‘Skies’ shocks, ‘Station’ slacks and ‘40’ frustrates on DVD

Among the movies that became available Tuesday, May 28 on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley are a science-fiction thriller starring Keri Russell, an action thriller starring John Cusack and a sort-of sequel to the 2007 comedy “Knocked Up.”

Dark Skies

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play a couple that witnesses an escalating series of disturbing events involving their family, causing their safe and peaceful home to quickly unravel. When it becomes clear that the family is being targeted, they take matters in their own hands to solve the mystery. (PG-13 – 100 minutes)

If you have seen “Signs,” then you have actually already seen “Dark Skies,” too. In fact, if you have seen “Sinister,” “Insidious” or any number of movies in which a family is terrorized by a paranormal presence and seeks out an eccentric expert’s professional opinion, then you have also already seen writer/director Scott Stewart’s new science-fiction thriller. Just alternate ghosts for aliens and you have more or less the same movie. However, although the motion picture probes other properties for plot points, it is still sufficiently spooky, effectively eerie and a potent producer of utterly unnerving nightmares. (Thumbs Up!)

The Numbers Station

John Cusack plays a former black ops agent who is assigned to guard a code operator (Malin Akerman) at a top-secret remote CIA numbers station where encrypted messages are sent and received. When an elite team of heavily armed assailants lays siege to the station, the two of them find themselves in a life-or-death struggle against an unknown enemy. (R – 89 minutes)

The unenthusiastic nature of John Cusack’s performance in “The Numbers Station” makes one wonder what prevented the actor from packing up and leaving the project mid-production. He clearly looks about as bored here as anyone who is unfortunate enough to try and sit through this threadbare thriller. The only difference is that most viewers will walk out on the motion picture long before its anticlimactic conclusion. In spite of some early action sequences, the movie quickly loses steam and settles into a single-setting psychological waiting-game of sorts where “suspense” seems to be a completely foreign concept. (Thumbs Down!)

This is 40

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann plays a man and wife who, upon turning 40 years old, must figure out how to forgive, forget and enjoy the rest of their lives – before they kill each other. (R – 134 minutes)

Anyone who is nearing a milestone age – whether it be 30, 40 or what have you – will relate to the simple theme of growing older (and all of the things that come with it) in “This is 40.” Writer/directorJudd Apatow deals with that theme in such as way that is both brutally honest and comfortably compassionate, which has become the filmmaker’s forte. However, his new spinoff of “Knocked Up” feels much more closer in tone to “Funny People” than “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” aiming for drama over comedy. Moreover, the film features too much bickering and not enough narrative. (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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