May 30, 2020
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DVD Corner

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN

“Law Abiding Citizen” DVD, Blu-ray: A stupid revenge fantasy that aims to expose the perversion of the American judicial system. Jamie Foxx is Nick Rice, a Philadelphia district attorney with a white-hot conviction record. Gerard Butler is Clyde Shelton, a family man with a hidden past who is out to smoke some meat. When two men break into Clyde’s home and kill his wife and daughter, they’re quickly apprehended, but for Clyde, justice isn’t served. So he hands out a little justice of his own. Let’s just say that what he does is brutal, it lands him in jail, and from that position — even in solitary confinement — he mysteriously manages to wreak havoc on all those he deems corrupt within the system. As people die, so does the film itself. Worse, the audience never is sure how to feel about Clyde. You sympathize with him when he seeks revenge on the men who murdered his family, but when he starts murdering people simply on the grounds that they work within a flawed system, that sympathy falters. And so, sandbagged with its muddled message and its so-so performances, “Law Abiding Citizen” is a hollow bag of disappointments. Rated R. Grade: D+

“The Ladykillers” Blu-ray: Joel and Ethan Coen’s “The Ladykillers” is a loose remake of the 1955 Ealing original starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. That film was a comedy of manners set in London, and it found Guinness and company using a sweet old lady’s house as a base of operations to pull off a daring heist. In the Coens’ hands, the story becomes a comedy of grotesque manners set in rural Mississippi that follows a group of eccentric crooks using a God-fearing old lady’s house as the base of operations to steal $1.6 million from a riverboat casino. Just as in the original, the plot turns to getting rid of the woman, here played by the marvelous Irma P. Hall in a comic performance that’s the highlight of the movie. The Coens wrote the script and they offer big laughs, some so outrageous — the untimely demise of a dog, the botched holdup of a doughnut shop — they create a buzz. So does Tom Hanks as the frothy, melodious Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D. — the chief crook with a high-end vocabulary who heads this operation. With his pudgy face, dingy white suit and piggish eyes, he recalls Tennessee Williams by way of Foghorn Leghorn. He’s a caricature — as are all of the characters — and he obviously came to have a good time. Supporting players include Marlon Wayans as a gun-wielding casino janitor, Tzi Ma as a smoky, former Vietnamese general who sports a Hitler moustache, Ryan Hurst as a hunk of beef who somehow is dumber than he looks, and J.K. Simmons as gung-ho bomb expert Garth Pancake, a man whose love for the mountainous Mountain Girl (Diane Delano) apparently knows few limits. The movie is filled with great, intentionally repetitive touches, and a gospel soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett that could raise the dead. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“Million Dollar Baby” Blu-ray: From Clint Eastwood, the story of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a 31-year-old, self-described piece of “trash” whose dream is to become a prizewinning boxer under Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), a gruff boxing trainer and manager who “doesn’t train girlies” and who wants Maggie out of his gym. But Maggie isn’t going anywhere. With the encouragement of Frankie’s best friend, Scrap (Morgan Freeman), who narrates the film and helps to manage Frankie’s gym, Maggie perseveres until Frankie acquiesces. He agrees to train her and manage her, so long as she does things his way. While there’s nothing new in that story, it’s what Eastwood does with it that makes “Million Dollar Baby” worth the award-winning accolades it received. The film is about the surrogate families we create for ourselves — the relationships we choose to have, rather than the relationships born out of blood. It creates an emotional bond with its audience that’s as solid and meaningful as anything shared between its characters. You invest yourself so completely in the story — and in the lives of Frankie, Maggie and Scrap — that by the time Eastwood drives home his final, awful twist, you’re left devastated and spent. Superbly crafted and acted, with an unassuming score composed by Eastwood himself, “Million Dollar Baby” remains timeless, classic, seemingly effortless. Rated PG-13. Grade: A

“Training Day” Blu-ray: Purely for the purist. Its appearance on Blu-ray presents the opportunity to watch Denzel Washington bully the screen in high definition — you can see his pores, and really, what’s better than that? As Alonzo Harris, a dirty LAPD narcotics cop out to prove to the world that he’s one mean SOB worth fearing, Washington’s performance is at once compelling and repelling. He’s a larger-than-life caricature, uncontainable onscreen. Ethan Hawke is his rookie partner, with whom he shares one orchestrated, bloody day. Fans will appreciate the print. Shame it’s better than the movie. Rated R. Grade: C+

“The Warrior”: Asif Kapadia’s debut film mines a sort of derivative beauty. Set in ancient India, the film is laced with inspiration and redemption. The inspiration comes from Akira Kurosawa, from whom Kapadia has learned plenty. The redemption comes from the central character, Lafcadia (Irrfan Khan), who has chosen to remove himself from a life of violence. It’s a decision that leads him to a spiritual awakening, one dramatically heightened when an assassin takes chase in an effort to chop off Lafcadia’s head. Some moments are undeniably powerful, while others languish. Still, a fine, recommended first effort. Grade: B

Also on DVD and Blu-ray disc:

Also available on DVD are several television series, including “Dynasty: Season Four, Vol. 2,” which is a howler, bringing with it such torrid episodes as “The Nightmare,” “The Vigil” and “Seizure.” Essentially, the show is a defecation of diamonds, scotch, botched affairs and mud fights, with John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins continuing to embrace their low-rent doom with high-end style. Camp also can be found in the ninth season of “Beverly Hills 90210,” which continues to be fueled by the amusing wrecking ball that is Tiffani-Amber Thiessen’s Valerie Malone. She doesn’t take humanity to the lows achieved by Shannen Doherty’s Brenda, but you have to give it to Thiessen — she has her moments. Throughout this season, there’s more gossip to fill a week’s worth of posts at PerezHilton.com, which is just how fans want it. On those terms, it succeeds. Finally, look to the final season of the military crime drama “JAG,” with David James Elliott and Catherine Bell, and especially don’t miss Edie Falco in the first season of “Nurse Jackie” — she’s as terrific as the writing, which is fueled with a welcome edge and wit. Not recommended under any circumstance is “Vega$: First Season, Volume 2,” a creeky old relic from the ’70s that features Robert Urich as private eye Dan Tanna. The stories are beyond inane, though given the sorry treatment of women, they do give insight into the women’s movement of the time. While viewing it, it’s difficult not to feel claustrophobic, much like the casinos themselves, which look as if they reek of smoke and Aqua Velva. Neither is pleasant, like the show itself.

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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