‘Rounds’ rivets, ‘Zone’ zings and ‘Disaster’ delights on DVD

Among the movies that became available Tuesday, June 4 on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley are a sequel to a 2009 actioner, a low-budget dramatic thriller and a black comedy about the end of the world.

12 Rounds 2: Reloaded

Randy Orton plays an EMT who finds himself caught in a 12-round game of cat and mouse with a vigilante. With his wife’s life hanging in the balance, the paramedic must figure out why the maniac has chosen him as a pawn in his deadly game. (R – 95 minutes)

“12 Rounds 2: Reloaded” certainly does not earn any points for originality. After all, the plot is pretty much interchangeable with its 2009 predecessor. Only the characters’ names, actors and specific stunts have been changed. However, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!” Although the sequences are less slick and the action is so over the top that it makes the FOX television series “24” look like an accurate portrayal of real life, this flick is frantic fun from start to finish and never once slows down long enough for the viewer to catch their breath. (Thumbs Up!)

Charlie Zone

Glen Gould plays a disgraced boxer and ex-convict who is hired to abduct a runaway (Amanda Crew) from a crack house and return her safely to her family. But nothing goes quite as planned and nothing is quite what it seems. (R – 102 minutes)

It will be interesting to see what writer/director Michael Melski does with an actual budget because his new dramatic thriller “Charlie Zone” is moderately compelling in spite of its meat-and-potatoes approach. That is to say that there really is not much to the new movie which lacks the pristine polish of most motion pictures. However, while Melski may not have had the money to make the film look like your standard Hollywood fare, he certainly has the skills to tell a strong story. So what if the flick is quite crude and a bit rough around the edges? (Thumbs Up!)

Escape from Planet Earth

Brendan Fraser voices a beefcake space hero who defends his planet against a nefarious villain (James Gandolfini). Additional voice talents include Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Sarah Jessica Parker. (PG – 95 minutes)

History has proven that alien-themed animated adventures are almost always failures of out-of-this-world proportions. Be it played for laughs like “Planet 51” or “Space Chimps” or drama akin to “Battle for Terra” or “Delgo,” such movies simply seem destined to implode. Yet, the Weinstein Company chose to ignore the obvious and make “Escape from Planet Earth” anyway. The result is a generic-yet-energetic family flick whose best bits are snippets of social commentary that are momentarily muttered under characters’ breath, barely even audible over the screams of insignificant stupidity that make up most of this monotonously messy motion picture. (Thumbs Down!)

A Good Day to Die Hard

Bruce Willis reprises his role as John McClane who this time travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son (Jai Courtney) only to discover that said son is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces. (R – 97 minutes)

“A Good Day to Die Hard” uses a steamroller to do the job of a rolling pin. In other words, director John Moore’s fifth entry in the film franchise about a NYPD detective named John McClane who is slowly but surely morphing into Superman suffers from action overload, causing the viewer’s eyes to glaze over as people, places and things are obliterated in an orchestra of fiery explosions. Even checking one’s brain at the door to the auditorium cannot save them from acknowledging, with disappointment, that this chaotic catastrophe is a far cry from the series’ suspenseful first installment released 25 years ago. (Thumbs Down!)

Identity Thief

Jason Bateman plays a mild-mannered businessman who learns that his identity has been stolen and hits the road in an attempt to foil the thief – a deceptively harmless-looking woman (Melissa McCarthy). (R – 111 minutes)

“Identity Thief” is ferociously funny but it is also fairly frustrating and the film frequently takes its jokes entirely too far. That is to say that director Seth Gordon’s new road trip comedy treats its two stars – Jason Bateman and the magnificent Melissa McCarthy – like cartoon characters, subjecting them to extreme physical duress in order to get a laugh yet, in doing so, overshooting said target. Fortunately, though, there are enough down-to-earth hits to outweigh the many manic misses and make the movie worth watching. Extra points are earned for quirky cameos from “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet and McCarthy’s “Bridesmaids” co-star Ellie Kemper – both of whom deserve their own starring roles. (Thumbs Up!)

It’s a Disaster

A couples brunch takes a sudden, catastrophic turn when the city falls victim to a mysterious attack. Trapped in the house and unsure of their fates, eight seemingly normal people become increasingly unhinged. Stars include David Cross, Julia Stiles, Erinn Hayes and America Ferrera. (R – 88 minutes)

If you have ever been to a party – or even more apropos, hosted one – that you believe could not have been a bigger disaster, writer/director Todd Berger has a surprise in store for you: It could have been much, much worse. Therein lies the conceit of “It’s a Disaster,” a black comedy that is wickedly written, aptly acted and energetically executed. An eccentric ensemble cast of characters coupled with a furiously fast pace in which tension is increasingly tightened within a claustrophobically confined space where window-cracking is not an option makes for one darkly funny fireworks display. (Thumbs Up!)

The Last Ride

Henry Thomas plays Williams who, in the days leading up to his untimely death hires a young man (Jesse James) to drive him to West Virginia and Ohio for a pair of comeback performances. Fred Dalton Thompson, Kaley Cuoco, Stephen Tobolowsky and Ray McKinnon also star. (PG-13 – 102 minutes)

“The Last Ride” may feature the depth of country and western singer Hank Williams’ music but it operates with none of the immediacy.As a result, the new biopic from directorHarry Thomason about Williams’ final days is rather boring – much more than you might expect of a motion picture centered on a man who had such an intense influence on the music industry. The problems spur from screenwriters Howard Klausner and Dub Cornett’s determination to impart insights about life in general rather than Williams’ life specifically. (Thumbs Down!)


Toni Collette plays a charismatic, crazy hothead who transforms a family’s life when she becomes the nanny of five girls whose mother has cracked from her husband’s political ambitions and infidelity. (NR – 116 minutes)

“Mental” begins with plenty of promise, opening with a woman singing and dancing next to a clothesline in a shabby Australian backyard as though she is Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.” Unfortunately, save for a sprinkle of such eccentric ingenuity here and there throughout its nearly 2-hour runtime, writer/director P.J. Hogan’s new dramedy never again matches said sequence’s creative flair. Moreover, the movie – which, among other things, tackles the topic of mental illness – ironically suffers from a bipolar disorder in which it asks us to laugh one moment and cry the next with nary enough time in between each tonal u-turn. (Thumbs Down!)

Warm Bodies

Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie who becomes involved with the girlfriend (Teresa Palmer) of one of his victims (Dave Franco) and discovers that their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world. (PG-13 – 97 minutes)

“Warm Bodies” is strangely romantic. And not just in the amorous zombie-boy-meets-human-girl kind of way but also in its overall outlook on the world – which is weird considering this is a post-apocalyptic motion picture, after all. Writer/director Jonathan Levine’s cinematic adaptation of author Isaac Marion’s novel is incredibly idealistic, pin-pointing poetry in an otherwise extremely bleak existence. In addition to being able to jump-start viewers’ hearts, the flick also stimulates their brains and taps on their funny bones with its witty and wry sense of humor. Bella and Edward have got nothing on Julie and R. (Thumbs Up!)

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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