DVD/VIDEO REVIEWS week of May 31, 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.
Alice in Wonderland
Very loosely inspired by, but not recklessly departing from, Lewis Carroll's famous books, this 3-D fantasy-adventure mixes animation and live action as it follows its plucky Victorian heroine (Mia Wasikowska) -- here a 19-year-old -- down the rabbit hole into a strange, nonsensical realm where she conspires with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and various frazzled fauna to end the despotic rule of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). Although younger viewers will be frightened by certain sequences, director Tim Burton refrains from indulging in the more macabre or avant-garde aspects of the tale; and yet, while it conveys a salubrious message with vaguely Christian echoes, the film's aesthetic impact is lessened by the lack of a coherent visual style. Sequences of fantasy action and violence, including a skewered animal eyeball, human characters striking one another; images of mild animal cruelty, some discussion of beheadings, a character smoking a water pipe and one instance of light profanity. Spanish titles option. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG) (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray.) 2010
Biography of troubled jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker (Forest Whitaker), who died in 1955 at age 34 after ravaging his body with years of heroin and alcohol addiction, follows his last years on the road and with his common-law wife (Diane Venora). Directed by Clint Eastwood, there's not a false note in this expressionistic, moody look at the jazz subculture of the 1950s. Realistic view of the consequences of Parker's addiction, a graphic suicide attempt, sexual promiscuity and offhanded acceptance of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Spanish titles option. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) (Warner Home Video) 1988
Offbeat story of a modern-day shoe salesman from New Jersey (Clint Eastwood) who puts together a modest but competent Wild West show with other dreamers and misfits like himself. Also directed by Eastwood, the comedy is surprisingly amiable and relaxed though marred by the inclusion of a brutal fight sequence. A-III -- adults. (PG) (Warner Home Video) 1980
Enjoyable action-adventure flick about four retired Air Force pilots (Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland) sent into space 40 years past their prime because only their technical knowledge can stop a malfunctioning Russian satellite from smashing into Earth. While the narrative's plausibility is questionable, director Eastwood's casually paced film maintains interest with colorful characters, impressive visual effects and slight intrigue as well as an unexpected conclusion. Brief menace with intermittent crass language and some profanity. Spanish language and titles options. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG-13) (Warner Home Video; also available on Blu-ray.) 2000
Alternately spooky, savage and silly, this remake of the 1941 monster classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. tells of a decent if troubled man (Benicio Del Toro) periodically transformed into a hirsute beast after returning to his ancestral estate in England following the brutal murder of his brother in 1891. Striking a tone that might be described as "visceral camp," director Joe Johnston entertains by rendering the trappings of lycanthrope lore with first-rate special effects and actors -- Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving -- willing to feast on the material. Frequent episodes of moderately graphic violence including fleeting images of human entrails, decapitations and severed limbs; an instance of partial upper female nudity; several references to prostitution; and one use of profane language. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (R) (Universal Studios Home Video; also available on Blu-ray.) 2010
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.