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There’s lots more than Legos on the new-DVD shelves

By Gary Clift

Of the new movies planned for release on home viewing media during June, people tell me the “Legomovie” is the pick. Honest. Maybe I’m talking with the wrong people. But I do feel confident this family movie will entertain.

But surely it is a less interesting prospect than are some of the other films that will soon appear on the New shelves at the DVD store. Consider, for example, “Son of God.”

Because “Son of God” tells more of the life of Jesus than the Passion—the part over his last weekend, the part Mel Gibson gave us a gritty version of a couple of years ago—it is a sort of useful movie, an updating of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The live action is pretty good, though the film is a bit long. The computer graphics that have been used to give us long prospects of Jerusalem are a little distracting. Otherwise the movie looks pretty good.

Its problem is that it doesn’t tell us much about what Jesus said. Talking can be dull on screen, of course. But “Son of God” may include so little of what Jesus said that the uninitiated could watch the movie and wonder why the man was remembered. Too bad.

Though I don’t think Luc Besson had anything to do with “Non-Stop,” it was made by people who had studied his formula. It stars Liam Neeson as an air marshal on a trans-Atlantic flight. He keeps getting text messages—I know, but later the movie is going to pretend the plane gets cable t.v., too—from a criminal who says he will kill a passenger every twenty minutes until a ransom is paid into a secret bank account.

The story has a couple of gimmicks in it—the bank account has been opened in the marshal’s name, for example. And it is politically correct in a way that will seem slavish even to many moviegoers. But, I mean, there’s some shooting and an explosion and so on. What do we expect from a Besson imitation action picture?

There’s a prequel to “The Hunt for Red October” and “The Sum of All Fears.” This new spy movie, “Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit” has a story assembled of familiar business from other spy movies. But it has a good cast—Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley. And Kenneth Branaugh, still one of the most effective actors working, appears as the Putin-like villain. Branaugh also directed the film.

Russia’s strong man is no where near as subtle as the great Irish thespian. He can do more by changing the focus of his eyes than most screen actors can do with two pages of dialog and some wild arm flapping. And he isn’t bad as a director, either. Too bad there is nothing here for him to have his likable cast do except action scenes. Pretty good action scenes, but shouldn’t there be more to a film?

There’s plenty to “Grand Budapest Hotel,” but maybe too much of it is imitation of Wes Anderson’s film before this one, the great “Moonrise Kingdom.” In form and cast and even in detail they are similar. In the last movie Tilda Swinton played a character called “Social Services.” In this one her heir is assisted by a character called “Lobby Boy.”

But even if “GBH” isn’t as original as its predecessor, it is still the best movie of 2014 up to this writing. Its cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Saoirse Ronan, and Owen Wilson. And it is Anderson’s sort of stylish fun. See this one.

And you may want to take a chance on “Winter’s Tale,” a romance fantasy based on a Mark Helpren novel. Colin Farrell leads a terrific cast (including Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, and Russell Crowe) in a story given a nice magical touch by its musical score. Set in old and more recent New York, this is partly a story about emigration, wealth, and gangs. And then Eva Marie Saint shows up in a significant turn, and the story works itself out just right.

So there are other things to see besides Legos on new DVDs. New stuff to watch inside, in the air conditioning.

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