This is Jeff Bayer, and I don't update this site very often. If you'd like to listen to my current movie podcast you can find it at MovieBS.com.

New this Week: 'No Strings Attached,' 'The Way Back' and 'Takers (DVD)'

Hitting movie theaters this weekend:

No Strings Attached - Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline The Way Back - Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell (limited)

Movie of the Week

The Way Back

The Stars: Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell The Plot: A group of gulag escapees journey 4,000 miles to their freedom. The Buzz: This is Director Peter Weir’s latest -- that's enough buzz right there.

In watching the film's trailer, one gets the feeling that The Way Back is more of an adventure tale than it is a tale about the gulag. But we’re not talking carefree adventure here; this looks to be a story predominantly about survival, and survival in the most brutal of conditions. Knowing the film is based on a true story, combined with the way in which it has been marketed, allows for one to somewhat safely assume a happy ending (otherwise it would have been called Not the Way Back, right?). I believe it’s fair to say the average viewer would want a happy ending here, and although the trailer does allude to danger, death and despair, I get the feeling this film will be an uplifting one.

Colin Farrell, as he’s aged, has impressed me more and more. Jim Strugess’ stock has been up-and-down, and I’ve always had a difficult time digesting Ed Harris, so the cast is kind of a mixed bag, but under Weir’s direction, I’m not sure that it matters too much. It looks like Saoirse Ronan’s character should add an interesting wrinkle to the tale, changing the dynamic of the traveling band of survivors considerably.

Six-time academy award nominee, Director Peter Weir, has so many incredible films under his belt — The Mosquito Coast, The Year of Living Dangerously, Galipoli, just to name a few of my favorites — he’s been an extremely solid director for the past 30 years, and it’s very tempting here to just list off every single film he’s done since 1981. The Way Back is Weir’s first film in 7 years, his first since Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. This is cause for celebration.

Every Friday we'll have new reviews of the latest films. TSR's complete Film Review Database

New Blu-ray and DVDs released this week:

Animal Kingdom (BD/DVD) - James Frecheville, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton Buried (BD/DVD) - Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez, Robert Paterson Death Race 2 (BD/DVD) - Luke Goss, Lauren Cohan, Sean Bean Down Terrace (BD/DVD) - Robin Hill, Robert Hill, Julia Deakin Freakonomics (BD/DVD) - Sammuel Soifer, Jade Viggiano, Kahiry Bess Jack Goes Boating (BD/DVD) - Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz Lebanon (BD/DVD) - Yoav Donat, Itay Tiran, Oshri Cohen Paper Man (BD/DVD) - Jeff Daniels, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds Stone (BD/DVD) - Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Robert De Niro Takers (BD/DVD) - Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba, Matt Dillon The Virginity Hit (DVD) - Matt Bennett, Zack Pearlman, Krysta Rodriguez

Blu-ray/DVD of the Week


The Stars: Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba, Matt Dillon The Plot: A group of bank robbers find their multi-million dollar plan interrupted by a hard-boiled detective. The Buzz: I recognize this film has its flaws. It's a simple tale told through simple means, and in the end, it's all been done before. Why is it the DVD of the week then? Well, what I really enjoyed about this film was the ensemble cast. I enjoyed the dialog and acting of basically everyone here. It all had a very lifelike quality to it, very realistic, even if some of the storytelling mechanisms were over-the-top. Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba, Matt Dillon, T.I., and Zoe Saldana all put in excellent performances.

I really liked the racial harmony this film exemplified. I didn't feel any kind of self-propagating racist tension that can so easily be brought on my an off-color comment here or there, especially in a film like this. Director John Luessenhop took the high road here, basically ignoring the subject of race, and considering the characters he was working with in Takers, I'd say that was a very difficult and honorable achievement. Luessenhop took the "best way to move past racism is to stop talking about it," approach, also known as the "get over it, get on with it," approach. I found this approach refreshing and highly admirable -- where so many "progressives" are guilty of the exact opposite, playing the race card at every given opportunity, Luessenhop deftly sidesteps the whole issue and avoids sounding like a broken record. The cross-race friendships in this film were believable and heart warming and, like I said, refreshing. Sure, Takers might be kind of a dumbed-down heist movie, but it got a lot of important things right.

Check out our reviews of these movies and more ... TSR's complete Film Review Database

TSR Buzz: I Love Ricky, Cats Making Videos and Aziz Adopts

Episode 42: Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider - 'Green Hornet' and screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe from 'Going the Distance'