ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

DVDs: 'John Adams'; 'The Bucket List'; 'Funny Games'; 'Jumper' and more

John Adams

HBO, $59.95

Following the lead of David McCullough's biography, this seven-part HBO miniseries covers the birth of the great American experiment from the perspective of our persnickety second president. Paul Giamatti plays John Adams as a preening neurotic, yet he remains fundamentally sympathetic while navigating -- and sometimes instigating -- the personality clashes that helped forge a new nation. “John Adams” is a little shapeless given its length, but the DVD set is a must for history buffs, who'll appreciate the "You are there" depictions of the Boston Massacre and the Constitutional Convention as well as featurettes that delve deeper into McCullough's work and the roots of the American Revolution.

The Bucket List

Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

The wacky terminal-cancer patients played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson travel the world fulfilling lifelong dreams in director Rob Reiner's tear-jerking serio-comedy "The Bucket List," a hacky crowd-pleaser that succeeds despite its clichés. Credit is due to Freeman and Nicholson, who give ingratiating performances (even when their faces are being digitally pasted onto sky divers) and to Reiner, for resisting the broadness that's made much of his recent work so intolerable. The DVD adds a promotional featurette.

Funny Games

Warner, $27.95

Repeating a nasty trick he first played in 1997, Austrian director Michael Haneke offers an English-language version of his story about two thrill-seeking hoodlums who torture an upper-middle-class family. Throughout, Haneke dares the audience to look away, then blames them if they don't. Conceptually, the gambit is brilliant; in practice, it's smug and mean. Equally cruel? The DVD arrives devoid of features.

Jumper

20th Century Fox, $29.99/$34.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

Movies about teleporting rogues should be crazy fun, but that's not the approach director Doug Liman takes with "Jumper," a slight, globe-hopping adventure that takes forever to get cranked up, then immediately stalls. Hayden Christensen plays a mopey teen who discovers he can "jump" anywhere in the world and decides to use his newfound power to party, until he learns that veteran jumper-hunter Samuel L. Jackson is out to exterminate him. Despite the lack of thrills, the "Jumper" DVD is still interesting for its unusually revealing commentary and featurettes, which explore Liman's seat-of-the-pants creative process.

And . . .

"Army Wives: The Complete First Season" (Touchstone/Disney, $39.99); "Fantastic Four, World's Greatest Heroes: The Complete First Season" (20th Century Fox, $39.98); "The Grand" (Anchor Bay, $29.98); "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" (Hart Sharp, $19.95); "High Noon: Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition" (Lionsgate, $19.98); "The Other Boleyn Girl" ( Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $38.96); "Otis" (Warner, $24.98); "The Signal" (Magnolia, $26.98)

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Noel Murray

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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