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Firth, Blunt make ‘Newman’ worthwhile

Fri., Sept. 6, 2013

A man’s quest for a new life and a woman facing a changing world are themes in this week’s top DVD releases.

• “Arthur Newman,” B: Colin Firth has the uncanny ability to play both king and commoner with the same compassion, dignity and reverence. Whether it was his lovesick efforts in “Love Actually” or his frustration in “A King’s Speech,” Firth showed it’s heart that makes for a great performer. His heart-filled work is plentiful in “Arthur Newman.”

Firth plays Wallace Avery, a failure as a husband, father, professional golfer and FedEx employee. He decides his life is so awful, he fakes his death and starts over as Arthur Newman. This transformation might have worked had he not met a person equally as damaged in Charlotte (Emily Blunt). As if drawn together by the failings in their lives, the pair take to the road on a journey of discovery.

The film is an emotional road trip that ends as interestingly as it starts. The outstanding performances by Firth and Blunt make this emotional quest well worth the ride.

• “The East,” B-plus: Trying to make a terrorist cell the sympathetic center of a movie is risky. Make them too likable and the story comes across weak. Make them too despicable and the audience won’t care what happens to them.

The screenplay for “The East” – by director Zal Batmanglij and the film’s star, Brit Marling – lands firmly in the middle. By finding balance, there’s no blatant message of good or evil. Instead, there are situations and desperate acts that result in the re-examination of what is good and bad.

This approach encourages the audience to invest in the story rather than stay a passive observer – a major theme of the movie.

• “Now You See Me,” C-plus: Bank-robbing illusionist makes money disappear.

Until the final scene, this is a mildly interesting look at what happens when larceny meets illusion. Imagine David Copperfield becoming a member of the “Ocean’s Eleven” gang.

Director Louis Leterrier shows a deft hand when dealing with the stage presentations, but he doesn’t have equal ability staging the more emotional moments. Leterrier’s past work has shown the same weakness when it comes to personal drama.

Also new on DVD

this week:

“Sharknado”: Los Angeles faces danger of sharks being tossed around by giant tornadoes.

“Empire State”: Security guard gets pulled into a robbery scheme. Dwayne Johnson stars.

“Cockneys vs. Zombies”: East-enders must stop a zombie outbreak in London.

“Blandings: Series 1”: BBC series based on the work of P.G. Wodehouse.

“The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season”: CW Network series starring Ian Somerhalder.

“Lala-Oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale – The Movie!”: Visit a land of ballerinas, fairies and mermaids.

“The Iceman”: Devoted husband and father is really a ruthless killer-for-hire.

“Slightly Single in L.A.”: Lacey Chabert stars in this tale of a woman caught in a love triangle.

“Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultimate Team Power – Volume 1”: Includes first four episodes of “Power Rangers Megaforce.”

“Spartacus: War of the Damned – The Complete Third Season”: Cable series from Sam Raimi. Includes 10 episodes.

“The Jesse Stone Collection”: Includes the TV movies starring Tom Selleck as a small-town police chief.

“The Fugitive”: To mark the 20th anniversary of the Harrison Ford movie, a new Blu-ray edition is being released.

“Stories We Tell”: Sarah Polley’s film about how we discover that the truth depends on who is telling it.

“Ancient Aliens: Season 5 – Volume 1”: Includes 12 episodes from the fifth season of the TV series.

“The Office: Season Nine”: The Scranton gang face the ninth and final season.

“Petunia”: Thora Birch stars in this story of a family that’s anything but perfect.

“Person of Interest: The Complete Second Season”: CBS drama about those who try to stop crime before it happens. Jim Caviezel stars.

“Mystery Science Theater 3000”: Movie based on the TV series is now available on DVD.

“Da Vinci’s Demons – The Complete First Season”: A young man is tortured by the gift of superhuman genius. Contains eight episodes.

“The Twilight Zone: The Complete Fifth Season”: Guest stars include Jackie Cooper, James Coburn, Lee Marvin and Shelley Fabares.

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