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.
Gripping French thriller in which the brutal headmaster (Paul Meurisse) of a shabby boys' school grows so abusive to wife (Vera Clouzot) and mistress (Simone Signoret) that they join in a pact to kill him, then become frantic when his corpse disappears and they fear he may still be alive. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot slowly unfolds the desperate murder plot, then builds the uncertainty and suspense over the missing body until a twist ending provides the dreadful payoff. Subtitles. Themes of violence and betrayal, much unsettling suspense and several grisly graphics. A-III -- adults. (N/R) (Criterion Collection; also available on Blu-ray) 1954
Four Days in September
Gripping yet thoughtful fact-based thriller about the 1969 kidnapping of the U.S. ambassador to Brazil (Alan Arkin) by an underground group seeking to force the country's military dictatorship to release some of its imprisoned comrades. Directed by Bruno Barreto, the step-by-step account of the kidnapping and police search is quite suspenseful, but the treatment clearly shows the kidnapping as a brutal act of terrorism no less morally repugnant than the regime against which it is directed. Subtitles. Scenes of violence including torture, menacing situations and occasional rough language. A-III -- adults. (R) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 1998
Like Water for Chocolate
Culinary magic is the main ingredient in this romantic melodrama set in 1910 revolutionary Mexico where a family's youngest daughter (Lumi Cavazos) cooks up all manner of mischievous dishes for her family when her beloved (Marco Leonardi) asks her hand but is made to marry her older sister (Yareli Arizmendi) instead. Mexican director Alfonso Arau cleverly blends comedy and tragedy into this beguiling period movie about repressed love sublimated into a passion for cooking. Subtitles. A few bedroom scenes, some nudity and minor violence. A-III -- adults. (R) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 1993
Lively adaptation of the Jane Austen novel in which an impoverished young woman of integrity (Frances O'Connor) living with rich relatives in 1806 England refuses to marry her uncle's choice of suitor (Alessandro Nivola) in hopes her kindhearted cousin (Jonny Lee Miller) will realize they could be more than best friends. Adaptor-director Patricia Rozema adds unnecessary sexual content but otherwise turns in a charming tale of multiple romances gone awry or finally fulfilled. A fleeting sexual encounter, brief homosexual innuendo, some graphic sketches of slave torture and a drug-dependant character. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Miramax Home Entertainment) 1999
Religiously honorable, but aesthetically tentative drama, based on real events, about a skeptical seminarian (Colin O'Donoghue) who has pursued priestly studies mainly to get a free education and avoid following in the footsteps of his undertaker father (Rutger Hauer). To forestall his dropping out, a superior (Toby Jones) dispatches him to Rome to complete a Vatican-sponsored course in exorcism. There, he shares his ongoing doubts with a reporter (Alice Braga) who has enrolled in the class for research purposes. But inexplicable experiences during his apprenticeship with a veteran demon fighter (Anthony Hopkins) challenge the young cleric's secular certainties. Though shaky on a few details, director Mikael Hafstrom's conversion tale resoundingly affirms faith and the value of priestly ministry. Yet the effort to showcase the main character's spiritual journey as an old-fashioned chillfest weakens its ultimate impact. Possibly acceptable for mature teens. Incest and suicide themes, some gruesome imagery, incidental irreverence, a couple of uses of profanity, a few rough and crude terms. Spanish language and titles options. A-III -- adults. (PG-13) (Warner Brothers Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 2011
Bottom-of-the-class campus horror flick about an Iowa-bred University of Los Angeles freshman (Minka Kelly) whose obsessive roommate (Leighton Meester) secretly makes life difficult -- and ultimately dangerous -- for anyone who seems likely to come between them. Those discovering to their cost that three's a crowd include a couple of the wide-eyed Hawkeye's friends (Danneel Harris and Aly Michalka), her frat-boy love interest (Cam Gigandet), a predatory professor (Billy Zane) and -- perhaps most tragically -- a kitten named Cuddles. As directed by Christian E. Christiansen, the proceedings drag along sluggishly until an overheated climax and, though the level of onscreen violence is low, so too is the bedroom behavior of some of the characters. Bloodless but occasionally deadly mayhem, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, cohabitation, same-sex kissing, brief partial nudity, at least one use of profanity, about a dozen crude terms and a bit of crass language. Spanish language and titles options. L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (PG-13) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray) 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.