DVD reviews: 'Divergent,' 'Need for Speed' and 'Ping Pong Summer'
“Divergent” (2014, PG-13, 139 min., $29.95) Another day, another dystopian teen film taken from a bestselling novel. That's the gist of “Divergent,” based on the popular book of the same name from Veronica Roth. It's set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are placed into groups based on a test given during adolescence. Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) finds out she has no classification, therefore she's considered a Divergent. She fakes it to make it. When Beatrice realizes there's going to be an upheaval in the classification process, she takes action. She'll have to accept her role as a Divergent to stay alive. The film is boosted by great performances from Woodley and Theo James, but it doesn't bring anything new to the popular teen science-fiction genre. The plot is largely predictable, and most of the characters possess little imagination. Let's hope the 2015 sequel is an improvement. A couple of good making-of featurettes are exclusive to the Blu-ray, and commentary from director Neil Burger and deleted scenes are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray. 2 Stars.
“Need for Speed” (2014, PG-13, 130 min., $29.99) Loosely based on the video game of the same name, “Need for Speed” is a lighter version of something viewers might expect in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. Directed by Scott Waugh, this racing pic tracks a rivalry that began in New York with Tobey (Aaron Paul), a legendary driver who took over his father's garage, and Dino (Dominic Cooper), a racer that moved on to the big leagues. The rivalry subsides for a second, when Dino and Tobey work together on a car, but picks up rather quickly when the job is done. A race between the two leads to a terrible accident that lands Tobey in jail, but once he gets out, he's looking to clear his name and blow Dino away in a popular road race. The racing scenes are right up there with the best, but that's where the magic ends. Despite the twists and turns on the road, there aren't many in a plot that suspends belief in a few too many instances. Despite decent performances from Paul and Cooper, none of these characters are original. Blu-ray packages carry a couple of good featurettes that explore the production of the film. Standard DVDs don't have too much to offer. 2 Stars.
“Ping Pong Summer” (2014, NR, 92 min., $28.99) Feeling nostalgic for the 1980s? “Ping Pong Summer,” written and directed by Michael Tully, should fill the void. The old-school dramedy follows a teen named Rad (Marcello Conte), whose interests include rap music and ping pong. The year is 1985, and Rad hits the road to Ocean City, Md., for a family vacation. When Rad hits the streets of Ocean City, he quickly finds a friend in Teddy (Myles Massey), who introduces him to an arcade room that houses a ping pong table. It's also where all the kids hang out. There, Rad runs into Lyle (Joe McCaughtry), a town bully who terrorizes him. When Rad challenges Lyle to a ping pong match, it catches the attention of the whole town. Tully's pic is some kind of mix between “The Karate Kid” and “Napolean Dynamite.” It has a nice mix of quirky and heart-warming moments that make for a fun and exciting, coming-of-age movie. Not all of the jokes land, but this is a flick that deserves a look. That's especially true for those longing for the '80s. Standard DVD and Blu-ray packages carry commentary and a good making-of featurette with plenty of interviews. 2.5 Stars.
“Oculus” (2013, R, 104 min., $29.98) Mike Flanagan wrote and directed this horror film about a brother and sister that set out to destroy a mirror that one of them has just bought at an auction. The mirror, thought to have supernatural powers has a history with the family, and the two of them hold it responsible for a tragic event in their past.
“I'll Follow You Down” (2013, NR, 93 min., $24.98) Oscar nominee Haley Joel Osment is making his way back into movies, and he stars in director Richie Mehta's film about a scientist who disappears, leaving a mother and son behind. Some years later, the son also moves into science, and he uncovers some info that might help him find his father.
“12 O'Clock Boys” (2014, NR, 76 min., $34.99) Lotfy Nathan's fast-paced documentary follows a pack of urban dirt bike riders that cause much havoc in the streets of Baltimore, moving at excessive speeds and weaving in and out of traffic. Nathan gives an up-close look at the gang and a young boy who would do anything to join them.
“The Trip to Bountiful” (2014, NR, 90 min., $14.98) Michael Wilson's TV movie, based on Horton Foote's play of the same name, recently picked up two Emmy nominations, including one for its star, Cicely Tyson. The pic follows a widow who's able to bust out of her son's cramped apartment and head back to her beloved hometown for a visit.
“Made in America” (2013, NR, 93 min., $19.99) Ron Howard turns to the documentary genre for his latest project, giving viewers a backstage pass to the music festival created by rap mogul Jay Z. The movie includes musical performances from acts like Pearl Jam, Run-D.M.C., Kanye West and Jill Scott, as it explores how the festival comes together.
“Around the Block” (2013, NR, 104 min., $19.97) Christina Ricci stars in filmmaker Sarah Spillane's drama about a teacher who moves to Australia to be with her fiance. She's hired by a local school, and takes charge of its play production. Looking for talent, she finds Liam, a troubled young man with talent, and tries to steer him in the right direction.
“Tarzan” (2013, PG, 94 min., $19.98) Director Reinhard Kloos puts the classic story in animated form in a feature that includes voice work from Spencer Locke and Jaime Ray Newman. The story here follows a young boy who's raised by gorillas in the jungles of Africa. The adventure picks up when Tarzan meets his Jane.
“Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 3” (three discs, includes “The Case of the Poisoned Pen,” “The Case of the Desperate Deception,” “The Case of the Silenced Figure,” “The Case of the Defiant Daughter,” “The Case of the Ruthless Reporter” and “The Case of the Maligned Mobster,” $59.99)
New on Blu-ray
“The Full Monty” (1997, R, 91 min., $19.99)
TV on DVD
“Community: The Complete Fifth Season” (two discs, 13 episodes, $45.99)
“The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season” (two discs, 10 episodes, $29.98)
“Ja'mie: Private School Girl” (two discs, six episodes, $29.98)