New on DVD

New on DVD

To Save a Life
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, some drug content, disturbing images and sexuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This latest installment of theatrically-released Christian-themed films tells the story of Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne), a high schooler with a bright future including a basketball scholarship offer to Louisville, the hottest girlfriend in school, and intense popularity.  But when his best friend from childhood commits suicide, Jake examines his life and discovers that he is not happy with the path he has chosen.  No one is going to watch this film and say that this is the best film of the year, but for the one million dollar investment New Song Church in Oceanside, CA made (yes this film was made largely by a church, and then picked up by Sony for distribution), they sure did a heck of a job.  The production values look better than many of the big Hollywood films I see nowadays.  The acting was surprisingly good, especially by Wayne who I found to be very convincing in the leading role as a confused yet confident teen, and aside from an inorganic moment where the writer felt Jake needed to flip out and things needed to fall apart a bit, the cast acted like real teenagers.  I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t water down the drunken parties where teens have unprotected sex.  It’s reality and refreshing that they took the guts to admit it.  Where they went wrong was a meandering subplot with Jake’s pregnant girlfriend that frankly took away from the very important theme of the film.  Sure To Save a Life can refer to a fetus also, but it shouldn’t have in this particular film – it just didn’t fit.  It also added a lot of extra time that desperately needed to be shaved off.  But overall, I can see this being a positive influence for many who watch it and for some it could possibly even make a huge difference, and you don’t get that from many movies these days.  A-  

The Ghost Writer
Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While in a Swiss prison waiting for word of his extradition to the United States, writer/director Roman Polanski oversaw the entire post-production for this subtle thriller about a writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to write the autobiography for the former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan).  While the ghost writer knew it wouldn’t be a simple job, what he couldn’t predict was the hate storm coming the Prime Minister’s way and the immediate danger he was in from all sides.  Part mystery, part thriller, the film is intriguing and most definitely intelligent, but almost too so to be entertaining.  It’s a movie I actually wanted to like, but could only merely appreciate.  C+

Road to Perdition
Rated R for violence and language
Available on Blu-ray

Road to Perdition, which is one of my favorite films from the last decade is making a very important blu-ray debut this week which many will consider to be a must-own for their libraries.  Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, Road follows Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a hit man for a small-town crime boss played by Paul Newman.  When Michael’s oldest son sneaks along to follow his dad and Newman’s son (played by Daniel Craig) on a hit, Craig takes it upon himself to try to take out Michael and his family to cover up the evidence.  When he only ends up killing Michael’s wife and youngest son, the two take off on a mission of survival and revenge, all the while being chased by another hit man played by Jude Law.  Everything about this film is pure art including the acting, writing, directing, and music.  But what stands out most is the breathtaking cinematography by Oscar winner Conrad Hall, who died shortly before winning for this film.  Many consider it to be one of the most beautifully shot films ever and on blu-ray you can catch every single wonderful nuance.  The special features serve as love letter to the memory of Hall with a look back at his life and his work.  A+

The Breakfast Club
Rated R
Available on Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe 25 years have passed since the brat pack hit the screen for the first time in this iconic film by John Hughes.  Getting it’s blu-ray debut, the film looks brand new aside from the bad but trendy fashion.  Also included is a 12-part documentary looking back at all of the actors and their stories as well as the origin of the label “Brat Pack” which they weren’t exactly fond of at the time.  B+

James and Giant Peach
Rated PG for some frightening images
Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo

One thing Roald Dahl (Fantastic Mr. Fox) is known for is telling imaginative and weird tales, and this story of a young boy who goes on a journey inside a giant peach with a cast of friendly insects is no different.  It’s a shame that Tim Burton and director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) couldn’t come up with a better artistic vision for the film.  While some of the animation is creative and beautiful, much of the movie is ugly and so unpleasing to look at that I wanted to turn the film off.  The story just could not carry me past the poor aesthetics of the lack of vision of the filmmakers.  I’m not sure if different minds could have made this better, but I’m certain that Disney should have chosen different artists for this creation.  C-