- - Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Releases

Something Borrowed

Warner Home Video

★★

Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin, “Big Love,” “He’s Just Not That Into You”) is a bright, attractive young woman and a talented attorney. But when she’s in the company of her best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson), Rachel surrenders the spotlight to her self-obsessed BFF. As “Something Borrowed” begins, Rachel finds herself regretting her weakness when Darcy snaps up the one thing our heroine really wants - the affections of her law school crush, Dex (Colin Egglesfield, “Melrose Place”).

Based on the best-selling novel by Emily Giffin, “Borrowed” deals with Rachel’s conflicted feelings as she carries a torch for Dex, remains friends with Darcy, and confides in her best friend, Ethan (John Krasinski, “The Office,” “Away We Go”). Those emotions grow even more conflicted when, shortly after Darcy announces her engagement to Dex, he and Rachel share a night of passion.

Director Luke Greenfield and screenwriter Jennie Snyder parlay the engaging personalities of Miss Goodwin and Mr. Krasinski into moments of genuine warmth and humor. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of those moments.

As for Miss Hudson, her Darcy comes off as an even less appealing copy of her character from “Bride Wars”: a selfish, controlling egotist who often uses sex to get what she wants. Mr. Greenfield allows the movie’s pace to drag from time to time while Ms. Snyder interjects moments of guilt and bonding between the female leads that come off as less than sincere. The film would have worked better as a fast-paced, door-slamming bedroom farce than as the supposedly sensitive comedy-drama it tries to be.

The movie is available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, as well as a standard definition DVD edition. If you’re a fan of Miss Goodwin or Mr. Krasinski, you’ll likely find “Something Borrowed” modestly entertaining. Otherwise, save your time and money. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for profanity, sexual and drug content.

The Conspirator

Lions Gate Home Entertainment

★★★1/2

Robert Redford once again displays his considerable skills as a director in this compelling, thought-provoking look at the cabal that plotted and carried out the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865. A fine cast, led by Robin Wright (“State of Play”) and James McAvoy (“X-Men: First Class”), delivers powerful performances in screenwriter James D. Solomon’s look at the arrest and trial of the seven men and one woman accused of planning to kill Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline, “The Extra Man”) and Secretary of State William Seward.

Mary Surratt (Miss Wright) is the mother of one of the conspirators and the owner of a Washington, D.C., boarding house where they met. But is this loyal Southerner complicit in the plot or merely an innocent bystander being used by the government as bait to lure her fugitive son into surrendering?

These are the questions facing Union war hero and attorney Frederick Aiken (Mr. McAvoy), who reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt. As the military tribunal draws closer to a verdict, Aiken finds himself growing more skeptical of his government’s belief in his client’s guilt.

Mr. Redford allows the film’s drama to build slowly and in great detail, which does cause the pace to drag occasionally. Still, the story he and Mr. Solomon are telling is so absorbing that the occasional slow spot can be tolerated.

The work of the cast, which also includes Tom Wilkinson (“Michael Clayton”), Colm Meaney (“Get Him to the Greek”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“The Wrestler”), is uniformly strong, with Miss Wright deserving of Oscar consideration.

The film is available in a deluxe Blu-ray edition as well as a two-disc DVD version. Both editions include a feature-length documentary on the assassination plot, as well as interviews with the cast, commentary by Mr. Redford and a number of short features on the actual events.

A gripping historical drama, “The Conspirator” is a worthy addition to any film fan’s collection. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some scenes of violence.

Back of the Rack

The Killing

The Criterion Collection

★★★★

Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 film noir gem, centering on the real-time robbery of a racetrack, gets a well-deserved, first-class restoration on DVD and Blu-ray from the respected Criterion Collection. Featuring a cast of some of Hollywood’s best character actors, including Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray and Elisha Cook Jr., this edge-of-your-seat heist drama crackles with edgy dialogue and whip-quick plot twists and turns. As always, the technical folks at Criterion have done a masterful job of making the visuals and soundtrack as clear and crisp as if the film was brand new.

The Blu-ray edition includes interviews with a film historian and a critic on the making of the film and where it fits in Kubrick’s career; a short film about the movie’s co-screenwriter, Jim Thompson, best known as the author of such noir novels as “The Getaway” and “The Grifters”; and a brand new interview with the movie’s producer, James B. Harris.

No MPAA Rating, but should be treated as a PG film for violent content.

News & Notes

Big 3 to collaborate on 3-D

One of the biggest questions nagging consumers considering buying 3-D television sets is whether they’ll have to buy several pairs of glasses to work with different brands of sets. According to Variety, that concern may soon be largely obsolete.

The three leading manufacturers of television sets sold in the United States - Samsung, Panasonic and Sony - are joining forces to develop standards for 3-D TV glasses. The result, to be known as Full HD 3-D, will be available in 2012 and will be compatible with 3-D TVs sold in 2011.

Despite the confidence expressed by the three companies that the standardization of the glasses will overcome customer resistance to the 3-D format, some marketing firms continue to express doubt about the future of 3-D television. Sources cited in Variety point to a Nielsen survey that showed the two leading reasons for customer resistance were having to use glasses of any kind and the high price of sets.

Joe Barber is the entertainment editor for WTOP-FM and a critic-panelist for WETA-TV’s “Around Town.”