DVD/VIDEO REVIEWS Jan-16-2011
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.
Alpha and Omega
Opposites are forced to become allies when two kidnapped wolves, disciplined and serious Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere) and free-spirited, fun-loving Humphrey (voice of Justin Long), embark on a challenging journey to find their way home. Despite colorful animation and eye-popping 3-D effects, co-directors Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck's adventure falls back upon a tired -- but kid-approved -- formula of bathroom humor, slapstick action and wisecracking characters. The potty jokes aside, this is basically harmless fun for the entire family. A-I -- general patronage. (PG) (Lionsgate Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
Dances With Wolves (20th Anniversary Edition)
Set in the Dakota Territory of the 1860s, the story centers on a soldier (Kevin Costner) at a deserted frontier fort who embarks on a voyage of self discovery when he is befriended by a Sioux tribe and falls in love with a white woman (Mary McDonnell) adopted by them. Also directed by Costner, the film's sensitive treatment of Native Americans, exceptional cinematography and fine performances compensate for its excessive three-hour-plus length. Much gory battlefield violence, minimal, restrained lovemaking and a flash of rear nudity. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (MGM Home Entertainment) 1990
The Great Debaters
Inspiring tale, based on true events, about a gifted and demanding debate coach (Denzel Washington) at a small African-American college in 1930s Texas who guides his forensics team of three male (Denzel Whitaker, Nate Parker and Jermaine Williams) and one female (Jurnee Smollett) student to unprecedented nationwide success. Washington, who also directed, creates an intimate character study that transcends the formulaic and presents an uplifting message in a thoroughly enjoyable way. Scenes of violence, including a lynched corpse; brief nongraphic, nonmarital sexual activity, four uses of the S-word and two profanities. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Weinstein Company Home Entertainment) 2007
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
Biting British satire of the advertising business centers on an ad-man burnout (Richard E. Grant) who grows a talking boil on his neck with which he carries on a running debate over the evils of the ad game. Although writer-director Bruce Robinson's work is thought-provoking and technically sound, the satire deteriorates into a manic mad show starring a ghoulish boil. Much profanity, sexually vulgar language and an intense, though humorous, depiction of madness. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) (Image Entertainment) 1989
In Her Shoes
Emotionally wounded sisters -- one a dowdy, inhibited lawyer (Toni Collette), the other a flashy, promiscuous alcoholic (Cameron Diaz) -- come to terms with the scars of the past when they reconnect with the grandmother they never knew (Shirley MacLaine) who is now living in a Florida retirement home. If the Jewish milieu isn't entirely convincing, Curtis Hanson's unabashedly sentimental film ultimately imparts good messages about forgiveness and reconciliation, with a touching, morally sound, feel-good conclusion. Sexual banter and situations including one rough encounter in a restroom, an irreligious remark, permissive view of premarital sex, partial nudity, suicide theme, scattered profanity, and crude language and expressions. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) 2005
Pow Wow Highway
A philosophical conflict emerges on a journey from Montana to New Mexico between two Native Americans, one of whom (A Martinez) dismisses Cheyenne tradition and culture as irrelevant in pulling the tribe up from Third World poverty, while the other (Gary Farmer) cherishes Cheyenne legends and longs to become a spiritual warrior. Though director Jonathan Wacks injects little suspense into his low-key road picture, it highlights the personal and political struggles being waged within the Native American community to regain and sustain their fast-disappearing culture. Some profanity, violence and a flash of nudity. A-III -- adults. (R) (Anchor Bay Entertainment) 1989
Hard-edged, uncompromising portrait of former middleweight boxing champ Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro in an outstanding performance) and his agonizing relationship with his second wife (Cathy Moriarity) and his brother (Joe Pesci). Director Martin Scorsese's stark black-and-white treatment conveys La Motta's often grim, violently hostile personality, which, the film suggests, was born of sexual problems. Brutal fight scenes, a graphic bedroom sequence and rough language. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (R) (MGM Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 1980
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Engaging sci-fi variation on the Daniel Defoe story with an astronaut (Paul Mantee) marooned on Mars with only a monkey as company, then rescuing a human-like slave (Vic Lundin) from an alien spaceship. Directed by Byron Haskin, the story is told in imaginative fashion holding interest to the end, which is a new beginning. A-I -- general patronage. (N/R) (Criterion Collection) 1964
The Social Network
Engrossing but strictly adult drama, based on real events, recounting the circumstances surrounding the creation of the website Facebook as its socially inept yet technically gifted founder (Jesse Eisenberg) testifies in separate but simultaneous lawsuits brought against him by a pair of former associates (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) and by his ex-best friend and first investor (Andrew Garfield). All of them claim to have been betrayed and cheated. Drawing on Ben Mezrich's book "The Accidental Billionaires," director David Fincher weaves a subtle narrative of shifting personal loyalties and ethical uncertainties. But the college setting in which the story begins is a morass of excessive drinking and meaningless sex while, one enduring crush aside, the immature, ill-adjusted male characters treat women as disposable accessories. Nongraphic casual sexual activity, same-sex kissing, brief partial nudity, drug use, some sexual references, several uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and much crude language. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 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.