New DVDs for May

Here are some new DVD arrivals on the shelves of Wellington City Libraries: Zach Galifianakis reunites with ‘The Hangover’ director Todd Phillips & Robert Downey Jr., for a re-working of the Steve Martin/John Candy classic ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’; Roman Polanski weighs in with the clever thriller ‘The Ghost Writer’, based on the novel “The ghost” by Robert Harris; and the mind-bending cult Sci-Fi movie ‘Primer’ – a kind of ‘thinking-man’s’ ‘Donnie Darko’ – proves that you don’t need a huge Hollywood budget to make an intriguing slice of Science-Fiction.

Cover imageDue date.
“Due Date is such a broad comedy, it needs the width of the whole United States in which to play out. Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) lets the gross-out comedic charms of his frequent star Zach Galifianakis run wild, which is exactly what Galifianakis fans want. And Robert Downey Jr. reminds viewers of his appealing straight-man comic talents, too. Due Date is like Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Nine Months with a little of The Odd Couple thrown in. The writing of Due Date is uneven–perhaps a result of its having had a minimum of six screenwriters working on it. And run time, at only 100 or so minutes, seems much longer. But Due Date gets its energy and charge from its two stars and from Phillips’s slaphappy direction. Galifianakis plays Ethan, who’s a version of every character Galifianakis has played to date–slovenly, irresponsible, and uncensored. Downey is Peter, a straitlaced new father-to-be, who through an improbable series of unfortunate events can find no other way to get across the country for the birth of his first child than to hitch a ride with Ethan. If the situation is somewhat predictable, the comedic moments are not–though by halfway though the trip, viewers may wonder if Peter will be able to resist strangling Ethan with his own scarf, or worse. Viewers who love Phillips’s and Galifianakis’s trademark slapstick shtick will find plenty to laugh about on this long, strange trip. (Amazon.com)

cover imageFather of my children.
Grégoire Canvel has it all – a wife and three delightful daughters he adores and a stimulating job that he’s devoted to; he’s a film producer. Discovering new talent and developing projects is what drives and fulfills him. On the surface Grégoire seems invincible, maintaining humour and charm as he juggles the never-ending demands of his company with his domestic responsibilities. But passion can also lead to obstinacy, and when Grégoire’s reserves – financial and emotional – reach a dramatic tipping point, his beautiful wife Sylvia and their children share in the repercussions. (Container).

cover imageKillers.
“He’s tall, dark and handsome with a hint of mystery. What more does Jen (Katherine Heigl) need to know about Spencer (Ashton Kutcher), the man who’s just swept her off her feet down in the French Riviera? Well, maybe that he’s a professional spy whose special talent is assassination. But no matter, neither bullets nor bombs nor bad guys with big guns can keep these two from living happily ever after–if they can get through the day alive” (Container).

cover imageThe ghost writer.
Oscar-winning director Roman Polanksi (The Pianist) teams up with author-screenwriter Robert Harris (Enigma) for this twisty political thriller. Ewan McGregor plays an unnamed ghostwriter who signs on to pen the memoirs of former British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The money is good, but there’s a catch: the ghost’s predecessor perished under mysterious circumstances (his body washed up on the shore in an apparent suicide). Being the adventurous sort, the ghost puts that information aside and travels to Lang’s austere compound on Martha’s Vineyard, where he meets Lang’s efficient personal secretary, Amelia (Kim Cattrall, good but for an inconsistent accent), and acerbic wife, Ruth (An Education’s Olivia Williams). Just as he’s wading through Lang’s dull text, the PM’s ex-cabinet minister accuses him of handing over suspected terrorists to the CIA, fully aware that torture would be on the agenda. The next thing the ghost knows, he’s working for a possible war criminal, and the deeper he digs, the more convinced he becomes that Lang is lying about his past. After exchanging a few words with a sharp-eyed old man (Eli Wallach) and a tight-lipped professor (Tom Wilkinson), he realizes his life may also be at risk. If the conclusion feels a little glib, Polanksi tightens the screws with skill, McGregor enjoys his best role in years, and Williams proves she’s fully prepared to carry a movie of her own. (Amazon.com)

cover imagePrimer.
“Primer is set in the industrial park/suburban tract-home fringes of an unnamed contemporary city where two young engineers, Abe and Aaron, are members of a small group of men who work by day for a large corporation while conducting extracurricular experiments on their own time in a garage. While tweaking their current project, a device that reduces the apparent mass of any object placed inside it by blocking gravitational pull, they accidentally discover that it has some highly unexpected capabilities – ones that could enable them to do and to have seemingly anything they want. Taking advantage of the unique opportunity is the first challenge they face. Dealing with the consequences is the next” (Container).
Primer won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and has drawn repeat viewers eager to crack writer-director-star Shane Carruth’s puzzler of a time-travel drama. Carruth, an engineer by training, plays inventor Aaron, whose entrepreneurial partnership with fellow brainiac Abe (David Sullivan) unexpectedly results in a process for traveling back several hours in time. The men initially use these rewind sessions to succeed in the stock market. But a dark consequence of their daily journeys eventually complicates matters. If this sounds like a very commercial, science fiction thriller, Primer is anything but that. Shot on 16mm for $7,000, the film has a tantalizing, sealed-in logic, akin to Memento, that forces viewers to see the fantastic with a certain dispassion. One may be tempted to sit through Primer again to more fully understand its paradoxes and ethical quandaries. (Catalogue summary)

cover imageHuman target. The complete first season.
Check your disbelief at the door and prepare to thoroughly enjoy Human Target, a Fox TV series combining drama, humor, and action–lots of action. At center stage in this DC Comics adaptation is Christopher Chance (Mark Valley, in a very different role from his familiar turn on Boston Legal), an erstwhile assassin who turned from killing people to protecting them after a life-changing encounter a few years earlier (detailed in a semi-prequel that is the season’s last episode). Now, joined by ex-cop Winston (Chi McBride) and wiseacre-genius-jack-of-all-trades Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), Chance takes on a variety of clients, partly for the money but mostly for the fun. Whether it’s in the service of a fellow who has “the skeleton key to the Internet” (which could spell “the end of information security as we know it” if it falls into the wrong hands), a district attorney with a tracking device planted in her body by the criminal gang that wants to kill her, or even the Princess of Wales (whose affair with a commoner has made her the target of an assassination plot hatched by evil dudes in the palace inner circle), Chance has some serious skills, from speaking fluent Japanese and citing obscure legal precedents to passing as a professional boxer and flying a 747–upside down. The stories are preposterous and the presentation lighthearted and amusing (watching the Princess, disguised as a hooker, throwing back shots in a bar and using her fencing skills to fight off the bad guys is a hoot), but what really distinguishes Human Target are the action and fight set pieces in every episode. These are pulled off mostly with stunts instead of computer tricks, and the results are as good as or better than anything on television and almost in the same league as, say, those in a Bourne film. (Amazon.com)