OK. So there are no plays or concerts to go to in town this night. And there are not going to be any games, not even on TV. The weather is going to be lousy. You and your spouse or your kid have sworn not to pay the equivalent of the cost of a week’s groceries to go to a movie at the twelve-plex, but your eyes are tired of reading. How are you going to get through the evening?
Well, on the way home from work you might stop off and get a newly-released DVD. There are going to be some interesting ones on the shelves.
Late in February, Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” will be released on home viewing media, for instance. This much-nominated movie is really a thing of two halves. The part about George Melies (Ben Kingsley), French silent moviemaker, is all true and visually splendid. The part about the kids hiding in the service corridors of the Paris train station to wind the clocks is pedestrian.
Scene after scene, “Johnny English Reborn” is pretty entertaining in a fairly lowest-common-denominator sort of way. Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) returns with the second of what I hope will be a series of comic spy movies about the inept English, spoofs of the Bond pictures that show there is still gold in that old finger.
How long can Carla Gugino go on starring in movies and TV shows before she becomes a household name? You can wonder that as you watch the underfunded “The Mighty Macs,” a movie about women’s collegiate basketball during the seventies—the revival years—and about one of the best teams out of that time, the one representing little Immaculate College. The excuse for the “Rocky” plot is that this really did happen, sort of.
So, maybe, did the events recalled in “The Rum Diary,” another of Johnny Depp’s cinematic tributes to gonzo journalist (which is to say, no journalist at all) Hunter S. Thompson of Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas fame. In this Thompson story, a drunken journalist goes to work for a failing newspaper in early 1960’s Puerto Rico and uncovers a plot to develop some island land, horror of horrors. Not much fun here.
The third movie, “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas,” of the H and K series is a little more fun to watch. Kal Penn and John Cho and a lot of their former co-stars (including Neil Patrick Harris, again playing himself though that character was killed in the second series movie) return for a 3D installment of the Cheech and Chong series of the new millennium. There are a couple of funny moments in this story, which is essentially a merging of “After Hours” with “Its a Wonderful Life.”
Also soon available will be the DVD version of the fourth “Twilight” movie, “Breaking Dawn.” Talk about your Dark Shadows revisited! Bella marries pasty Edward and, while still on her honeymoon, gets visibly pregnant and sick. Can her body take the strain of a half-vampire birth? Will the werewolves for some reason think the pregnancy is cause for a do-or-die attack on the Cullen compound? Folks determined to like this will enjoy it. Other family members may prefer to stare out the window into the darkness.
Clint Eastwood’s movie about the professional life of J. Edgar Hoover manages to make viewers wonder why the founding chief of the FBI was ever a national celebrity. Leonardo DiCaprio has gained weight to look like Hoover. But this means his fans won’t want to see the movie. And others may not be willing to give a chance.
Dreamworks has milked their Shrek series for all it is worth. The last spurt comes in the form of a spin-off movie about the Puss in Boots character with the voice and some of the attitude of Antonio Banderas. “Puss in Boots” is more fun than were the last couple of Shrek movies. At least that.
I had more fun watching “Tower Heist,” Brett Ratner’s action movie about a group of employees of a New York City luxury apartment building who steal back the money the penthouse resident (Alan Alda) has swiped from their pensions. This is a little slow getting started, but the tension in the last third is memorable. With Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and other worthies.
Here’s hoping you find something worthy of watching at home on a stormy February evening. There are some possibilities on the new shelf this month.