CATEGORIES DVDsReality trumps fantasy this week as Clint Eastwood's history lesson 'Invictus' outshines everything else arriving on DVD. With top-notch performances by Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, the story of South African President Nelson Mandela's attempt to unify his country via rugby is too good to miss. Not so for love (lorn) 'Valentine's Day' and 'The Spy Next Door,' two misfired romantic comedies short on romance and comedy. Read on. 'Invictus'
What It's About: Director Clint Eastwood is really cracking the history books lately, what with 'Flags of Our Fathers,' 'Letters From Iwo Jima,' 'Changeling' and the upcoming 'Hoover.' 'Invictus' is the true story of how Nelson Mandela, newly elected president of racially divided South Africa, brought his country together through "the universal language of sport," specifically by focusing on the country's underdog rugby team, maneuvering them to make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match.
It's Kinda Like: 'Remember the Titans' meets 'Gandhi'
What We Say: As always, Eastwood directs with a strong hand: straight-ahead storytelling with no radical flourishes, with an emphasis on characterization and motivation. He's an actor's director, and it particularly shows here with wonderful performances by Morgan Freeman (as Mandela) and Matt Damon (as captain of the rugby team). Eastwood has always cast his lot with the underdog (or outsider), and this stirring and uplifting drama is no exception. A fine amalgamation of history and entertainment. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
What It's About: Ensemble comedy follows the intertwining story lines of a group of Los Angelinos as they find their way through romance over the course of one Valentine's Day, with a gigantic list of couples and singles searching for, finding and losing love. The list of stars is endless: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift.
It's Kinda Like: 'Crash' meets Woody Allen
What We Say: Director Garry Marshall's forte is the simple, romantic comedy, be it a 'Pretty Woman' or 'The Princess Diaries,' with a tearjerker here ('Beaches') or a satire there ('The Flamingo Kid'). Almost all his films are workmanlike, enjoyable affairs. Infortunately, 'Valentine's Day' is not one of them; with a reliance on a gigantic ensemble cast and cascading story lines, the film meanders from one cliche to another. Too cute for its own good. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
'The Spy Next Door'
What It's About: Jackie Chan plays an undercover CIA superspy on loan from the Chinese government who decides to give up his career to settle down with his girlfriend, who's also his next-door neighbor. But, as often is the case in these spy-leaving-the-field films, there's one last mission that messes up everyone's plans. Things get more complicated when Jackie has to babysit his girlfriend's three kids, who think he's a jerk ... until the bad guys come calling.
It's Kinda Like: 'The Pacifier' meets 'Uncle Buck'
What We Say: Warning: This film is not for fans of the old Jackie Chan ('Police Story,' 'Crime Story,' 'Drunken Master'). The martial arts master who used to add a good dose of humor to his action adventures has now come full circle (after the second and third 'Rush Hour' debacles) and tried to make a comedy with a dose of martial arts, and it doesn't work. Though he's still fun to watch in action (and still pretty good with stunts, even at 56), this inane family comedy has to be the nadir of Chan's career. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
Other New May 18 DVD Releases:
'The Girl on the Train'
'The New Daughter'
'The World Unseen'
Check out other new May 18 DVD releases at OnVideo.