DVD reviews: 'Her,' 'That Awkward Moment' and 'I, Frankenstein'
“Her” (2013, R, 126 min., $28.98) The last of the 2014 Academy Award nominees for best picture to be released on video, “Her” was worth the wait. Written and directed by Spike Jonze, the drama was nominated for five Oscars, and it won for best original screenplay. Set in the near future, the film tells the tale of a lonely man named Theodore who's dealing with the end of a long relationship. Looking to break out of his funk, Theodore purchases a unique operating system with the potential to be perceptive and essential to his life. Upon launching it, he's greeted by Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), a female voice that appears friendly and endearing. He quickly embarks on a relationship with Samantha, appearing awkward at times, but it changes his life. Phoenix and Johansson, even though she never appears on screen, turn in remarkable performances, as they navigate a well-written screenplay by Jonze. “Her” has a strong emotional punch that has the potential to touch any person who's been through a difficult breakup. Standard DVD packages carry a making-of featurette that looks at love in the modern age. The featurette is also available on Blu-ray, along with some additional extras. 3 Stars.
“That Awkward Moment” (2014, R, 94 min., $30.99) With Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, director Tom Gormican's “That Awkward Moment” has three of the best young actors working today. Unfortunately, the guys are wasted here on a film that viewers have seen plenty of times before. Jason (Efron) and Daniel (Teller) are two young New York City guys always out to score with the ladies. When Mikey's (Jordan) marriage looks to be over, he joins the pack. The fellows head out to the bar scene, attempting to hook up and avoid relationships at every turn. That is, until each one of them meets the girl who will turn the tide, and it's pretty clear what follows. The stars do what they can to lift “That Awkward Moment,” but there's not much anyone can do with a formulaic screenplay with only a few funny moments. Efron, Jordan and Teller will be around for a long time, so this is one viewers can ignore at all costs. Blu-ray and standard DVD packages house some good special features, including a sit down with Efron, Teller and Jordan, who talk about their characters and the process of making the movie. Additional interviews are also available. A gag reel and a behind-the-scenes featurette are exclusive to Blu-ray. 1.5 Stars.
“I, Frankenstein” (2013, PG-13, 92 min., $29.95) No longer does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein lumber around, moaning about rejection. In “I, Frankenstein,” the viewer gets a sleeker creature who's been living off the reservation for centuries. His main strength is sending demons back to hell. The demons have long pursued Frankenstein, as the creature holds the key to bringing the dead back to life. Frankenstein returns to society to fight back the demons with the Order of the Gargoyles, a collection of mythical creatures who have long battled demons. When they realize that the demons have a plan to call on souls to return from Hell, Frankenstein and his Gargoyle buddies have little time to slow the uprising. With Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy in top roles, “I, Frankenstein” has a few good action sequences, but that's about all. Based on the graphic novel of the same name from Kevin Grevioux, the pic's largely boring and without much personality. Commentary and a couple of good featurettes are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray. Both featurettes explore the character of Frankenstein — played by Eckhart — and his part in the film that has elements of the action and thriller genres. 1.5 Stars.
“Overlord” (1975, NR, 83 min., $39.95) One of the latest releases from the Criterion Collection, “Overlord” comes from director Stuart Cooper. The film brings together archival war footage with a fictional plot, and it tells the story of a young soldier, as he moves from basic training to the front lines in World War II. More specifically, his small part in D-day.
“Stalingrad” (2013, R, 132 min., $30.99) Based on selected chapters from the novel “Life and Fate” by Vasiliy Grossman, “Stalingrad” follows a unit of Russian soldiers determined to hold their position against the charging German army in a destroyed city. The battle will stand as a major turning point in World War II. The pic's directed by Fedor Bondarchuk.
“In Secret” (2014, R, 101 min., $26.98) Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, Jessica Lange and Tom Felton star in a period piece set in 1860s Paris. The story follows a woman (Olsen) stuck in a lousy marriage. When she meets one of her husband's friends, a fellow named Laurent (Isaac), she follows through on an affair that will have consequences.
“After Tiller” (2013, PG-13, 85 min., $34.99) An intense documentary from Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, “After Tiller” takes a look at the four American doctors who still openly provide third-trimester abortions, and the danger they're faced with from the anti-abortion movement. It's especially dangerous after the death of abortion doctor George Tiller.
“American Jesus” (2013, NR, 67 min., $19.98) Christianity in America is the focal point of this documentary from Adam Garriga. “American Jesus” leaves no stone unturned, examining every aspect of Christianity, including pop culture, bikers, surfers, cowboys and each type of preacher. What emerges is an interesting portrait of religion in our country.
“Easy Money: Life Deluxe” (2013, NR, 127 min., $29.95) The third-and-final installment of the Swedish crime trilogy starring Joel Kinnaman follows “Easy Money” (2010) and “Easy Money II” (2012). The main character, JW (Kinnaman), is in exile, but he moves back toward the criminal underground when he realizes that his sister has gone missing.
“Special ID” (2013, R, 99 min., $24.98) Donnie Yen headlines an action-packed picture about an undercover police officer who's in deep with the mob. When a new leader emerges with the Triads, the cop, who's been working as an enforcer, looks to be out. The Triads want him dead, and only has a new partner to lean on in an attempt to stay alive.
“Deadly Code” (2013, R, 103 min., $26.98) Peter Stormare and John Malkovich star in this crime drama about a Siberian crime family forced into a town called Transnistria in 1985. As they set up shop, Grandfather Kuzya (Malkovich), the leader of the family, schools his grandson on the many facets of the criminal code that they should abide by.
“Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 2” (includes “The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel,” The Case of the Avenging Ace,” “The Case of the Lady in the Lake,” “The Case of the Lethal Lesson,” “The Case of the Musical Murder” and “The Case of the All-Star Assassin,” NR, $59.99)
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Ace in the Hole” (1951, NR, 111 min., $39.95)
“The Godfather: Part III” (1990, R, 162 min., $24.99)
“Flying Tigers” (1942, NR, 102 min., $24.95)
“Double Feature: Crocodile Dundee & Crocodile Dundee II” (1986 and 1988, PG-13 and PG, 97 and 108 min., $24.99)
“Home of the Brave” (1949, NR, 88 min., $24.95)
“Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” (2002, G, 83 min., $19.99)
TV ON DVD
“Orange is the New Black: Season One” (four discs, 13 episodes, $39.98)
“Eastbound & Down: The Complete Fourth Season” (two discs, eight episodes, $29.98)
“Longmire: The Complete Second Season” (three discs, 13 episodes, $39.98)