DVD/VIDEO REVIEWS May 15, 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.
Sentimental but emotionally honest story of how Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) built his school for homeless and delinquent youths during the Depression. Directed by Norman Taurog, the Hollywood version centers in the conflict between the priest's charismatic powers of persuasion and a street-tough (Mickey Rooney) who only thinks he's hard-boiled. Tracy's Oscar-winning performance as a role model for those in need of one was a credible blend of the idealistic and the pragmatic. A-I -- general patronage. (N/R) (Warner Home Video) 1938
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Limited Edition Blu-ray)
Stylish seriocomic Western set at the end of the 19th century when a pair of outlaws, Butch (Paul Newman) and the Kid (Robert Redford), realize that civilization has overtaken their profession and head for the Bolivian frontier. Director George Roy Hill brings off the action scenes with gusto and the proper amount of humor though, beneath the surface of the laughter and the silly mishaps, there are enough realistic scenes to show that their criminal exploits have serious consequences. Much stylized violence and a sexually suggestive situation. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (PG) (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) 1969
The Crossing Guard (Widescreen Edition)
Affecting story involving a grief-stricken dad (Jack Nicholson) determined to murder the drunken driver (David Morse) who killed his little girl when the remorseful young man is released from prison. Writer-director Sean Penn plumbs dark emotional territory in a sensitive character study exploring self-loathing, bitterness and the ultimate futility of violence. Minimal violence, implied one-night stands, recurring strip-joint nudity and much rough language. A-III – adults. (R) (Echo Bridge Home Entertainment) 1995
Dead Man Walking (Blu-ray Edition)
Powerful fact-based dramatization about a Louisiana nun (Susan Sarandon) offering spiritual comfort to a hard-bitten prisoner (Sean Penn) condemned to death for the rape and murder of two teenagers, while at the same time attempting to share in the painful loss of the victims' grieving parents. Directed by Tim Robbins, the picture is balanced between the nun's respect for the dignity of every individual, even the despicable killer, and the parents' quest for justice in the state's execution of their children's murderer, leaving viewers at the end to ponder what moral or social purpose is served by capital punishment. Flashbacks to savage crimes, the depiction of an execution, racial slurs and several instances of rough language. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (R) (MGM Home Entertainment) 1995
Hail the Conquering Hero
Wacky homefront comedy about a World War II recruit (Eddie Bracken) who is rejected by the Marines because of chronic hay fever but, thanks to some veterans of the fighting in the Pacific (led by William Demarest), returns home a reluctant war hero and is elected mayor in spite of himself. Written and directed by Preston Sturges, the tongue-in-cheek premise relies on the comic interplay between Bracken's mousy, nonheroic civilian, Demarest's tough, brassy veteran and the patriotic fervor of a small American town whose sensible values emerge happily in the end. Memorable for its witty dialogue and slapstick situations. A-II -- adults and adolescents. (N/R) (Universal Studios Home Entertainment) 1944
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
This genial 3-D profile of teen pop singer and musician Justin Bieber showcases home movies of his childhood, footage documenting his rise to stardom via social media celebrity, backstage preparations for his sold-out concert at New York's Madison Square Garden as well as musical performances recorded there and at other venues. Director Jon M. Chu's portrait of a likable young man striving to resist the temptations of sudden-onset fame is not only perfectly acceptable for audiences of any age, it also highlights his close bonds with his mother and grandparents and the Christian faith he shares with them, typified onscreen by the prayers he and his entourage recite before each show. Spanish titles option. A-I -- general patronage. (G) (Paramount Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2011
The Manchurian Candidate
Fine political spine-tingler with Laurence Harvey playing a Korean War POW transformed by Red Chinese hypnosis into a deadly instrument of assassination before his return to the United States during a presidential campaign. By the time an ex-POW buddy (Frank Sinatra in a solid performance) figures out the reason for his strange behavior toward wife and family, a major manhunt and race with time are on. Director John Frankenheimer has fashioned a superior suspense movie with a growing intensity that adults and older teenagers may appreciate. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (MGM Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 1962
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Lavish high-seas adventure, based on Patrick O'Brian's popular maritime novels, about an intrepid British naval captain (Russell Crowe) who must hunt down and destroy a superior French frigate during the Napoleonic wars. Combining grand swashbuckling spectacle with painstaking attention to detail, director Peter Weir weaves a salty yarn about honor, duty and friendship, which, while steering clear of the dehumanizing reefs of gratuitous violence, proves effective as both an engaging historical drama and entertaining escapist fare. Naval battle violence with related gory images, a suicide and minimum mildly crude language. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2003
The Sign of the Cross
After Nero (Charles Laughton) condemns the Christians for his burning of Rome in 64 A.D., the city's prefect (Fredric March) promptly falls in love with one (Elissa Landi), but when his efforts to save her are blocked by jealous Empress Poppaea (Claudette Colbert), the tribune joins his beloved for a martyr's death in the arena. Producer-director Cecil B. DeMille lavishes more creative imagination on scenes of Roman debauchery and brutality than on the inspirational story of early Christian martyrs, though the result is impressive as historical spectacle, especially the arena sequences. Much period violence, menace and sexual innuendo. Spanish titles option. A-III -- adults. (N/R) (Universal Studios Home Entertainment) 1932
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.