Seven movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels have been pulled together for a new DVD release just in time for Valentine’s Day.
“Nicholas Sparks Limited Edition DVD Collection” (Warner, 1999-2013, PG/PG-13, five discs, $69.97, seven movies, deleted/alternate scenes, alternate endings, audio commentaries, featurettes, screen tests, music videos, trailers; movie postcard set). Whenever a trailer for a new adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel shows up, I always wonder which major character will die.
That’s because it seems to be part and parcel of the romantic, sentimental, schmaltzy Sparks formula — a formula that fans love, perhaps because it’s sort of cinematic comfort food: beautiful actors, soap-opera stories on the rocky road to romance, fabulous remote locations, lyrical direction, pop-song soundtrack.
Included here are seven of Sparks’ eight films (so far): “Message in a Bottle,” with Kevin Costner, Paul Newman and Robin Wright; “A Walk to Remember,” Mandy Moore; “The Notebook,” Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands; “Nights in Rodanthe,” Richard Gere, Diane Lane; “Dear John,” Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried; “The Lucky One,” Zac Efron; and last year’s “Safe Haven,” Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel. (Missing is Miley Cyrus in “The Last Song,” which was made by a different studio.)
“My Dog the Champion” (Anchor Bay, 2014, G, $24.98). I had to do a double take on this one: A live-action movie rated G? Now that’s a welcome rarity. (Heck, G ratings are rare for animated films these days!)
Sixteen-year-old Texas city girl Maddy (Dora Madison Burge) is forced to move in with Grandpa (Lance Henriksen) on his cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere. As she humorously assimilates to country life, Maddy also bonds with Scout, a depressed cattle dog destined for rescue — until the pooch reveals an unexpected aptitude for competition. Life lessons will be learned.
There’s nothing unexpected in this warm, spirited picture. The low budget shows, but the film is bolstered by excellent performances from Burge and Henriksen, resulting in an enjoyable girl-and-her-shaggy-dog story the family can enjoy together. (Exclusively at Wal-Mart.)
“Last Vegas” (Sony/Blu-ray, PG-13, $40.99, audio commentary, featurettes). Four friends since childhood, now senior citizens — and two holding a yet-to-be-dealt-with grudge — come together for one last blast in Sin City when the confirmed bachelor among them announces he’s marrying a woman several decades younger. The presence of five older stars (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen), all still at the top of their game, makes this comedy worth a look, but it’s too bad it isn’t a classier effort. The script too often falls back on the lazy, sleazy gags that most movie comedies suffer from these days. (Also on DVD, $30.99)
“Bonnie & Clyde” (Sony, 2013, not rated, two discs, $45.99, featurettes). If you seem to remember a new remake of “Bonnie and Clyde” on DVD just a couple of months ago, you’re right. Yet here comes another, a two-part miniseries starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger as the notorious 1930s robbers. Can’t top the Warren Beatty film, of course, but it’s fairly entertaining — especially when William Hurt as the Texas Ranger on their trail or Holly Hunter as Bonnie’s mother shows up. (Also on Blu-ray, $55.99)
“Snow Babies” (BBC Earth, 2014, not rated, $19.98, bonus two-part miniseries: “Polar Bear: Spy On the Ice”).
“Penguins: Spy in the Huddle” (BBC Earth, not rated, 2014, $19.98). Beautifully photographed wildlife documentaries, the first about polar bears, arctic wolves, snow monkeys, reindeer, otters and other animals born in the coldest places on the planet, and the second captured by animatronic cameras disguised as penguins, chicks and eggs.
“Collision” (Lionsgate, 2014; R for violence, language, sex; $19.98, deleted scenes, featurette). Convoluted mystery-thriller set in Morocco begins with a woman and her lover plotting to kill her husband — on their honeymoon. A multiple car crash in the desert follows, involving many people who are not what they seem, including a brutal killer. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“The Starving Games” (Ketchup, 2014, PG-13, $20.99, featurettes). Low-budget off-the-wall parody of “The Hunger Games,” with sidebar gags referencing myriad other recent films (“Avatar,” “The Hobbit,” “Harry Potter,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” “The Avengers,” “The Expendables,” etc.). Not up there with “Airplane!” or anything by Mel Brooks, but it hits a few targets. Sadly, it’s also awfully puerile and crass, though, as the rating suggests, not as vulgar as “Your Highness” or “A Haunted House.”
“Bad Grandpa” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2013; R for language, drugs, nudity; two discs, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; theatrical and extended versions; deleted/alternate scenes, featurette). Johnny Knoxville dons old-age makeup to play his 86-year-old Irvin Zisman TV character, recruiting an 8-year-old boy to help him play sleazy “pranks” on innocent bystanders in this extremely vulgar “Candid Camera”-style comedy. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Argento’s Dracula” (IFC/Blu-ray, 2012, not rated, $29.98, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray versions, featurette, music video, trailers). Originally titled “Dracula 3D,” this is veteran Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento’s spin on Bram Stoker’s tale in an apparent attempt to bring the character back to his bloody roots after so many recent far-afield variations. Rutger Hauer plays Van Helsing, and Argento’s daughter Asia Argento co-stars. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings."