DVD Picks: Stand By Me, Skyline, Yogi Bear

April 11, 2011

Stand By Me

Adventure-drama; rated R for language, violence, sexuality and some thematic material; Blu-ray only

The Gist: Four Oregon kids (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell) venture into the woods to to investigate the rumor of a dead body. Each boy is emotionally damaged in his own way, but their adventure bonds them and points the way forward.

The Lowdown: Among the few successful cinematic Stephen King film adaptations, Director Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me” has long held its position in the pantheon of great coming-of-age movies.

This 25th anniversary edition repackages the original film with some nice extras, and it’s a good chance to get reacquainted with its eerie, funny and heartfelt rhythms.

Reiner does something special here, getting strong performances out of his young actors, and managing to retain the original story’s dark alchemy of childhood nostalgia and macabre imagination. Grown-ups might assume that kids don’t think about death, but they do – they just think about it in a different, maybe even scarier way.

Especially young Gordie (Wheaton), whose beloved older brother (John Cusack) was recently killed in an accident. Watching this 25 years later, the tragedy of River Phoenix’s death adds another layer of resonance.

“Stand By Me” was rated R in 1986. The rating comes partly from the dark material, but mostly for excessive language, I would guess. But the language is excessive because that’s how young teens and tweens talk when amongst themselves. I wouldn’t worry about it – this is a good movie for mature kids, and there’s nothing here they haven’t heard before.

The Extras: Director’s audio commentary track; a new retrospective featurette with King and Reiner; picture-in-picture commentary with King, Reiner, Wheaton and Feldman.

The Bottom Line: A surprisingly moving trip down the darker alleys off memory lane.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: “Stand By Me” is among three film adaptations made from King’s novella collection “Different Seasons,” along with “Apt Pupil” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Skyline

Sci-fi thriller; rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content

The Gist: Aliens invade Los Angeles, for the second time this year, and gobble up several hard-body TV actors.

The Lowdown: It’s important to state right out of the gate that “Skyline” is a ridiculously bad sci-fi movie.

But it’s bad in the good sort of way treasured by certain aficionados of B-movie alien invasion pictures. It goes like this: New York couple Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) fly to L.A. for the birthday party of Jarrod’s childhood friend Terry (Donald Faison), who has become a minor league celebrity of some sort.

When the party ends, a shower of blue meteors descend upon the city, followed by giant alien motherships that dispatch alien aggressors of various sizes while sucking up the populace into holding tanks.

If the movie has any conceptual appeal, it concerns the fate of the abducted Californians, so I guess I better not spoil it. But mostly what you’re getting from this point is generous digital F/X of the space invaders, which amalgamate many a monster past.

A quick count: “Alien,” “War of the Worlds,” “The Matrix,” “Independence Day,” “Cloverfield,” “District 9” and about a half-dozen Roger Corman movies.

I have a soft spot for these kinds of movies. It really is hard to come up with new alien ideas after all these years, and I admire anyone willing to give it a shot. Directors Colin and Greg Strause – Hollywood F/X industry pros – do the best they can with their budget, and they reportedly paid for this movie themselves, so I’m not going to complain.

The Extras: Two commentary tracks with the directors, writers and producers; deleted and extended scenes; digital “pre-visualization” sequences that amount to high-tech storyboards

The Bottom Line: An impressive F/X reel desperately seeking a script.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: Watch how cleverly the filmmakers obscure the fact that the entire film was shot on location at a single condo building in L.A.

 

Quick Picks: The animated kids comedy “Yogi Bear” has exactly one selling point – it’s not as bad as the previews would have us believe. This is decidedly third-tier kids’ entertainment, but the movie has a nutritious ecological theme, and some funny moments for grown-ups. Also, amazingly, Justin Timberlake voices a spot-on Boo-Boo Bear.

 

Also New This Week: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist,” Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon in director James Brooks’ “How Do You Know.”

 

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