‘Harold’ goes stiff, ‘No One’ lives and ‘Scary Movie’ continues on DVD

Among the movies that became available Tuesday, Aug. 20 on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley are a new take on the zombie genre, a horror flick with a title that is a dead-giveaway and the latest installment in the “Scary Movie” franchise.

Amour

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play retired music teachers who are in their eighties. When one of them has an attack, the couple’s bond of love is severely tested. (PG-13 – 127 minutes)

“Amour” is the cinematic equivalent of spending an afternoon in a stranger’s room at a hospice facility. That is to say that writer/director Michael Haneke’s new French film is an excruciating experience to endure in that nobody wants to watch someone slowly be slipped away by death’s graceless grip – especially when that someone’s spouse is there, too, struggling with losing their loved one. Granted, the flick features a pair of powerful performances but it lacks the necessary insight – be it emotional or intellectual – that would have made such a sickening sight worth sitting through. (Thumbs Down!)

Epic

Amanda Seyfried voices a teenager who finds herself transported to a deep forest setting where a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is taking place. She bands together with a rag-tag group characters in order to save their world – and ours. (PG – 102 minutes)

If we are being completely honest, the title of “Epic” may be a bit of a stretch. The new animated adventure based on William Joyce’s children’s book “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” is certainly beautiful to look at and tells a story that has both the entertainment value to enchant younger viewers and the strong subtext to teach them a laudable lesson along the way, but it in no way warrants such a bold name. This is because the motion picture caters primarily to kids, trading in the momentous tone of the teaser trailer for disposable excitement and a juvenile sense of humor. (Thumbs Down!)

Harold’s Going Stiff

Stan Rowe plays a man suffering from a frightening new disease that is turning him into a zombie. After an experimental new treatment fails, his condition deteriorates and he ends up on the run from a group of violent vigilantes who are out for blood. (NR – 77 minutes)

Had “Harold’s Going Stiff” been made with a bit more continuity, it could have been considered a resounding success. After all, writer/director Keith Wright has essentially come up with an incredibly fresh concept for the zombie genre, which has been growing increasingly rotten in recent years. Although none of it is likely to make you laugh out loud or shed an actual tear, the entire tale is concocted in such a way that is comically clever and honestly heartfelt. The problem is that Wright does not always adhere to the mockumentary style that works so well and occasionally drops the point-of-view ball, so to speak. (Thumbs Up!)

No One Lives

Derek Magyar plays the leader of a ruthless criminal gang that takes a young couple hostage and goes to ground in an abandoned house. However, when the captive girl is killed, the tables are unexpectedly turned and the gang’s members find themselves outsmarted by an urbane and seasoned killer. (R – 86 minutes)

About 20 minutes into “No One Lives,” director Ryûhei Kitamura and screenwriter David Cohen employ an exciting twist that has the potential to put the new horror movie on the map. Within that moment, they turn what would otherwise appear to be a conventional story on its ear. Unfortunately, save for a scene shortly thereafter during which a character makes a brilliantly bloody albeit absurd entrance, the rest of the movie returns to familiar territory – a bunch of bad guys getting bested by an even worse guy. And when no one is likeable, does anyone care if no one lives? (Thumbs Down!)

Scary Movie 5

Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex play a couple that begins to experience some unusual activity after bringing their newborn son home from the hospital. With the help of home-surveillance cameras and a team of experts, they learn that they are being stalked by a nefarious demon. (PG-13 – 86 minutes)

After having suffered through “Scary Movie 5,” it is almost impossible to believe that this half-baked comedy that lacks even a single, solitary laugh is a direct descendant of the movie that, in 2000, was clever and quite hilarious. Granted, the franchise’s fall from grace did not happen overnight as its quality has been consistently decaying over the course of four sequels. And while this latest (and hopefully last) installment is slightly less insignificant than “A Haunted House” released earlier this year, anyone who saw that putrid pile of refuse knows that such a statement is hardly a compliment. (Thumbs Down!)

Shadow Dancer

Andrea Riseborough plays a single mother living in Belfast who is arrested for her part in an aborted IRA bomb plot in London and forced to become an informant for MI5 in order to protect her son’s welfare. Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson also star. (R – 96 minutes)

Despite an initially intriguing premise and a complex performance from actress Andrea Riseborough, “Shadow Dancer” is a mundane and monotonous movie. The new drama based on author Tom Bradby’s novel never picks up the pace enough to deliver viewers any authentic thrills and therefore loses them long before its cushioned climax. If this lifeless effort is any indication, James Marsh – who helmed one of 2011’s greatest motion pictures “Project Nim” – ought to stick to directing documentaries. Even star power in the form of Clive Owen cannot save this snooze-fest of a feature film. (Thumbs Down!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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