December is often a strong month for new DVD releases. Folks buying Christmas presents apparently buy some movies available for the first time on home viewing media. The studios compete, offering potential gifts drawn from lists of recent general-release movies.
So if you can’t think of anything to give a young man on your list, “Ted” will soon be out on the New shelf, waiting to be purchased and wrapped. Got a young niece to buy for? Maybe “Ice Age 4”? If you’re getting me something, I haven’t yet seen the “Total Recall” remake with Colin Ferrell.
But I have seen a lot of the other name movies that will be out in the next few weeks. Obviously the headliner of the lot is “The Dark Knight Rises,” the closing picture in the mythic Batman series. Christian Bale and, especially, Gary Oldman are terrific in the lead parts, as are Michael Caine, Matthew Modine, and Anne Hathaway (as Catwoman) in support, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s orphan bit is pretty solid, though his scenes are all superfluous.
The best thing about “Rises” is that it offers a sort of hope, as do a lot of first-rate entertainments, that the flawed and failed can rise to heroism. The story, though, is a sort of reverse “Escape From New York” in which an evil power imprisons the innocent on Manhattan Island. Nevertheless, a copy of the d.v.d. would make a welcome present.
Middle-aged women might prefer “Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep undergoing intensive marriage counseling with her lumpish husband, Tommy Lee Jones. She wants more affection in her marriage. One wonders if the sessions with Steve Carell’s psychologist will help her there.
I wouldn’t recommend Hollywood’s evangelical picture, “Last Ounce of Courage,” as a present. It wants to complain of how the uncomfortably secular try to dampen Christmas enthusiasm, but has trouble finding evidence of their operations. With Jennifer O’Neil and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.
Girls on your gift list may like “Pitch Perfect.” This is a movie about competitive a capella college groups, a sort of “Rocky” of the glee club. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are effective in this story complicated by side issues. When it is about the singing groups, it is funny.
For older men, try “Trouble with the Curve,” the most recent Clint Eastwood movie. It is about an aging professional baseball scout joined on a trip by his accomplished but unwillingly independent daughter (Amy Adams, who is, as usual, swell). Forced developments late hurt the story, but by then the audience will be in a satisfactory groove.
A better movie is the action picture “The Bourne Legacy.” Jeremy Renner is the new heavily-trained operative, Edward Norton is the heavy, and Rachel Weisz is the romantic interest, so one doesn’t really miss Matt Damon. The action scenes are several, long, and exciting..
Gamers will like “Resident Evil 5: Retribution,” the latest movie to put Milla Jovovich into the video maze. The director is her husband, accomplished action specialist Paul W.S. Anderson This has been a surprisingly satisfactory series of films, and “5” is not any less fun to watch than have been the others.
A little more serious is “Looper,” a pretty good future-world picture involving time travel. Stars Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are fine here, playing the same character in different time frames. The philosophic ending, though, comes as something of a surprise.
Gordon-Levitt is also in Premium Rush, a good action picture made by undervalued director David Koepp. Hyphenated plays a New York City bike messenger who is given a package some unsavory sorts want to collect from him. The ending isn’t up to the rest of the film, but it doesn’t hurt the complete package all that much.
And then there’s “The Words,” a movie about a plagiarist. Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, and Olivia “13” Wild star in this story about a story. The movie becomes a sort of soft focus “Inception” that will appeal to the people who liked “Midnight in Paris.”
So there’s going to be a DVD for just about everyone on your Christmas gift shopping list. Now the question is, can you do better than to give them copies of recent general-release movies?