Tuesday, December 10, 2013
NEW ON THE SHELF
Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi."
"HITCHCOCK," starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. Probing biopic attempts to reveal a different side of the venerable filmmaker (wonderfully portrayed by Hopkins), presenting a man facing a crossroads in both his esteemed career and his marriage to Alma (Mirren, stealing the movie with seemingly no effort). Hitch struggles to finish a seemingly unmarketable film about a "Psycho" with severe mommy issues and to not engage in dalliances with his beautiful young leading lady (Scarlett Johansson, channeling Janet Leigh). Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:38
Suggested retail price: $39.99; Blu-ray $39.99
"LIFE OF PI," starring Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan. Director Ang Lee's stunning adaptation of Yann Martel's bestselling novel is a perfect marriage of masterful storytelling and truly amazing special effects, fully bringing to life the improbable tale of a young man (Sharma) who survives a horrific sea storm only to end up stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Rated PG. Running time: 2:07
Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.99
"RISE OF THE GUARDIANS," starring Chris Pine and Alec Baldwin. What appears at first glance to be a run-of-the-mill kiddie flick becomes something else entirely upon noticing one little credit: Executive produced by Guillermo Del Toro.
Gathering all the major childhood mythical holiday characters -- including Santa Claus (Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and Jack Frost (Pine) -- and pitting them against the diabolical Pitch Black (Jude Law), "Guardians" is a good old-fashioned family adventure that skimps on neither plot nor action, with some state-of-the-art animation bringing the fantastical goings-on to vivid life. Running time: 1:37 Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99
"RIPPER STREET," starring Matthew Macfadyen and Jerome Flynn. This meticulously produced police procedural mini-series from BBC is a marvel of set design, transforming Ireland into Victorian-era London to a tee.
Macfadyen headlines as Inspector Reid, a detective in charge of getting to the bottom of a series of murders that may or may not be the handiwork of the infamous Jack the Ripper, and viewers are spared none of the unpleasantness involved in the aftermath of said killings.
Even the hardiest Anglophile will likely need to switch on the captions to make out the thick accents and catch all of the antiquated slang, but that's all part of the grisly fun of this well-received and hugely entertaining series. Not rated; contains violence and sexual content. Running time: 7:30
Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98
NEW TO DVD
"THE FIRST TIME," starring Britt Robertson and Dylan O'Brien. Admirably straightforward rom-com manages to deal with the topic of teen sexuality without coming off as leering or preachy, with believable and intelligent performances from leads Robertson ("Dan in Real Life") and O'Brien ("Teen Wolf") as the couple in question preventing things from getting too fluffy or inappropriate. Not perfect by any means, but a definite step in the right direction for a historically difficult sub-genre. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:35
Suggested retail price: $30.99
NEW TO BLU-RAY
"WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?" starring Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd. Groundbreaking 1988 classic from director Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future") combined live-action and animation more seamlessly than ever before and arguably since.
Irascible gumshoe Hoskins reluctantly works with a well-meaning but profoundly irritating animated rabbit/movie star (voiced by comedian Charles Fleischer) to clear his good name, braving the chaotic streets of Toontown and facing off against the appropriately monikered Judge Doom (a truly terrifying Lloyd) in the process. A bevy of guest appearances by everyone from Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny to Betty Boop and Droopy makes this a real treat. Special features include animated shorts and a deleted scene. Rated PG. Running time: 1:44
Suggested retail price: $26.50
"WILLOW," starring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer. This 1988 favorite from then-fledgling director Ron Howard finds the titular diminutive farmer (Davis, "Return of the Jedi") saddled with protecting an infant whom prophecy dictates will end the reign of evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). Lending questionable assistance is Madmartigan (Kilmer, in one of his most amusing roles), a somewhat less-than-sane swordsman from a rival clan. A nostalgic blast from the past for parents and a fun family adventure for newcomers besides. Special features include commentary from Howard and the personal video diary of Davis. Rated PG. Running time: 2:06
Suggested retail price: $24.99
"SOUND CITY," documentary. Any topic can be a worthy subject for a documentary if the filmmaker has enough passion for his or her material -- even a wood-paneled, dilapidated shack of a studio moldering in an industrial park somewhere in California. This is "Sound City," and one wouldn't know it to look at it, but some of rock's most esteemed and notorious acts have recorded some of their finest work there, from Fleetwood Mac to Metallica.
One such band was Nirvana, who happened to record a little album you might have heard of called "Nevermind" there back in the early '90s, and drummer Dave Grohl has not only assembled vintage footage of and current interviews with many of the artists who recorded there, but actually purchased the beloved custom-made mixing board that gave "Sound City" the distinctive, raw analog qualities its supporters favored. Not rated; contains language. Running time: 1:48 Suggested retail price: $18.98; Blu-ray $24.98
- Courtesy of Videoport