Among the movies that became available Friday, Dec. 21 on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley are a 90-minute bicycle chase sequence, Spike Lee’s sixth film in his “Chronicles of Brooklyn” series and the fifth installment in Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Resident Evil” franchise.
Richard Gere plays a New York hedge-fund magnate who is about to unload his troubled empire just as an unexpected bloody error forces him to juggle family, business and crime, igniting the suspicions of a police detective (Tim Roth).
“Arbitrage” is a good film that could have been great had it used its financial aspects as a background stressor as opposed to its primary plot. Parts of writer/director Nicholas Jarecki’s new thriller may go over the heads of most viewers – especially those who were left completely stumped by last year’s “Margin Call.” Fortunately, the filmmaker mirrors his more complicated issues with down-to-earth ones, creating a compelling piece of entertainment for not only day traders but the rest of us, as well. (Grade: C)
Emile Hirsch plays a young man who finds himself in debt to a drug lord and, with the help of his father (Thomas Haden Church), hires a hit man (Matthew McConaughey) to murder his mother, whose $50,000 life insurance policy benefits his sister (Juno Temple). Gina Gershon also stars. (NC-17 – 103 minutes)
The violence is not the only thing that is incredibly intense in “Killer Joe.” The performances are, as well. The actors in director William Friedkin’s cinematic adaptation of Tracy Letts’ stage play, for lack of a better phrase, kill with their performances – none more so than Matthew McConaughey, who deserves an Academy Award for his portrayal of a man whose mere presence on the screen sends shivers down your spine. Moreover, the movie will turn you off to fried chicken for the foreseeable future. This story is dark, demented and distressing. You will not experience anything else like it this year. (Grade: A)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the best of New York’s agile and aggressive bicycle messengers who gets more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. (PG-13 – 91 minutes)
Hold on to your handlebars. “Premium Rush” is heart-racing, adrenaline-charged awesomeness. That is to say that the new actioner from writer/director David Koepp is an edge-of-your banana-seat thrill-ride, taking moviegoers on what is essentially a 90-minute chase sequence that pedals faster – and harder – than most movies in which the vehicles in question have engines and four wheels. The action only briefly hits the brakes so that Koepp and his co-writer John Kamps can catch viewers up on this story’s dramatic under-workings and the movie more than lives up to its title by exhilarating viewers from beginning to end. (Grade: A)
‘Red Hook Summer’
Jules Brown plays a middle-class boy from Atlanta who finds his worldview changed as he spends the summer with his deeply religious grandfather (Clarke Peters) in the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. (R – 121 minutes)
From the looks of “Red Hook Summer,” writer/director Spike Lee has completely lost his ability to tell a cohesive and self-satisfying story. Granted, Lee has always skewed more toward the spontaneous but his latest drama – the sixth film in his “Chronicles of Brooklyn” series – throws all caution to the wind and winds up a narrative mess. Lee’s ideas are there – and some of them are actually quite compelling – but it is almost as though the filmmaker was too blasé due to an over-inflated ego to worry about putting them all in an easily digestible format. (Grade: D)
‘Resident Evil: Retribution‘
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, who awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak. (R – 95 minutes)
“Resident Evil: Retribution” plays like a greatest hits extravaganza – which is a good thing if you are a fan of the franchise but a bad thing if you are not. This fifth installment in Paul W.S. Anderson’s science-fiction series brings back several of the previous entries’ villains, monsters and other evil forces to once again do battle with star Milla Jovovich. As a result, it is one of the most action-packed motion pictures of the year. However, it is also one of the most brainless. And if the final shot is any indication, it is all downhill from here. (Grade: C)
Bradley Cooper plays a young writer who finally achieves long sought after literary success after publishing the next great American novel. As the past comes back to haunt him and his literary star continues to rise, he is forced to confront the steep price that must be paid for stealing another man’s work. (PG-13 – 96 minutes)
“The Words” could have been a decent motion picture had it only remained in the present. Writers/directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal’s debut drama is dragged down with its incorporation of multiple layers – one of which occupies the movie’s entire second act and threatens to put viewers to sleep with its wispy recount of the past and another that makes it difficult to develop any emotional connection to the characters whatsoever. (Grade: D)