DVD/VIDEO REVIEWS week of May 24, 2010
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.
Frequently sentimental drama, set in South Carolina, charting the love-at-first-sight romance between a Special Forces sergeant (Channing Tatum) home on leave to visit his mildly autistic father (Richard Jenkins) and an affluent college student (Amanda Seyfried), their prolonged separation because of his reenlistment after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and their efforts to maintain their bond by long-distance letter writing. Though the portrayal of the conflicted filial relationship is moving, director Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of Catholic writer Nicholas Sparks' best-selling 2006 novel focuses mostly on the emotionally unrealistic evolution of the lovers' attachment, and endorses its premature consummation along the way. Nongraphic premarital sexual activity with partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, at least four instances of the S-word. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray.) 2010
This moving but relentlessly grim drama, set in the wake of an unspecified apocalypse, follows the desperate journey of a father (Viggo Mortensen, mesmerizing) and son (fine newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they travel through a devastated America encountering cannibals, thieves and shell-shocked survivors (notably Robert Duvall) on their way to what they hope will be a marginally better life along the coast. Occupying the pitted no-man's-land between a Samuel Beckett play and "The Road Warrior," director John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a stark examination of one man's efforts to preserve, and pass on, humane values, refreshed only by the instinctive goodness of his youthful companion, though his quasi-idolatrous view of the boy, like the borderline-blasphemous sentiments expressed by other characters, would be unacceptable in a less extreme context. Complex moral and theological issues, grisly images, cannibalism and suicide themes, rear and brief partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, occasional rough and crude language. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray.) 2009
Spartacus (50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray)
While two corrupt politicians (Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton) vie for power in Rome, the enslaved title gladiator (Kirk Douglas) escapes his owner (Peter Ustinov) to lead a great slave revolt that shakes the ancient world. Directed by Stanley Kubrick from Howard Fast's novel, the result is an epic spectacle that re-creates the first century B.C. with flair and vigor, though the personal drama seldom measures up to the historical significance of the period's events. Vivid gladiatorial combat, battlefield violence and veiled sexual innuendo. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Universal Studios Home Video) 1960
In this Western classic, a cowboy (John Wayne) wanted by the law on trumped-up charges joins an odd assortment of passengers (Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell, Donald Meek, John Carradine and others) on the stage to Lordsburg in the New Mexico Territory in the midst of an Apache uprising. Directed by John Ford, the characters are a microcosm of frontier types, each of whom has a different reason for the journey whose dangers are played out against the majestic vistas of Monument Valley, with a brilliantly staged Indian attack and a final showdown on the streets of Lordsburg bringing the story to a rousing finish. Stylized violence. A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (Criterion; also available on Blu-ray.) 1939
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.