A new “Frankenstein” movie, a Russian World War II picture and a pair of major studio releases that flopped at the box office lead new movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
“I, Frankenstein” (Lionsgate/3-D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, PG-13, featurettes, audio commentaries). Aaron Eckhart (a BYU graduate) stars as the Frankenstein's monster in this adaptation of a graphic novel that is more “Underworld” than Mary Shelley, perhaps because that film’s producers are responsible.
The film begins as an expected “Frankenstein” adaptation, but then, just five minutes in, we’re inundated with demons and gargoyles, and the rest of the film is filled with chaotic action and convoluted plotting that characters repeatedly feel the need to explain. Then there’s the oppressive set design and the dark, colorless cinematography. A sense of humor might have gone a long way toward mitigating the dreariness.
“Stalingrad” (Columbia/3-D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, R for violence, in Russian and German with English subtitles, featurette). The R rating for violence here should be heeded as this is a real bloodbath with action sequences staged in video game fashion. And there’s plenty of action, though the Battle of Stalingrad is subjugated to a fictional story involving a woman living in an area being held by the Soviet Army against invading Nazi forces. The film is significant as the first Russian production to use Imax 3-D equipment.
“Endless Love” (Universal/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, PG-13, deleted/extended/alternate scenes, featurette). If ever a movie didn’t need to be remade, it’s the 1981 soap opera “Endless Love” that starred 16-year-old Brooke Shields. This update does alter plot elements in its story of obsessive teenage love, with the girl being a bit older and graduating from high school, and this time it’s class differences rather than age differences that drive a wedge between the protagonists. But it’s still overripe and unconvincing.
“Her” (Warner/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2013; R for sex, nudity, language; featurettes). Weird yarn set in the near future about a lonely guy (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with the voice of his computer’s operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), an advanced form of artificial intelligence that is capable of evolving. Co-stars include Amy Adams and Olivia Wilde.
“Special ID” (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, R for violence and language, in Cantonese with English subtitles). Donnie Yen stars in this martial-arts bone-cruncher as an undercover cop who becomes the target of the mobs he’s infiltrated. The plot is the most tenuous of threads on which to hang one kinetic action sequence after another, some of which are admittedly eye-popping. If that’s all you need, this is for you.
“Shelter Island” (Shelter Island/DVD, 2014, not rated, art montage, short film: “In My Mind”). This documentary follows the unlikely journey of eccentric abstract artist Harald Olson from his roadside sales in Shelter Island, New York, to a showing at a prestigious Manhattan art gallery, thanks to gas-station owner/building contractor Jimmy Olinkiewicz, his friend and benefactor. (The short film is about Olinkiewicz’s autistic son.)
“American Jesus” (Shelter Island/DVD, 2014, not rated, featurettes). This interesting road-tour documentary through America, visiting offbeat churches and religious practices, ultimately shifts its stance as it settles into a discussion that seems to want to debunk Christian beliefs in general.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: hicksflicks.com