John Adams, Jumper and more
Wed Jun 11 2008
Photograph: Kent Eanes/HBO
The Bucket List Warner Home Video; $28.98, Blu-ray disc $35.99. Peruse the respective résumés of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, and you’ll see examples of the finest acting of the past 40 years. It would take a truly awful film to erase such achievements, but damned if Rob Reiner’s wretched cancer dramedy doesn’t come close. Once Nicholson’s wealthy health-care magnate and Freeman’s salt-of-the-earth mechanic bond over their terminal diagnoses, the duo draws up a “bucket list” (as in, things to do before you kick the…). Sentiments about silver linings and last chances are noble, but Reiner views the old-cootathon as an opportunity for shameless pandering.—David Fear
Funny Games Warner Home Video, $27.98. Michael Haneke remakes his own 1997 home-invasion thriller with Hollywood actors, preserving every chilly composition and scalpel-like edit. The “new” Funny Games has a certain cool, academic appeal, probably more so for comparative viewers. The way the original’s Susanne Lothar wailed “I love you” to her hobbled husband was heartbreaking; Naomi Watts’s hushed whispering of the line connotes a strange sense of shame. Her live-wire-of-fear performance, however, is a creative exception in a sour project that defines anti-imaginative. You want to scream—not at the violence but at the archness.—Joshua Rothkopf
* John Adams HBO Video, $59.99. For the first few chapters, which chart the transition of the prickliest founding father (Paul Giamatti) from a struggling Boston lawyer into the first U.S. ambassador to France, the Netherlands and Britain, there’s scarcely a false note in HBO’s epic adaptation of David McCullough’s acclaimed biography (the second episode may be the finest dramatic account of the Declaration of Independence ever put on film). Eventually, though, director Tom Hooper gets lazy, starts borrowing too many music cues from Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and takes something of a laundry-list approach to the second President’s life. As Abigail Adams, Laura Linney is too mannered by half; Stephen Dillane (as Thomas Jefferson) and Sarah Polley (as John and Abigail’s daughter Nabby) deserve special commendation.—Andrew Johnston
Jumper Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment; $28.99, two-disc version with digital copy $34.98, Blu-ray disc $39.98 A misfit discovers he can teleport. Bam! Eight years later, the young man (Christensen) stumbles across others like him, while an inexplicably silver-haired Samuel L. Jackson wants to kill them all. Whoosh! That’s the sound of whatever potential this sci-fi premise might have had being immediately flushed down the toilet. Why the usually competent Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) thought that pumping up the volume and flash would somehow make up for the incoherent, half-baked story line is mystifying. You’ll envy the time-space superpowers, since they could carry you far, far away from this mess.—DF
The Other Boleyn Girl Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; $28.96, Blu-ray disc $38.96. Philippa Gregory’s best-selling bodice-ripper has been filmed twice now—not bad for a book only published in 2002! Even before Boleyn manor flies into a royal panic, we see its sibling protagonists in an earlier year. They grow up to become the sultry Anne (Natalie Portman) and the plain Mary, who could be played in Hollywood logic only by Scarlett Johansson. Who will snare the married affections of Henry VIII (Eric Bana) and net the family some privileged ho status? BBC director Justin Chadwick paces unseemly plot points briskly: Pregnancies and miscarriages fly by in minutes. At the center of the heir-making storm is Johansson, who strains to lend this undignified project some gravity.—JR.