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Studios releasing few notable titles on home viewing media

By Gary Clift

This month the studios aren’t going to add many titles to the list of good movies available on DVD. In fact, they are releasing fewer recent films on home viewing media during September than during any month I can remember in the last twenty years.

There are some much-advertised and very popular films among those that will be out for the first time this month. But there aren’t many movies scheduled for DVD release at all. So “Iron Man 3” and the Jason Statham vehicle “Redemption” will be out. But there won’t be many also-rans joining them on the new videos shelves.

And I’m not sure how excited we should get about even the well-known release titles. Take for example “World War Z.” It came out early this summer and, despite considerable hooplah, has made less than five percent on the studio’s investment, always assuming we can trust Hollywood bookkeeping.

The movie begins as a weird sort of international political indoctrination piece. Zombies attack everywhere. The U.N. picks up Pitt’s character and his family to save them from the zombies, and it puts them on a naval ship for the time being. The Pitt family will be protected if Dad goes to work for the multi-national agency. Extortion, I calls it.

The bureaucrats want Pitt to fly to Korea with a scientist who is investigating the origins of the plague that is turning guys into zombies. The scientist mistakenly kills himself in Korea, but Pitt learns that the Israelis heard the plague was coming and walled their whole country in. So he takes the huge, empty U.N. cargo plane and flies to the Middle East instead of calling on the phone.

While things are falling apart on the Med, the U.N. guys dump Pitt’s family out in Nova Scotia. Pitt flies on to a World Health Organization lab in Wales, where he lives out a version of “The Thing.” This last part of the movie is the only part that is any fun to watch.

More puzzling was last May’s “Now You See Me,” a movie supposedly about how four magicians working from plans designed for them use in acting as money-distributing showroom Robin Hoods. Not that most of their plan makes any sense at all. The program set up by the plan-designer is way, way too complicated. The action is sometimes not at all visual.

And then there’s this: the movie can only succeed by having its characters do things that the audience later learns are contradictory to their best interests. Luckily Mark Ruffalo is around to play the Las Vegas cop (with unexplained jurisdiction all around the country) who is investigating the first “crime.” One likes Ruffalo. “Now You See Me”? Not so much.

Certainly “Peeples,” a familiar romantic-comedy with African-Americans in all the lead roles, was more memorable. Craig Robinson plays a young man who—uninvited—follows his love interest to her family’s upscale vacation home in New England. There her father, a federal judge, will take part in the annual Moby Dick festival. Robinson’s character will be a surprise guest and one not all that welcome.

Of course we find out that everyone in the family has something to hide. Everyone, ironically, except Robinson, who the judge doesn’t think good enough to marry his daughter. This is all stock date movie stuff, but it is managed here with a deft touch by first-time director Tina Gordon Chism. Very light, but sort of amusing.

Which leaves us with the only other noteworthy new DVD of the month, “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Is your reaction “Oh, no, another TV show made into a movie”? “More of that sci fi crud”? “Another sequel” ? Well, you’re right.

But you’re wrong. “Into Darkness” is the happiest sort of cinematic noise. Well-cast and well-edited, it makes its Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) likable partly by letting every other star fleet character save his bacon at least once.

In this movie a fellow by the name of Harris (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks the fleet’s command headquarters and then escapes into space held by the dangerous Klingons. Most of this very active movie is taken up showing how Kirk and the Enterprise crew manage to scotch Harris’s plot.

“Into Darkness” is fun to watch. That’s only one real good hit for the month. But given the paucity of new titles, one is a pretty high proportion of solid entertainments.

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