“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” DVD, Blu-ray
The second film in the “Narnia” franchise finds that a year has passed in the lives of the four Pevensie siblings – Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) – and the weight of another war is pressing down upon them. Back in Narnia, the mystical land in which the Pevensies became kings and queens, 1,300 years have passed and that land is in a state of disarray. Without warning, the Pevensies are called back for more adventures by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), the dull yet rakish Telmarine prince. Several scenes recall the greatness of the previous movie, a good deal of which is bolstered by the superb special effects, not to mention Tilda Swinton’s excellent cameo as the wicked Valkyrie warrior, Jadis. Still, working against the movie (and the C.S. Lewis books on which they’re based) is the fact that death can be prevented with a drop of Lucy’s life-giving elixir. That’s a calming concept, to be sure, and while I understand that all of this is meant to be fantasy, one has to wonder where is the danger in battle if a cure-all is at hand? While for some, it’s likely comforting to know that a bottle can hold the kiss of life for, say, a feisty mouse you’ve come to love, you also have to wonder how much more stark, thought-provoking and true this movie and the books would have been had those characters not conveniently cheated death when death otherwise would have stolen them away. Rated PG.
“Step Brothers” DVD, Blu-ray
This milks its one-joke premise with abandon. As with so many of today’s bawdy comedies, this one also hails from producer Judd Apatow, who has a knack for mining raunch while not forgoing a sense of genuine affection for his characters. The casting is key. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are Brennan and Dale, two 40-year-old men who act like 10-year-old brats and who’d rather like to keep it that way. The movie is about the trials and tribulations of them living with their step-parents (Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen) while trying to get along as they’re pressed to grow up. Each is a challenge, but don’t expect the strife to end when these two become friends – at least for those ancillary characters affected by Brennan and Dale. In fact, given what happens to them, it’s safe to say that this was one of summer’s meanest movies, which is why it’s so critical for Ferrell and Reilly to infuse their characters with a measure of charm. If they didn’t, you’d just come to loathe them. But because they do, regardless of how crudely they do it, the movie succeeds. Rated R.
“Wanted” DVD, Blu-ray
A live-action cartoon pumped with impressive action that achieves exactly what it sets out to accomplish – in this case, being a non-stop, bloody thrill ride. For the hard-core action fan, there’s plenty to recommend here from harrowing car chases through the streets of Chicago to disastrous train derailments in Europe. James McAvoy is Wesley Gibson, an anxiety-ridden putz who hasn’t come close to living up to his potential. Things look up (sort of) when into his life comes Fox (Angelina Jolie), a hard-looking hottie with tight, sinewy arms, at the end of which she usually has loaded guns. That certainly is true the first time they meet, when they fight a fallen member of the Fraternity who is trying to kill them. As for the reason why the man wants them dead, let’s just say it has something to do with the murder of Gibson’s father, an assassin he never knew. What’s more important here is the film’s secret Fraternity, which is led by the humorless Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and which Gibson learns is an ancient organization of weavers-turned-assassins (seriously). All want Gibson to avenge his father’s death, which allows for Gibson to become a changed man – though not without going through hell in an effort to get there. The film’s chief conceit is that it never lets up. It slips into overdrive at the start and continues to barrel forward – through walls, through buildings, through whatever gets in its way. Toss in unexpected flashes of wit, game performances from all involved, and you have a movie that delivers its own derivative brand of fun. Rated R.
“X-Files: Fight the Future” Blu-ray
In this case, fighting the future means looking deep into the past – 36,998 years ago to be precise. As the film opens, two prehistoric men are violently attacked by a band of aliens in an icy, North Texas cave.
Later, in “Present Day: North Texas,” a young boy falls into that same cave and is overcome by a black oil that seeps into his skin and turns his eyes black. What does it all mean? Our indefatigable heroes – special agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), reassigned to terrorism detail after the termination of the X-Files in the television series’ finale, are soon on the case after an Oklahoma City-style bombing blows the face off a Dallas office building. Suspecting that the government was behind the bombing, Scully and Mulder – who are forever shouting “Scully!” and “Mulder!” – begin to dig. They do a lot of that, and while the movie is entertaining, so little is revealed in “Fight the Future,” one wonders by the end of it whether its creator, Chris Carter, has anything to reveal at all. Rated: PG-13.
“X-Files: I Want to Believe” DVD, Blu-ray
Die-hard fans might be left wanting. The film leaves behind director Chris Carter’s fascination with UFOs and aliens to plunge into another world, which can’t be revealed here because it would ruin the experience of seeing the movie. Safe to say that it’s a nicely grotesque borrowing of one famous novel and its string of movie siblings with Scully (Anderson) and Mulder (Duchovny) being pulled out of their private lives to help the FBI in its investigation of a missing field agent. To do so, Mulder relies on a psychic Catholic priest, Father Joe (Billy Connolly), to offer clues on what happened to the agent and others who have disappeared since. Though the agents working the case (including Amanda Peet) doubt Father Joe, in spite of the fact that he delivers the goods, the man’s personal life is more of an issue. He’s a convicted pedophile, which causes the sort of conflict between Scully and Mulder that allows them to do what they do best – launch into heated debates, which generate interest. Carter also comes through in a few chilling scenes of abduction, which are gripping in how well they’re staged. A subplot involving Scully’s current work as a doctor trying to keep a young boy alive is less successful – it feels forced and unnecessary, as if it’s only here to deliver the film’s final revelation. Beyond that, the movie is reasonably entertaining, modestly successful. Rated PG-13.
Weekinrewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of hundreds of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.