DVD reviews: ‘Kids’ features strong cast, story
‘The Kids Are All Right’ (Universal Pictures)
An early favorite to haul away some hardware during awards season, “The Kids are All Right” features a collection of sterling performances, especially from Annette Benning, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. Director Lisa Cholodenko, who also penned the screenplay with Stuart Blumberg, offers up an adventurous story helped along with a nice balance of drama and comedy. The picture puts a lesbian couple, together with two young adults (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), in the middle of a family crisis. The curious kids, raised by Nic (Benning) and Jules (Moore), decide to find their donor dad (Mark Ruffalo). When the kids meet Paul, an easy-going restaurateur, they warm up to him immediately. Eventually, Jules does, as well. Unfortunately, Nic is the lone holdout to taking a shine to Paul, and it puts strain on this modern family. Bringing Paul in is an option, but his presence also causes strife. Warm and smart, “The Kids Are All Right” does well in presenting a different family model to viewers, and through its plot, it clearly states that this diverse household is not without the same problems present among the Norman Rockwell types. The film is entirely relatable, and offers enjoyably emotional moments of levity, tension and passion. With its strong cast and fresh plotline, “The Kids are All Right” does stand out as one of the better films of 2010. There are some strong special features to follow up this motion picture. Two strong extras — “The Journey to Forming a Family” and “The Writers’ Process” — put emphasis on Cholodenko, and her work on the screenplay and her influences. Cholodenko commentary is also a strong tool in detailing the production process. A making-of featurette has more concentration on the cast. R; 2010. 3.5 Stars.
‘Best Worst Movie’ (New Video/Docurama Films)
The 1990 horror flick “Troll 2” carries a reputation as one of the worst films ever made. The picture carries with it a collection of dishonors, but somehow, it now stands as a cult classic. “Best Worst Movie” explores this phenomenon, and it does it wonderfully. This is the most fun anyone can have with a documentary, a genre that’s usually heavy on the serious stuff. Directed by Michael Stephenson, unbelievably one of the stars of “Troll 2,” the film gathers all of the main players from a movie that coincidentally didn’t have any trolls at all. No, it was vegetarian goblins that reigned down the frights in the stinky film. The documentary explores the embarrassment of the actors that starred in “Troll 2,” and their surprise in folks gathering all over the country to take in a movie that was a career killer for all of them. A highlight of the picture is George Hardy, who played the father in “Troll 2.” Now a dentist in Alabama, the sunny Hardy is fantastic in enjoying a newfound celebrity status, much to his surprise. Another cache for Stephenson’s doc is the spirited director of “Troll 2.” Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso still characterizes his 1990 work a great picture, and he’ll hear nothing else. All of the aspects add up to a terrific journey that takes plenty of offbeat twists and turns in the exploration of a picture that turned out to be so bad it was good. Also in house is a fine collection of special features. A large set of deleted scenes act as an appetizer for a wide variety of interviews. Most fun, though, are the contributions — videos and trailers — from the film’s fans. NR; 2009. 3.5 Stars.
‘Lottery Ticket’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Filmmaker Erik White, making his feature-length debut as a writer and director here, had to be a big fan of the 1995 classic “Friday.” White’s “Lottery Ticket,” while different in plot, shares a lot of the same characteristics as the funny F. Gary Gray pic. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as enjoyable. While it features a great cast — Bow Wow, Charlie Murphy, Brandon T. Jackson, Keith David, Ice Cube and Gbenga Akinnagbe have big roles — it feels formulaic and most characters are familiar ones. Sure, there are some laughs here, but the majority of the jokes are recycled. The film follows a young fellow named Kevin (Bow Wow) who lives in a rough neighborhood with his grandmother (Loretta Devine). When Kevin wins the lottery — $370 million — he tries to keep it a secret, but that does not last long. His grandmother spills, and soon, the whole neighborhood is bugging the brand-new millionaire for cash. As these films go, the once-unattainable beauty makes a move on Kevin; he has plenty of new friends and a shady business partner. Surviving a holiday weekend — with the lottery office closed — turns out to be a tremendous time of turbulence for Kevin and his best friend (Jackson). Surviving the neighborhood convict (Akinnagbe) and keeping his wits are a real impossibility for Kevin. A Blu-ray combo is the best buy for consumers, as a scaled-down standard DVD only has deleted scenes. A nice collection of featurettes explores the cast, production and some of the aspects of the plot. A set of deleted scenes are also available on the combo pack. PG-13; 2010. 2 Stars.
‘Vengeance’ (IFC Films)
Fillmmaker Johnnie To has established himself as one of the best action-movie directors working today. The Hong Kong native has a handful of knockout film to his credit, and “Vengeance” joins the list. Carrying aspects from 1992’s “Unforgiven” — the main protagonist is looking for revenge in Western-style shoot ‘em up in the modern-day streets of Hong Kong — and 2000’s “Memento” — that same protagonist has some memory problems because of a clash from his past — “Vengeance” is a splendid picture that’s able to mix in dynamite action sequences with plot development in a well-balanced film. Toss in a memorable performance from Johnny Hallyday, and “Vengeance” stands tall as one of the better action movies of the year. “Vengeance” follows the character of Costello (Hallyday), a French restaurateur who comes to China to dish out justice after Chinese gangsters leave his daughter for dead and kill her husband and kids. Not familiar with China, Costello seeks some pro assassins to help in his revenge. As Costello works to uncover the killers, the plot takes him up to one of the most powerful crime lords in the world. Outnumbered and outgunned, Costello and his recruits set their sights on the boss in trying to deliver the type of vengeance that will suit Costello. Special features are kind of skimpy here, only holding a decent making-of featurette and a couple of trailers. The making-of extra covers some of the production, but, tends to lean toward the presence of To and Hallyday, also known to many as the French Elvis Presley. NR; 2009. 3 Stars.
OTHER MOVIE RELEASES
• “Modern Times” (Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, 1936, NR, Criterion Collection): A true treat for movie fans, Charlie Chaplin’s classic take on industry and class struggle during the Great Depression is enhanced by greater audio and fully restored video for Criterion. Most experts will refer to this masterpiece — Chaplin’s last outing as the Little Tramp — as one of the best pictures ever made. The legendary actor is at the peak of his acting ability here in this ingenious film. Extras.
• “The Lightkeepers” (Blythe Danner and Richard Dreyfuss, PG, 2009, Image Entertainment): Romance is the centerpiece of this friendly drama set in 1912 about two guys who’ve given up on love. Things change when a couple of beautiful women show up in their lives. Extras.
• “Ramona and Beezus” (Selena Gomez and Joey King, G, 2010, 20th Century Fox): Based on the popular books from Beverly Cleary, this coming-of-age comedy is about two young sisters finding their ways in life. Together, they’ll realize that anything’s possible when they have each other to lean on. Extras.
• “The Possession of David O’Reilly” (Giles Alderson and Zoe Richards, NR, 2010, IFC Films): Drawing comparisons to “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity,” this debut from filmmakers Andrew Cull and Steve Isles follows about a young man who’s brought an evil force into his friends’ London household. Extras.
• “Exam” (Colin Salmon and Luke Mably, 2009, NR, IFC Films): Script doctor Stuart Hazeldine makes his debut as a writer and director for this feature that comes around just in time for a troubled economy. The thriller focuses on eight young hopefuls vying for a job with a mysterious company. Extras.
• “Fear Me Not” (Ulrich Thomsen and Paprika Steen, 2008, NR, IFC Films): In this film from talented director Kristian Levring, an accomplished middle-aged man struggles with depression and decides to become a guinea pig for a new drug to combat his problem. The drug solves his depression, but greatly affects his outlook. Extras.
• “Don’t Look Back” (Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci, 2009, NR, IFC Films): This original thriller from writer and director Marina de Van’s centers on a troubled woman trying to find meaning in her confused life. Her answer is to morph into an entirely different body, and the transformation uncovers a huge secret. Extras.
• “A Christmas Carol” (Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman, PG, 2009, Walt Disney Pictures): An age-old tale is brought to life again by Disney, as a talented cast — Collin Firth, Bob Hoskins and Robin Wright also star — adds weight to Charles Dickens’ story about the Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future. Extras.
• “16 Wishes” (Debby Ryan and Jean-Luc Bilodeau, 2010, G, extras, Image Entertainment).
• “Mrs. Miracle” (James Van Der Beek and Doris Roberts, 2009, NR, no extras, Sony Pictures).
OTHER TV RELEASES
• “The World at War” (Historical presentation narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, nine discs, 26 episodes, extras, A&E Home Entertainment).
• “Gangland: Season 6” (News presentation, three discs, 11 episodes, extras, A&E Home entertainment).
• “Back from Hell: A Tribute to Sam Kinison” (Comedy tribute with Chris Rock, Lewis Black and others, one disc, extras, Comedy Central).
• “Bing Crosby: The Television Specials, Volume 2; The Christmas Specials” (Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, two discs, four specials, extras, Infinity Entertainment Group).
• “Sondheim! The Birthday Concert” (Stephen Sondheim and David Hyde Pierce, one disc, several performances, extras, Image Entertainment).