Recliner Reviews for May 8, 2014

Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.

“47 Ronin”

The incident of the 47 ronin is an actual event that took place in Japan back in the Eighteenth Century. Their story became a thing of samurai myth. This is the seventh film made about the incident. But this is the first Hollywood version. This is the first starring Keanu Reeves. And this version is more folklore than history. It’s more of a marriage of Japanese myth and “Lord of the Rings” monsters and magic. It’s quite the directorial debut for Carl Rinsch, who swings for the fences with grandiose sets and bigger-than-big fight sequences. But it just takes so long to get there. The movie slogs along for the first act. The second act attempts to pack in too much. The finale does deliver some nice action. Reeves’ performance is a hammy mess, but that’s not what totally kills the film. No, this plot committed hari-kari by taking an hour to get going – pass.

“Veronica Mars”

One of America’s sweethearts, Kristen Bell, returns to her smartass private eye beginnings to breathe life back into this title character. The fans have been clamoring for this TV-to-film adaptation since the show went off the air seven years ago. They’ve clamored so hard, they were willing to help fund the film on The Kickstarter campaign broke site records for the all-time highest-funded project in the film category and the most project backers of any project in Kickstarter history. The film brings back the original cast, even the original writer/producer Rob Thomas. For those who didn’t watch the show or haven’t seen it in awhile, there’s a quick Veronica Mars 101 lesson in the opening credits to either catch you up or remind you. It’s not a female “Fletch,” but Bell nails this character with playful wit and biting sarcasm. It won’t take her long to pull you right into her orbit – worth a watch.

“The Fifth Estate”

Julian Assange has proclaimed his controversial Web site Wikileaks the standard bearer for keeping governments transparent and honest. He obviously doesn’t think the same is true of Hollywood adaptations of his story. He has publicly bashed this film about how Wikileaks came about and the troubles that came along with being the Internet’s public enemy No. 1. But let’s not focus on the external aspects of the film. Let’s just take a look-see at the movie itself, shall we? It got serious director Bill Condon away from doing trash like the “Twilight” series and back to his “Gods and Monsters” and “Dreamgirls” form. It gave actor Benedict Cumberbatch another platform to shine, as Assange. It also allowed Daniel Bruhl to show American audiences he’s one heck of a supporting actor. So what if it’s one-sided and opportunistic? It’s sure pretty to look at. But is that enough? Barely worth a watch.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge