Wednesday, April 23, 2014
NEW ON THE SHELF
Chris Hemsworth in “Rush.”
20th Century Fox
“RUSH,” Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl. A hard-edged departure for normally straight-laced director Ron Howard, “Rush” relates the true life rivalry between James Hunt (Hemsworth, “Thor”) and Niki Lauda (Bruhl, “Inglourious Basterds”), drivers on the Formula One racing circuit, circa 1976, who competed fiercely. Ceaselessly antagonistic, to the detriment of all of their other relationships and to the benefit of their chosen career, Hunt and Lauda are two peas in a pod, far too similar to ever get along yet understood by no one better than one another. Both leads deliver exemplary high-wire performances, presenting their characters in all their imperfect, egotistical glory without pushing the viewer away. An inexplicable underperformer at the box office, “Rush” is one of Howard’s most polished and impressive efforts to date. Rated R. Running time: 2:03. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.
“BAD GRANDPA,” Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll. “About Schmidt” meets “Borat” in this typically outrageous offering from the “Jackass” crew, which outfits Knoxville with some all-too-convincing old man makeup and sets him loose on an unsuspecting public, with uncooperative grandson (impressive newcomer Nicoll) in tow. As anyone with any familiarity with these guys might expect, nary a moment passes that is not somehow obscene or scatological, but Knoxville and Nicoll manage to create somewhat likable characters in spite of their in-no-way-acceptable behavior, while the horrified reactions of the many innocent bystanders steal the show outright. Rated R. Running time: 1:31. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.
“CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2,” animated with the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris. More inspired food-based mayhem, very loosely based on the popular children’s book, with newly employed inventor Flint (“Saturday Night Live” vet Hader) revisiting his old hometown at the behest of his new boss (fellow SNLer Will Forte), now overrun with such animal-food hybrids as mosquitoasts and watermelophants, just to name a couple of the many imaginative and hilariously realized creatures on display here. As before, the animation is outstanding, the humor fast and clever, and the voice talent top notch. One of the best family film franchises in recent memory outside of the Pixar realm. Rated PG. Running time: 1:35. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $40.99.
“LAST VEGAS,” Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro. Widely and accurately described as “The Hangover” for the AARP crowd, “Last Vegas” thankfully boasts a stellar cast that handily makes up for any deficiencies in the originality department, with Douglas and De Niro joined by Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline for a gently risque romp through Sin City, with the aging foursome reuniting for Douglas’ glitzy, possibly ill-advised wedding festivities. Old wounds are reopened, shenanigans are experienced, and it of course all works out in the end, though director Jon Turteltaub manages to throw a few unexpected curveballs into the otherwise comfortably predictable plot. Rated R. Running time: 1:45. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $40.99.
NEW TO DVD
“DOWNTON ABBEY: SEASON FOUR,” Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith. If you’re still the only person in the break room not talking about the alternately proper and scandalous exploits of the Crawleys and their lively staff, now’s the time to remedy that, as season four is as compelling and strong as ever. Arguably the most successful program in the history of PBS, “Abbey” takes the soap opera format to transcendent lengths, brilliantly written and performed, but above all addictive. Running time: 8:45. Suggested retail price: $49.99; Blu-ray $54.99.
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