This week’s top DVDs deal with men facing very serious emotional and political decisions.
• “The Company You Keep” B-minus: Robert Redford and Shia LaBeouf star. The screenplay by Lem Dobbs, based on the novel by Neil Gordon, brushes against some of the politics and policies that made young people a half-century ago feel the only way they could help was to be as loud as possible in their protests.
Redford handles the pressure of being both director and star with the same energy and passion that’s been a trademark of his career. He knows how to get the most out of a scene – even if it’s just two people talking – while keeping his performance focused. His pacing is a little slow, except for an ending that feels rushed.
• “Emperor” B: There are uncertainties during the first few days after the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. Matthew Fox plays Gen. Bonner Fellers, an expert in Japanese life who is assigned to find the proof that would tie the emperor directly to the war. Fellers has deep concerns because if the emperor is found guilty, the Japanese people will revolt.
It’s nice to see Fox returning to the tortured leading man role he played with great skill during his days on “Party of Five.” Since then, he’s tended to take roles overshadowed by special effects (“Speed Racer”), play characters who are off-kilter (“Alex Cross”) or get caught in a story so complicated even Sir Laurence Olivier would have been an afterthought to the plot (“Lost”).
• “Olympus Has Fallen” A-minus: This high-powered tale of terrorists who take over the White House is “Air Force One” meets “Die Hard.”
Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a former top Secret Service agent for President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who ends up with a desk job after a tragic event. He returns to the White House when it’s attacked and taken over and becomes the only person who can save the president, the first son (Finley Jacobsen) and the United States.
These kind of big action movies work if the plot seems even remotely plausible, the central hero is tough enough to handle the job and the action rarely stops. Check, check and check.
Also new on DVD
“The Big Wedding”: Family tries to survive a weekend wedding celebration.
“Bill Moyers: Faith & Reason Collection”: Bill Moyers explores questions about religion.
“Hatchet III”: Team hunting in a swamp is attacked. Danielle Harris stars.
“The Hot Flashes”: Middle-aged women challenge high school girls’ basketball champs to charity game.
“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adhle Blanc-Sec”: Comics heroine Adhle Blanc-Sec leaps to the screen.
“Cat. 8”: A global security system causes big problems.
“Trial & Retribution: Complete Collection”: Shows psychological scars of violence.
“Time Team: The Team’s Favorite Digs”: Archaeologists, historians, surveyors and geophysicists unearth mysteries.
“Standing Up”: Young teens run away from camp after being the target of a prank.
“The Thick of It: Seasons 1-4”: Political comedy starring Peter Capaldi.
“Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space”: Jon Pertwee plays the world-saving Time Lord.
“Reality”: An Italian fishmonger longs to be on “Big Brother.”
“Ocean Men: Extreme Dive”: A look at the world of freedivers.
“Trevor Noah: African American”: Trevor Noah searches for his identity in a world obsessed with labels.
“A Werewolf Boy”: Orphan is really a creature never meant to exist.
“From This Day Forward”: Confident women have trouble with love.
“Enlightened: The Complete Second Season”: Laura Dern plays a self-destructive corporate executive.
“Southland: The Complete Fifth and Final Season”: Cable series about police officers in Los Angeles.
“Super Storm”: Jupiter’s red spot disappears, triggers electrical storms and mega-cyclones.
“The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Bumpers Up!”: More tales of the little dump truck with big dreams.
“Damned”: Director Rene Clement’s 1947 post-war thriller.
“Girls: The Complete Second Season”: HBO comedy starring Lena Dunham.