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DVD Reviews For 11/19: "Hey Ridley, Ya Got Any Beemans?"
by Peter Sobczynski

No time for witty remarks. . .just enjoy the latest roundup of DVD/Blu-Ray titles to hit the marketplace.


THE ATTACK (Cohen Media Group. $24.98): In this controversial drama from Israel, a surgeon from Palestine has his world shattered twice--first when his beloved wife is killed in a suicide bombing and then when the police inform him that she was actually the bomber. Not believing their conclusions, he sets off to prove her innocence and makes some surprising discoveries about the woman that he thought he knew.

BEAUTY OF THE DEVIL (Cohen Media Group. $24.98): The great French filmmaker Rene Clair tackles the legend of Faust in this stylishly made 1950 film in which an aging professor (Michel Simon) makes a deal with the devil (Gerard Phillipe) for the usual riches and youth in exchange for his soul. Difficult to see for many years, the film was recently rediscovered and restored and now makes its first-ever appearance on home video with a DVD that also includes a short documentary on its history.

BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL/TALES FROM THE QUADED ZONE (Massacre Video. $29.95): For all you hipsters out there who consider yourselves to be well-versed in the annals of bad film history just because you may have once caught a screening of "The Room" or "Birdemic," try watching these no-budget nightmares from the twisted mind of the immortal --the former being a tale of a church -going woman who purchases a spectacularly ugly ventriloquist's dummy that proceed to do any number of perverse, odious and ineptly filmed things and the latter being a "Twilight Zone"-style anthology lacking the sheer craftsmanship of his previous effort--and maybe then we can talk.

BYZANTIUM (IFC Films. $24.98): In the latest film from Neil Jordan, Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan play a mother-daughter vampire duo who, more than 200 years after being turned into the undead, turn up in a small seaside town in England and raise suspicions amongst locals and representative of an all-male bloodsucker tribunal that has been relentlessly pursuing them in order to destroy them as abominations to the faith. This one only made a token appearance in theaters earlier this year, a shame because it is both one of the most fascinating of recent takes on the vampire mythos and Jordan's best work in years--alternately horrifying and lyrical with some of the most beautifully ghastly visuals to hit the screen in some time.

CITY LIGHTS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Charles Chaplin's 1931 masterpiece, in which his Little Tramp character winds up befriending a blind flower girl with appropriately tear-jerking results, hits Blu-Ray in an edition that combines a lovely new transfer with a slew of extras ranging from vintage material featuring Chaplin to a new appreciation from Peter Lord. Although I have always been a bit conflicted about Chaplin and his use of heart-tugging melodrama--I tend to gravitate to his darker works like "The Great Dictator" and "Monsieur Verdoux"--I must admit that when it comes to successfully plucking heartstrings, he was never better than he was here.

FAMILY TREE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment. $29.98): For his latest project, the great Christopher Guest moved to HBO for this series about an ordinary man (Chris O'Dowd) who, after receiving an inheritance from a relative he never knew existed, decides to look into his own family history and makes any number of oddball revelations. Like Guest's best work, this also manages to strike a delicate balance between the hilarious and the strangely heartfelt, thanks in no small part to a cast that includes such regulars as Michael McKean, Fred Willard and Ed Begley Jr., and while it does meander from time to time, I suppose that is part of its charm. Other TV-related titles now available include "Clear History" (HBO Home Entertainment. $19.98), "Dexter: The Final Season" (Paramount Home Video. $55.98), "Mad Men: Season Six" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $49.98), "Magic City: the Complete Second Season" (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $44.98) and "Under the Dome: Season One" (Paramount Home Video. $54.99).

FRANCES HA (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): This coming February, the slate of new releases from Criterion is an absolute powerhouse that includes "Blue is the Warmest Color," "Tess," "Foreign Correspondent" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." However, not even a stellar lineup like that is able to quite make up for their inclusion of the latest load of preening bullshit from Noah Baumbach ("Greenberg," "The Squid and the Whale") featuring the ever-irritating Greta Gerwig as a self-absorbed hipster nincompoop whose entire life instantly falls apart when her best friend (Mickey Sumner, in the film's lone engaging performance) decides to get a life of her own by taking off to move in with her boyfriend. If you ever wondered what "Girls" would be like if it were made by and for people who failed to recognize that they weren't supposed to admire those solipsistic characters, your wish has been granted. For everyone else, be very afraid. [br]

GROWN UPS 2 (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): As bad as the original "Grown Ups" was, it almost seems like a model of artistic commitment when compared to this painfully unnecessary followup following childhood pals Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade over the course of one long and exceedingly wacky day. Little more than a cross between the world's most expensive home movie and a lesser Little Rascals short, there is absolutely nothing that even the most mildly discerning of viewers can take away from this garbage other than a newfound respect for Rob Schneider for presumably spitting the bit on this one.

INTOLERANCE (Cohen Media Group. $49.98): Having literally revolutionized the motion picture industry with his still-controversial 1914 epic "The Birth of a Nation," D.W. Griffith decided to follow it up two years later with an even-more ambitious work that illustrates the terrible price of intolerance by depicting it through four intertwining storylines that cover the fall of Babylon, the persecution and crucifixion of Christ, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and a contemporary family torn apart in the name of social reform. An enormously expensive undertaking in its time (which is what happens when you rebuild Babylon on the backlot, among other extravagances), the film proved to be a big flop at the box-office due to confusion over the multiple narratives but it plays beautifully today as one of the most ambitious works of cinema ever produced, one whose visual marvels are still stunning to behold (especially in this newly restored version) and whose thematic elements are just as relevant today as they were back in 1916.

JFK: 50TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE EDITION (Warner Home Video. $49.98): Wait a second, if Oliver Stone's still-gripping drama about the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy came out in 1991, how could this possibly be the 50th anniversary edition and never mind, I just figured it out. If you aren't already suffering from JFK-related burnout, this set also includes 2 additional documentaries (which are also being sold separately), "John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums" and "JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later" (Warner Home Video. $14.95 each).

MAN OF STEEL (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Sure, there have been any number of bad Superman movies over the years but even such clunkers as "Superman III" and "Superman Returns" at least displayed some vague interest in the character. For this awful reboot, uber-hack Zach Snyder basically craps all over the material and transforms a still-potent mythos into just another nonsensical blockbuster filled with uninteresting characters and empty-calorie FX setpieces that grow increasingly tedious after a while.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): I'm not saying that a prequel to the wonderful "Monsters Inc." showing how expert scarers Mike and Sully (Billy Crystal and John Goodman) first met is necessarily a bad idea in theory. What I am saying is that this particular version of that concept--in which they play rival students at the titular institution who learn the importance of teamwork in order to beat the bad guys in some campus competition--could not be more lame and uninspired if the once-reliable people at Pixar had actually tried to do just that. Because it is colorful and noisy, little kids will probably like it but viewers in double digits--especially those who loved the original--are likely to come away from it feeling bored and deeply disappointed.

PARADISE (Image Entertainment. $27.97): Speaking of massive disappointments, Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning writer of "Juno" and the even-better "Young Adult," stumbles badly with her directorial debut, a misfired comedy-drama about a sweet-natured and God-fearing good girl (blackface enthusiast Julianne Hough) who, after surviving a horrible plane crash, decides to see what she has been missing out of life via a plunge into the debauchery (albeit of the PG-13 variety) of Las Vegas. Cody the director shows a little bit of promise but she is let down by Cody the screenwriter, whose script is utterly implausible, filled with characters ranging from the unlikely to the unlikable and chock-full of self-conscious dialogue that sounds more like a failed Cody clone than the real thing. If you are even thinking of checking this one out, skip it and watch the infinitely better "Young Adult" instead and if you have already seen "Young Adult," watch it again.

PASSION (eOne Entertainment. $24.98): Pay no attention to the unknown hack critic whose review is quoted on the back cover of the DVD, Brian De Palma's remake of the 2010 French thriller "Love Crime"--detailing the increasingly brutal attempts by co-workers Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace to climb the corporate ladder--is a sexy and stylish knockout of a film that is the director's finest and most consistent work since his 2002 masterpiece "Femme Fatale." Darkly funny, breathlessly exciting and teasingly erotic in equal measure, this is the work of a master director firing on all cylinders and the end results put most other contemporary movies of its type to shame.

PRINCE AVALANCHE (Magnolia Home Video. $26.98): After an excursion into the world of studio filmmaking that took moviegoers from the highs of "Pineapple Express" to the back-to-back nadirs of the inexplicable "Your Highness" and the merely awful sitter, writer-director David Gordon Green returns to his indie roots with this quiet comedy-drama about two mismatched guys--steadfast Paul Rudd and excitable Emilie Hirsch--as a two-man crew painting lines on desolate stretches of Texas roadway circa 1987. Like his best films, such as "George Washington," "All the Real Girls" and "Snow Angels," it may not sound like much of anything on paper but the actual movie is a wonder--funny, lyrical, haunting and anchored by wonderful performances from its two leads. Best of all, it shows that Green has not lost the filmmaking gifts that made his work so unique in the first place during his studio sojourn.

R.I.P.D. (Universal Home Entertainment. $24.98): Many wildly expensive films failed to live up to box-office expectations this past summer but the biggest bomb of them all, and deservedly so, was probably this FX-laden comedy about a pair of dead policemen--Old West lawman Jeff Bridges and contemporary cop Ryan Reynolds--assigned to patrol Earth and apprehend errant spirits before they can destroy the world. As ghastly as it sounds, this is nothing more than an exceptionally obnoxious and unfunny knockoff of "Men in Black" that demonstrates no recognizable traces of wit or originality amidst all the increasingly desultory action setpieces. To be fair, however, it must be said that even in a film that he must have realized was not going to loom especially large in his eventual AFI Lifetime Achievement clip reel, Jeff Bridges certainly throws himself into his performance and is solely responsible for whatever precious few glimmers of life it contains.

THE ROLLING STONES: SWEET SUMMER SUN--HYDE PARK LIVE (Eagle Rock. $19.98): The pop combo of some renown hits London's Hyde Park for the conclusion of their recent tour and cranks out a set that includes the usual classics, the new tune "Doom & Gloom" and a reunion with former member Mick Taylor on "Midnight Rambler." As concert films featuring the Stones go, this is certainly no "Gimme Shelter" or "Shine a Light" but the group still manages to pour out enough power and energy to put performers who weren't even alive when "Some Girls" was first released to shame.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Following a little too closely on the heels of the similar "Olympus Has Fallen," the other 2013 film that was essentially "Die Hard in the White House," the latest action epic from Roland Emmerich was another one of this past summer's notable non-starters. This is a bit of a shame because it was actually not a half-bad movie after all, certainly better than its atrocious predecessor, thanks to Emmerich's flair for absurd action spectacle, the likable performances from Jamie Foxx as the beleaguered president and Channing Tatum as the ordinary joe-turned-hero and the fact that, unlike "Olympus Has Fallen," it has fun with its inherently goofball premise. Yes, this is nothing more than a dumb popcorn epic but as such things go, it does deliver the goods in a reasonably exciting manner.


ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (Warner Home Video. $19.98)


THE BEST MAN (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)



LION OF THE DESERT (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $19.99)

THE MESSAGE (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE RIGHT STUFF (Warner Home Video. $27.98)

SCROOGED (Paramount Home Video. $24.98)

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

THE THREE FACES OF EVE (Fox Home Entertainment. $24.99)

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originally posted: 11/20/13 04:44:27
last updated: 11/21/13 13:13:53
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