By Brian Lafferty
June 1, 2011, (San Diego) – For over a year and a half I’ve been reviewing theatrical releases. Last month I introduced the Netflix Streaming Pick of the Week, a column that spotlights worthy cinema available on Netflix Watch Instantly.
Starting today I will cover another format, one very much readily available and convenient. In addition to theatrical reviews and streaming picks, I am pleased to announce the new weekly column This Week on Disc. Starting this week I will review the newest DVD and Blu-Ray Disc releases.
I must preface this by saying this column is currently, and for the next few weeks, a work in progress. The column will appear weekly but the day in which it will appear is not yet set in stone. I'm currently working on bringing more studios on board, hence only two DVDs this week, both from Walt Disney Home Entertainment. I am aware that both were released last week but, as I said, this is a work in progress. So please bear with me.
First up is I Am Number Four, the newest film by D.J. Caruso. Alex Pettyfer is the title character, one of nine aliens who are being hunted down and killed by Mogodorians, a menacing race who destroyed their planet. Number Four learns he has the power to make his hands glow and make objects move by waving his hands.
The movie’s thin plot rarely makes any sense, despite the perpetually expositional dialogue. The bland, unimaginative, and not-so-special special effects (which consist of lasers, acrobatics, telekinesis, and beams of light emanating from Number Four’s hands) provide no spark. The wooden acting isn’t helped by generic and clichéd dialogue such as, “I can’t do this without you,” which is delivered in an awkward, stilted manner.
Timothy Olyphant, always suave, cool, and confident on TV’s Justified, often stares into space, speaks slowly and unsurely, and is uncollected. Apparently a lot of time was spent on the technical aspects (or what passes for it) but not on the people in front of the camera.
The Blu-Ray Disc boasts a sharp picture with lots of strong colors, especially the blues, which come from Alex Pettyfer’s hands. Sound effects are emphasized. Very little of the rear speakers are used, but this is no huge loss. The bonus features, deleted scenes and a featurette, provide little solid insight into the making of the film.
Gnomeo & Juliet adapts Shakespeare’s classic and tragic tale into a story of a feud between two clans of garden gnomes. Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) falls for Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt) amidst the turmoil, which becomes progressively mean-spirited. The movie also proves without a doubt that no adaptation of Romeo & Juliet can ever work with a happy ending.
Kids might enjoy it but I had a difficult time sitting through it. The cuteness meter dial is turned to the maximum. Obvious and cringe-inducing puns and wordplay pepper – no, make that clang – the film with lines such as, “May he rest in pieces,” and, “Let’s go kick some grass.” Elton John provides some original music but it doesn’t have the same magic and emotional pull as his outstanding work in The Lion King.
The sound is crisp and booming. The Blu-Ray Disc pours on the brightness in both light and color. At times I felt like squinting.