October 31, 2013

DVD Releases

NEW ON THE SHELF

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Mike, voiced by Billy Crystal, and Sully, voiced by John Goodman, in “Monsters University”

Pixar

“MONSTERS UNIVERSITY,” animated, with the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman. One of Pixar’s most beloved pairings is back for another surrealistically slapstick and surprisingly touching adventure, this time going the prequel route as Mike (Crystal) and Sully (Goodman) are introduced as lowly college students, polar opposites who must put aside their differences in order to pledge Oozma Kappa, the premier frat on campus. With such well-drawn characters already in place, “Monsters University” is a cakewalk for Pixar, a ready-made crowd-pleaser if there ever was one, but rather than coasting they deliver a prequel every bit as entertaining and hilarious as the original. Rated G. Running time: 1:44. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $45.99.

“R.I.P.D.,” Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds. Whacked out box office bomb finds newly deceased cop Nick (Reynolds) teaming with long dead western lawman Roy (Bridges) teaming up to rid the world of “Deados,” evil spirits that wreak havoc on Earth that can only be vanquished by fellow dead things. Based on a popular comic book from Dark Horse Comics, “R.I.P.D.” has trouble deciding on a tone, so while the entire production never quite gels, it nonetheless has several engaging performances to compensate, especially Bridges, who abandons all pretense for a measured performance and delivers just the right amount of scenery-gnashing ridiculousness expected of such a project. Friday nights and cheap six-packs were made for such entertainment. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:36. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98.

NEW TO DVD

“BOUNTY KILLER,” Matthew Marsden, Christian Pitre. Essentially a big-screen video game that you don’t get to play, “Bounty Killer” makes no bones about its enthusiasm for hotties and brutal slaughter, both embodied nicely in the performance of Pitre (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”) as the subtly monikered Mary Death, who along with Gerard Butler wannabe Marsden (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) roam your average post-apocalyptic countryside, in particular seeking out former corporate suits, blamed and targeted for the destruction of America by a newly appointed, all-powerful council. There’s a timely parable hidden somewhere in the blood ’n guts, but at the end of the day director Henry Saine (“The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu”) is mainly concerned with close-ups of the female anatomy and rich executives being graphically executed, so feel free to take that as either a warning or an invitation depending on your situation.

Rated R. Running time: 1:32. Suggested retail price: $20.99; Blu-ray $24.99.

“BYZANTIUM,” Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan. Returning to the vampire well that served him so successfully with 1994’s Anne Rice adaptation “Interview with a Vampire,” director Neil Jordan ups the ante with a vampire protagonist who also happens to sideline as a prostitute. Call it “Pretty Terrifying Woman” (or don’t), “Byzantium” follows said protagonist Clara (Arterton, “Quantum of Solace”) as she sets up camp in the titular complex, a dilapidated hotel property transformed into a booming brothel in her capable, deadly hands. Based on the play by Moira Buffini (who also scripts here), Jordan’s flair for atmosphere and Arterton’s memorable performance help “Byzantium” lean more towards style and less toward camp. Rated R. Running time: 1:58.

Suggested retail price: $24.98; Blu-ray $29.98.

NEW TO BLU-RAY

“LA NOTTE,” Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau. The final stages of a quietly crumbling marriage transpire before our eyes in this award-winning 1961 drama from director Michelangelo Antonioni (“Blow-Up”), as we observe couple Lidia (Moreau, “The Trial”) and Giovanni (Mastroianni, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”) attending parties at which they are both flirtatiously approached by fellow revelers, in both cases unexpected but not unappreciated attention. Between the gorgeous camerawork and perfect jazz score (both wonderfully remastered by Criterion), “La Notte” is the very picture of elegance, while simultaneously exploring the often inherent emptiness that accompanies such a lifestyle. Not rated. Running time: 1:55.

Suggested retail price: $39.95.

VIDEOPORT PICKS

“FAMILY TREE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON,” Chris O’Dowd, Tom Bennett. We’ve long thought that the unfailingly funny mockumentaries of Christopher Guest (“Waiting for Guffman,” “Spinal Tap”) and company would make for an excellent TV series, and here we have “Family Tree,” which follows Tom (O’Dowd, “Bridesmaids”), a somewhat rudderless young man whose quest to explore his family heritage puts him in contact with one oddball after another, usually offering even more surprising information than the last. With appearances from such Guest standbys as Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Jim Piddock, and Ed Begley Jr., “Family Tree” ably maintains the balance of goofy humor and affecting pathos that has informed the rest of Guest’s body of work. Not rated. Running time: 4:00.

Suggested retail price: $29.98.

“SHEPARD & DARK,” documentary. The complex longtime friendship between bad boy playwright and actor Sam Shepard (“True West”) and average joe/supermarket employee Johnny Dark is engagingly explored in this thoroughly enjoyable doc, which is at its best when it’s simply hanging out with its subjects, who have continued to keep in touch through exuberant and unflinchingly honest letters throughout the years and are reuniting for the occasion of publishing said letters for an upcoming book. Not rated. Running time: 1:29. Suggested retail price: $29.95.

– Courtesy of Videoport

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