DVD Tuesday: ‘State Of Play’ & ‘Disneynature: Earth’

by W. Andrew Powell

Hellen Miren, Rachel McAdams and Russell Crowe in State of Play

Hellen Miren, Rachel McAdams and Russell Crowe in State of Play

Coming out this week on DVD and Blu-ray, Russell Crowe plays a journalist looking for dangerous truths in State Of Play, Disneynature’s Earth takes us on a magnificent tour of our little blue planet, plus the third season of Heroes.

State Of Play
American politics are a fertile topic for filmmakers, spawning hundreds of films over the years. And the best ones seem to occupy that always entertaining genre known as the thriller, which brings us to Russell Crowe’s latest film where he stars as a tough journalist trying to find the truth among those elusive politicians, one of whom happens to be his former college roommate.

Crowe plays Cal, one of Washington, D.C.’s most well-connected reporters. So well connected, in fact, that Cal ends up investigating a case involving a murdered research assistant, the mistress of his former friend, Congressman Stephen Collins, played by Ben Affleck.

Performing a balancing act of sorts, Cal is pushed by his editor, played by Helen Mirren, to do his job, no matter who is involved. At the same time he uncovers a multi-billion dollar conspiracy that puts anyone’s life in jeopardy should they try to expose the truth.

Working with Della, a fresh-faced young journalist, played by Rachel McAdams, Cal digs his way into the centre of the scandal and sticks his neck out further than he really should.

Rich with the kind of clichés that actually work, and ingeniously well-paced, State of Play is enjoyable because it knows how to turn things in directions you don’t expect. It is that rare type of thriller that actually never fully warns you where it might be headed next. Some developments are a little obvious, but not to the point where you ever really know what to expect. On top of that, the cast is really quite good, although Affleck and Crowe are hardly breaking any new ground.

My only major disappointment was with McAdams’ character, a somewhat bland journalist who could easily have been removed from the story. Someone seemed intent on making sure this wasn’t strictly a Russell Crowe movie though, and they put McAdams character in there to balance him out, but she hardly adds anything to the story, which is surprising considering how many scenes she’s in.

Disneynature: Earth
In what will be the first of many documentaries from the new Disneynature film company, Earth is a massive, breathtaking exploration of our planet, in particular following a trio of animals: polar bears, elephants, and humpback whales.

Originally released for Earth Day, the film is an epic, adventurous look at the beauty and the splendour of our little blue planet with narration by the booming voice of James Earl Jones. It’s the kind of film, perhaps a little bit like March of the Penguins in a few ways, that is a sure to be a hit among families.

Chronicling the seasons across the globe, moving north first, and then back south, there is of course some sequences that will be a little sad. The point though is a celebration of the planet, in all its glory.

One word of warning though. Since Earth uses some footage from other companies, most notably the BBC, there are scenes in this film that you may have seen before if you’re a fan of nature documentaries. There is enough original footage to make this worth your while, but don’t be surprised if you’ve actually seen some of this film before.

Heroes: Season 3
Calling the third season of Heroes disappointing is, as any fan will likely tell you, a huge, misguided understatement. The last season was in fact so appallingly bad, many fans have actually abandoned the series altogether.

Following a group of people who discover that they have been gifted with special abilities, Heroes had an interesting comic book style that kept the action big and the melodrama even bigger. Families fought, secrets were uncovered, and people tried to figure out who were the good guys, and who just wanted to destroy the world.

What is really miraculous though is that the first season was actually one of the best debuts I can remember for a drama, especially for an action drama. While the second season was disappointing in its brevity, thanks to the writers strike, it wasn’t really bad. In the third season though, the series producers and writers allowed most of their best characters to get a fresh coat of paint that effectively made them brand new people, and that was what I think of as the beginning of the end.

As just one example, you have Mohinder, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy, who suddenly forgets that he’s a reasonable man, a scientist in fact, and decides he’ll test out a serum to give himself powers. From that point on they warped Mohinder into a freakshow who couldn’t be trusted, tossing out a couple of seasons worth of back-story. And that’s just one example of the show’s budding failure in season three. All of the other problems are so bad, it’s simply impossible for the show to ever recover and become watchable again.

Where the third season lost itself utterly was the belief that too much intrigue and weirdness is never a bad thing. They piled on the double and triple-crosses, and rogue plots to the point that it was simply not worth following what was actually happening.

If you really want to give the fourth season a shot, you’ll have to get caught up here, but as far as I’m concerned the series is a lost cause.

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