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article imageReview: New on DVD for December 4 Special

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By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 5, 2012 in Entertainment
This week's releases include a couple of Pixar breakthrough animations; less jolly versions of Santa; the return of the best-dressed galactic security; the final installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy; and Whitney Houston's swan song.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Blu-ray)
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a six-year-old force of nature in an isolated bayou community. When her tough but loving father Wink (Dwight Henry) succumbs to a mysterious malady, the fierce and determined girl bravely sets out on a journey to the outside world. But Hushpuppy’s quest is hindered by a “busted” universe that melts the ice caps and unleashes an army of prehistoric beasts.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; deleted scenes with commentary by director Benh Zeitlin; auditions; “Glory at Sea”; music featurette; “The Aurochs”; and the theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Catch Me If You Can (Blu-ray)
Inspired by the true story of a brilliant young master of deception and the FBI agent hot on his trail, the film follows Frank W. Abagnale Jr.(Leonardo DiCaprio) as he successfully passes himself off as a pilot, lawyer and doctor – all before his 21st birthday.
In a steady stream of work since the mid-90s that ranged from romantic to dramatic (and all heralded), this is one of DiCaprio's more fun pictures. When heard it's difficult to believe this isn't fiction, but to watch Frank mesmerize everyone with his charm, innocence and good looks almost makes his success understandable. DiCaprio oozes these qualities in the role. His confidence leaps off the screen. Hanks in the meantime plays a more comedically frustrated detective, determined to get his man. Director Steven Spielberg does an excellent job weaving the cat and mouse chase together, creating a conflict for audiences by making both characters likable.
Special features include: “Behind the Camera”; “The Casting of the Film”; “Scoring: Catch Me If You Can”; “Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction”; “The FBI Perspective”; “Catch Me If You Can: In Closing”; and photo galleries.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
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The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray)
It has been eight years since Batman (Christian Bale) vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
It was going to be difficult for this picture to outperform the previous one, but it does all right. The opening scene features an attack tactic that hasn't been seen before, which gets the movie off to a good start. But unfortunately the story has lost some of its shine in the final chapter. In trying to give Bruce Wayne depth, they make him dull. Moreover, this picture is mostly utilized to introduce the Robin character and setup the spinoff that will star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Hardy is a threatening villain that became much more effective after they rerecorded his dialogue so his hate was coherent through the face mask.
Special features not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
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Disney Home Entertainment
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Finding Nemo (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
In the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, Marlin (Albert Brooks), an overly protective clownfish, embarks on a daring rescue mission when his beloved son, Nemo, gets scooped up by a diver. With his unforgettable friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) by his side, Marlin encounters an ocean full of memorable comedic characters on his momentous journey to find Nemo.
If there's something to prepare yourself for in animations, it's that they're not afraid to have tragedy strike in the opening minutes of the film. This lesson was first taught in Bambi, and repeated many times after, including in this picture. Even though Marlin's and Nemo's adventures take place in very different environments, they both face monstrous dangers and lethal enemies in the form of sharks on the verge of falling off the wagon and overzealous little girls. Marlin's quest is kept lively by the humor of Dory, voiced perfectly by Ellen DeGeneres. Nemo, on the other hand, is supported by a tank full of engaging personalities. The ending feels a little rushed, tying up the loose ends with some outrageous antics, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the rest of the movie.
Special features not available. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Hans Christian Andersen (Blu-ray)
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye) is a young cobbler with a special gift for storytelling.
Special features not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Hope Springs (DVD)
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are a devoted couple, but decades of marriage have left Kay wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband. When she hears of a renowned couple's specialist (Steve Carell) in the small town of Great Hope Springs, Maine, she attempts to persuade her skeptical husband, a steadfast man of routine, to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy. Just convincing the stubborn Arnold to go on the retreat is hard enough – the real challenge for both of them comes as they shed their bedroom hang-ups and try to rekindle the spark that caused them to fall for each other in the first place.
Special features include: commentary by director David Frankel; “Exploring the Scene: Alternate Takes Gallery”; “Inside the Perfect Marriage: Meryl Streep & Tommy Lee Jones”; and a gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
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Sony Pictures
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Men in Black 3 (DVD)
Agent J (Will Smith) has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). But when K’s life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, J will have to travel back in time to put things right. Agent J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that Agent K never told him – secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency and the future of humankind.
Fifteen years after the original film was released, audiences are taken back to the secret agency and then taken back in time. Brolin actually does an adequate impression of Jones, especially the voice which is very similar to his character’s older counterpart. Jemaine Clement, better known as one-half of the Flight of the Conchords duo, plays the menacing villain Boris the Animal. Layers of prosthetics and alien abilities make him unrecognizable, but he stands out as a unique and threatening bad guy. Seeing a younger Agent K is amusing as Agent J and the audience observe aspects of his personality that were present from the beginning and others that became jaded with time.
Special features include: “Partners in Time: The Making of MIB 3”; “Back in Time” music video by Pitbull; and a gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
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Disney Home Entertainment
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The Odd Life of Timothy Green (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) are a happily married couple who can't wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. When young Timothy shows up on their doorstep one stormy night, Cindy and Jim – and their small town of Stanleyville – learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life's greatest gifts.
This movie is so sweet it could give audience members a toothache. This loving couple’s wish comes true and they are miraculously given the child of their dreams. From heartache to ecstasy, Cindy and Jim quickly adapt to parenthood. They make amusing and forgivable mistakes like any new parents, while Timothy teaches everyone he encounters lessons about life, love and acceptance. The opening scene sets up the conclusion of their journey with Timothy, but it’s still touching. The parent’s story is far more interesting and relatable than the one about the oddity that is their miracle child, but one cannot really work without the other.
Special features not available. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Silent Night, Deadly Night and Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (DVD)
Silent Night, Deadly Night: Years ago, little Billy saw his parents murdered by an escaped killer wearing a Santa Claus costume. The experience left indelible scars on his psyche, made all the worse by his subsequent years languishing in an orphanage, where his life was made a living hell by the cruel and domineering Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). With the help of the sympathetic Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick), the 18-year-old Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) secures a job at a toy store. When the store’s regular Santa is injured, Billy is called upon to don the red suit. But as he does, he becomes a ticking time bomb. The traumatic memories of his parents’ murders, combined with the abuse he has suffered at the hands of the Mother Superior, propel him into a state of psychotic rage.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2: Billy's younger brother Ricky (Eric Freeman) follows in the family tradition of Christmas carnage.
The first film is a model example of ‘80s slasher flicks. A little bit of background soon leads to a bloody murder spree in a small town. Audiences are shown the scarring incident, followed by the trigger that sets his murderous tendencies into motion. There are some excellent, practical special effects used during the murders; a girl being impaled slowly on a pair of antlers is a particularly impressive effects appliance (and somewhat of an explanation of why she remains half-naked in the scene). Billy’s catchword, “Punish,” is consistent and appropriate as he breathes it through clenched teeth between blows with whatever weapon is handy.
The second picture on the other hand is exemplary of the worst types of sequels. It tries to capitalize on the success of the first movie, but does none of the work. The first half of the film (a full 40 minutes) is devoted to recapping the events of the first movie, describing how Billy became a murderer – and getting the facts wrong. Then Ricky finally begins to recount how he followed in his brother’s footsteps, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Special features include: audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr.; commentary by writer/director Lee Harry, writer Joseph H.Earle and actor James Newman; “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”; poster and still galleries; trailer; and screenplay. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment
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Silent Night (DVD)
When Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell) and his deputy, Sheriff Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King), investigate a horrific mass homicide at a local motel on Christmas Eve, they discover there is a killer Santa Claus on the loose. The officers quickly conclude that the killer is still in the area—but there is one problem: tonight is the annual Santa costume contest, and nearly every guy in town is wearing a red suit and a white beard, including Sheriff Bradimore’s father. With the town’s body count rising, the race is on to put an end to the jolly old St. Nick’s murderous rampage.
This remake is only loosely based on the 1984 film, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Outside of the killer wearing a Santa Clause costume and the inadequate recreation of a few scenes, this picture has little in common with the original film. There are so many red-suited, bearded suspects and conflicting motivations that by the end it becomes difficult to follow who is doing what and why. Moreover, when the movie appears to be over, an additional and unnecessary scene is tacked on before the credits that confuses matters further. McDowell is always fun to watch, but King often appears too meek, even for a timid cop.
Special features include: a behind-the-scenes featurette; and deleted scenes. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
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Sony Pictures
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Sparkle (DVD)
Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is a young woman whose big dreams seem almost impossible. She's been warned against the pitfalls of the music industry by her protective mother (Whitney Houston). But encouraged by the handsome and ambitious Stix (Derek Luke), Sparkle forms a trio with her sisters, Dolores (Tika Sumpter) and Sister (Carmen Ejogo). Together, they perform the soul-stirring songs that Sparkle pens. But as their fame grows, so do the risks of jealousy, self-doubt and insidious temptation.
The names aside, this is a compelling though predictable story about family and stardom. A judgemental parent, sisters with big dreams and men that are bad influences abound. It’s not difficult to predict what will happen to each character throughout the narrative, but the admirable performances by each of the actors keeps the viewer’s interest. Ejogo and Houston are the driving forces of this picture, even though Sparks is supposed to be its heart. The stage performances are as captivating as any televised R&B performance of the era and the women’s outfits are fetching. In the end it may be a little longer than necessary, but it all works.
Special features include: commentary by director Salim Akil; “A Tribute to Whitney Houston”; and “A Dream Come True” featurette. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Up (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen is ready for his last chance at high-flying excitement. Tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl sets off to the lost world of his childhood dreams. Unbeknownst to Carl, Russell, an overeager 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer is on Carl's front porch. The world's most unlikely duo meet fantastic friends like Dug, a dog with a special collar that allows him to speak, and Kevin, a rare 13-foot tall flightless bird. Stuck together in the wilds of the jungle, Carl realizes that sometimes life's biggest adventures aren't the ones you set out looking for.
When released three years ago, this film was applauded for proving that an animation could be touching and deal with sophisticated ideas while remaining accessible to audiences of all ages. It was the opening sequence in particular, which describes Franklin's marriage, that grabbed viewers' attention. The high-flying journey -- equivalent to an airborne road trip -- takes the pair to unique places. But one of the most amusing occurrences is undoubtedly they're encounter with a group of talking dogs with varying intelligence. It may cause some to rethink the longstanding desire to know what animals are thinking. "Squirrel!" Even though the animation is attractive, it's the captivating story that takes centre stage in this production.
Special features not available. (Disney Home Entertainment)
World Without End (DVD)
England is on the brink of a devastating war with France that will last over a hundred years, and The Bubonic Plague, which will wipe out a third of Europe’s population before it is done, is spreading. Caris (Charlotte Riley), a visionary young woman, struggles to rise above the suffering and oppression in order to lead her people out of the Dark Ages. With her lover, Merthin (Tom Weston-Jones), she builds a community in Kingsbridge, England that stands up to the church and the crown. Together, they unearth a dangerous secret and must fight to save their town from ruin, ultimately ushering in a new era of freedom, innovation and enlightenment.
Special features not available. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
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