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DVD Reviews For 12/10:"If You Wanna Get Rid Of A Circus Girl, All You Gotta Do Is Close Your Eyes"
by Peter Sobczynski

First "Heaven's Gate" hits Blu-Ray and now "One from the Heart"--we do live in an age of wonders after all. . .


THE APPARITION (Warner Home Video. $28.98): After seeing "The Devil Inside" last January, I privately assumed that I would not see a stupider horror movie released during 2012 and at the very least, I would not see one featuring a lamer conclusion. Sadly, those illusions fell apart as soon as I saw this indescribably idiotic work in which Ashley Greene's legs are tormented by a terrifying supernatural force that her boyfriend helped to unleash upon the world a few years later but inexplicably forgot to mention during their subsequent pillow talk. Trust me, this is the absolute pits--equal parts lazy and ridiculous throughout--and with nary a fright to boot unless you are easily terrified by extended sequences featuring people shopping at superstores that have been included solely to pad out the running time to what could barely be considered a reasonable feature length. In other words, it has a few flaws, starting with the fact that the negative hasn't already disintegrated into dust.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Every year, a bunch of movies emerge from the Sundance Film Festival riding a wave of rave reviews from people convinced that they have seen the Next Big Thing, only to meet with total indifferences from viewers watching them at proper altitude levels. One significant exception to that rule was this mesmerizing debut from director Benh Zeitlin about a startlingly resourceful 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis) living in a remote Louisiana floodplain with her father (Dwight Henry) and a few others who have deliberately cut themselves off from civilization. Following a massive storm and her father's subsequent illness, Hushpuppy takes it upon herself to set off in search of her long-lost mother and along the way finds herself confronting some hard truths about her father, the forces of nature and, logically enough, a group of giant prehistoric creatures freed by the melting ice caps. It sounds unbearably precious, I realize, but this film works astoundingly well that to the combination of Zeitlin's bold visual style and the amazing lead performance from Wallis--with the movie told entirely from her perspective, it more or less rests on her tiny shoulders and her work is so graceful and natural that there may be a riot in Hollywood if her name is not listed among the nominees for the Best Actress Oscar in a few weeks.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warner Home Video. $28.98): My guess is that if you are reading this, you have most likely already seen Christopher Nolan's epic-sized conclusion to the superhero trilogy that he began with "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" and have therefore already formulated certain views regarding your personal views of the film as a whole. Therefore, I will merely note that this DVD contains several hours of bonus features, including a making-of documentary and a comprehensive look at the history of the Batmobile, and that it is a more-than-fitting conclusion to one of the most spectacular cinematic trilogies of our time. In other words--this comes somewhat recommended.

FINDING NEMO (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.99): Fresh from its recent return to theaters--albeit one marked by the unnecessary inclusion of retro-fitted 3-D that added nothing more to the proceedings than a couple of bucks to the ticket price--the 2003 Pixar favorite about a neurotic clownfish (Albert Brooks) setting off on an adventure across and beyond the ocean to rescue his young son when he is nabbed by a diver and placed in a fish tank. As it turns out, this one has more than stood the test of time and is fresher, funnier and more vibrant that most other animated films of recent years (even those from Pixar themselves) and it can be enjoyed equally by a new generation of viewers as well as those who loved it when it first came out. The 3-D version is also available on Blu-Ray for those suitably equipped for such things but you would probably be better served by watching it through an actual fish tank--the effect will be roughly the same and it will cost a lot less in the long run.

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA 5-FILM COLLECTION (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.99): Considering the fact that most fans of the legendary filmmaker will most likely already four of the five titles included in this collection--the mind-bending 1974 conspiracy drama "The Conversation," the hallucinatory 1979 war epic "Apocalypse Now," the even-more-hallucinatory 2001 extension "Apocalypse Now Redux" and the deeply personal 2009 drama "Tetro"--it would take something pretty significant to induce them to purchase these films all over again. And yet, that is precisely what this collection has to offer with the Blu-Ray debut of his insanely gorgeous 1982 musical extravaganza "One from the Heart." Charting the romantic misadventures of a bored couple (Frederic Forest and Teri Garr) who break up, find new partners (Raul Julia and Nastassja Kinski) and come back together again against the backdrop of a Las Vegas of the mind, this is a film crammed to the brim with appealing performances, stunning visuals and a knockout song score courtesy of Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle and while it may have been a notorious bomb when it premiered, it looks better with every passing year. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is my personal favorite of Coppola's entire filmography and while others may not feel quite that way, I suspect that it will play much better with viewers today than it did 30 years ago.

GYPSY (Warner Archives. $19.95): Having already ushered hundreds of lesser-known titles into the world of home video--many for the first time--through their DVD-on-demand program, Warner Archives dips its first toe into the Blu-Ray market with thee 1962 screen adaptation of the Broadway musical chronicling the life of famed stripped Gypsy Rose Lee (Natalie Wood) and her relationship with her wildly ambitious stage mother (Rosalind Russell). This isn't the greatest musical you will ever see--it runs too long and outside of "Everything's Coming Up Roses," the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim score is not especially memorable--but anyone who has nurtured a lifelong crush on Natalie Wood will no doubt nurture a soft spot for it and fans of the film will no doubt also enjoy the two outtake musical numbers--a duet version of "You'll Never Get Away From Me Again" and "Together Wherever We Go"--that have been included as a bonus feature. Also making its Blu-Ray debut via the Archive program is "Deathtrap" (Warner Archives. $19.95), Sidney Lumet's reasonably engaging adaptation of the hit Broadway play about a down-on-his--luck playwright (Michael Caine), his frail wife (Dyan Cannon) and a neophyte (Christopher Reeve) who has written a script so brilliant that the playwright is considering killing him off and passing it off as his own. This is one of those narratives like "Dial M For Murder" that don't make a lick of sense if you think about them for more than a few seconds but which go down relatively smoothly while you watch them.

HOPE SPRINGS (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Dissatisfied with the somnolent state of her long marriage, an unhappy housewife (Meryl Streep) coaxes her skeptical and grumpy husband (Tommy Lee Jones) to make a pilgrimage to visit a world-renowned counsellor (Steve Carell) in the hope of putting the spark back into their relationship. Spoiler Alert--Everything that is wrong is his fault while everything she does is blameless, selfless and downright holy. Watching the three stars bouncing off of each other is amusing to a certain extent but after a while, the sheer laziness of the material they are working with begins to wear on the nerves after a while and long before it ends, you will be less curious as to what happens to the characters as you are in what could have possibly inspired them to sign on for such slim pickings in the first place.

MEN IN BLACK 3 (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Long-delayed and not exactly worth the wait, this lackluster sequel to the delightful 1997 original and the extremely lame 2002 follow-up finds Agent J (Will Smith) going back in time to 1969 in pursuit of the missing K (Tommy Lee Jones) and teaming up with the younger incarnation of his partner (Josh Brolin) to save the universe from some damned thing or another. As the reasonably dewy version of Jones, Brolin pretty much knocks it out of the park with a hilariously convincing impersonation but he is the only real spark of inspiration in a film where it feels as if most of the energy and creativity went into putting together the hugely lucrative deals needed to lure Smith, Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld back into the fold. Frankly, the only surprise here is that the film astonishingly got a pass from some critics when it was released, though I suspect that was based largely on the fact that they were just happy that it wasn't quite as atrocious as "Battleship" than on its own intrinsic qualities.

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): Unable to have a child of their own, a married couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) writes down all the key attributes embodies by their dream kid and plant it in their garden and lo and behold, who should turn up but a boy (CJ Adams) who not only represents those qualities but who has leaves growing out of his legs to boot. I realize this is all a fable that is supposed to be, as the DVD jacket puts it, "a heartwarming celebration of family as only Disney can deliver) but somewhere between the concept and the execution, something went hideously wrong and the result is an increasingly sappy and maudlin tale that builds to one of the more shamelessly silly finales of recent vintage and not even the likable presences of Garner and Edgerton can save it from succumbing to terminal whimsy.

PARANORMAN (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): The producers of the 3-D stop-motion delight "Coraline" strike gold again with this fabulously entertaining yarn about a young outcast with the ability to see and communicate with the dead, a power that becomes important when the undead begin to storm his normally quiet hometown as the result of an ancient curse that only he can help lift. In a year when too many animated films failed to live up to expectations (even the usually reliable Pixar group fell short with their disappointing "Brave"), this one was a clear winner that managed to appeal to both children and adults with its combination of stunning visuals, a smart story that even touched on a couple of serious issues along the way, a lot of spot-on gags (many of which will touch the heart of any serious monster movie fanatic) and even a genuinely spooky moment or two to boot. Not just one of the year's best animated films, this is one of the year's best films period.

PURPLE NOON (The Criterion Collection. $39.99): In this first big-screen adaptation of the celebrated Patricia Highsmith novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley, filmed in 1960 by acclaimed filmmaker Rene Clement, little-known French actor Alain Delon became an international star for his portrayal of an enigmatic young man who is charged with bringing a rich and dissolute American comrade from his hideaway in Italy back to his family in the U.S. Naturally, nothing--especially Mr. Ripley himself--is as it seem but on the chances that are not aware of how the story develops from this point, I shall not whisper another word for fear of spoilers. The 1999 version of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was a well-made movie but as good as it was, it doesn't come close to comparing with the effortless genius of this stylish and sexy thriller that still packs a punch a half-century after its release. The bonus features on this disc include archival interviews with both Delon and Highsmith and a new discussion with Clement scholar Denitza Bantcheva that help to shed a little more light on this supremely effective movie.

SILENT NIGHT (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.98): Back in 1984, someone had the bright idea to make a slasher film in which the maniac ran around slaughtering people while dressed as Santa Claus. Okay, it wasn't the first film to deploy that particular idea but thanks to an exceptionally lurid ad campaign, it quickly became a source of controversy as everyone from parents groups to Siskel & Ebert condemned it so vociferously that it was yanked from release (though it would become a cult favorite on home video and spawn a series of direct-to-video sequels that would involve people ranging from Monte Hellman to Mickey Rooney). Needless to say, times have changed because this loose remake--appearing on store shelves only a week or so after a token theatrical release--has slipped into the marketplace without anyone even registering its existence, let alone being scandalized by it. Of course, this might have something to do with it only being a scant improvement over the truly awful original--and that is largely due to it not being quite as rapey as its predecessor--more than anything else. Unless you are a Malcolm McDowell completist (and who has the energy for that anymore), stick with the genuinely insane "You Better Watch Out" for your cruel-Yule cinematic needs.

SPARKLE (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): The 1976 cult favorite charting the rise and fall of a girl group not unlike the Supremes (which included early performances from Irene Cara and Lonette McKee) gets the remake treatment in a version that shifts the time frame from the 50's to the 60's--a time of tumultuous change--and smooths out most of the rough edges so that our heroine ("American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks in her film debut) can achieve her dreams without really having to do much of anything to make them happen. Profoundly unnecessary, especially since "Dreamgirls" has replaced it as everyone's favorite Supremes-a-clef, this will almost certainly be remembered as the last project that Whitney Houston was working on before her untimely demise--the ravaged nature of both her celebrated looks and voice are a more vivid warning about the perils of fame than anything else on display here.

STEP UP REVOLUTION (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): Proving once again that there is no social ill or injustice that cannot be overcome with a highly choreographed production number, the latest entry in the redoubtable dance movie franchise follows a group of dancers who take to the streets to offer up precision-timed protests against The Man--The Man in this case represented by the greedy real estate tycoon (Peter Gallagher) who not only wants to destroy their homes in order to build condos but who is also the father of the pretty rich babe who falls for the equally pretty poor dancing activist. There are plenty of attractive people on display and some of the dancing is impressive but everything else about this sorry sequel is so silly that the whole thing comes across as being like "Pina" for pinheads.

WORLD WITHOUT END (Sony Home Entertainment. $65.99): Following the success of the cable television miniseries adaptation of Ken Follet's best-selling novel "The Pillars of the Kingdom," this sequel--based on the book of the same name--takes place in the same English land roughly 200 years later and on the ropes, thanks to onset of war with France and a plague set to devastate much of Europe. Luckily, there is a spunky maiden in the midst and, with her lover, she builds up a new community and then fights to protect it from threats from without and within. The end result was poorly received by critics and audiences alike for its weak narrative and relatively cheap production values (which could explain why it aired on the largely unknown Reelz channel instead of Starz, which broadcast "Pillars") but for those of you desperate to see anything with a medieval slant during the wait for the next season of "Game of Thrones," you could do worse. Other TV-related titles now available include "Cagney & Lacey: The Complete Series" (Visual Entertainment Inc. $189.99), "The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show: The Complete Series" (Warner Archives. $35.98), "East Bound and Down: the Complete Third Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $29.98), "Hot in Cleveland: Season 3" (Paramount Home Video. $29.98), "In Search Of. . .:The Complete Series" (Visual Entertainment Inc. $149.99), "Luck: The Complete 1st Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $59.99), "Mystery Science Theatre 3000: Vol. XXV (featuring Robot Holocaust, Operation Kid Brother, Kitten With a Whip and Revenge of the Creature)" (Shout! Factory. $59.97), "Perry Mason: The 8th Season, Volume 1" (Paramount Home Video. $55.98), "The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98), "The Snorks: The Complete Season One" (Warner Archives. $21.99) and "Star Trek--The Next Generation: Season Two" (Paramount Home Video. $129.99).


AL WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (MPI Home Video. $24.98)

THE BLUE ANGEL (Kino Video. $29.95)

BRAZIL (The Criterion Collection. $49.95)

BUTTER (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.98)

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (Paramount Home Video. $22.98)

LAWLESS (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98)

SUDDENLY (Image Entertainment. $19.98)

TELL NO ONE (Music Box Films. $19.95)

V/H/S (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98)

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originally posted: 12/11/12 08:25:30
last updated: 12/13/12 12:31:52
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