This is a fantastic week to be a movie fan as a handful of great films, made for just about any taste, arrive on DVD. There is Ryan Reynold‘s romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe; the 80s dance musical Xanadu; children’s fantasy tale, The Spiderwick Chronicles; and the musically grounded drama, Honeydripper. The dud of the week is 10,000 B.C., which also arrives on Blu-Ray, offering vast special effects, scenic locations, and one of the worst stories so far this year.
Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin star in this smart, sweet, and funny romantic comedy about a father named Will, dealing with a divorce, who tries to explain to his daughter, Maya, how he ended up marrying her mother. Agreeing to tell the story, even as he explains how complicated it is, Will changes the names of the three women he dated, challenging Maya to figure out which woman is really her mother before he finishes the story.
With Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks as the three possible love interests, the story shifts through the different stages of Will’s life, opening and closing doors as he goes, but always seemingly coming back to one of these beautiful women. Complicating matters for Will and his love life are troubles with his job, and the constantly shifting issues in each relationship.
Romantic comedies are perhaps one of the most formulaic genres coming out of the film business, but Definitely, Maybe is a different breed of film with a fresh angle, and a pleasant story to tell that doesn’t wallow in the usual silly cliches. As with her great performance in Little Miss Sunshine, Breslin is a fantastic, sweethearted actress who steals her scenes. Working well with her, and all three of his female leads, Reynolds has charm and wit that easily sells this film.
Extras included in the DVD are decent, with a commentary from director Adam Brooks and Reynolds, plus making-of features, including a look back at how the film recreates the 90s.
When I first heard that director Roland Emmerich was making a film that was set pre-civilization, and followed a young warrior trying to save his dream woman, I was sold. This is the guy who made Independence Day, Stargate and The Day After Tomorrow, so how could 10,000 B.C. be anything but a fantastic adventure?
Almost immediately, there is a sense that this will be a bad film though. I’m talking of course about the dreaded voiceover that starts as we zoom over the cold, snowy mountains where a tribe of people live, and hunt mammoths.
We then watch as the Old Mother tells the tribe that someday something bad will happen and D’Leh, played as an adult by Steven Strait, will somehow save the day. The slowly moving story eventually moves along, D’Leh wins his dream woman, Evolet, played by Camilla Belle, by killing a mammoth all by himself, with nothing but a sharp stick.
Things get silly from there as a group of warriors on horseback invade the mountains, take people prisoner, and head back to their desert kingdom to complete the pyramids they are building. D’Leh marches off with just two people to save his girlfriend, on foot, with no plan as to how he will take on an entire army of people on their home turf.
10,000 B.C. has spectacular cinematography, scenery, and average special effects, but it’s mired by utterly lame performances and a story that makes absolutely no sense. You can try and ignore disbelief in some scenes, but by the end of the film it’s impossible not to laugh at the outcome.
A few interesting extras are available with the film, including the all-important making-of for the special effects. If you’re going to force yourself to watch this dreadful film though, you may as well pick up the Blu-Ray edition since the visuals and special effects are the only redeeming part of the whole movie.
Other new arrivals…
One of the cheesiest musicals of the last 30 years returns to DVD this week with a special musical edition that includes the soundtrack on CD.
Starring Olivia Newton-John as the young Muse Kira, and bit actor Michael Beck as Sonny, the wannabe artist, Xanadu is a silly, but catchy example of how a bad movie can be great. With Gene Kelly playing a small part, and dancing up a storm, music by Electric Light Orchestra, and fantastically awful special effects, Xanadu is pure kitsch. Add in the fact that half of the film takes places on roller skates, plus an animated scene, and you’ve got a sticky sweet musical that still makes me laugh. The bonus soundtrack is likewise a big ball of cotton candy, which is best consumed with a few drinks, and liberal doses of group singing.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
As the Grace family moves into an old home in the back woods of New England, Jared and Simon, two brothers played with some skill by Freddie Highmore, uncover a world of goblins and fairy creatures living right under their noses in this dark fantasy tale. As they try to convince their mother, played by Mary-Louise Parker, that something is really going on, the ogre leader Mulgarath, played by a wicked Nick Nolte, is trying to get his hands on a powerful book that is locked away inside the Grace’s new home.
Lots of credit is due to director Mark Waters, who weaves an expressive, dynamic story that is engrossing and doesn’t play down to younger audiences. He infuses a lot of depth and magic into this story that could otherwise be too silly. Young viewers should also enjoy all of the extras included on the special edition since they suggest the events are real, and the film is based on those living creatures that are hidden from human eyes.
Going through the extras you can explore Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, a number of features on how the film and creatures were made, deleted scenes, and of course, a final reminder to believers to always keep protection, like salt, on hand to keep the evil critters at bay.
Set in the 1950s, Danny Glover stars as Tyrone, a southern club owner competing with changing times in the early days of rock n’ roll. While Tyrone deals with the scummy Sheriff in town, he finds a young man who may be his ticket to success, and a new era in music.
Directed by John Sayles, who ironically enough also helped write The Spiderwick Chronicles, Honeydripper is a slow moving, but intriguing film and Glover delivers a fantastic performance, perhaps one of his best in the last decade.
New television arriving on DVD this week…
Early Edition: The First Season
One of my all-time favorite, albeit odd television series arrives on DVD this week, starring Kyle Chandler as Gary, a nice guy who is out of work, and trying to fix his life when he discovers a newspaper on his doorstep. The catch is that the newspaper, which arrives every day after that, is filled with tomorrow’s news. Armed with the stories that will make the newspaper the following day, Gary decides he has to help the people and make sure the bad news doesn’t happen.
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs
Following the storyline in the direct to DVD film Bender’s Big Score, Futurama‘s latest feature-length adventure has the crew of the Planet Express trying to defeat a giant, tentacled monster that is coming through a wormhole and trying to attach itself to everyone in the universe. Much like the television show, expect silly, madcap adventures with plenty of laughs.