Tuesday, June 18 2013, 10:55 AM MDT
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for December 4, 2012
By Ryan M. Painter
(KUTV) This week’s releases include a wonderful variety of titles headlined by Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” the Blu-ray debut of “Finding Nemo,” the magical family-friendly story of “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” the Sundance favorite “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the romantic comedy “Hope Springs” starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones and the fascinating documentary “Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry.”
Those looking forward to the cinematic adaptation of “Les Misérables” will want to give the Hugh Jackman’s breakthrough performance in “Oklahoma!” a look. Also available on Blu-ray for the first time is Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can,” the indie comedy “Butter” and the Chinese epic “Wu Dang.”
Television junkies have the latest seasons of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down,” Fox’s "The Simpsons” and the “World Without End,” Ken Follett’s follow up to the popular mini-series “The Pillars of the Earth.”
Action: The Dark Knight Rises, Wu Dang
Comedy: Catch Me If You Can, Hope Springs
Documentary: Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry
Drama: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Family: Finding Nemo, The Odd Life of Timothy Green
The Dark Knight Rises (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to the “The Dark Knight Trilogy” is a dense and weighty epic that was burdened by the success of its predecessor, “The Dark Knight.” Still, the film did rise and proved to be a suitable end to what will be remembered as one of the finest film trilogies ever produced. It is a film that needs to be seen more than once. There are tiny details scattered along the way that fill in what some have erroneously labeled as plot holes. The special effects are second to none, the acting is pitch perfect, the score is bombastically brilliant and the cinematography is astounding. Yes, the film is fairly dark, but we live in dark times and the message behind Batman has always been one of hope. One man can change the world for the better. If I want a lighthearted adventure I’ll turn to “The Avengers;” if I’m looking for something with more depth and a bit of an attitude I’ll turn to Nolan’s trilogy.
Wu Dang (DVD and Blu-ray)
If you were to combine the treasure hunting aspects of the Indiana Jones films with kung fu, a father/daughter drama with some of the most outlandish special effects seemingly stolen from Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 B-movie masterpiece “House” you’d still only be scratching the surface of Patrick Leung’s “Wu Dang.” The plot is convoluted and a bit nonsensical, but the action (courtesy of choreographer Corey Yuen) is amusing and starlet Yang Mi Yang is the perfect combination of beautiful and deadly while also Vincent Zhao turns in a perfectly respectable performance. “Wu Dang” isn’t going to win over those looking for high art, but it does make for a bizarrely entertaining 101 minutes.
Catch Me If You Can (Blu-ray)
Another month, another Steven Spielberg classic making its Blu-ray debut. “Catch Me If You Can” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, a young and successful con-artist who posed as a doctor, lawyer and airplane pilot leaving a trail of cashed fraudulent checks around the globe. Tom Hanks is cast as the FBI agent sent to capture him. Based on a true story “Catch Me If You Can” is a fun ride that allows DiCaprio to show off his acting chops. It might not be one of Spielberg’s most important films, but it does make for an extremely enjoyable time. Paramount’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds fantastic. They haven’t created any new bonus features for this release but everything from the DVD release has been carried over.
Hope Springs (DVD and Blu-ray)
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for decades and what was once a romance has slowly eroded into a passionless companionship. Desperate for a change Kay plans a weeklong visit to Great Hope Springs to meet with a renowned marriage therapist (Steve Carell). Getting Arnold to go with her is the first of many daunting challenges that stand in the way of revitalizing their marriage.
Seeing as I’m 36 years old and have never been married, I’m obviously not the intended audience for “Hope Springs.” So it might surprise you that I actually found the film to be quite enjoyable. Streep and Jones are excellent and Carell does well as a decidedly different sort of character than he usually cast as. The film is frank, but never particularly vulgar, as it explores a woman’s need for affirmation through the emotional and physical forms of love.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (DVD and Blu-ray) Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most acclaimed artists. His “Bird’s Nest” installation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was seen by millions and critics around the world have hailed him as one of the most exciting and outspoken artists of his time. He’s also become a thorn in the side of the Chinese government that has become increasingly impatient with the attitude of one of its most famous citizens. Can fame protect Ai Weiwei forever? Alison Klayman’s documentary is a thrilling exploration of what it means to be a political activist in a country where counter-culture opinions are not only discouraged, they’re outlawed.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Hushpuppy lives with Wink, her father, on the wrong side of the Louisiana levees in the makeshift community of Bathtub. She dreams of finding her mother, can sense the melting of the polar icecaps and the rumble of mythical beasts awaking from their frozen slumber. She is wild, fierce and every inch a vulnerable little girl.
“Beats of the Southern Wild” is a wonderful film featuring unforgettable performances from a largely non-professional cast. The film will take you to places you never knew existed and walk away from the experience feeling like you’ve learned a greater truth about humanity. It sounds loft, maybe even a little pretentious, but the film is quite the opposite. It’s the sort of story that resonates, not because it is familiar, but because it feels true.
Finding Nemo (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Released in 2003 Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” was a massive hit with both critics and audiences alike. The film won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature (its only real competition coming from the wonderfully unconventional “The Triplets of Belleville”) and remains one of the best animated films associated with Pixar (or Disney for that matter). Not bad for a film that is essentially about a father looking for his lost son. The Blu-ray is simply flawless (unfortunately I only received the 2D version, but I suspect the 3D edition is stunning as well) with perfect picture and sound along with a bevy of bonus features including outtakes, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage and a short film.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo) I found “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” to be a frustrating experience because it is a script revision away from being a much better film. The story finds a happily married couple that desperately wants a child, but is unable to have one of their own. So they write down all their dreams and wishes for the child they will never have, place them in a box and bury it in the garden. From that box of dreams Timothy, a precious and precocious boy, is born. It is syrupy sweet, heartfelt, a dozen other sentimental adjectives and almost good enough to allow me to look past the film’s manipulative ability to make audiences cry. Almost. Those with a less critical eye will simply enjoy a good cry and hopefully learn to appreciate the unusual quirks of those around them.
Oklahoma! (DVD and Blu-ray)
For months I’ve been asked why Hugh Jackman was cast as Jean Valjean in Tom Hooper’s upcoming adaptation of “Les Misérables.” For months I’ve been telling them, “Because he’s a brilliant actor with an incredible voice.” Need proof? I’d recommend watching this 1999 production of “Oklahoma!” from London’s West End. It’s a fairly simple presentation, the sort of performance that would have been better in person, but since I’ve lost my time machine (and who knows when a fully functional Tardis is going to show up) this will have to do. In 2000 Jackman’s career took him in another direction (something called “X-Men” and a character known as Wolverine) and the rest is still being written.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)