Tuesday, December 18 2012, 05:23 PM MST
DVD and Blu-Ray Releases For December 18, 2012
By Ryan M. Painter
(KUTV)This week’s new releases include this summer’s remake of “Total Recall,” Clint Eastwood’s latest drama “Trouble with the Curve” and the children’s flick “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.” However, the week’s best releases come in the form of three comedies: Josh Radnor’s “Liberal Arts,” Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk with Me” and the hit a cappella movie “Pitch Perfect” starring Anna Kendrick.
I also had the opportunity to sit down with the recently released documentaries “Inspired: The Voices Against Prop 8” and the Ryan Reynolds produced “The Whale.”
Here are this week’s reviews broken down by genre.
Comedy: Liberal Arts, Pitch Perfect, Sleepwalk with Me
Documentary: Inspired, The Whale
Drama: Trouble with the Curve
Family: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Liberal Arts (DVD and Blu-ray)
Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”) directs and stars as Jesse, a 35-year old, who returns to his alma mater to speak at a retirement ceremony for one of his professors. There he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year-old student, who is charmed by his maturity and intellect.
“Liberal Arts,” like Radnor’s first film “happythankyoumoreplease,” is a safe enough to recommend to wide audiences while still being artsy enough to not feel out of place at the Sundance Film Festival. It travels a fairly predictable, but thankfully honest, road filled with interesting characters (Zac Efron’s Nat being the most bizarre) and strong performances from the cast.
Pitch Perfect (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Beca (Anna Kendrick) wants to run off to Los Angeles and make her name in the music business. Her father, a professor at Barden University, has other ideas for her future. To satisfy her father Beca enrolls and eventually becomes involved with the Bellas, a dysfunctional all-female a cappella group looking to overtake their campus rivals the Treble Makers.
“Pitch Perfect” takes the traditional underdog story and merges it with music and a little romance resulting in one of the better crowd-pleasing films of 2012. The cast is great (Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy steals her share of scenes), it’s funny, fairly smart, the musical performances are well done and the romance doesn’t slow down the momentum. Essentially it’s everything the woeful “Joyful Noise” tried and failed to be.
Sleepwalk with Me (DVD and Blu-ray)
Matt (Mike Birbiglia) and Abby (Lauren Ambrose) are a seemingly happy couple. Of course there is the fact that Abby is ready to get married and Matt just wants to be a stand-up comedian and the pressures of growing up are causing him to sleepwalk. I first caught Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk with Me” at the Sundance Film Festival where it won over audiences and critics alike. Based on his own rise to popularity Birbiglia’s film is hilarious. It’s also very dry, but that’s part of Birbiglia’s charm. Even when he’s playing the villain he’s likable.
Inspired: The Voices Against Prop 8 (DVD)
“Inspired” is a film about a community reeling from an unthinkable defeat and the shockwaves that reverberated throughout society in the wake of the unexpected. Yes, in this case we are talking specifically about the gay community of California, but it is a cautionary tale that could just as easily be about any minority group and the uphill struggle for equality. The film’s focus isn’t the lead up to the Proposition 8 vote; it is a documentary about what happened afterward. The shock, the anger, the protests and a lot of finger pointing. Unlike “8: The Mormon Proposition,” the film feels less tied to a specific agenda. It is as critical of the gay community that failed to aggressively campaign against the proposition, as it is of those who put countless amounts of money and time to see it pass. Like “How to Survive a Plague,” “Inspired” is a fair assessment of a moment in history shown from the perspective of the gay community. It is biased, but not damningly so. It should be noted that the film has no resolution or Hollywood ending. History has yet to write that chapter of the tale.
The Whale (DVD)
Ryan Reynolds narrates this engrossing film about Luna, a young killer whale, that when separated from its family looks to the townsfolk of a small community in British Columbia for companionship and won and broke the hearts of many over the years. The film looks at the public struggle between scientists, tourists, experts and indigenous people who all wanted to do what was best for the whale, but couldn’t agree on a set course of action. If you like nature documentaries “The Whale” should be considered required viewing.
Trouble with the Curve (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Gus (Clint Eastwood) was the best baseball scout in the industry, but age has taken its toll and he needs to find a promising prospect or he’ll be out of a job. Sent to North Carolina Gus is determined to prove his worth and reconnect with his estranged daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), along the way.
It’s been a few years since Clint Eastwood made a film that really resonated with me. Sadly, “Trouble with the Curve” feels like a watered down “Million Dollar Baby.” The film simply feels too easy, too clichéd and not nearly as authentic or as inspiring as other baseball films. It’s not a bad movie; it just underachieves. If you’re a baseball fan or love Eastwood’s work “Trouble with the Curve” is worth a rental, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it without seeing it first.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
After being banned from playing video games during his summer vacation Greg (Zachary Gordon) is forced to lie to his parents to avoid getting a summer job so that he can spend his afternoons with his friend Rowley (Robert Capron) lounging by the pool at an exclusive country club.
For those that have seen either of the two previous “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” films “Dog Days” follows a very familiar course. It relies heavily on slapstick and exaggerated situations and performances to tell a predictable story with the sort of happy ending that only happens in movies and children’s lit. If you liked the previous films there’s a good chance that you’ll like this as well. Those of us too old to have grown up reading the books or watching the films will find very little to enjoy in “Dog Days.”
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)