DVD reviews: ‘The Giver,’ ‘The Expendables 3’ and ‘What If’
“The Giver” (2014, PG-13, 97 min., $29.98) Adapted from Lois Lowry’s incredibly popular, yet controversial 1993 children’s novel of the same name, “The Giver” is not a good retelling of the story. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the movie fails to capture the magic of the book, only scratching the surface. Performances from Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites and Meryl Streep are positives, and readers who enjoyed Lowry’s novel might get something out of it. But, overall, “The Giver” is a disappointing pic that doesn’t delve deep enough into the subject matter. The film follows a young man named Jonas (Thwaites) who is chosen for a special task in the world of conformity in which he lives. Jonas is paired with a man named The Giver (Bridges) to learn his new role, and the experience exposes him to a whole new world. The Giver enables Jonas to see what the real world is like, and that includes everything between love and war. As a result, Jonas sets out to change his colorless world by bringing truth to those people in his world. Standard DVDs don’t carry much in the way of special features, but Blu-ray packages are loaded with making-of featurettes, interviews with the cast and crew and an original script reading. 2 stars
“The Expendables 3” (2014, PG-13, 126 min., $29.95) Sylvester Stallone and his stable of action stars return for another explosive adventure. It’s heaven for action fans, but too much of the same thing for everybody else. In this installment, Barney (Stallone) — the group’s leader — is sent by the CIA on a mission to take down an old nemesis: Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a dangerous arms dealer. Barney assembles a new team of youngsters to mesh with his veteran buddies. Along with Stallone, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture return to their original roles. The smart additions of Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer and Wesley Snipes provide a fresh lift, but it’s not enough to lift this formulaic film above the usual action sequences and wise-cracking humor. Extras. only to be found in Blu-ray packages, include a documentary on the production and a couple of making-off featurettes that focus on the filming of the action scenes and newest members of the cast. 2 stars
“What If” (2013, PG-13, 98 min., $30.99) Canadian filmmaker Michael Dowse, working from a screenplay from Elan Mastai, delivers a smart and charming romantic dramedy in “What If,” a picture that makes great use of the chemistry between the lead actors Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. The film follows the unlucky-in-love life of Wallace (Radcliffe), a medical-school dropout dealing with a broken heart. At a friend’s party, he meets Chantry (Kazan), a good-looking girl and immediately falls for her. The only problem is that she’s in a five-year relationship. The more time Wallace and Chantry spend together, the more they realize they have in common. Thus begins a familiar narrative that’s certainly been done before. Far from original, the film works because of its smart dialogue and the connection between Radcliffe and Kazan. Supporting roles from Mackenzie Davis, Adam Driver and Megan Park add heft. Standard DVDs carry a couple of short making-of featurettes, while Blu-ray sets have additional featurettes on the making of the film and some deleted scenes. 2 1⁄2 stars
“The November Man” (2014, R, 108 min., $29.98) Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey and Olga Kurylenko star in filmmaker Roger Donaldson’s action-packed crime thriller about a retired CIA operative brought back into the fold to extract an agent from a mission in Russia. The movie’s adapted from an installment of Bill Granger’s “November Man” novel series.
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas — The Movie” (2013, PG-13, 100 min., $29.95) Tough-loving Madea (Tyler Perry) is talked into spending Christmas in a rural town with a friend and her daughter. Surprises await Madea and friends, in preparation for a Christmas carnival. Kathy Najimy, Chad Michael Murray and Anna Maria Horsford star alongside Perry.
“Touch of the Light” (2012, NR, 110 min., $24.98) Directed by Chang Jung-Chi, “Touch of the Light” takes a look at the strong relationship built by a blind piano student named Siang (Huang Yu-Siang playing himself) and an ambitious waitress who dreams of becoming a dancer named Jie (Sandrine Pinna). Together, they tackle the world around them.
“Tyler Perry’s Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned: The Play” (2013, NR, 117 min., $19.98)
TV on DVD
“The Definitive WWI and WWII Collection” (20 discs, nine programs, $99.98)