New on DVD

2012-12-20T00:00:00Z New on DVDThe Washington Post The Washington Post Arizona Daily Star
December 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

"Total Recall" (PG-13, 118 minutes, Sony): Try to erase from your mind the first "Total Recall," that campy, 1990 Paul Verhoeven blockbuster in which Arnold Schwarzenegger pays a company to implant Mars vacation memories in his brain. While it may not be a fully realized take on Philip K. Dick's 1966 forward-thinking story, it's still a far better film than the Verhoeven version. As Douglas Quaid, the role formerly occupied by Schwarzenegger, Colin Farrell displays an ever-evolving combination of bewilderment, terror and über-confidence as a man with no idea how he learned to handle ammunition, yet capable of firing guns while doing an action-hero gymnastic routine. He brings realism to a hyper-real situation, something that eluded Schwarzenegger. The futuristic gadgets get fresh, fun updates: cell phones that can be implanted in human hands; currency featuring President Obama's face; and The Fall, a gravity-twisting, carnival ride version of a transit system that stands as the film's most compelling special-effects achievement. Still, this "Recall" has more than its share of flaws. Director Len Wiseman tosses in enough distracting lens flares to rival the frequent blue-light flashes in J.J. Abrams' 2009 "Star Trek."

"Trouble With the Curve" (PG-13, 111 minutes, Warner Bros.): Clint Eastwood is perfectly suited to play Gus Lobel, a scout for the Atlanta Braves who is beginning to feel the effects of his years. Gus has a strained relationship with his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), whose mother died when she was 6. Gus isn't a warm-and-fuzzy dad, which makes it all the tougher for Mickey to join him on a scouting expedition to North Carolina - purportedly to keep an eye on some health concerns, but also to make one more try at bonding with the father who keeps pushing her away. By the time "Trouble With the Curve" reaches its dramatic - and contrived - third-act reveal, it resembles the kind of bland, pictures-of-people talking that all too often pass for movies these days. What promised to be a modest, refreshingly unforced little comedy turns out to be low energy to a fault.

"Pitch Perfect" (PG-13, 112 minutes, Universal): This comedy about the world of competitive collegiate a cappella is as funny as it is infectiously toe-tapping; the movie has a giddy sense of exuberance and silliness, generated by teams of young adults vying against each other in cutthroat singing contests, where the only weapon is the unaccompanied human voice. Mickey Rapkin's 2008 book, which went behind the scenes at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, was the inspiration for screenwriter Kay Cannon, a writer and producer for "30 Rock." Directed with brio by Broadway veteran Jason Moore, Cannon's script combines elements of "Glee" with the plot and snark of "Bring It On." In the lead role of Beca, Anna Kendrick brings a healthy amount of amused detachment as a reluctant member of the all-female Bellas; she also has a great set of pipes on top of a fine sense of comedy. And it's a real pleasure to see Rebel Wilson in the first role to truly showcase her talents since "Bridesmaids." As Beca's fellow Bella Fat Amy - a character who co-opts her insulting nickname so that others won't do it behind her back - Wilson shines. She's large and in charge, as she should be.

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" (PG, 94 minutes, 21st Century Fox): The "Wimpy" kid residing in all of us should find ample heart, hearty laughs and heaping helpings of wholesome humiliation in the third chapter in what has become a winning, family-friendly film franchise. The major creative players - including "Rodrick Rules" director David Bowers - return to ensure that "Dog Days" trots down the same humorous paths carved by its predecessors. But my, how they're changing. Zachary Gordon, 14, playing put-upon "Kid" Greg Heffley for the third time, is undergoing the unavoidable growth spurts and vocal octave drops that arrive with puberty. Greg and his best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron), are ready for eighth grade, but not before they fill their summer vacation with video-game marathons, pool parties and -if Greg's lucky- some one-on-one time with this schoolgirl crush, Holly Hills (Peyton List). "Dog Days" rarely strays from its core mission of imparting valuable life lessons as it reenacts the perils of pre-pubescence.

Out Friday

"Arbitrage" (R, 107 minutes, Lionsgate): There are few cinematic pleasures as satisfying to behold as an actor in a role that fits him like a Savile Row suit. Richard Gere offers just such gratification in this sophisticated Wall Street thriller that finds the actor in his prime, wearing his age and accumulated emotional wisdom with warmth, charisma and nonstop appeal. That Gere's character, a hedge-fund billionaire named Robert Miller, finds such traction with the audience is anything from a foregone conclusion. Miller turns out to be starkly different than the virtuous captain of industry he resembles. But in Gere's smooth, subtly ingratiating characterization, and through the smart writing and direction of Nicholas Jarecki, "Arbitrage" becomes far more complex than just dramatized anti-corporate polemic, or even a simple fall from grace. It gets terrific supporting turns from Susan Sarandon's and Brit Marling's subtle portrayals of women who have benefited from Miller's largesse in radically different ways.

"Premium Rush" (PG-13, 91 minutes, Sony): Bicycle messengers have to deal with a lot of risks. Car doors suddenly fling open, minivans make right turns without signaling, potholes drop you. Or, as is the case in "Premium Rush," a dirty cop can get in the way of what should be a straightforward courier job, shepherding an envelope to Chinatown. That's the premise of the breezy and entertaining, if imperfect, action flick starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the appropriately named Wilee, a law school grad who opted for a life of adrenaline over one of suits and torts. He sails across Manhattan on a fixed-gear bike with no brakes. At least he wears a helmet, which comes in handy on many occasions, including the scene that opens the film: Wilee flies through the air amid windshield shards after somersaulting over a cab. It's 6:33 p.m. From there, the film rewinds, taking the audience back to how the young man landed in this situation. It's a fun ride. Writer-director David Koepp immerses the audience in the action, setting the camera at handlebar height as Wilee weaves through traffic.

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