DVD Tuesday: ‘Forbidden Kingdom’ & ‘Baby Mama’

by W. Andrew Powell

The Forbidden Kingdom

The Forbidden Kingdom

New on DVD this week, Jackie Chan and Jet Li star together for the first time in The Forbidden Kingdom; Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play the latest odd couple in Baby Mama; Fox Horror Classics volume two is out with three films from the 1930s and 1940s; and the direct-to-DVD film Day of the Dead: The Need to Feed chews up the classic George A. Romero film of the same name.

The Forbidden Kingdom
North-America’s fascination with stylized kung-fu movies is well covered with the DVD release of The Forbidden Kingdom, which is really notable release for one primary reason: the pairing of martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. These are two of the biggest names in the world for Hong Kong-influenced action films, especially of the Hollywood variety, and while the film is certainly aimed at a younger audience, it’s still an almost must-see movie if you’re a fan of the genre.

Based on the legend of the Monkey King, a teenager is drawn into the past where he joins a group of warriors who must free the imprisoned leader who has been taken prisoner by the Jade Warlord. Chan plays the role of kung fu master Lu Yan, while Li is Silent Monk.

Starring alongside Chan and Li are Michael Angarano as the teenage Jason, Liu Yifei as Golden Sparrow, Collin Chou playing Jade Warlord, and Li Bingbing as the witch Ni Chang.

If that’s still not enough for you, the action scenes were choreographed by Wo Ping and Peter Pau, both known for their work on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Critical consensus for the film was quite positive, with only a third of the big critics calling the film a dud. The rest of the major critics gave positive reviews, including Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com who said, “When Chan and Li match wits, each celebrates the other’s presence. This isn’t just a martial-arts display; it’s generosity and camaraderie in motion.”

Baby Mama
Surrogate motherhood takes centre stage in comedy from some of the “comic geniuses” responsible for Saturday Night Live.

Tina Fey stars as Kate, a 37-year-old woman facing the fact that she wants to have a kid, but medically speaking, the odds aren’t in her favour. After meeting Angie (Amy Poehler), Kate does have a chance though, she just has to let the strange, child-like woman give birth to her baby,

As the latest version of the odd couple, neither can agree on how to act, or prepare for the baby though. Kate wants order and control, while Angie is a force of whim and fancy, let loose on Kate’s home when she has no other place to stay.

As with any film that involves SNL stars or talent of any kind, the problem is that the film just doesn’t look very funny, but reviews were above average across the board. “Neither Tina Fey nor Amy Poehler… has a compelling big-screen presence,” Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote. “And as a team they’re no Martin and Lewis. Still, their lightweight double act passes the time agreeably.”

Tina Fey is surely one of the most talented stars to depart from SNL in some time, and her show 30 Rock is fantastic, but she can surely do better than this.

Also arriving on DVD this week…

Fox Horror Classics Collection, Vol. 2
Three of Fox’s early horror films debut in a special set this week, bringing together Chandu the Magician, Dragonwyck, and Dr. Renault’s Secret with a hand full of extras.

Released originally in the 30s and 40s, the films are hardly eligible to be called horror, but for anyone who loves the look and style of the era, these three movies are well worth a look. With stars Edmund Lowe, Bela Lugosi, J. Carrol Naish, and Vincent Price, the collection also has some very notable celebrities from the era, and the genre. The quality of the films is pretty good considering their age and relative obscurity, and actually adds something to the viewing.

Day of the Dead: The Need to Feed
On the modern horror side of things, Ving Rhame and Mena Suvari star in a remake of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Unlike the average zombie film, this one features the super-powered living dead who run and jump, and even crawl across ceilings.

As a fan of Romero’s work it feels utterly wrong to me that someone tried to recreate one of his clever horror films. The problem in actuality though is that the film is simply a cheap knock-off with nothing interesting to add to the film or story, which cheapens the whole project to a near-worthless point for me.

Horror fans may still want to check it out for kicks, although I’m really not recommending it unless you have nothing else to watch.

New television arriving on DVD…

Dr. McDreamy himself is back with the fourth season of Grey’s Anatomy this week, plus the seventh season of Smallville, Ugly Betty the second season, and Medium season four.

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