DVDs In Brief: March 17, 2010

DVDs In Brief: March 17, 2010

Twilight mania has become so pervasive that even people who’ve never read Stephenie Meyer’s books or watched the two (so far) movie adaptations may feel like they’re nonetheless hip-deep in the romance between a mopey teen (Kristen Stewart) and a broody vampire (Robert Pattinson). And the warmed-over Romeo And Juliet clichés just heighten that sensation. At least there’s something in movie No. 2, The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit) that most people won’t have already seen: the spectacle of Stewart woodenly doing dangerous things in order to provoke hallucinations of the departed Pattinson dourly scolding her…

After an ill-conceived move away from traditional cel animation and then an abrupt move back, Disney had a lot to prove with The Princess And The FrogAnd the company largely does. The story’s beats are sigh-inducingly familiar, featuring a mismatched couple who hate each other but come to love each other, and a bad guy whose motivations don’t seem any more complicated than “Be bad!” But the animation is lovely and ambitiously rendered, and Randy Newman’s bouncy, New Orleans-inspired score (including two Oscar-nominated songs) is actually the kind that can be hummed on the way out of the theater…

For years, Pedro Almodóvar’s elegant, easily digestible, agreeably florid yarns have made him the darling of the festival circuit, a blessed relief from more miserablist, high-fiber international fare. But complacency has been creeping into Almodóvar’s work lately, and his latest, Broken Embraces (Sony), finds him on autopilot. Still, boilerplate Almodóvar has plenty of pleasures, not least Penélope Cruz’s movie-star luminescence as a blind filmmaker’s former actress, mistress, and muse… 

Poor Hugh Grant. His pinched facial expressions are part of his self-deprecating comic shtick, but when he’s in a really bad romantic comedy like Did You Hear About The Morgans? (Sony), they register as naked embarrassment. The story of bickering city slickers (Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) in a faraway Wyoming outpost provides only the most predictable fish-out-of-water hijinks, typified by a scene where Grant stammers his way through an encounter with a grizzly bear… 

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Armored (Sony), a straightforward ensemble heist picture that didn’t do much business in theaters, but could make for a decent time-passer on DVD and cable. On the other hand, there’s nothing terribly distinctive about it, either: It’s just a $42 million inside job at an armored-truck company, featuring all the expected showdowns and double-crosses…

For all its flaws, the Wachowski brothers-produced, James McTeigue-directed adaptation of V For Vendetta at least boasted admirable ambition. The same can’t be said of their follow-up, Ninja Assassin (Warner Bros.), a thriller vehicle for Korean pop star/Stephen Colbert arch-nemesis Rain. It’s about a ninja assassin, naturally, but it’s only distinguished by almost-comic levels of violence and bloodshed.

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