The pickings are slim at the movie theaters this coming Friday. “Hannah Montana: The Movie” is, of course, inevitable in some households (but that doesn’t mean you have to look forward to it). “Observe and Report” appears to be the Seth Rogen version of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (isn’t it thrilling when Hollywood latches on to the same idea at the same time, though I remember when a film cluster might mean dueling Wyatt Earps, not two movies about malls) and “Dragonball Evolution,” more plundered Japanese animation aimed at fanboys (also inevitable in some households).
So, let’s stay in.
Unfortunately, the home movie front is a bit uneven as well. The holiday releases are now in DVD rotation and that’s a good news/bad news scenario. Last week, we got Oscar’s best picture, “Slumdog Millionaire.” It’s a good movie, almost a great one. But there’s a major problem with the way it’s being marketed. That is, the distributor is pushing the gorgeously uplifting and upbeat dance finale and not the rest of the picture which has a lot of disturbing stuff about mutilated children, gangsters, prostitution and what could only be deemed an excremental leap of faith.
Get the movie — though apparently, to get any extras, you have to buy it. But please know, the dancing girls (and boys) come on at the very end, under the credits.
Another instance of a good movie sneakily sold is “Doubt.” Based on the prize-winning play about a tough nun (Meryl Streep) who suspects her parish’s jolly young priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) may be jollying some of the church school’s male students, the DVD is being sold as a kind of “Exorcist VIII.” There’s scary stuff going on, all right, but very little of it has to do with rotating heads and spewing pea soup. The movie deserves to be pushed on its true merits: a sharp script and an A-list cast that also includes Viola Davis and Amy Adams (both, along with Hoffman and Streep, were Academy-nominated for their performances).
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” is an ill-advised remake of a ‘50s classic with Keanu Reeves replacing Sir Michael Rennie. That should tell you all you need to know right there. And NOBODY says “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”
“Yes Man” is Jim Carry trying to recreate the undeserved success of “Liar, Liar” (then he couldn’t tell a lie; now he has to say yes to everything). The concept was handled better in the Anne Hathaway Disney movie, “Ella Enchanted.”
“Not Easily Broken” is like a Tyler Perry movie without Madea. That is, all the preachiness and wooden acting and none of the fun or smarts. Too bad, because the director is the estimable Bill Duke.
Still, there is good news in the kiddie section.
“The Tale of Despereaux,” which I missed in theaters, turns out to be a reasonably delightful mish-mash of “Dumbo” and, I don’t know, “Prince Valiant?” Despereaux is a mouse born with Dumbo-sized ears who refuses to let society’s rejection get him down, Instead, he embarks on a heroic quest that involves everything from soup Nazis to nutty Epicureon rats. The sublime voice talent is headed by Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, Robbie Coltrane, and Dustin Hoffman (who, after last year’s “Kung Fu Panda,” is becoming the go-to guy for quality animated voice-manship). Sigourney Weaver narrates.
Finally, there’s the 25th Anniversary edition of “Follow That Bird,” the first theatrical effort from the “Sesame Street” gang. Very sweet and very simple, it’s a bird’s-eye view (Carol Spinney as Big Bird, to be specific) of what it means to truly find your home. And it can be with Cookie Monsters and garbage-diving Grouches; in other words, birds of a feather DON’T necessarily have to flock together.
Some of the special features include an interview with Spinney, who’s played Big Bird from the show’s beginning, a singalong package and downloadable coloring books. Who knew?
Editor’s note: Eleanor Ringel Cater, a founding contributor to likethedew.com, regularly writes about Home Movies. This column from her Home Movies series was distributed by Georgia Online News Service.