DVD reviews: 'Battle: Los Angeles' sticks viewers with lousy film
The aliens hit hard and fast in filmmaker Jonathan Liebesman's "Battle: Los Angeles," but they're not nearly as destructible as the cliches and corny antics that hurt this invasion blockbuster. Consider films such 1998's "Armageddon" or 1996's "Independence Day," toss in a spaceship full of boiler plate turns and assorted moments of loose storytelling, and "Battle: Los Angeles" emerges. The only thing going for this one is some moments of crisp action, but underneath the explosions and heavy doses of CGI, viewers are stuck with a generally lousy picture. The picture's a prototypical alien attack film, and it eyes a Marine unit sent in to save a handful of civilians in Los Angeles. The backdrop is a world trying to stave off a scary invasion from aliens using Earth as a fueling station. Unlike M. Night Shyamalan's aliens in "Signs," these invaders are here for the water. Liebesman's movie sets the table for the attack, then throws the Marines, lead by Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), into the fray. The unit finds itself battling a superior enemy on its way through L.A. Together, the soldiers come to the rescue of the citizens they're assigned to save and work to find a weak spot in the alien armor. When Nantz and his crew find the weakness of the alien attackers, it provides a lot of help to the rest of the world in taking the planet back. Because of the special effects and documentary-style filming, the picture is best seen in Blu-ray. It provides a crisper picture and does make a difference here. The Blu-ray package isn't much different than standard in special features, though. Both sets offer four good featurettes that explore settings, characters, the alien attackers and, most importantly, the action scenes. Though, Get Blu-ray for the better picture. PG-13; 2011. 1.5 Stars.
"Kill the Irishman" (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Few moviegoers were able to catch up with this independent gangster flick when it flew through a few theaters earlier this year. Based on Rick Porello's 1998 book "To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia," director Jonathan Hensleigh's film checks out some of the highs and lows of the Mafia in Cleveland. The pic's somewhat disjointed in its storyline, and not as clear as the book, but it gets close. After all, Porello's book is incredibly researched, and including everything from print would've equaled a film that lands somewhere in the 10 to 12 hour neighborhood. So, there are some loose ends, but that's about the only weakness in a film that houses some great performances Vincent D'Onofrio, Ray Stevenson, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken are good in leading roles and an interesting storyline about a fellow who stood up to the mob. The man's name is Danny Green (Stevenson), an Irishman who carved out his own criminal success on the streets of Cleveland. To make his way, Green had to cut the Mafia out of the mix, and he survived numerous murder attempts to only stretch his rep. The film is basically a biopic on Green, and he's the focus. However, Hensleigh's camera allows the viewer to a few other characters, including Kilmer's straight-arrow cop and D'Onofrio's gritty gangster figure. "Kill the Irishman" is a fun gangster film that stands as a surprisingly entertaining addition to the 2011 landscape. Extras are limited, but an in-depth doc on Green's life is available. The documentary helps to fill in some holes from the film. R; 2011. 2.5 Stars.
"Hall Pass" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Farrelly brothers, Peter and Bobby, have been hit and miss in their time as directors. For every "There's Something About Mary" there's a "Shallow Hal," and so on. "Hall Pass" is the latest on the resume, and it's another miss. The Farrellys get some laughs out the pic, but the guffaws don't come early and often. Instead, they're few and far between, feel forced and, even when the raunch is kicked up, lack originality. With these last few films, it's as if the Farrellys have hit a comedy roadblock. "Hall Pass" checks in on two horny suburban husbands (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) who have totally turned off their wives (Christina Applegate and Jenna Fischer), constantly checking out other ladies. To get their husbands back on track, the wives give their guys a hall pass, or a week off from marriage. Thinking they can get most women, the guys welcome a chance to sow their wild oats again. Unfortunately, when they hit the bars, things aren't as easy as they remember. They get help from an old playboy friend played wonderfully by Richard Jenkins but, for the most part, the experience does wonders in bringing the husbands closer to their wives. An "Enlarged Edition" of the feature film, only available in Blu-ray packages, is the best buy for consumers. The set carries a theatrical and extended cut of the picture. Extras are pretty slim, otherwise. Only deleted scenes and a gag reel make it onto the disc. Standard DVD sets only have deleted scenes available. R; 2011. 1.5 Stars.
"Red Riding Hood" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Fans of the "Twilight" franchise, and they seem to number in the billions, are targeted in "Red Riding Hood," a loose adaptation of the famous folk tale "Little Red Riding Hood." Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the filmmaker of the first "Twilight" picture, the flick has many of the same characteristics, and that includes dark fantasy elements, teen angst and mythical figures. "Red Riding Hood" presents some fantastically real settings and a series of phenomenal CGI moments. Beyond these positives, Hardwicke's film, penned by David Johnson, is a picture packed with cliches and actors hamming it up for over-the-top performances. Once viewers venture past the slick set pieces, they won't find much going on in "Red Riding Hood." Knowing the story helps a little bit, but the feature film is vastly different. The movie centers on Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), a beautiful girl who resides in a medieval village. The pic blends two storylines. One has Valerie attempting to turn her family on to Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the man she loves. Unfortunately, the family has arranged her marriage to Henry (Max Irons). This forbidden love takes place in a village that's tortured by a werewolf, and no one knows how to stop it. That is until a veteran werewolf hunter (Gary Oldman) shows up to help. His investigation leads right to Valerie. Blu-ray extras include casting tapes, numerous featurettes on production, deleted scenes and a gag reel. Standard discs only have deleted scenes. PG-13; 2011. 1.5 Stars.