This week we begin on stage:
Christopher Plummer stars in this filmed version of his Broadway hit based on the final stages in the life of John Barrymore.
Set in 1942 when the once-great classical and silent film actor had deteriorated due to alcoholism, the film captures Plummer’s exceptional performance in the play by William Luce. Erik Canuel directed and also adapted the play for the film, finding humor, pathos and irony in the character, as so emotionally revealed by Plummer.
The DVD also contains the comprehensive, hour-long documentary Backstage With Barrymore, featuring interviews with Helen Mirren, Julie Andrews and Zoe Caldwell.
Liz & Dick -- This Lifetime biopic works as a guilty pleasure in numerous and varied ways. It chronicles the relationship between movie star royalty Elizabeth Taylor (Lindsay Lohan) and Richard Burton (Grant Bowler). And with such casting, the film opens itself up for parallels between Taylor’s life and Lohan’s.
Director Lloyd Kramer, working from Christopher Monger’s script, begins with a flashback and then moves on to the set of Cleopatra, where the two stars went from feuding strangers to on-set lovers who could not be torn apart, even by their respective spouses.
Shortly after, the publicity around the international playing and partying by the two could have led directly to the endurance of today’s predatory paparazzi (see: Lohan, Lindsay). The couple’s various battles with substance abuse as well as with each other also receive their due.
The best element of the film, besides seeming like a secret piece of delicious Hollywood gossip, is that it takes itself seriously and avoids camp, resulting in brief yet engaging portraits of various big-name entertainment figures. Lohan is fine as Taylor, showing an impressive harnessed talent, while Bowler looks little like Burton but does capture the cadences of his Welsh baritone.
Not rated, 90 minutes. The DVD includes six interviews with cast and crew, including Lohan and Bowler.
A Common Man -- Ben Kingsley, along with a cast of relative unknowns, stars in this terrorist thriller set in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He evidently seems like a terrorist as he travels around the city planting timed explosive devices on buses, trains, shopping malls and the like. He then tries to extort authorities for the release of four jailed terrorists.
From there, the plot twists several times, according to the script co-written by director Chandran Rutnam. But no tension or suspense about the explosives ever builds much, probably because Rutnam seems more intent on delivering static diatribes against terrorists.
Still, we see few films from Sri Lanka, and this one gives us a glimpse at what looks like a beautiful place. Rated PG-13, 87 minutes.
And for kids this week:
Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown This family feature stars Bailey in the third installment of the mischievous golden retriever’s adventures. This time, he finds himself in a new home — one with an enchanting female dog next door. When her brother is dog-napped, Bailey springs to the rescue. With Frank Mosley, Mark Hanson, Trey Bumpass and Christine Galyean. Not rated, 85 minutes.
Barney: Dance With Barney In these three episodes, Barney and buddies Baby Bop, BJ, Jamal and others learn to dance and share new steps, including folk dance, ballet, hip-hop and more. Not rated, 76 minutes. The DVD also includes three additional music videos.
And, finally, this week’s TV arrivals:
Rookie Blue: The Complete Third Season As ABC’s popular summer series approaches its next season, the 13 episodes filled with all the action, love and drama of last season arrive on four discs. Still technically rookies for some reason, the series’ handsome, young, big-city police officers team up, back each other up and, sometimes, love each other.
Among the ensemble cast, Missy Peregrym takes a default leading role as Andy McNally, the dedicated daughter of a retired cop, who somehow always seems to land in the middle of things at Division 15. This year she experiences a kidnapping, a broken romance and the loss of a close friend. With Enuka Okuma, Travis Milne, Ben Bass, Gregory Smith and various seasonal guest stars, including William Shatner.
Not rated, about 9 1/2 hours. The set also includes a few minutes of on-set cast interviews, a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes totaling eight minutes, and seven “making of” featurettes of various lengths.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Cloud Atlas, Dexter: The Seventh Season, Frankie Go Boom, Marley Africa Roadtrip.