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'Labor Day' 2stars

Without performers of the caliber and intensity of Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, "Labor Day" could seem like a very special Hallmark Channel movie -- about looking for love in all the wrong places but finding romance again.

Jason Reitman, the filmmaker behind "Up in the Air" and "Juno," adapted Joyce Maynard's novel about an emotionally fragile divorcee, Adele (Ms. Winslet), her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), and the stranger who changes their lives.

Solemn stranger Frank Chambers (Mr. Brolin) encounters the mother and son in a store and quietly intimidates them into allowing him to get into their station wagon and go to their house so he can lie low and rest an injured leg for a few hours.

His claims that he has never intentionally hurt anyone in his life seem to be contradicted by news reports about Frank serving time for murder.

"Labor Day" tracks the main characters and others in their wake during a six-day stretch in which the tension bubbles like the juices in the fruit pie. The core trio are surrounded by Adele's ex-husband who is remarried with a second family, a female friend with a son who has cerebral palsy, neighbors living a little too close for comfort, a cynical teenage girl Henry meets and others populating the small town.

Director Reitman, who also wrote the screenplay, treats some of the details from the book in impressionistic fashion and forces moviegoers to fill in the gaps. "Labor Day" is a drama for old-fashioned romantics with a willing suspension of disbelief.

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality. Blu-ray extras include commentary, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.

-- Post-Gazette

"The Legend of Hercules' 1star

The Kellan Lutz Hercules movie, which beat the Dwayne Johnson Hercules movie to theaters by a good half-year, may be first but it's certainly not very good, with almost nothing to recommend it -- except perhaps Mr. Lutz's sculpted bare chest and the fan base he built as Emmett Cullen in "The Twilight Saga."

"The Legend of Hercules," directed by Renny Harlin and shot largely in Bulgaria, suffers from generic real or digital backgrounds, leaden dialogue and fight scenes that play as if they were MMA bouts in which the actors leap into the air and are captured with freeze frames as onlookers sometimes chant "Fight! Fight!"

The story dramatizes the unusual circumstances surrounding Hercules' conception with a human mother and god Zeus as his father. After fast-forwarding 20 years we see what happens when Hercules' earthly royal father conspires to exile and eliminate him, setting the stage for Hercules' beloved (Gaia Weiss) to marry his scheming half-brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan).

Hercules is enslaved far from home but literally battles his way back to the kingdom in a story with the sort of bloodless combat scenes typical of PG-13 rated movies. "The Legend of Hercules" should be stirring and formidable but instead proves largely lifeless and ludicrous.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense combat action and violence, and for some sensuality. Extras include commentary and a Blu-ray making-of documentary.

-- Post-Gazette

'Escape From Tomorrow' 1star

The film has garnered a lot of attention for the guerrilla filmmaking writer/director Randy Moore used to make the horror film. The majority of the movie was shot at Disneyland and Disney World without permission of the entertainment giant.

It's kind of fun to watch the movie and try to figure out how secretive the cast and crew had to be. Once that initial interest wears off, "Escape from Tomorrow" becomes a slowly paced, badly acted horror movie that will take its place among cult favorites like "Pink Flamingos."

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

'Devil's Due'

A "Rosemary's Baby" for the "Paranormal Activity" generation, "Devil's Due" uses the increasingly unimaginative found-footage gimmick to try to juice up the tired trope of a woman who is carrying a demonic fetus. The movie's two-word title is the world's shortest plot synopsis. What few surprises lie in store arrive very late in the film and consist of generic supernatural horror clichés. Contains language and violence. Blu-ray extras include commentary by directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, deleted scenes, featurette and a director's photo album.

-- The Washington Post

TV on DVD

'Hill Street Blues: The Complete Collection' 4stars

There's a reason this series won 26 Emmy Awards including the Outstanding Drama Series four years running.

The NBC cop drama from Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll redefined the TV police series format by introducing a group of flawed characters who worked in a world of criminal and personal chaos. The show embraced a gritty realism that many TV series have copied but none has been able to match.

The series features an amazing cast that includes Daniel J. Travanti, Veronica Hamel, Bruce Weitz, James B. Sikking and Betty Thomas. When you go looking for a TV cop series to buy on DVD, "be careful out there" and pick up this set. It includes all 144 episodes. It's one of TV's finest.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

ALSO THIS WEEK:

 "Locker 13":Theme park janitor looks into the mysteries surrounding an old locker.

• "Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed": The fourth comedy special from the 'King of Clean Comedy.'

 

• "Gimme Shelter" (2.5stars) : Teen (Vanessa Hudgens) fights for survival and redemption on the streets.

• "You, Me & Them, Series 1": British sitcom about a couple navigating their May-December romance.

 "SpongeBob, You're Fired!": SpongeBob must learn to find a life outside of Mr. Krab's watchful eyes.

 "Sophie's Choice": The Meryl Streep film is available on Blu-ray for the first time

• "The Rise & Fall of The Clash": Documentary about the final chapter of the juggernaut band.

• "Dark Hearts": Struggling artist finds his muse in a sultry singer.

• "Civil War: The Untold Story": Elizabeth McGovern narrates the documentary that provides new insights into the causes of the war.

• "Bad Country": Detective (Willem Dafoe) teams with a contract killer-turned-informant (Matt Dillon) to take a powerful criminal.

• "Mr. Selfridge Season 2": Jeremy Piven plays the man who brought seductive shopping to early 20th-century London.

 "Dead Shadows": Young man's parents were brutally killed the last time Halley's Comet could be seen.

• "Approved for Adoption": Animated documentary tracing the unconventional upbringing of the filmmaker Jung Henin.

 "Father Brown: The Complete Collection": First complete collection of the series seen on "Mystery!" in the mid-1970s.

 "Gloria": An older woman rediscovers life, love and heartbreak.

• "Star Trek: Enterprise -- Season Four": The space travel TV series is available on Blu-ray for the first time.

 "Lady Peacock": Man realizes the only way to compete with a drag queen is to become a drag queen.

• "Dynasty: Season Eight": Volumes one and two of the series starring Linda Evans are available.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

 


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