Picks of the Week
(R, 118 minutes, Sony): Parker, the antihero of Taylor Hackfords serviceable action thriller, is an odd duck.
Partly, its the quaint code of ethics espoused by this gentleman thief (Jason Statham), who shoots a guy in the leg before robbing him and then calls an ambulance. And Parker will only steal from those who can afford it and hurt those who deserve it.
Thats understandable, considering that Parker himself seems to have a congenital insensitivity to pain. Covered in scars from previous injuries, Parker is shot twice and left for dead early in the film, when four accomplices in a robbery (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Micah Hauptman and Clifton Collins Jr.) decide they dont want to split the proceeds with him. After being rescued by a farmer and self-medicating with a quick dose of stolen Demerol, Parker sets about hunting down the double-crossers, who are planning another heist, so he can enforce his Robin Hood-ian moral code on them.
Although the outcome is never in doubt, its satisfying, like pot roast and gravy. Although the reliably rocklike Statham lacks Hugh Jackmans zest, he makes for a dependably watchable warrior.
Contains violence, obscenity and brief nudity.
Extras: Commentary with Hackford, making-of short and Who Is Parker? featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: featurettes The Origin of Parker and Broken Necks and Bloody Knuckles.
(PG-13, 123 minutes, Warner): This movie is so schizoid in its extremes of pleasure and pain that its hard to know how to weigh its contradictions.
On the plus side, this Twilight-esque tale of paranormal teen love which centers on the relationship between a human high school boy and a 15-year-old witch, or caster is anchored by two solid and sweet performances from Alice Englert (Lena) and Alden Ehrenreich (Adam).
The bad news is that director Richard LaGravenese just doesnt know how to rein in the films more fantastical plot elements. As she approaches her 16th birthday, Lena must face the possibility that she could be claimed by the unwholesome side of her powers, unless shes strong enough to resist it. Her mother suddenly shows up with Lenas cousin, the evil witch Ridley (Emmy Rossum), to advocate for the more unsavory side of necromancy. At this point, the movie isnt just over the top; its cray-zay.
The screenplay for Beautiful Creatures is sharp and witty, the cast is stellar and the chemistry between the young stars is magical. But too much of the rest of the movie is an unholy mess.
Contains obscenity, sensuality, scary images and some violence.
Extras: deleted scenes, ICONS by Margaret Stohl book trailer. Also, on Blu-ray: six featurettes including Book to Screen, The Casters, Alternate Worlds and Designing the Costumes.
(R, 106 minutes, Universal): Like a gel capsule in a sip of orange juice, this psycho-pharmacological thriller goes down easily.
A medical thriller wrapped around a social-issue picture suspended within a potboiler, Steven Soderberghs cautionary drama with Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones glides along at a brisk clip. From the swooping crane shot that opens the film to the moment when the camera settles on a trail of bloody footprints, the audiences interest is suitably piqued.
The film, written by Scott Z. Burns, cannily portrays the epidemic of overprescribing at play in America. Soderbergh handles the switching of gears with characteristic smoothness even if the result is a movie composed of one part Thank You for Smoking, one part The Snake Pit, one part Spellbound and a dash of Basic Instinct for titillating good measure.
If Side Effects does prove to be Soderberghs swan song, thats a shame: Mara is just the kind of cool, opaque-yet-transparent leading lady with whom he could embark on the next chapter of a masterfully versatile career.
Contains sexuality, nudity, violence and profanity. Extras: Aliza Website Experience and behind-the-scenes featurettes, commercials for the fictional drugs Ablixa and Intenin. TheWashingtonPost