DVD Tuesday: ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ and ‘Harry Potter Ultimate Years 5 & 6’

by W. Andrew Powell

A scene from Battle: Los Angeles

A scene from Battle: Los Angeles

Arriving this week on store shelves: Aaron Eckhart stars in the big budget alien invasion film, Battle: Los Angeles; two more Harry Potter films arrive in their gleaming Ultimate Editions for years 5 and 6 of the franchise; and a look at Point Break, which lands on Blu-ray, and Hall Pass.

Battle: Los Angeles
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Will Rothhaar, Cory C. Hardrict, Jim Parrack, Gino Anthony Pesi
Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Rated: 5/10

If you asked me to define a cookie-cutter movie, there is no better example than director Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle: Los Angeles.

Intentionally or not, Battle: Los Angeles is a slick amalgamation of at least five or six other greater, more interesting films, ranging from the obvious (Independence Day) to the not so obvious (Black Hawk Down). As with all cookie-cutter films though, there is nothing positive about the way this film borrows from its predecessors–this is simply a rehashing of concepts that never goes anywhere interesting in its nearly 2-hour running time.

Aaron Eckhart stars as Staff Sgt. Nantz, a somewhat worn-out military man in Los Angeles who is ready to retire from the Marines when the planet is hit by a weird meteor shower that is striking off the coasts of major cities around the world.

Trying to put his past tour of duty behind him, when he lost his entire team of soldiers and miraculously survived, Nantz is sent back into duty with a fresh group of young Marines with a Lieutenant who has lots to prove, and another soldier who lost his brother under Nantz’s leadership.

For the soldiers, this will be their first battle, and they don’t realize how big a deal the meteor shower is until orders are handed out for all the squads to be positioned near the beaches of Los Angeles. The soldiers quickly discover that the meteors were some sort of disguise for aliens who are landing in the oceans around the world before they start attacking the nearby cities.

What makes Battle: Los Angeles so hard to enjoy is more than just the cookie cutter storyline, but also the dialogue and the slick editing. Liebesman chose to film Battle: Los Angeles from the perspective of Nantz and his men, which makes the film tense in a few, brief scenes, and a little visceral, but if the soldiers don’t see it, we don’t get to see it either. That means that some of the most interesting aspects of the average alien invasion movie are glossed over, like the first sighting of the aliens, and the first up-close encounter. We do get to see the aliens arrive, but it’s distant and in the background, or rendered as a news report that doesn’t really show us much.

A bit later on, we get to see the aliens close-up, but the scene takes all the power out of the punch–we see the creature, but there’s nothing much about it that matters. All they are in the film are the enemy, and rarely are we amazed by what they can do. They’re simply killing machines or fodder, and nothing more.

Other films have gone this same route, but Battle: Los Angeles also falters because the characters don’t matter to use either. They’re poorly-written archetypes with nothing to make them truly memorable, and we certainly don’t care if they live or not. The only interesting character is Nantz and that’s because Eckhart pours himself into the role and achieves some success despite the dialogue.

Essentially the only redeeming qualities of Battle: Los Angeles are the special effects and the camera work, and they aren’t entertaining enough to be worth anything more than a rental.

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix: Ultimate Edition [Blu-ray]
Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince: Ultimate Edition [Blu-ray]
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane
Director: David Yates

Rated: 8.5/10

Harry Potter’s many, many fans are probably quite familiar with Warner Bros’ epic Ultimate Editions of their favorite films, and if they’re not, they’ve been missing out.

Taking a deeper look into the stories, based of course on J.K. Rowling’s books, and how the films came to be, the Harry Potter Ultimate Editions include everything from the regular Blu-ray releases, plus a bunch of extras that take fans behind-the-scenes.

The latest two releases, for Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince, include focus points, which let you dive into features at key points of the films, as well as In-Movie Experience/Maximum Movie Mode which offers picture-in-picture moments where the cast and crew explain what was happening when they were making particular scenes in the film.

Best of all though, we get the latest two features for Creating the World of Harry Potter–Evolution and Magical Effects–which look at the various stages of development the films have gone through since director Christopher Columbus launched the franchise, to examining the special effects involved in making Harry Potter’s world come alive.

Both collections come with myriad other behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, and interviews which will honestly please just about any fan of the films, and the packages also comes with two deluxe trading cards and a photo book.

These are fantastic collections for fans, and they capture just about everything you could hope to see about the making of the films, including ample time with Rowling, the directors and of course, the stars.

Point Break [Blu-ray]
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley, James LeGros
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Rated: 7.5/10

Who could have ever guessed that director Kathryn Bigelow would go from making Point Break in one decade to a film like The Hurt Locker, an Oscar-winning film I might add, in the next?

The two films have some surprising similarities, but the big difference is that Point Break is one of the best action films from the nineties, with Keanu Reeves playing the ultimate cop out to get his man at any cost.

Reeves stars as Johnny, an FBI agent who has gone undercover to hunt down a team of surfers who are suspected of being bank robbers.

Patrick Swayze co-stars as the leader of the pack, Bodhi, with Gary Busey as Johnnys partner, in this classic Californian action film that still looks great with a slick story and explosive hijinks.

The Blu-ray has a few extras, including deleted scenes and four featurettes that look at the locations, the surfing, and of course, the action.

Hall Pass
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins
Directors: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly

The gross-out comedy is an art-form that has been gestating since the mid-1990s when the Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, first announced themselves with films like Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and of course, There’s Something About Mary.

While the gross-out levels in their early films was minor, it seems the duo have just been biding their time until they could release Hall Pass, starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis.

Wilson and Sudeikis star as best buddies Rick and Fred, two married men who have been feeling out of sorts at home, and wonder what they can do to spice up their lives. The answer, it turns out, is the “hall pass”, a chance for the boys to take a week off from their wonderful marriages to do whatever they want to do; no questions asked.

As luck would have it though, the two men may not have a firm grasp on reality, and their week-long single life quickly goes way off course.

Co-starring Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate as the lucky wives of these buffoons, Hall Pass is quite obviously not for everyone. If poop jokes and naked men aren’t your thing, you can probably skip this one without wondering what you’re missing.

Critic Richard Roeper of RichardRoeper.com wrote, “Nothing new from the Farrelly brothers, but a mild recommendation for the handful of big laughs.”

Also available this week on DVD:

Haven – Season 1
Starring Emily Rose, Eric Balfour, Lucas Bryant, and Nicholas Campbell.

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