DVD reviews: 'Red' mixes action, humor
'RED' (Summit Entertainment)
Bruce Willis had a small part in “The Expendables,” an explosive extravaganza that piled in a group of veteran action stars into a 2010 film that forgot the fun. Willis' role was much more extensive in “Red,” a picture that's comparable to “The Expendables” for its action elements and veteran cast. However, “Red” had no problem adding in the humor in a plot that's long on firepower. The steady performances from Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Karl Urban and Mary-Louis Parker dress up an OK script with chemistry and delivery. The feature film follows retired CIA star Frank Moses (Willis), who's been targeted by his former employer for his part in an assignment in the 1980s. Everyone involved in the incident has been killed, and Moses is next. So he takes to the road with his new girlfriend (Parker) in an attempt to rub out the contract, and brings in some of his former colleagues to help. DVD special features are average at best. Commentary with former CIA agent Robert Baer is interesting, and it's followed up with some good deleted scenes. The best extra is an interactive feature that gives viewers the opportunity to check out videos, interviews and trivia. An interesting fact-based extra on the history of the CIA also makes its way onto most packages. PG-13; 2010. 3 Stars.
'Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer' (Magnolia Pictures)
Eliot Spitzer's future was one of great promise. He was a staunch defender of the people as the attorney general of New York, before being elected the state's governor. Then, it all collapsed. Spitzer was tied to an escort service, leading to an avalanche of horrible publicity. His resignation followed, and with it, most likely, his future in the world of politics. This riveting, although sometimes long-winded documentary from Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director of “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” plays like a well-written feature film. The filmmaker gives the viewer plenty to consider, presenting facts about Spitzer and his enemies, and including bits of suspense. The most enjoyable moments of “Client 9” feature Spitzer's targeting of Wall Street during his tenure an attorney general. Carrying loads of ambition, Spitzer took aim at the major players and brought them down. For this, he collected his fair share of enemies. Interviews with political consultant Roger Stone, AIG's Hank Greenberg and former head of the New York Stock Exchange Ken Lancone represent the opposition to Spitzer. The film leans left in various places, but the filmmaker again conjures up a winner, giving the viewer a worthy portrait of a one-time political force, derailed by his taste for high-priced call girls. The extras include an interview and commentary with Gibney, a few deleted scenes and a nice set of extended interviews. R; 2010. 3 Stars.
'Nowhere Boy' (Sony Pictures)
The mysterious early days of rock legend John Lennon are on display in this fine feature-length debut from British director Sam Taylor-Wood. At the center of the film are splendid performances from a trio of actors who pick up a screenplay hurt by bits of melodrama and fluffy writing in parts. Aaron Johnson, last seen in the 2010 hit “Kick-Ass,” is a star in the making, and his portrayal of a young Lennon lifts “Nowhere Boy” to greater heights. He gets help from talented supporting players Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne Marie Duff. The film finds Lennon in his high school days before he had picked up any type of musical instrument. He's a mischievous teen with a tough family background, and it takes music to bring some balance to his life. The beginning of Lennon's brilliant career is a major plot line here, but what sets “Nowhere Boy” apart from other Lennon pieces is the detailing of his family upbringing. Taylor-Wood handles these up-and-down moments in Liverpool nicely, and they serve as a foundation for the film. The special features hold some quality, and the one to watch is a making-of featurette that includes interviews and various aspects of the production. Extra interviews and deleted scenes are also included. R; 2009. 3 Stars.
“Secretariat” (Walt Disney Pictures)
Secretariat, arguably the greatest racehorse to ever run, captured the nation's attention in the 1970s, running away with the Triple Crown at a record-breaking pace. As far as movies go, though, this film is no “Seabiscuit.” Directed by Randall Wallace, “Secretariat,” starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich and James Cromwell, is a fine family movie, but it's hurt by cheesy moments that take from the performances and storytelling, and drowns out a potentially inspiring work. The 2003 hit “Seabiscuit” strayed from these moments, and it lead to a well-told story free of fluff. “Secretariat” follows the journey of Penny Chenery (Lane), the owner of Secretariat. Faced with money problems, Chenery decided to stick it out with Secretariat, when the horse could have fetched millions. Even when her husband and brother wanted to sell, Penny's actions produced a truly magical run by a legendary horse. The best buy for consumers is a two-disc DVD set that includes Blu-ray and standard discs. A plethora of interviews with those involved in the film and those surrounding Secretariat in the 1970s is mixed into a handsome set of featurettes. Commentary and deleted scenes are also in the DVD set. PG; 2010. 2 Stars.
OTHER MOVIE RELEASES:
• “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest” (Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, R, 2009, Music Box Films): The final installment of the Millennium Trilogy — adapted from Stieg Larsson's wildly popular set of books — arrives with an ending for the fantastic heroine Lisbeth Salander. In the finale, Salander (Rapace) is slowed down by the courts, and, for once, is depending on others to clear her name. "Hornet's Nest” is talkier than its two predecessors, but director Daniel Alfredson, who also made “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” delivers a splendid ending to this terrific international series that's already being remade for American audiences. Extras.
• “Enter the Void” (Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta, NR, 2010, IFC Films): Remarkable visuals establish “Enter the Void” as one of the brightest films of last year. Directed by Gaspar Noe, back behind the camera after eight years, the picture centers on a brother and sister trying to get by in the rough Tokyo nightlife. Indelible actions crowd their experiences in this one-of-a-kind motion picture. Extras.
• “Which Way Home” (Documentary, NR, 2009, Docurama Films): Nominated for an Academy Award last year for Best Documentary, “Which Way Home” explores the lives of children ride on Mexican freight trains in an attempt to make it to the United States. Directed by Rebecca Cammisa, follows the journey of these children in a search for a better life. With its Oscar nom, the pic also picked up an Emmy Award. Extras.
• “Saw: The Final Chapter” (Tobin Bell and Sean Patrick Flanery, R, 2010, Lionsgate Pictures): Believe it or not, this is the final installment of this horror franchise that developed the brutal legacy of Jigsaw. This picture carries the theme: Even though the centerpiece of this seven-flick franchise has gone, Jigsaw's work carries on with those who align with his beliefs. Extras.
• “Inhale” (Diane Kruger and Dermot Mulroney, NR, 2010, IFC Films): Looking to save his daughter, who needs a transplant, a man uncovers an illegal organ-trafficking ring. Does he save his daughter, and say nothing about the crime, or turn in these traffickers• Rosanna Arquette, Sam Shepard and Mia Stallard also star in this drama directed by Baltasar Kormakur.
• “Red Hill” (Ryan Kwanten and Steve Bisley, R, 2010, Sony Pictures): It's a day of havoc for a new constable (Kwanten) as he tracks a mysterious murderer who has escaped from prison and is looking for revenge in the small rural town of Red Hill. This modern-day Western brings shoot-'em-up action to the rough high country of Australia. Extras.
• “White Wedding” (Zandie Msutwanta and Kenneth Nikosi, PG-13, 2009, Image Entertainment): South Africa's submission for last year's Academy Awards, “White Wedding” is the comedic story of a bride (Msutwanta) growing impatient after the groom runs late in picking up his best man for the nuptials. Extras.
• “Adventures of Power” (Jane Lynch and Adrian Grenier, PG-13, 2008, Phase 4 Films): Power — played by Ari Gold, who also wrote and directed — has never had the cash to buy the set of drums he always wanted, but that doesn't slow him down. He becomes a natural in the art of air drumming, and it sets him off on a rocking journey. Extras.
• “No Tomorrow” (Documentary, NR, 2009, Docurama Films): Directed by Vanessa Roth and Roger Weisberg, this engrossing film guides viewers through the story of Risa Bejerano, and the trial that followed her brutal murder. The film is set to air on PBS in March. Extras.
• “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” (Naomie Harris and Andy Serkis, NR, 2010, New Video): Director Mat Whitecross brings the story of British rock pioneer and Blockheads' frontman Ian Drury to the big screen in an exciting biopic. Extras.
• “My Last Five Girlfriends” (Brendan Patrick and Michael Sheen, NR, 2010, New Video): A romantic named Duncan (Patrick) attempts to find out what went wrong in his past relationships in this romantic comedy from Julian Kemp. Extras.
• “Inspector Bellamy” (Gerard Depardieu and Marie Bunel, NR, 2010, IFC Films): Director Claude Charbrol, also known as the French Hitchcock, delivers a thrilling picture about a top-notch crime solver who's called on to investigate a crime in this suspenseful tale. Extras.
• “Primal” (Krew Boylan and Lindsay Farris, NR, 2009, IFC Films): Australia's outback is the setting for a group of young campers on a fun trip that turns into a fight for survival against an unforgiving evil. Extras.
• “Still Bill” (Documentary on musician Bill Withers, NR, 2009, extras, Docurama Films).
OTHER TV RELEASES:
• “Zorro: The Complete Series” (Henry Darrow and Don Alejandro de la Vega, 15 discs, 88 episodes, extras, A&E Home Entertainment).
• “Tupac Uncensored and Uncut: The Lost Prison Tapes” (Interviews with rapper Tupac Shakur, one disc, extras, Flatiron Film Company).