January 23, 2009 in Features

DVDs: ‘Huang Shi’ has good intentions

From staff and wire reports

‘The Children of Huang Shi’


Proclaiming that your movie is “based on a true story” is no excuse for sloppy storytelling. Yet this heart-in-the-right-place production, based on the real-life tale of a British journalist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who worked hard to save dozens of children during the Japanese occupation of World War II, falls prey to director Roger Spottiswoode‘s clumsiness. There’s war and snotty-faced kids and Radha Mitchell (not to mention Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat) and lots more. But in Spottiswoode’s hands, it all plays – as L.A. Times critic Carina Chocano says – like “a cross between ‘Au Revoir les Enfants’ and ‘The King and I.’ ” DVD includes making-of featurette. (2:05; rated R for disturbing, violent content)

– Dan Webster

‘Max Payne’

Unless they star Milla Jovovich, movies made from video games are seldom worth watching. This Mark Wahlberg romp, which stars the “Entourage” producer as a kind of supercop bent on revenge, is no exception. DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes commentary by director John Moore and visual effects supervisor Everett Burrell, making-of featurette, unrated version. (1:39; rated PG-13 for brief strong language, drug content, intense shooting sequences, sexuality, violence)

– Dan Webster

‘City of Ember’

Based on Jeanne Duprau‘s book, this children’s film focuses on an underground city whose power source is starting to fail – causing two teenagers (Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway) to find a solution. “ ‘City of Ember’ would probably entertain younger viewers, if they haven’t already been hopelessly corrupted by high-powered sci-fi on TV and video. It’s innocent and sometimes kind of charming.” DVD includes no extras. (1:35; rated PG for mild peril, thematic elements)

– Roger Ebert, Chicago Tribune

‘The Express’

Rob Brown stars as Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. “ ‘The Express’ isn’t a perfect movie, but it deserves plenty of credit for abandoning the ‘Remember the Titans’/’Glory Road’ school of screenwriting … and exploring the racial issues in Davis’ story in more realistic terms.” DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes commentaries by director Gary Fleder, a “making-of” featurette and clips of the real Davis. (2:09; rated PG for brief sensuality, language involving racism, thematic content, violence)

– Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle


A firefighter headed for divorce (Kirk Cameron) is convinced to make one last effort to save his disintegrating marriage. “(T)his is a decent attempt to combine faith and storytelling that will certainly register with its target audience.” DVD includes commentary by director/screenwriter Alex Kendrick, co-screenwriter Stephen Kendrick, making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, Bible study. (2:02; rated PG for peril, thematic material)

– Neil Ganzlinger, New York Times

‘Henry Poole Is Here’

A guy (Luke Wilson) who has decided to go solo during what he sees as his final days has his faith in life restored. “(T)the dearth of honest characterization in Albert Torres‘ script lends the whole exercise a shallow impatience with the storm before the calm.” DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes commentary by director Mark Pellington and writer Torres, making-of featurette, music video. (1:41; rated PG for language, thematic elements)

– Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times


An evil scientist’s assistant – an “Igor” (voice by John Cusack) – fights the power to become a scientist himself. “Like most acts of cruel mediocrity committed in the name of entertaining children, ‘Igor’ presumably seemed like a good idea at the time.” DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes “Be an Igor” featurette, deleted scenes, gag reel. (1:26; rated PG for action, mild language, scary images, thematic elements)

– Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

‘Saw V’

Jigsaw, apparently returning from the dead, begins another series of grisly murders. “(T)he rewriting of ‘Saw’ mythology is the slasher equivalent of revising ‘Star Wars’ so that Greedo fires at Han Solo first.” DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes cast and crew commentaries, making-of featurettes. (1:32; rated R for brief nudity, language, sequences of grisly bloody torture, bloody violence)

– Luke Y. Thompson, The Village Voice

Also available: “American East,” “Amusement,” “Bikini Royale,” “Bogeyman 3,” “The End of America,” “Save Me”

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