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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Out on Blu-ray/DVD

For the Weeks of 3/29 - 4/4/11 (Ratings Out of Four Stars.)

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BLACK SWAN

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder

Fox//Drama//Rated R//Drama//108 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Natalie Portman took The Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Nina, a hard-working ballerina determined to grab her moment in the spotlight. Nina lives to please Thomas (Cassel), the ballet company's frequently scowling, sometimes charming, artistic director. At home, Nina's ex-ballerina mama (a superb Hershey) hovers over her, attempting to direct both Nina's personal and professional life. Just as it all becomes more than Nina can bear, she is befriended by Lily (Kunis), one of the company's newest, youngest dancers. DVD features: Behind-the-scenes documentary with Darren Aronofsky, English, French or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray features same plus: Digital copy, A Look at the Ballet's influence on the film's Costume and Production Design, Ten Years in the Making with Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky, Roles of a Lifetime: Presented by Fox Movie Channel.

ANY HUMAN HEART

(2010)

* * (C)

Starring Jim Broadbent, Kim Cattrall, Gillian Anderson, Matthew MacFadyen, Hayley Atwell, Sam Claflin, Ed Stoppard

PBS Video//Rated TV-MA//Drama//240 minutes

Available on: DVD

Adapted from William Boyd's 2002 novel Any Human Heart: The Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstat, this BBC miniseries depicts a wasted, frequently immoral life. Boyd's subject is Logan, seen as an old man reviewing his past. It's a lackluster production saddled with an unpleasant lead character. However, viewers overcoming these deficits will find excellent supporting performances among the historical snippets treated as throwaway moments. A special mention goes to Gillian Anderson, whose Wallis Simpson, mistress to the Duke of Windsor (Tom Hollander), is wonderfully recreated. DVD features: On the Set, From Paper to Screen with William Boyd, Cast and Crew interviews, deleted scenes, English language tracks, widescreen.

TANGLED

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Nathan Greno, Byron Howard

Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Paul F. Tompkins, Richard Kiel

Disney//Rated PG//Animation//100 minutes

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

The Rapunzel fairytale is reimagined, with Moore playing the hair-iffic lass who longs to see the world. Levi plays Flynn, a bandit sneaking into the tower to hide. In exchange for her silence, he agrees to show Rapunzel the outside world. Broadway star Donna Murphy steals the film as Mother Gothel, Rapunzel's longtime jailer. Disney's plasticine CGI animation detracts, but the fairer sex will be heartened by the film's girl-centric perspective. DVD features: Original Storybook Openings, English or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen. 2-Disc Blu-ray features same plus: Film on DVD and Blu-ray, deleted scenes, Making-of featurette, English, French or Spanish language tracks. 4-Disc 3-D Blu-ray features same plus: film in both 2-D and 3-D, Extended Songs, 50th Animated Feature Countdown, 9 Tangled Teasers.

FAIR GAME

(2010)

* * * (B)

Directed by Doug Liman

Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Sonya Davison, Sam Shepard, Noah Emmerich, Bruce McGill

Summit Entertainment//Rated PG-13//Drama//108 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Based on a scandal known as "Plamegate," this film draws on two books, one penned by Valerie, and the other, written by her husband Joseph Wilson. In 2003, the real-life Wilsons were intensely pursuing their separate careers, when Valerie's employment as a covert CIA officer was suddenly and publicly revealed. The film probes the couple's personal lives to examine the toll taken on their already strained marriage. Beautifully encapsulated by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, Valerie and Joseph's opposite styles, at times complimentary, brought them into further conflict. Though much of Valerie's story unfolded on the news, her domestic difficulties are equally heartrending. DVD or Blu-ray features: Commentary with Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson, English or Spanish language tracks and subtitles, widescreen.

NOVA SCIENCENOW: WHERE DID WE COME FROM?

(2010)

* *1/2 (B-)

Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Starring Andre Fenton

PBS//Not Rated//Documentary//60 minutes

Available on: DVD

How did the earliest life forms emerge billions of years ago? Does our solar system owe its existence to the shockwave created by a supernova? These are some of the questions explored by scientists in their quest to unravel our origins. In addition to the above, this episode examines a landmark experiment yielding a "recipe" to the building blocks of life. In a page out of Ripley's "Believe it or Not," many clues to our evolution can be gleaned from head lice. While the subjects tackled intrigue, it's understandable if you miss the incisive Nova-style because ScienceNOW employs a more conversational approach. It's up to viewers to decide whether the show talks down to its audience. DVD features: English language tracks, widescreen.



TOPSY-TURVY

(1999)

* * *1/2 (A-)

Directed by Mike Leigh

Starring Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Timothy Spall, Kevin McKidd, Alison Steadman, Dexter Fletcher, Eleanor David, Katrin Cartlidge, Ron Cook, Lesley Manville

Criterion Collection//Rated R//Drama//160 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Having failed in their most recent collaboration, Gilbert and Sullivan contemplated splitting up their musical-writing alliance in the 1880s. Fortunately, friends and colleagues persuaded them to make another try, resulting in their famous opera, The Mikado. Mike Leigh, product of an extensive theater background, directs this loving, funny, poignant tribute to the pair's work and times, starring Jim Broadbent as William Schwenk Gilbert and Allan Corduner as Arthur Sullivan. The drama transports us to another time as Leigh unveils the artistic constraints caused by Victorian values and the British pair's efforts to overcome them. 2-Disc DVD or 1-Disc Blu-ray features: Commentary by Cinematographer Dick Pope or Commentary featuring Director Mike Leigh, theatrical trailer, TV Spots, New Video Conversation between Leigh and Musical Director Gary Yershon, Leigh's 1992 Short Film "A Sense of History," Written by and Starring Actor Jim Broadbent, Deleted Scenes, 1999 featurette including interviews with Leigh and Cast Members, English language tracks, widescreen.

THE CIVIL WAR: A Film Directed By Ken Burns

(1990)

* * * * (A)

Directed by Ken Burns

Voices of Sam Waterston, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, George Plimpton

PBS Paramount//Not Rated//Documentary//660 Minutes

Available on: DVD

Ken Burns brings an astute understanding to this documentary detailing the Civil War, in nine episodes. Burns lays out the sequence of events leading up to the war through archival photographs, maps, portraits, and letters, then he explains the major battles, and some pivotal skirmishes. Finally, in the aftermath, Lincoln is assassinated. Each major historical figure is voiced by a first rate actor who brings his words to life. Burns analyzes many actions and the resulting reactions sparked. His documentary manages to be informative while sidestepping the temptation to lecture. 6-Disc DVD Boxset features: selected commentaries, Battlefield Maps, Civil War Challenges: 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, Civil War Biographies, From the Archive: Shelby Foote Interview/Outtakes, Remembering the Civil War: An Interview with Ken Burns, Additional Interviews with: Shelby Foote, George Will, Stanley Crouch, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, companion booklet, English language tracks.

SCREAM

(1996)

* * * (B)

Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, Live Schreiber, Drew Barrymore, Henry Winkler, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich

Miramax, Lionsgate//Rated R//Horror//111 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Released for the first time on Blu-ray in anticipation of the April 15 release of Scream 4, the first Scream introduces a psychotic killer who uses classic horror movie conventions to set up and murder teen residents of a small town. The town's overburdened sheriff (Arquette) attempts to investigate the killings while fending off a busybody reporter (Cox). Though rife with spoofs, the film creates chills along with laughs. DVD or Blu-ray features: commentary by director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, Production featurette, On the Scream Set and Drew Barrymore, Q & A with the cast and crew, theatrical trailer, TV spots, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.



SCREAM 2

(1997)

* * * (B)

Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell

Miramax, Lionsgate//Rated R//Horror//120 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Wes Craven delivers a sequel as good as its predecessor. He improves some of the original characters, especially the reporter (Cox) and the sheriff (Arquette), giving them higher quality screen-time as they battle the masked killer. A clever plot within a plot, places a movie about the previous killings within this one. The release of that movie inspires a copycat to pick up where the first killer left off. Now in college, Neve Campbell's Sidney helplessly stands by as her fellow students fall victim to the knife. Blu-ray features: Commentary with director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier, Deleted scenes w/optional commentary, Outtakes, featurette, theatrical trailer, TV spots, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.

SCREAM 3

(2000)

* * * (B)

Directed by Wes Craven

Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Lance Henriksen, Live Schreiber, Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Warburton, Parker Posey, Matt Keeslar, Emily Mortimer, Jenny McCarthy, Scott Foley, Deon Richmond, Kelly Rutherford

Dimension Films/Rated R/Horror//117 minutes

Available on: Blu-ray

Not content to merely lampoon the slasher genre, screenwriter Ehren Kruger skewers Hollywood as well. A 35-year-old actress (Jenny McCarthy) complains bitterly about playing a 21-year-old bimbo. Parker Posey plays a young actress resentful of hitting the casting couch in order to land her starring role in Stab 3. Her director, aptly named Roman (Scott Foley), frets over his impending 30th birthday. Neve Campbell returns as the killer's favorite target, Sidney Prescott, while Courteney Cox reprises the role of tabloid reporter Gale Weathers. David Arquette also returns as sheriff Dewey Riley, last seen romancing Gale in Scream 2. When the killer stalks Dewey and Gale on the set of Stab 3, Gale is only partially distracted from her efforts to achieve professional respect. Blu-ray features: commentary, deleted scenes, alternate ending, outtakes, behind the scenes footage, theatrical trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.



Also Out This Week

MADE IN DAGENHAM

(2010)

Directed by Christopher Smith

Starring Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Richard Schiff, Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike, Geraldine James, Lorraine Stanley, Jaime Winstone, Nicola Duffett, Daniel Mays, Andrea Riseborough

Sony//Rated R//Drama//113 minutes

Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

In 1968, Ford automobile's female factory workers were fed up with the discriminatory company policies practiced in Dagenham, England. Their discontent boiled over after Ford execs downgraded the women's skill level in order to pay them lower wages than those paid to men. The women took to the streets in protest, causing a national stir. Sally Hawkins appears as Rita, a factory worker and de facto leader of the feisty group in this tale of female empowerment. DVD features: Director commentary, Making-of featurette, Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles, widescreen.