I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

by Ethan Alter December 4, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Watch as Bane does the dance of the broken bat.

The Dark Knight Rises
Following up The Dark Knight -- one of the most critically and commercially successful sequels to come along since The Empire Strikes Back -- was always going to be a Herculean task, even for a director as preternaturally talented as Christopher Nolan. And narratively at least, The Dark Knight Rises is probably the weakest of Nolan's Batman trilogy, filled with logic gaps and plot holes (how does Bruce Wayne get back from that prison pit in the desert to a walled-off Gotham, anyway?) that distract from the proceedings. At the same time though, the sheer scale and scope of Rises's imagery and plotting often dazzles, even when scaled down to television size. Fusing together three major comic book storylines (specifically Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, as well as Knightfall and No Man's Land) with a few flourishes of his own, Nolan concocts a grand superhero opera that's unlike anything else yet attempted in this genre. Special kudos must go to Christian Bale, for giving us an all-too-human Batman; Anne Hathaway, for giving us a Catwoman more in the vein of Harrison Ford's Han Solo than Michelle Pfeiffer; and Tom Hardy, for giving us a villain as formidable as Heath Ledger's celebrated Joker. We'll have to wait and see where the Batman franchise goes next, but taken together, these three films represent a milestone in the art of comic book filmmaking.
Extras: The Dark Knight DVD was a bit skimpy in the bonus features department, but Rises delivers, coming with an extensive and exhaustive collection of behind-the-scenes featurettes exploring various aspects of the movie's development and production. There's also an hour-long Pimp My Ride-like documentary devoted to the evolution of the various cinematic Batmobiles. Bale's Tumbler is cool and all, but Michael Keaton's classic '89 Batmobile remains the ride we'd most like to take for a spin.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our look back at Batman Returns and Batman & Robin
Click here to see our do's and don'ts for ending a trilogy
Click here to see how to fill The Dark Knight void

It stands to reason that you'd be feeling tired of found footage horror flicks by now, considering how terrible most of them are. (For every Paranormal Activity, there are at least two Devil Insides.) But this indie anthology proves that there's still plenty of innovation (and terror) left in the format. A collection of five short films, plus a wrap-around segment, V/H/S is the rare omnibus production where each of the installments is either good or great -- there's not an outright dud in the bunch. Standout entries include David Bruckner's Amateur Night, about the making of an amateur porno that goes horrible wrong; Ti West's Second Honeymoon, about a road-tripping couple stalked by a mysterious assailant; and Radio Silence's 10/31/98, a nightmarish trip through one very haunted house. (The most glaring flaw is the lack of any female voices in the mix; the guy-centrism is disappointing for a movie that otherwise makes a number of bold creative choices.) Here's hoping the just-completed sequel, S-VHS -- which will play at Sundance in January, where its predecessor premiered a year ago -- keeps the fear alive.
Extras: A collection of deleted scenes and some making-of material, including a visual effects-centric featurette.
Click here to read our original review

Beasts of the Southern Wild
One of 2012's biggest indie success stories, Benh Zeitlin's lovingly crafted allegorical tale follows the adventures of a young girl (first-time actor Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father (Dwight Henry) after they're displaced from their home in the Louisiana bayou by a powerful storm. Told in a fragmented, fantasy-laced style that mimics the mind of a small child, Beasts didn't completely engage me emotionally, but I respect and admire the technique with which it was made. The "through a child's eyes" approach can often result in a finished product that's too precious for its own good, but this particular film never feels overly fussed with or manipulated. If Beasts didn't wow me as completely as it did other viewers, it did make me eager to see whatever film Zeitlin comes up with next.
Extras: Deleted scenes that are accompanied by commentary from Zeitlin, audition tapes for Wallis and Henry, a making-of featurette and the original short film that inspired the full-length feature.
Click here to read our original review

Hope Springs
I walked into Hope Springs absolutely dreading having to sit through what looked like a cutesy-poo romantic comedy about a married couple in their autumn year (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) who try to recapture that ol' loving feeling. And while that essentially is the plot of the movie, watching it is actually far from torturous, thanks largely to the skill of the two stars plus a script that's more layered and nuanced (not to mention funnier) than you might expect. Streep in particular is a marvel here; whether she's trying to make a connection with her closed-off hubby or deep-throating a banana to improve her BJ technique (oh yeah... we should have mentioned that the movie involves a fair amount of old-people sex, so you may not want to watch this one with your own parents), her performance is always honest and hilarious. She even makes Jones -- an actor famous for phoning it in -- work a little harder, while Steve Carell (who plays an expert marriage counselor) wisely stays out of the way and lets his co-stars run the show. Hope Springs may ultimately be a minor movie, but Streep and Jones once again re-confirm why they're still two of the greats.
Extras: A commentary track with the film's director, David Frankel, plus a gag reel, a collection of alternate takes and five featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

An anemic small-town comedy that aspires to be the next Election, but lacks that film's dark, go-for-broke sense of humor, Butter strands a great cast -- including Rob Corddry, Ty Burrell and Jennifer Garner, who plays the Tracy Flick stand-in as best as she can -- on its way to a cop-out finale. The Alias star plays the ambitious wife of the town's resident butter-sculpting champion (Burrell), who opts to enter the contest herself when her hubby is forcibly retired. But she doesn't count on having to challenge a new sculptor on the block, an adorable orphan settling in with a new family (Corddry and Alicia Silverstone). The elements are present for a smart, up-to-the-minute social satire, but the execution is sorely lacking.
Extras: Deleted and extended scenes, plus a gag reel.
Click here to read our original review

Finding Nemo: Ultimate Collector's Edition
Trying to pick a favorite Pixar movie can be tough, but Andrew Stanton's 2003 underwater odyssey about a nervous father (Albert Brooks) scouring the seas for his missing son is definitely a big contender for that number one spot. Certainly, the film is a perfect encapsulation of the Pixar brand: direct, emotional storytelling, balanced with plenty of humor and a cast of richly drawn characters, including, in this case, Ellen DeGeneres's forgetful, but fiercely loyal Dory and Willem Dafoe's determined Gill. This new 5-disc set includes the recently-released 3D version of the film (which makes the beauty of the ocean landscapes particularly eye-popping), plus the 2D version in both high and standard definition. Thanks to this set, I'm happy to name Finding Nemo my favorite Pixar flick... for today at least. Tomorrow, it'll probably be Up.
Extras: High-def aquariums presented in both 3D and 2D, deleted scenes (including an alternate opening), outtakes, a discussion with Stanton -- who is reportedly working on Finding Nemo 2 as a way to recover from the John Carter experience -- about the movie and the short cartoon, Knick Knack.

Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection
This 5-disc set would be worth picking up for having Blu-ray editions of Francis Ford Coppola's '70s masterpieces Apocalypse Now (plus the film's director's cut, Redux) and The Conversation in one handy snap case. But the two other movies included here are well worth your time as well, starting with Coppola's singular 1982 movie musical, One From the Heart, available for the first time in high-def. A Heaven's Gate-sized bomb upon its initial release (the failure forced Coppola to declare bankruptcy) Heart -- which unfolds over the Fourth of July in Las Vegas and follows an estranged married couple (Teri Garr and Frederic Forrest) who experience romances with other people -- has aged quite well, making innovative use of then-new video technology and features memorable tunes penned by Tom Waits. Rounding out the collection is Coppola's 2009 drama Tetro, a black-and-white character study starring Vincent Gallo and filmed in Buenos Aires. Compared to Apocalypse Now and even One From the Heart, it's a distinctly minor work, but it still highlights Coppola's formal inventiveness (when he's not taking paycheck-cashing studio fare like Jack, of course) as well as his rapport with actors.
Extras: The Apocalypse Now discs are fairly bare bones, only including a commentary track on Redux. Fortunately, the other discs are loaded; The Conversation comes with archival interviews and footage, two audio commentaries (one with Coppola and the other with editor Walter Murch) and a then-and-now featurette looking at the changing face of San Francisco, where the film was set; Heart boasts another Coppola-led commentary, three new documentaries, plus one vintage making-of, deleted scenes, rehearsal footage and alternate Tom Waits tracks; finally, Tetro features commentary, an extended version of the play-within-the-film and four featurettes.

Also on DVD:
If Butter isn't enough Jennifer Garner for you this week, you can also see her playing the mother to a very strange boy in the bizarre (and not in a good way) Disney film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Staying in the kiddie realm, Thunderstruck, is a variation on those body switching comedies from the '80s, where a sixteen-year old kid who is hopeless at hoops somehow swaps skills with NBA star Kevin Durant (playing himself); now he's sinking three-pointers, while Durant can barely make a play in the paint. The timely documentary Inspired explores the response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California, with gay rights activists taking their case all the way to the California Supreme Court. Warner Archive has done us all a favor by making the enjoyable 1982 mystery Deathtrap, starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine, available on Blu-ray through their manufactured-on-demand service. Finally, Criterion adds two notable Blu-rays to their extensive collection this week, starting with Terry Gilliam's gorgeous fever dream Brazil as well as the French thriller Purple Noon, starring Alain Delon as Patricia Highsmith's talented Mr. Ripley.

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