There are some pleasant surprises among new DVDs

By Gary Clift

Every once in a while I happen on a movie on DVD, usually something I see on a rack in a store, and the film surprises me. For example, this week I saw “In Bruges,” a movie that didn’t play on any of the local commercial screens, perhaps because the exhibitors were worried about the thickness of the British accents.

I wanted to see it because I’m developing an interest in Colin Farrell, an up and down movie star whose performance in the recent remake of “Fright Night” delighted me. Well, Farrell’s good in “In Bruges.” But the great Ralph Fiennes, playing against type, is even better. And Brendan Gleeson has the greatest movie dying scene since Marlon Brando practically changed colors toward the end of the black and white “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

You may find details similarly exciting in one of the movies on the New Release shelves this month, or available for “streaming” sometime in the not too distant future. I think Fiennes is in the Coriolanus that will be out shortly, for example. Acting, Shakespeare, and gore—what more could you want from a movie?

Another forthcoming DVD is the one of “Joyful Noise,” a sort of second version of a movie Cuba Gooding Jr. made with Beyonce a few years ago, “The Fighting Temptation.” But in this case the stars are Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah (who also figured as an Executive Producer), two members of a small church’s choir who help lead it to a choral competition.

“Joyful Noise” isn’t much fun, but it is a masterpiece when compared to “New Year’s Eve,” which might as well be an episode of TV’s “Love American Style” but with so many stories that none of them get told in any sort of interesting detail. Ugh.

More fun was the action movie “Haywire,” directed, perhaps surprisingly, by Steven Soderbergh, who gave us “sex, lies, and videotape,” “Erin Brockovich,” and the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.” The story is one of those about the double-crossed killer who turns to attack her control. The killer is played by Gina Carano, who is all right if not inspiring in the film’s action sequences.

“The Vow” is a Nicholas Sparks romance novel come to the screen, notable mostly for its unlikely story and for its wild casting—Rachel McAdams (who can go) is the romantic interest of Channing Tatum or Tatum Channing (who can’t).

Janet Evanovich’s unintentional private eye Stephanie Plum made the big screen in “One for the Money.” Katherine Heigl plays the Jersey girl who takes a job bringing in bail jumpers (after having prepared selling lingerie in Newark) and finds herself involved in a complicated murder case.

Theoretically “Chronicle” does everything right until its last reel. This is to say, if one has to make a movie about teens who gain super powers from contact with something mysterious in a cave, and if one has to film it all with one hand-held camera, this is probably the most intelligent way to do so.

And probably “The Woman in Black” is about as good a movie as anyone was going to get out of the long-running London theatrical supernatural thriller. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) is a young lawyer, unhappy because his wife has died. He visits an isolated house on a document search and turns loose some power that keeps killing children.

The casting is both the attraction and the distraction in “This Means War.” We like Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine, but isn’t she pretty old for him? And I think I’d seen Tom Hardy in movies before, but is he really on a professional plane with the others? Pine and Hardy play CIA partners (operating in the U.S.) who both fall in love with the same girl—or woman, actually.

Which leads us to “Gone,” which may be the best movie of the bunch, despite another familiar plot. Here Amanda Seyfried plays a young woman who tells police she was abducted by and later escaped from a serial killer in the northwest woods. They think she has emotional problems. Then her sister disappears. And Seyfried’s character finds herself trailing the ingenue-snatcher.

There’s at least something interesting in most of these new video releases. Try a couple out. See if you find something to like, something surprising. Just avoid “New Year’s Eve” and you should have fun.

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