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Family fare lacking for summer evenings at home

By Gary Clift

Let’s say it gets hot and you decide you want to spend a quiet evening at home with a movie newly-released on home viewing media. If you want to entertain the kids, look on the New Videos shelf later on in July for “The Croods” and “GI Joe Retaliation,” one a family film and one a childish one.

Until those films are out, this is a month for movies not intended for the very young. Fans of comedy films may be disappointed, too.

The only general release “comedy” scheduled to be out this month is “Admission,” and despite the exertions of Paul Rudd in one of the lead parts, the film isn’t very funny. Portia (Tina Fey) works in the admissions office at Princeton. She went to college with John (Rudd), who is now running an alternative high school. He has a student who may be the child she gave up for adoption while she was an undergraduate. So she maneuvers every which way to get him into the New Jersey university. Should have been amusing. Is really only scattered.

Writer and director Brian Helgeland thinks the integration of Major League Baseball important enough that he made the movie “42” about Jackie Robinson’s signing and first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But he begins the film with an explanation of what segregation was. If Americans have forgotten institutional racism, maybe we don’t need service movies like “42,” which gives Harrison Ford a good outing (playing Branch Rickey) but which doesn’t seem to be interested much in the characters’ personalities or in baseball.

The movie “The Host” looks as if most of its budget was paid to Stephanie Meyer, who wrote the Twilight books. Despite a good cast, this post alien invasion film is so low-key that Perry Como could have sung the theme song. And the settings most of them look as if they were left over from episodes of the early 60s “Lone Ranger” TV shows—all papier mache caves with flat floors. Nor is the story—about aliens taking possessions of human bodies—much fun.

The new Tyler Perry movie of the month, “Temptation: Confessions of a Social Worker,” is cliche and silly. Judith has her childhood sweetheart, her youth, and a job in a prosperous dating-service company. But she is seduced by a big, bad wolf who is ridiculously wealthy—and I mean “ridiculously” literally. This leads to her tragedy. Even the Perry fans with whom I saw this movie in a theater thought it goofy.

Ironically, another of this month’s new releases is about girls from a religious college who spend spring break becoming gun molls for a Florida drug dealer. The movie is called “Spring Breakers,” and it is another cheap feeling business, except that James Franco appears as the gun-toter. Most of the movie is simply dull. Some is silly.

Sam Raimi helped “produce” the re-make of “Evil Dead,” and the new movie is a lot like the original. This means it is a simplified version of the archetypal 80s horror film. A small group of attractive young people go to an isolated cabin to help one girl overcome her addiction. But it turns out the cabin is the home of one evil spirit who then kills most everybody in the cast one at a time. It isn’t a bad movie, but because it deals in cliches, it sometimes seems to be making fun of itself.

Perhaps the best offerings of the month are two action pictures, Sylvester Stallone’s “Bullet to the Head” and “Dead Man Down” with Colin Farrell. “Bullet” uses New Orleans as a set and tells the story of a hit man whose partner is killed when the two of them go to pick up their pay-off for having shot a cop from out-of-town. Then the cop’s partner shows up, looking for revenge or justice. Not a great movie, but a fairly effective one.

Emigration is a subtext in “Dead Man Down” which takes place in an America of newcomers of diverse backgrounds. Farrell plays a man who has for a long time set up vengeance on a gang of foreign-born murderers. Then his plot is complicated when a character played by Naomi Rapace tells him she has seen him kill, and that she will tell if he doesn’t help her off a man who, while driving drunk, hit her with a car, scaring her for life.

This seems like kind of dark stuff for a summer’s evening. But, then, “Dead Man Down” is probably the best of the movies new on DVD this month. Just don’t mistake it for a family picture.

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