DVD reviews: 'Trouble with the Curve,' 'Total Recall' and 'Arbitrage'
“Trouble with the Curve” (2012, PG-13, 111 min., $28.98). The most interesting thing about “Trouble With the Curve” is that it's the first film Clint Eastwood's starred in, but hasn't directed since 1993. Other than that, director Robert Lorenz's picture isn't all that good. Eastwood is one note here, turning in another crusty performance, and the storyline is all-too predictable. The picture has a couple of saving graces in Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams, but they're not enough to turn around a below-average flick about family and baseball. The film follows Eastwood, an old-fashioned scout for the Atlanta Braves who is struggling with his eyesight. Even worse, a young scout (Matthew Lillard) is looking to force Gus (Eastwood) out of his job. As his struggles continue, Gus gets some help from his lawyer daughter Mickey (Adams), who's been asked to help out by some of Gus' friends. Things start out rough for the two, but they manage to work on their relationship while helping Gus check out a major prospect for the upcoming draft. Along the way, they're joined by Johnny (Timberlake), another scout who's got eyes for Mickey. Special features aren't too good for “Trouble with the Curve,” and they include a couple of featurettes on the game of baseball and the production of the film. Commentary with Eastwood and Lorenz might've been a good addition. 2 Stars.
“Total Recall” (2012, PG-13, 118 min., $30.99). Lots of unnecessary movies are being made these days, as the popularity of remakes and sequels continues to flourish. Director Len Wiseman's “Total Recall,” a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger picture of the same name, falls into that category. Yes, Wiseman was able to make some impressive improvements in special effects and action set pieces, and Colin Farrell is fine in his lead role, but, at its core, this is the lesser adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” This isn't as much fun as the original, as the new, shinier version takes itself way too serious. Douglas Quaid (Farrell), an average guy in the far-off future, is the focus of “Total Recall.” On a visit to a company named Rekall — they can turn your fantasies into real memories — Doug is exposed as a spy opposing the powers in place in his world. Upon his discovery, he has to run for his life, but he has some people in place willing to help. He'll need it if he wants to find his identity. Sony's included some fantastic special features in standard DVD and Blu-ray packages. Fans of the film will want to pick up the combo pack, because it carries an extended cut of “Total Recall.” There are also lots of good-looking featurettes, and they give viewers a fantastic idea of how Wiseman and his team shot the action scenes. 2 Stars.
“Arbitrage” (2012, R, 107 min., $19.98). If there's one film that's unfairly flown under the radar in 2012, it's “Arbitrage,” the surprisingly fresh feature-length debut of Nicholas Jarecki as a screenwriter and director. The thriller should be classified as one of the best pictures of the year. It has an edge-of-your-seat storyline and unflinching performances. The most memorable of those roles is the one played by Richard Gere, who turns in one of the best performances of his career. Gere plays a hedge-fund magnate named Robert Miller who looks to be at the top of his game. Look a little closer, though, and Robert is in big trouble. A bad deal has robbed him of millions of dollars, and the only way to survive is to sell his company. Robert uses his far-reaching power and illegal tactics to make his company look enticing, but it's going to take a lot of work. Then, just when things couldn't get any worse, he's involved in a fatal accident that has the NYPD pointing fingers. Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling also star. Fortunately, special features are the same on Blu-ray and standard DVD, and a must-see is the featurette titled “Who is Robert Miller?” Members of the cast and crew weigh in on the remarkable character played by Gere. Another featurette takes a deep look at the film's plot and its characters. Deleted scenes and commentary are also here. 3.5 Stars.
“Sleepwalk with Me” (2012, PG-13, 90 min., $24.98). Certainly one of the funniest independent pictures of the year, “Sleepwalk With Me” is the story of comedian Mike Birbiglia and his struggles with sleepwalking. Produced by the guys responsible for “This American Life,” the film honestly tackles the troubles the comedian faces.
“Pitch Perfect” (2012, PG-13, 112 min., $29.98). A young woman named Beca (Anna Kendrick) heads off to college, and, eventually, realizes she doesn't fit in with most of the cliques on campus. That is until she discovers an all-girls singing group on campus, and it turns out to be perfect. Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow also star.
“Liberal Arts” (2012, PG-13, 97 min., $24.98). “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radnor follows up 2010's “HappyThankYouMorePlease,” his directorial debut, with this romantic comedy about a 35-year-old man who returns to his alma mater and falls in love with the college life all over again.
“Killer Joe” (2011, R, 102 min., $19.98). The legendary William Friedkin returns to the director's chair for this dark thriller about a young man in debt who hires a hit man to kill his mother. This way, the man can collect her insurance money and pay off his collectors. The film stars Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple and Matthew McConaughey.
“Premium Rush” (2012, PG-13, 91 min., $30.99). Two of the better actors working today — Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon — have lead roles in this adventurous picture about a New York City bicycle messenger who's life turns upside down when he receives his final delivery of the day.
“The Good Doctor” (2011, PG-13, 91 min., $26.98). Orlando Bloom and Riley Keough star in this interesting drama about a young doctor (Bloom) who's having problems with his confidence. However, when he properly assists a woman (Keough) with a kidney disorder, he obsessively attempts to remain in her service or risk losing his confidence.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” (2012, PG, 94 min., $29.98). The third installment in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” film series, this latest outing has Greg (Zachary Gordon), the lead wimp, being unable to stay out of trouble with his father (Steve Zahn). With his dad threatening military school, Greg tries his hardest to be good, but it keeps backfiring.
“2 Days in New York” (2012, R, 91 min., $26.98). Julie Delpy directs and stars, alongside comedian Chris Rock, in this comedy about a couple living in New York City with their cat and two young children from previous relationships. Everything is going fine until Marion's (Delpy) father, oversexed sister and her sister's boyfriend arrive.
“Black Like Me” (1964, NR, 105 min., $24.95). Based on the important 1961 book of the same name from John Howard Griffin, this movie presents Griffin's attempt to darken his skin, and travel through the deep South as a black man. It's here where he encounters severe racism from white and black people.
“Forced to Fight” (2011, NR, 100 min., $27.97). Once a legendary underground fighter, Shane (Gary Daniels) has promised his family he's done with that life. Unfortunately, Shane's brother runs into some trouble with a crime boss (Peter Weller). To pay off his brother's debts and protect his family, Shane must head back to the ring.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Les Miserables” (Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman, 1998, PG-13, 134 min., $19.99)
TV ON DVD
“Californication: The Fifth Season” (David Duchovny and Madeleine Martin, two discs, 12 episodes, $46.99)
“Funny or Die Presents: The Complete Second Season” (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, two discs, 10 episodes, $29.98)
“House of Lies: The First Season” (Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell, two discs, 12 episodes, $46.99)
“The Life & Times of Tim: The Complete Third Season” (voices from Steve Dildarian and Mary Jane Otto, two discs, 10 episodes, $29.98)
“Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution: Season 2” (stand-up comedy, one disc, six episodes, $19.99)