Wednesday, August 8 2012, 03:53 PM MDT
DVD and Blu-ray New Releases for May 22, 2012
Reviews of this week's new DVD and Blu-ray Releases
by Ryan Painter
This week’s DVD and Blu-ray releases are highlighted by Disney’s release of Studio Ghibli’s brilliant “The Secret World of Arrietty” as well as Daniel Radcliffe’s creepy thriller “The Woman in Black,” McG’s action romance “This Means War” and Lucasfilm’s movie about the Tuskegee Airmen “Red Tails.”
Those feeling a bit nostalgic for the 1980s will want to indulge in the Blu-ray release of “The Lethal Weapon Collection” or “Worried About the Boy,” a BBC2 biopic on Boy George.
Gamers will want to add “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Alpha” to their collections and those looking for a strange Japanese splatter film should consider the gleeful insanity of “Mutant Girls Squad.”
Worried About the Boy (DVD)
Julian Jarrold’s biopic of pre-fame George O’Dowd, better known as Boy George, is an interesting look at London’s underbelly where the ’70s punk aesthetic gave way to the ’80s New Romanticism. It’s not the most pleasant journey, but if it were it wouldn’t be nearly as captivating. “Worried About the Boy” is the spiritual sequel to Alex Cox’s “Sid and Nancy,” only this time the subject, O’Dowd, is alive to play script consultant giving the film a sense of credibility that Cox’s film was never granted.
The Secret World of Arrietty (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Produced by Studio Ghibli, the studio behind “Ponyo” and “Spirited Away,” “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a gorgeous film based on Mary Notron’s novel “The Borrowers.” The film tells the story of a young boy who is sent to live with his aunt and discovers that a family of inch-tall people lives beneath the floorboards of the house.
Whereas Ghibli classics like “Princess Mononoke” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” were a bit bizarre, particularly to Western audiences, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is the most straightforward and accessible film to come from the studio. It is breathtakingly beautiful and, while the story does have some slow moments, ranks among my favorite animated films to be released in the past few years.
The Lethal Weapon Collection (Blu-ray)
Richard Donner’s “Lethal Weapon” might not have invented the buddy cop film but it certainly revived it. The film would spawn three sequels and opened the door for films like “Rush Hour” and “Bad Boys” to get made. The formula isn’t very complex: take two mismatched misfit cops, send them off on an adventure and see what comedy and chaos follows. Simplicity isn’t always a bad thing and the recipe works extremely well in the first two films. Mostly because Mel Gibson and Danny Glover have a magical chemistry that elevates the movie above its clichéd premise. The third film doesn’t hold up so well, but the fourth, thanks to a proper nemesis in Jet Li’s Wah Sing Ku, finishes off the franchise nicely.
The Woman in Black (DVD and Blu-ray)
“The Woman in Black” is a strange little horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe (AKA Harry Potter) as a young and widowed lawyer that is forced to travel to a remote village where he must dig through the dusty stacks of paper of a strange man who recently died. The problem being that none of the villagers seem interested in helping him perform his task or reveal the secrets that they are all clearly harboring.
“The Woman in Black” is a bit odd and doesn’t always make sense. It’s gorgeous to look at and the performances are quite good but the story doesn’t exactly add up. That’s not particularly uncommon in horror films, but “The Woman in Black” seems to want to be a cerebral film. It just never manages to be as smart as it should be. That said, those looking for something creepy with manufactured scares (loud noises, things jumping out at you etc.) the film will work just fine.
Red Tails (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
“Red Tails” tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American service men in the United States Army Air Force, and the hurdles of racism that they are forced to jump their way through to simply have the opportunity to fight in World War II. George Lucas has been trying to make this film for nearly 20 years and while it is a noble and important part of American history “Red Tails” doesn’t exactly due the story justice. The film suffers from the sort of silly dialogue and stiff performances that plagued the Star Wars prequels. The action scenes are fairly impressive and if you’re able to simply sit back and enjoy the film as popcorn spectacle it might work for you. I just wanted it to be more than cotton candy. Those looking for a more serious take on the story should seek out HBO’s “The Tuskegee Airmen” starring Laurence Fishburne.
This Means War (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo)
FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck Henson (Tom Hardy) are best friends and CIA agents relegated to desk duty after a mission in Hong Kong goes terribly wrong. Tuck, looking to reboot his life, tries online dating while FDR, a playboy with no problem attracting women, simply carries on. Somehow they both end up dating the same woman, Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon). With access to all espionage perks of the CIA the duo wage war against each other in an attempt to win Lauren’s heart.
“This Means War” is an action film with somewhat raunchy tone due to supporting cast member Chelsea Handler’s sense of humor. The action sequences are wild but the romantic elements fall flat, as none of the characters are particularly likeable. The film wants to be funny but simply feels crude.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Alpha (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
“Ghost Recon Alpha” is a live-action prequel to the videogame “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier.” For what it is “Ghost Recon Alpha” is quite good. With only a 25-minute runtime there isn’t time to develop any of the characters or provide much of a plot but the action is quick and fast and the special effects are surprisingly convincing. It’s a shame that they couldn’t make a feature-length film. Fans of the videogame franchise will most definitely want to add this to their collection.
Mutant Girls Squad (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Rin, a seemingly typical Japanese schoolgirl, discovers on her 16th birthday that she’s actually an alien with the ability to transform her right hand into a demon-like claw (augmented with guitar strings). During her birthday party a force of samurai warriors with guns strapped to their noses brutally (and comically) kill her parents. Rin flees leaving a wake of bloody carnage behind her. Taken in by a group of militant aliens Rin is taught to control her powers (referred to as “treasures”), but will she use them to for revenge or search for a way to bring peace between the humanity and her alien race?
If you’re looking for an absurd film filled with over-the-top action, bizarre dialogue, decapitation, dismemberment and fountains of red Kool-Aide substituting for blood you can’t go wrong with “Mutant Girls Squad.” If you’re looking for something remotely serious or gore that is realistic you’d be best to avoid the film altogether.