The Last Stand (R, 2013, Lions Gate)
It isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fault he’s getting old, even if nine years in politics probably expedited the process somewhat. But if one thing is clear the instant Schwarzenegger turns around and steps into Sheriff Ray Owens’s shoes for his first star vehicle since 2003′s “Terminator 3,” it’s that he is, indeed, looking old. Fortunately, whether he’s overmatched is a question for another day, because whether by design or by happy accident, “The Last Stand” doesn’t really put him in a position to fail. In character, Ray isn’t simply old and fairly tired: He’s also pretty small potatoes, manning a post in a minuscule middle-of-nowhere town while a chase involving a federal agent (Forest Whitaker) and an extremely gifted and wanted drug kingpin (Eduardo Noriega) rages around him and over his head. What happens next is as B-movie comic as it is action-hero serious, and even when Schwarzenegger gets to chew scenery as the top name on the marquee, he usually does so in the company of good guys and bad guys who are crazier, feistier, stupider and generally more out of touch with their mortality than Ray is. “Stand” isn’t a sterling movie by any measure, but it’s a stupidly fun good time that embraces its place as a live-action cartoon and takes itself not a tick more seriously than that. Schwarzenegger plays along gamely, and rather than look old and out of place, he fits right in as a valuable piece of an endearingly weird puzzle. (Bonus points for perhaps the best clearing out of a cornfield since another man named Ray turned one into a baseball diamond.) Johnny Knoxville, Peter Stormare, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán and Christiana Leucas also star.
Extras: Deleted/extended scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, Dinkum Firearm and Historic Weaponry Museum tour.
Stand Up Guys (R, 2013, Lions Gate)
“Now confess each and every serious sin that separates you from Christ.” “Oh, no. We’d be here forever, Father. Can we just deal with what happened today?” Twenty eight years after he walked into prison as a fall guy, Val (Al Pacino) is an old, defeated but free man. Step one on his first day out: Reunite with old partners in crime Doc (Christopher Walken) and Hirsch (Alan Arkin). Step two: Get back into trouble. And step three? Evade the target on his head for what ostensibly is payback for what happened 28 years earlier. That’s a lot to pack into a day’s work, and as an account of all that productivity, “Stand Up Guys” regularly struggles to keep things cohesive and in the spirit of the many moods it wants to convey. Is nostalgia the prevailing emotion of the day? Loyalty? Comedy through pain? Bitterness? Maybe none of the above, and “Guys” just wants to be a wild and crazy night out with a bunch of not-so-reformed bad boys? It isn’t always clear, nor is the film’s footing all that steady. But even though all that stumbling is hard not to notice, “Guys” clomps around with an earnestness that’s palpable even when scrambled, and when it has fun, that fun is contagious even when the reasoning doesn’t always make a lot of sense. “Guys” has its heart and soul in the right place, and though the script has its share of warts, it also regularly clears the way for all three stars to ham it up and have some fun with their characters. Through all of the stumbles, that talent shines though, and for a tolerant audience, that’s all “Guys” really needs.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features.
Love Sick Love (R, 2013, Monarch Home Entertainment)
There’s someone out there for the hopelessly romantic Dori (Katia Winter), and for right now, she’s convinced it’s fellow serial dater Norman (Matthew Settle). Problem is, Norman is a perennial dater for different reasons, and finding love is expressly not among them. When that realization comes to a head one evening, Dori, to put it one way, just kind of goes crazy. So, too, does “Love Sick Love,” which springs a trap slightly out of nowhere that ensnares Norman in a fantasy scenario with Dori, her two children (where’d they come from? Who knows), her parents (same), and a year’s worth of family holidays crammed into a weekend that would make “Misery’s” Annie Wilkes extremely proud and perhaps a little jealous. Fittingly, like a lunatic who catches her prey and has no concept of what to do with him once caught, “Love” spends the next two acts flailing its arms and debating whether to be an extremely dark comedy or something genuinely creepy while Norman himself shuffles between being flummoxed, enraged and resigned (sometimes to funny or dark effect within the span of the same mood). In another genre, all the flailing would be violent enough to send the story completely off course and toward irreparable harm. But when the entire crux of a movie hinges on complete insanity, the line between disrepair and genius is so thin that only individual perception can decide which side ultimately wins out. That, fortunately, is part of the fun. For all its inconsistencies, “Love” at least is too consistently bizarre to be dull.
Extras: No extras.
Side Effects (R, 2013, Universal)
Following a stint for insider trading, Emily’s husband (Channing Tatum) is out of prison, and Emily (Rooney Mara) is so happy to have him back that she literally drives her car into a concrete wall shortly after his release. That’s all we get at the beginning of “Side Effects,” so that’s all it looks like. But there’s more to the story, and that comes closer to light once Emily gets her hands on an experimental antidepressant called Ablixa, which her doctor (Jude Law) prescribes following a series of unsuccessful prescriptions and a conference with her former doctor (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The Ablixa works, but there are — wait for it — side effects, and mercy, is that title ever an understatement. Without spoiling the primary side effect that sends “Side Effects” into another gear, what happens next is, in addition to pretty clever with how it parlays prescription drugs into psychological thrills, altogether remarkable in its ability to balance intrigue and restraint. Or rather, it’s all those things until it slightly, then completely, then crazily isn’t quite any of those things. Turns out, the source of some of that intrigue is just a red herring, and the only thing more disappointing than how fiercely “Effects” drives into its own wall is how stock it feels in spite of going so completely crazy in its second half. You’ve seen these psychological thriller bits and pieces before, and that’s more disappointing than it should be given how promisingly original “Effects” initially seemed poised to be.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature, mock Ablixa marketing materials.
A Common Man (PG-13, 2013, Anchor Bay)
You have to hand it to “A Common Man,” which found an absolute dead ringer for Ben Kingsley to play a disgruntled citizen who has planted C-4 explosives all over a Sri Lankan city and will detonate them if the government doesn’t set some dangerous prisoners free. Wait, never mind — that is Ben Kingsley, and if he looks strained, it’s probably the fault of all the dead weight he has to pile on his back in order to haul this story anywhere. The unnamed man’s endeavor, though hardly novel, is morbidly intriguing enough to carry a movie that’s serviceable enough to coast on suspense, character development or an appetite for surprise. “Man,” to its credit, has that appetite, and perhaps that’s enough. But those surprises are forced to wage one hellacious battle with a torrent of dreadful dialogue and a supporting cast incapable of making it sound better than it reads. Occasionally, “Man’s” delivery — be it through bad line readings or a suffocatingly overwrought soundtrack — just piles on the harm, and the net result feels like an amateur imitation product that spent all its positive energy snagging a first-class actor to give it some hope. Kingsley does what he can, which is enough to nudge “Man” toward a conclusion that’s entertaining in spite of the arduous mountain of problems it climbs to get there, but the view from the summit still isn’t pretty enough to make that climb worthwhile. No extras.