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.
Director Federico Fellini recalls his youth in the little seaside village of Rimini through a seemingly plotless series of recollections and fantasies, held together by a genially bombastic host-narrator-historian (Luigi Rossi) who provides social and historical commentary on events that typified life during the fascist 1930s. Fellini is in full control of these various episodes, which have a powerful and warming effect as the artist looks back with mellow affection, compassion and humor on experiences that shaped his creative life. Though there is some bawdy earthiness, it is a thoroughly humane work, seeing everything but judging no one. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) (Criterion Collection; also available on Blu-ray) 1974
Earnest story of a Greek family in 1896 Turkey who send their eldest son (Stathis Giallelis) to work in Constantinople, but he's determined to start a fresh life in America and after much hard work, many misfortunes and a bit of luck, he finally gets his chance. Writer-director Elia Kazan's heartfelt tribute to the hope America inspired in Europe's oppressed minorities at the turn of the 20th century is undercut by a confusingly episodic narrative, though Haskell Wexler's brilliant photography brings the period to life in compelling fashion. Stylized violence, menacing situations and some implied sexual encounters. A-III -- adults. (N/R) (Warner Home Video) 1963
Disappointing computer-animated comedy adventure based on the classic nursery rhyme about a little chick (voiced by Zach Braff) who, after humiliating himself by sounding the alarm that the sky is falling, gets a chance to save face -- and his hometown -- when his apocalyptic announcement later proves true. Directed by Mark Dindal, the movie's vibrant, through unremarkable, animation goes for a more 3-D look, but the flat story and characterizations lack much emotion, charm or wit, undercutting the film's warm themes of family bonds and believing in oneself. Spanish titles option. A-I -- general patronage. (G) (Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2005
Visually superb animated adventure set in prehistoric times after a devastating meteor turns much of the earth into dry rubble, forcing a herd of dinosaurs to search for their nesting grounds while pursued by larger predators of their species. Directors Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton successfully combine real backgrounds with spectacular computer-generated digital images that are extraordinarily lifelike although the narrative is skimpy and the pace sometimes slow-moving. Some scenes of predatory violence. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG) (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2000
Life As We Know It
A womanizing television director (Josh Duhamel) and a successful cafe owner (Katherine Heigl) must overcome their long-standing mutual dislike when the happily married couple who once set them up for a disastrous blind date, and with whom they were each best friends, dies suddenly and they become joint guardians over the deceased pair's infant daughter. Though somewhat sharper-witted than the average romantic comedy, director Greg Berlanti's thoroughly predictable yarn of animosity gradually yielding to a very different emotion showcases a variety of lifestyle choices -- and of more impromptu decisions -- at variance with traditional morality. Brief nongraphic premarital sexual activity, implied casual encounters and cohabitation, an incidental gay relationship, drug use, much sexual and some scatological humor, at least one use of profanity, a couple of rough terms, frequent crude or crass language. Spanish language and titles options. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (PG-13) (Warner Home Video; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
A Private Function
With rationing in effect at the end of World War II, an English couple (Michael Palin and Maggie Smith) steal the pig that local dignitaries are secretly fattening up for a banquet celebrating Princess Elizabeth's wedding. The English comedy, directed by Malcolm Mowbray, is slow-moving and leans heavily on vulgar humor some may find offensive. Restrained bedroom scene. A-III -- adults. (R) (Image Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 1985
Paranormal Activity 2
Efficiently unnerving skin-crawler in which a prosperous California couple (Sprague Grayden and Brian Boland) and the husband's teenage daughter by a previous marriage (Molly Ephraim) try to protect the latest addition to the family, a 1-year-old boy, from the malignant designs of a demon. Using the device of a set of security cameras the parents have installed after an initial incident they take for a break-in by vandals, director Tod Williams extends the franchise that began with 2009's "Paranormal Activity" by telling a related story that, like its predecessor, avoids gratuitous gore but that also tones down the original's excess of sexual themes and vulgar language. Occasional intense but stylized violence, a few uses of profanity, some rough and crude language, a handful of mild sexual references. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (R) (Paramount Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2010
Set within the grime and frustration of prison life is a realistic drama in which an inmate (James Brown), unwittingly caught up in fast-moving events, assumes leadership of a full scale revolt by the entire prison. Director Buzz Kulik's movie is by no means casual entertainment, but it is very knowing about prison life and injustices. Several violent, bloody sequences bolster the dramatic action and the dialogue is a bit rough. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (R) (Olive Films) 1968
Confused political melodrama about the right-wing owner (Pat Hingle) of a New Orleans radio station, its liberal disc jockey (Paul Newman), his waitress girlfriend (Joanne Woodward) and a manic social worker (Tony Perkins). Director Stuart Rosenberg toys with ill-formed notions of political polarization and reduces them to cliches in a nearly incoherent plot. A-III -- adults. (PG) (Olive Films) 1970
Grown-ups find it hard to leave the dramas -- and traumas -- of their teen years behind in director Andy Fickman's entertaining multigenerational comedy about family, forgiveness and second chances. A 20-something ex-geek (Kristen Bell), who has evolved into a self-confident career woman, is forced to relive her past horror when she returns home for her brother's (Jimmy Wolk) wedding, only to discover he is marrying her high school nemesis (Odette Yustman). Similarly, the groom's mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) has issues with the bride's aunt (Sigourney Weaver), a student-era best friend-turned-rival. Mild slapstick violence, some double-entendres. Spanish titles option. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (PG) (Touchstone Pictures; 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.