With intelligence, humor, a tale of racism in the '60s
A wide variety of DVDs - featuring everything from aliens to Smurfs - will be released this week. The Help (Grade B): A white aspiring writer's friendships with black maids in 1962 Mississippi results in a provocative book.
A wide variety of DVDs - featuring everything from aliens to Smurfs - will be released this week.
The Help (Grade B): A white aspiring writer's friendships with black maids in 1962 Mississippi results in a provocative book.
Director Tate Taylor has managed to pull off the nearly impossible. He created a sweet, intelligent, and serious movie about racism in the Deep South of the '60s and kept the humor that made the book by Kathryn Stockett a best seller.
The Smurfs (Grade B-minus): The original blue-man (and -girl) group lead an outing that will certainly have youngsters laughing. Hank Azaria, in an over-the-top performance, gets most of the credit for making the movie work.
Cowboys & Aliens (Grade C): Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, trades his 007 status for a six-shooter when he wakes up on the lone prairie with no memory and a weapon on his wrist that's keeping a sleepy Western town from being overrun by aliens. Harrison Ford plays the local cattle baron and bully.
Inconsistencies chip away at the action until all that's left is a mediocre action film that wastes its two big stars.
The Debt (B-minus): The story of the hunt for a Nazi war criminal. Helen Mirren stars. It takes a very talented hand to make a movie that covers two different time periods. The storytelling needs balance, or the focus falls off, and the casting has to be perfect. Director John Madden got it half right.
Friends With Benefits (Grade C-plus): Two people (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis) try to have sex without emotional ties.
The film really is like two people having sex without any obligations: Everything's OK as long as you don't need any emotional connection and just want the immediate gratification of a few jokes about romantic-comedy cliches.
Timberlake and Kunis have some chemistry and are at their best when they are trading snappy banter. A lot of that dialogue is delivered during sex scenes, and it works - for a while.
The Hangover Part II (Grade C): Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to Thailand for Stu's wedding.
The original Hangover story line about the bachelor party from hell felt forced and contrived, set against the manufactured neon lights and glitter of Las Vegas. Hangover Part II still depends on the same crude and raunchy humor, but moving the action to Thailand makes the relentless debauchery seem far more dangerous and natural.
Also new on DVD this week:
Designing Women: The Complete Fifth Season: Includes 24 episodes of the TV comedy.
Justice for Natalee Holloway: Tracy Pollan stars in this TV movie.
Law & Order: The Ninth Year: Crime-solving TV series starring Jerry Orbach.
Underbelly: The Trilogy: Three seasons of the Australian drama offered.
Thomas & Friends: Rescue on the Rails: The search-and-rescue team must save the day.
Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising: New animated series featuring shape-twisting aliens.
Worst in Show: Documentary on battle for title of world's ugliest dog.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXII: Includes "Time of the Apes," "Mighty Jack" and "The Violent Years."
The Simpsons: The Complete 14th Season: Features voice talents of Dan Castellaneta and Hank Azaria.
Mangus!: A student (Ryan Boggus) looks to win back the starring role in a high school's production of Jesus Christ Spectacular.
The Lucy Show: The Official Fifth Season: Lucy moves to Southern California.
Carlos Mencia: New Territory: Includes 30 minutes of material not seen in a Comedy Central special.
Into the Lion's Den: Thriller explores dangers of repressed lust.