DVD Picks: The Next Three Days, Morning Glory, The Walking Dead

March 17, 2011

Pick of the Week

The Next Three Days

Crime thriller; PG-13 for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements.; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: When his wife is imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit (maybe), college professor John Brennan (Russel Crowe) plans and executes a daring prison breakout.

The Lowdown: About halfway through “The Next Three Days,” a superior thriller from stalwart leading man Russell Crowe and director Paul Haggis (“Crash”), I realized why the movie seemed so familiarly effective. Or effectively familiar.

In terms of tone, pacing and plotting, “Three Days” is essentially “The Fugitive” with the story elements slightly shuffled. Instead of a wrongly convicted man trying to avenge his wife’s death and avoid going into prison, it’s the story of a desperate husband trying to overturn an unjust verdict and bust his wrongly convicted wife out of prison.

Instead of Chicago, it’s Pittsburgh. Instead of Dr. Richard Kimble, it’s Professor John Brennan. Instead of a mysterious one-armed man, it’s a mysterious mugger that’s (maybe) the real culprit. There are even several scenes that directly parallel the 1993 Harrison Ford thriller, including a sequence in which our hero escapes the cops by blending into a passing street parade.

In any case, it all works just fine. You’re in capable hands with director Haggis, who knows how to ratchet up the tension and unspool the drama. As Brennan’s wife, Elizabeth Banks shows she has the dramatic chops to match her ace comedic work in other film and TV projects.

The Extras: Deleted and extended scenes; three production featurettes, and a short gag reel.

The Bottom Line: A surprisingly good thriller that kind of flew under the radar upon theatrical release.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: For one of the best journalistic exposes of the year, Google up The New Yorker’s recent chronicle of director Paul Haggis’s battle with the Church of Scientology.

Morning Glory

Comedy; rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: Workaholic TV producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) attempts to fix a foundering “Today” type morning show with bickering co-hosts Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and curmudgeonly newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford).

The Lowdown: Whatever Rachel McAdams was paid for making this movie, it should have been doubled, since she pretty much single-handedly rescues this attempted comedy from utter disaster.

“Morning Glory” has some funny moments, and there is an inherent appeal in the idea of observing how a big-time network TV morning show actually operates. But while Keaton is interesting and believable as a lightweight media personality doing the best she can, Harrison Ford sinks just about every scene he’s in with his late-career persona as Captain Supergrumpy – all ego and anger and bitterness.

What happened to that loveable and heroic rogue of the Indiana Jones and Han Solo days? No one knows. Good thing McAdams is on hand to salvage things here – without her funny and loveable brightness, this wouldn’t qualify as a comedy at all.

The Extras: Audio commentary track from the writer and director; a single deleted scene.

The Bottom Line: If you’ve seen “Network,” Sidney Lumet’s classic 1976 treatise on broadcast television news, “Morning Glory” will alert you to how very, very far we have fallen.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: The film was shot on location in Pittsburgh, and the specific geography of that city plays a critical role in how the plot is resolved.

 

Quick Picks

  • The first season collection of AMC’s blockbuster zombie enterprise “The Walking Dead” hits shelves this week. From a strict consumer advocacy point-of-view, I feel obligated to warn you against this, because you will become immediately hooked, and lose a lot of time obsessively watching all the back episodes of Season One. Created by Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”), this series suggests what the horror genre is capable of.
  • “Jackass 3,” the latest in Johnny Knoxville’s series of stupid people gleefully doing stupid things, is annoyingly good. I wanted to hate this, but it didn’t work out that way. This is a good rental.

 

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