What’s new on home viewing media this month?

By Gary Clift

This month several of the more heavily-advertised films of the spring will be stocked on the New shelves at the video store.

They include a me-too sort of road comedy called “Identity Thief.” The special effects-heavy movies for the month are about fantasy worlds, but they aren’t all straight family films—”Hansel & Gretel,” for example, and “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

Here’s another example from that last bunch, one that will please kids as well as adults: “Jack the Giant Slayer.” This beautifully-packaged family movie features Ian McShane, Ewan McGregor, and Stanley Tucci in a version of the true events on which the fairy tale was supposedly based. But even the true story includes a cow traded for magic seeds, a bean stalk to the clouds, and villainous giants.

This month’s action picture offerings include the latest in the movies about the punishment-absorbing policeman John McClane, always played by Bruce Willis. While this isn’t the best of the series, “A Good Day to Die Hard” has a lot of attractions, including lots of action, some of it delightfully silly, and a decent deployment of our hero’s trademark catch phrase. Nonsense. Lots of fun.

“The Call” is not as much fun, but it has its moments. In it Halle Berry plays a 911 operator haunted by the notion that a mistake of hers led to the death of a young caller. So when she gets a call from the kidnapped Abigail Breslin, Berry tries to do everything reasonable to help the girl, who is locked in the trunk of a car along with the body of Michael Imperioli. Eventually the filmmakers ran out of imagination, but the bulk of the movie is fairly effective.

Certainly it works a little better than does the editorial commentary in the form of an action picture and titled “Snitch.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a construction boss collaborating with the police in order to get reduced punishment for his son, who has been convicted wrongfully on the basis of a professional informant’s false testimony. The movie’s cause is a just one, but the story itself really isn’t all that interesting or original.

And talk about not original, how’s this for a movie title: “The Last Exorcism 2.” Now the first movie in the series was a lot of fun, a comic exposé of cajun preacher hucksterism followed by a startling race into really good screen horror. The story here is weaker. It follows the possessed Nell after the events in the first film. But the new events in her life aren’t that interesting. Only the beautiful New Orleans settings redeem the movie.

The month’s comedies include “Movie 43.” This is a trunk full of sketches which are all surprising without necessarily being funny. In fact, without usually being funny. The stars include Berry, Terrance Howard, Dennis Quaid, and Emma Stone.

“21 and Over” is “American Graffiti” for young people who have already failed at their first shot at adult life. Two old friends find an old high school buddy who is turning twenty-one and take him out on a picaresque night of binge drinking and flirting. Sometimes this is funny, but the two old friends simply aren’t that likable.

I suppose I enjoyed watching “The Incredible Bert Wonderstone” more, though it was no prize winner either. In it Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi are David Copperfield sorts of Vegas magicians who find they have to move with the times. The transition is difficult. Olivia “13” Wilde assists and Jim Carrey, who is recently making a come-back in secondary parts, blocks their professional way.

So. Avoid “Movie 43” and you should find something you want to look at among the movies fresh out on home viewing media this month.

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