DVD/VIDEO REVIEWS Apr-17-2011
This week's DVD and Blu-ray releases
The following are capsule reviews of new and recent DVD and Blu-ray releases from Catholic News Service. Theatrical movies have a Catholic News Service classification and Motion Picture Association of America rating. These classifications refer only to the theatrical version of the films below, and do not take into account the discs' extra content.
Delightful computer-animated movie set in a world of anthropomorphic autos about a cocky race car (voiced by Owen Wilson) which, while en route cross-country to compete in a prestigious championship, is unexpectedly detained in a neglected desert town. There, his growing friendship with the town's four-wheeled residents (voiced by Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy, among others) effects a change of heart regarding fame in the fast lane. Co-directed by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft, the film has a full tank of humor and emotions -- not to mention bar-raising visuals -- while its solid storytelling imparts a charming message about taking the time to appreciate what really matters in life. Spanish titles option. A-I -- general patronage. (G) (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2006
Country Strong ()
This music-filled drama about a troubled country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) wears its mawkish cliches proudly on its flannel sleeves. Writer-director Shana Feste creates four one-dimensional characters -- besides the alcohol- and drug-addicted troubadour, there's her manipulative promoter-husband (Tim McGraw), her on-again-off-again lover (Garrett Hedlund) and a young, neurotic beauty queen-turned-crooner (Leighton Meester) -- then sends the quartet spinning like pinballs in a twangy, shopworn tale of substance abuse, adultery and the grim lifestyle played out on a tour bus. Scenes of implied adulterous and premarital sex, pervasive crude language and fleeting profanity. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The penultimate film in the wildly successful franchise based on J.K. Rowling's fantasy novels finds the Hogwarts trio -- Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, of course), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) -- on the run, jumping all over Britain to escape the clutches of evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters. As the "Chosen One," Harry is on a mission to destroy evil by locating the paraphernalia which sustains Voldemort, including the three items that constitute the "Deathly Hallows." Director David Yates' adventure mirrors the darker and more violent tone of Rowling's final volume, making this unsuitable for younger viewers. Much action violence with frequent peril, brief partial nudity in a sexual context, scenes of murder and torture, a few vaguely sexual references. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Warner Home Video; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
The Importance of Being Earnest
Bland adaptation of Oscar Wilde's witty play about two English gents (Rupert Everett and Colin Firth) each pretending to be named Ernest to their flighty fiancees (Reese Witherspoon and Frances O'Connor). Sluggishly directed by Oliver Parker, the male leads prove charmless and Wilde's satire of frivolous upper-class mores is reduced to a toothless drawing-room comedy. Romantic complications and a flash of rear nudity. Spanish titles option. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 2002
Into the West
When a magnificent white horse wanders into their Dublin slum, two motherless waifs (Ruaidhri Conroy and Ciaran Fitzgerald) ride off into the countryside, pretending to be Wild West cowboys with their sobered father (Gabriel Byrne) and the police in hot pursuit. Director Mike Newell presents a sensitive yet rousing tale of emotionally neglected children whose fertile imaginations help them transcend an impoverished home. Fleeting violence, children in jeopardy and a few profanities. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG) (Echo Bridge Home Entertainment) 1993
Keeper of the Flame
Contrived melodrama in which a journalist (Spencer Tracy) sets out to gather material for a tribute to a late public leader, falls for his widow (Katharine Hepburn), then discovers the truth about the man's death and secret subversive plans. Director George Cukor's woolly tale of home-grown fascism starts slowly and grows increasingly portentous until ending in typical period flagwaving. Muddled attempt to justify murder. A-III -- adults. (N/R) (Warner Home Video) 1943
Life Is Beautiful
Bittersweet comic fable in which an Italian Jewish bookseller (Roberto Benigni) uses his imagination to convince his little son that their grim existence in a Nazi concentration camp is just an elaborate contest and that they are sure to win the grand prize. Also co-written and directed by Benigni, the story starts off as a slapstick comedy with the young man courting his future wife, then midway becomes a touchingly human story of a parent's irrepressible determination to protect his child from terror and misery. Subtitles or dubbed. Theme of genocide. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG-13) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 1998
My Left Foot
Powerful dramatization of the life of Irish writer-artist Christy Brown (1932-81), born with cerebral palsy to a large, impoverished Catholic family, shows his triumph over physical disabilities as the creative intelligence bottled up inside his young, twisted body finds expression, thanks in large part to his mother's love and encouragement. Jim Sheridan's sensitive, unsentimental direction and brilliant acting by Hugh O'Conor and Daniel Day-Lewis as the young and the adult Christy provide a testament to the power of the spirit over adversity and a tribute to a mother's unquestioning belief in her child. Some violence, rough language and sexual innuendo. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (R) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 1989
Eerie psychological thriller set in 1945 about a mother (Nicole Kidman) and her two photosensitive children who live in darkness in a remote island mansion, but soon discover they are not alone. Writer-director Alejandro Amenabar's chilling tale of isolation is well-written, deftly building tension until its startling conclusion while prompting questions about faith and the mysteries of life after death. Mature questioning of afterlife, some menace with several frightening moments. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 2001
The Sea of Grass
Draggy, episodic Western from Conrad Richter's novel about a strong-willed cattle baron (Spencer Tracy) who tries to keep farmers from settling on his range, forces his wife (Katharine Hepburn) to leave when he suspects her of infidelity, then is finally broken when his son (Robert Walker) dies defending his father's honor. Directed by Elia Kazan, the socioeconomic conflict between cattle ranchers and crop growers proves more interesting than the personal story of a marriage floundering in misunderstandings and unspoken feelings. Some stylized violence and references to illegitimacy. A-II - adults and adolescents. (N/R) (Warner Home Video) 1947
These movies have been evaluated for artistic merit and moral suitability by the media reviewing division of Catholic News Service. The reviews include the CNS rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
The classifications are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Note: Some movies previously were designated A-IV. Older films with this classification should be regarded as classified L.