easily snuffs those rumors in the same way that “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” reinforced just the opposite for its stars, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. When “Smith” was released, there was no denying the chemistry between the couple — it blistered the screen and helped to make for a good movie. When the rumors proved true that they were seeing each other, few were surprised. But here? You almost want to giggle in the face of such rumors. And that’s a problem. A film like this isn’t selling itself with its plot, which actually is a good thing because the plot is a remedial mess. Instead, it’s hedging its bets on a spark to occur between the leads that will light the screen. If Columbia Pictures had that, they would have had a hit on their hands, regardless of the plot. But no. Here is a movie that went up against “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” — and lost. As for the plot — well, where does one begin? A good place is at the streamlining factory. The movie is a screwball mess of contrived tantrums, murder cover-ups, awkward romantic asides, shoot-outs and, wedged into all of this, how the journalist Nicole Hurly (Aniston) must deal with her ex-husband, the bounty hunter Milo Boyd (Butler), when she skips a court date so she can follow through on a potentially important story. Somehow, the stars align, because out of all the bounty hunters in New Jersey, it’s naturally Milo who gets the job to bring in his ex-wife. They hate each other with a white-hot passion, but since it’s unclear why there is so much hatred between them, the movie gives you nothing to latch onto. What brought them together in the first place? Don’t know. Why should we want to see them together in the future? Don’t know, don’t care. And because you don’t care, the movie is reduced to a formulaic vanity piece of hissy fits for its two stars. The performances are adequate, but like the movie, nothing special. Aniston is Aniston. Butler is Butler. Boring is boring. Next! Rated PG-13. Grade: C-

“ER: Complete Thirteenth Season,” DVD:

The melodrama escalates to a fever pitch, but then it had to, didn’t it? This is the thirteenth season of “ER,” and the producers aren’t willing to allow fans to move away from the water cooler quietly. As such, we get 22 episodes laced with chaos and disorder, with romance and broken hearts hurtling through the doors of Chicago’s County General Hospital almost as frequently as the injured and the dying. In this season, there’s an increasing whiff of desperation about the show, likely because its original cast is gone and now we’re left with the filling. It’s slim pickings, and the screenwriters know it, which is why they push their plots to the edges with, in this season, accusations of child molesting, a malpractice suit, domestic abuse, blizzards striking, and so on. With this show, it’s all becoming rinse and repeat. Grade: C

“Hollow Man: The Director’s Cut” DVD, Blu-ray:

Nevermind the characters. The first thing to disappear in Paul Verhoeven’s 2000 film “Hollow Man” is the movie’s interest in its premise, which vanishes thanks to a script more interested in gore and horror movie cliches than in exploring the tantalizing prospects of becoming invisible. Fine special effects abound, but those effects are undermined by unremarkable characters and ridiculous exchanges of dialogue (“Let me ask you another question,” one character says. Another answers: “Is it about who’s going to be on top?”). Kevin Bacon is Sebastian Caine, an arrogant scientist who, along with a team of other scientists (played by Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Mary Jo Randle), has discovered a formula for making people invisible. After injecting himself with the formula, Caine disappears, but instead of exploring the moral ramifications of what it means for mankind to have the power of invisibility, the film instead takes the easy way out and sends Caine on a cliched killing spree. Rated R. Grade: C-

“Maggie Smith at the BBC,” DVD:

A collection of the actress’ lesser-known works: 1972’s “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Millionairess,” 1988’s “A Bed Among the Lentils,” and 1993’s “Suddenly Last Summer.” All are good, but Richard Eyre’s version of Tennessee Williams’ “Summer” is the standout. It finds Smith taking on Katharine Hepburn’s iconic role as Mrs. Venable and, in the process, smacking down poor Natasha Richardson’s Catharine with a lobotomy — her scenes opposite Richardson are alive with the mince of underhanded cruelty. What’s so impressive about the set is that regardless of how the actress challenged herself — and her willingness to do so is what makes this collection as satisfying as it is — her ability to tap into a host of different characters is never short of impressive. She makes it all look a little too easy — which, of course, it isn’t. Grade: B+

“The Judi Dench Collection,” DVD:

From the BBC, a fine gathering of the Academy Award-winning actress’ earlier works. Ten productions are highlighted, from the 1962 version of “The Cherry Orchard” with John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and Ian Holm to the 1981 version of the same movie with Bill Paterson and Anna Massey. Also included are three radio plays, the complete “Talking to a Stranger” series from 1966, 1981’s “Ghosts” with Kenneth Branagh, and 1991’s “Absolute Hell” with Bill Nighy. Among other offerings is a 20-page retrospective booklet. The collection is fit for a dame, but it’s also a swell choice for those who wish to know more about the path Dench took to become one. Grade: A-

“Phone Booth” Blu-ray:

A slick thriller peppered with plot holes and lapses in logic, but at only 81 minutes, it’s a brisk ride. The film overcomes its dated feel (sorry, but what is a phone booth?) with a strong performance by Colin Farrell as Stu Shepard, a self-involved, Manhattan-based media publicist hustling his third-rate clients to any gossip columnist who will listen. Dressed in the sort of cheap, flashy fare that suggests Madame Butterfly by way of Vinnie Barbarino, Stu is one slick, shallow hood whose life is changed when he answers a phone at one of New York City’s last telephone booths. On the other end is a madman (voice of Keifer Sutherland) who threatens to frame Stu for murder and bring him down in a hail of bullets should he leave the booth. Now, with the police pressing down around him, it’s up to Stu to figure out where this madman is hiding and what he’s trying to tell him about his own life before it’s too late. With Forest Whitaker as the cop joining Stu in learning what that game is, “Phone Booth” remains worth a look. 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 Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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