New DVDs this week feature witches, wiseguys, and weird medications.
Beautiful Creatures, Grade B-minus: It's easy to try to force Beautiful Creatures, the film based on the young romance novel of the same name, into the same pigeonhole as other stories about teens - one mortal, the other supernatural. That's unfair. While the film includes the basic elements that have been used in everything from Twilight to Harry Potter, they take on a fresh look through some interesting writing, a handful of fascinating characters, and a pair of young lovers who look emotionally awake.
At its heart, there is plenty of wicked wit to go along with the wicked witches to give it a little more movie magic.
Struck by Lightning, Grade B: Chris Colfer has taken the suggestion "Write what you know" to heart. His script isn't autobiographical - he's never been hit by a lightning bolt - but it's rife with elements of his own less-than-happy high school days. He does double duty as writer and star.
There are a few problems, such as some very stereotypical characters. Do cheerleaders always have to be narcissistic witches? A secondary story line about a father seems tacked on. But, overall, the script is a solid effort by the young screenwriter.
Side Effects, Grade C: The drugs a woman is taking for depression have nasty side effects. Jude Law stars.
WARNING: Watching may cause drowsiness, blurred sense of reality, explosive confusion, and slight tingling in the logic center of your brain. This alert is necessary because the thriller from director Steven Soderbergh requires so many coincidences, chance meetings, ignored signals, and plot oversights that the surprise ending is not that surprising and the story to get there is as illegible as a doctor's handwriting.
Stand-Up Guys, Grade B: After his release from jail, a man (Al Pacino) slowly returns to his old ways. Christopher Walken costars.
The movie is at its strongest when it focuses on how it is for two longtime good friends to face a future they never expected to see. Dealing with the trials and tribulations of aging doesn't quite fit into the lifestyle of these bad boys, but it's staring them in their wrinkled faces.
Also new on DVD this week:
Perception, The Complete First Season: Eric McCormack stars in the cable series about a genius who helps solve crimes - with the help of the voices in his head.
Parker: Jason Statham plays a modern-day Robin Hood.
True Blood, The Complete Fifth Season: This season of the HBO vampire drama finds Sookie triumphant over her encounter with Marnie. Anna Paquin stars.
Captain America: Matt Salinger plays the comic-book hero in the TV movie.
Laverne & Shirley, The Sixth Season: The two close friends try to make a go of it in Los Angeles.
American Masters: Mel Brooks Make a Noise: Features new interviews with Brooks.
ABCs of Death: Includes 26 chapters exploring the concept of death.
Classic Collection: Remastered versions of The Public Enemy, White Heat, and The Petrified Forest.
Jim Jeffries, Fully Functional: Comedy special starring the Australian comedian.
National Lampoon's Vacation: Chevy Chase comedy rereleased for its 30th anniversary.