DVDs In Brief: September 8, 2010

DVDs In Brief: September 8, 2010

It’s an unusual step for a studio to keep a big summer movie away from critics—even Jonah Hex and The Last Airbender got screenings—but Lionsgate knew no good could come of exposure to Killers (Lionsgate), its hapless knockoff of romantic action-thrillers like True Lies and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The film also continues Katherine Heigl’s odd streak of roles where she acts as the shrill, disapproving scold. Can’t anyone have a little fun around here?

Lorne Michaels’ much-maligned SNL Studios went into hibernation for much of the past decade before not exactly roaring back to life with MacGruber  (Universal), a flop cinematic vehicle for Will Forte’s cocky, clueless government operative/MacGyver parody. Co-writer/star Forte and director Jorma Taccone play the throwback-action hijinks straight—almost too straight—but there are oases of inspired silliness amid vast deserts of shoot-outs and action setpieces…

Wall Street sequel aside, juicy leading roles in commercial entertainments have largely dried up for Michael Douglas, so he’s smartly turned his fine-aged charisma to quirkier parts in independent films like King Of California and Solitary Man (Anchor Bay), which casts him as a curdled version of the slick charmer he’s played throughout his career. Writer-director Brian Koppelman and his directing partner David Levien put Douglas through an ultimately conventional bastard’s redemption tale, but first, Douglas goes to many unflattering places as a disgraced used-car magnate who leaves emotional wreckage wherever he goes…

As a lonely widower who helps a young traveler en route to Alaska in Into The Wild, Hal Holbrook enjoyed a well-deserved resurgence for his touching performance, and he continues his late-autumn winning streak with That Evening Sun (Image), an independent drama that won him some acclaim in 2009. Holbrook plays an aging Tennessee farmer in danger of losing his family and his land, and the fine supporting cast includes Walton Goggins, Mia Wasikowska, Barry Corbin, and the late Dixie Carter… 

Call it Schindler’s List Goes To China: The expensive biopic John Rabe (Strand) tells the true story of a German branch head at the Siemens Company in Nanking who uses company grounds to shield his Chinese employees from attacks by Japanese warplanes in World War II. It’s a rousing tale, and Steve Buscemi gives the film a boost as an American doctor who questions the hero’s motives, but director Florian Gallenberger treats it with a workmanlike blandness.

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