DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 8/28/2012

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The Pirates! Band of Misfits has an unruly spirit and a sense of randomness in its opening act.  It watches the crew of a pirate ship, led by the Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant), as they debate what constitutes the best part of a pirate’s life and attempt to pillage various ships with poor results.  These scenes are to the movie’s benefit.  Then the actual plot, about the Pirate Captain trying to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award, starts up, and despite the amusing addition of Charles Darwin (voice of David Tennant), the movie loses much of the feeling that anything could happen as the usual story beats unfold.  My review is here.  Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D.

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 8/21/2012

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Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation puts us in the position of the adjudicator (quite literally in the first shot) of a conflict between a husband and a wife.  Nader (Peyman Moadi) wants to keep his family together in Tehran, and Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to pursue a career outside of the country.  The main point of contention is their daughter (Sarina Farhadi), whom Nader wants to keep around to help him with his ailing father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) and whom Simin wants to come with her so that the daughter may have more opportunity.  Out of this comes a mystery revolving around Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a woman Nader hires to care for his father, and a chance to see the strange, irrational workings of the Iranian justice system.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 8/14/2012

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The Raid: Redemption starts with a tension-filled prologue as an elite squad of police officers must infiltrate a rundown tenement to arrest or kill a maniacal crime lord.  The team must go floor by floor and room by room to ensure no one in the building–all of whom might be accomplices–will interfere.  It’s a unique setup, and just as writer/director Gareth Evans entices us with it, all hell breaks loose.  The film quickly becomes a standard-issue martial arts movie, complete with mindless thugs, a sense of level-progression, and fights that rely on the only-in-the-movies tendency for people to approach the hero one at a time.  Even if it’s familiar, the action is excessive, brutal, and bloody.  Whatever works, right?  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 8/7/2012

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The simplicity of Dr. Seuss’ works is the reason they will continue to be read as long as there are parents to tell bedtime stories to their children.  The Lorax is a bloated attempt to expand the universe of Seuss’ proposal for wise and forward-thinking treatment of the environment in the face of industrial excess.  A boy (voice of Zac Effron) tries to figure out what happened to the forest and hears the sad tale of the Lorax (voice of Danny DeVito), the woods’ protector.  It’s as bright and colorful as the book (except when things go south for the forest, of course), but it keeps adding one extraneous element after another until the heart of the story is lost in musical numbers, cliffhangers, and chase sequences.  My review is here.  Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 7/24/2012

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Here is a relentless thriller about a young woman walking, running , exploring, and cowering throughout the various hallways and rooms of a house that is under assault by a man, a group of people, or some thing.  Silent House gives the illusion of one, seemingly unbroken take to capture Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) trying to escape the man/men/thing chasing after her, making it a technically savvy and ingenious film on top of the that it’s genuinely, chillingly frightening.  The neat use of sound (We often hear things behind a wall as the camera hold on it) and Olsen’s performance help a lot, too.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 7/17/2012

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According to accepted wisdom, any action movie worth its salt must have an interesting villain.  Lockout pits a group of featureless villains against a hero who seems to feel as apathetic toward humanity as much as they do.  Snow (Guy Pearce) is scornful, sardonic, and would rather be anywhere than trying to save the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) when a riot breaks out in a prison orbiting the Earth.  The movie has a lot of unintentional virtues like its setup, including a series of ridiculously death-defying escapes (The last one is a doozy), but when its hero is off-screen, the premise’s silliness starts to seem exactly that–silly.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Continue reading

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DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 7/10/2012

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Teenager Lisa (Anna Paquin) comes to a startling realization when she witnesses a woman get hit by a bus and holds that woman in her arms until she dies.  Young Lisa, of course, will eventually die, too, and it’s too much for this privileged New Yorker to bear, especially since she believes she might have caused the accident by distracting the bus driver (Mark Ruffalo).  There’s a lot happening here, and writer/director Kenneth Longergan balances it all nicely.  Margaret had a rough time getting into theaters.  After lawsuits, a studio that insisted a limit on the film’s length, and editing help from Martin Scorsese, it eventually was released, and now, it arrives on home video in the theatrical version and an extended cut, which, presumably, is closer to Lonergan’s original intentions.  It will be fascinating to compare the two.  Available on DVD/Blu-ray Combo. Continue reading

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