DVD/VIDEO REVIEWS Jan-30-2011
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.
News producer (Holly Hunter) in the Washington bureau of a TV network finds herself drawn away from a hardworking reporter whom she admires (Albert Brooks) by an off-again, on-again attraction to a handsome but unprofessional reporter (William Hurt) being groomed as network news anchor. Written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks, the romantic comedy is often quite funny and also worthwhile in its satiric portrait of television news being more concerned with image and packaging than with the news story itself. Permissive attitude toward casual sex, several explicit sexual references and some rough language. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) (Criterion Collection; also available on Blu-ray) 1987
Witty but mayhem-packed spy caper in which a retired CIA agent (Bruce Willis) and his newfound girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) take to the road after being targeted for death by a high-level government and business cabal. Their efforts to unravel the conspiracy -- and to evade the hit man (Karl Urban) tasked with eliminating them -- are aided by a trio of the operative's old associates (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren). They are allies who range from the reliable (Freeman) to the entertainingly flaky (Malkovich). Director Robert Schwentke's amusingly executed adaptation of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner's graphic novel features a refreshingly chaste central romance. But its succession of gunfights and explosions, though mostly stylized, restrict its appropriate audience. Frequent, largely bloodless violence, brief gruesome imagery, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word, some crude language. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Summit Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
The true story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner, arguably the greatest racehorse of all time, comes to the big screen in a film that is both thrilling sports adventure and moving family drama. Secretariat's owner (Diane Lane) is a housewife who returns to her horse-farm roots and gambles everything on the big red equine. As she makes her mark in an all-male world, she battles prejudice and the skepticism of her family, but she never loses hope in her dream. At her side are a bossy assistant (Margo Martindale), an even more domineering trainer (John Malkovich) and a gentle-hearted groom (Nelsan Ellis) whose spiritual nature provides a moving undercurrent. Unencumbered by any really objectionable elements, this exuberant and inspirational cinematic champ can be cheered on by a wide audience. Some tense emotional moments and heated arguments. Spanish language and titles options. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG) (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
Tony Curtis Double Feature
In "Houdini" (1953), Curtis plays Harry Houdini (1874-1926), the escape artist whose loyal wife (Janet Leigh) assists his rise to international fame but cannot deter his growing interest in the supernatural and death-defying escapes, one of which kills him. Directed by George Marshall, the Hollywood version greatly fictionalizes Houdini's life and manner of death, turning it into a colorful period melodrama of an engaging couple whose domestic bliss is paced by ever more dangerous escape acts. A-I -- general patronage. (N/R)
"Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies" (1969) features the Monte Carlo Rally in the early part of the 20th century, which served as an endurance test for cars; in many respects this movie about the rally proves to be much the same kind of trial for viewers. Director Ken Annakin has a large cast of comedians (best are Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) but the tired formula racing action is unfunny. Vintage car fanciers might enjoy it. Some tasteless off-color jokes. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (G) (Legend Films) 2011
Vincent Price Double Feature
In "House on Haunted Hill" (1958), a sardonic millionaire (Price), at the suggestion of his wife (Carol Ohmart), holds a party in an isolated mansion with a history of grisly murders, promising to reward any of his guests (including Richard Long, Alan Marshall and Elisha Cook Jr.) who spend the night. Director William Castle has some fun in the low-budget fright department, ranging from spooky effects to bizarre deaths, but the tangled plot is full of holes. Menacing atmosphere and a few scares. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
"The Last Man on Earth" (1964) is a halting horror tale in which the sole survivor (Price) of a worldwide plague whose victims become vampires manages to fend off their attacks for three years, then is suddenly confronted by a group of mutants who fear him more than they do the vampires. Directed by Sidney Salkow from a story by Richard Matheson, the picture is thinly plotted and unevenly acted, though Price's performance more than holds interest until the muddled ending in a church sanctuary. Stylized violence and considerable menace. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (N/R) (Legend Films) 2011
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.