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article imageReview: New on DVD for March 12 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 12, 2013 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a trio of high definition Disney vault releases; a not-so focused biopic about a famous director; a couple of movies about life’s greatest challenges; and an epic tale of love and betrayal.
Mongrel Media
A Late Quartet (DVD)
On the eve of an important concert, Peter (Christopher Walken), lead cellist of a veteran string quartet, receives some very disturbing news. When he announces his pending retirement, competing egos and uncontrollable passions threaten to derail years of friendship and collaboration within the tightly knit group.
Special features not available. (Mongrel Media)
BBC Home Entertainment
Alice in Wonderland (DVD)
One summer afternoon Lewis Carroll regales his picnic companions with the tale of young girl named Alice who sees a fully-dressed, talking rabbit run past her. She follows the rabbit down a hole and enters a nonsensical world where it seems the normal rules of logic do not apply. In Wonderland, Alice participates in a winner-less race, alternates between being tiny and giant, hears riddles at a “mad” tea party, plays croquet with live flamencos, and attends a trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts.
Special features not available. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Alice through the Looking Glass (DVD)
In an alternate world, just on the other side of the mirror’s reflection, Alice finds herself in the middle of a life-sized chess game, where she encounters a variety of surreal scenarios and fantastical characters, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Humpty Dumpty, the Red Queen and others. To be crowned queen and return home, Alice must traverse all the ranks to the end of this massive chessboard.
Special features not available. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is a Jewish nobleman in Palestine whose heroic odyssey includes enslavement by the Romans, vengeance against his tormentors during a furious arena chariot race and fateful encounters with Jesus Christ.
Special features include: commentary by film historian T. Gene Hatcher with Heston; music-only track; and theatrical trailers. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2 (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Disney Home Entertainment
Brother Bear: When Kenai, a young Inuit hunter, needlessly kills a bear, he is magically transformed into a bear himself as punishment with a talkative cub named Koda as his only guide to changing back.
Brother Bear 2: Nita, an old female friend of Kenai, needs his help on a quest, much to Koda's growing dismay.
This is a touching story about family and man's connection with nature. Drawing on Inuit lore, the spirits teach many lessons that a fallen brother is unable to impart before his passing. The first picture alternates between fun in the forests and frightful escapes from hunters. At first Kenai can think of nothing but returning to his human form, but eventually he learns not to resent his young guide and have fun along the way. In the sequel, it’s Nita that is all business as they make the journey to the falls where she and Kenai played as children. In both films, the spirits appear beautifully in a form similar to the northern lights.
Special features include: making-of featurette; deleted scenes and song; animated outtakes; music video; “Behind the Music of Brother Bear 2”; and sing-along songs. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cinderella (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
This modern take on Cinderella is set to the backdrop of the Wild West featuring a new cast of furry and feathered friends. Cinderella is transformed for a night at the royal ball, but finds herself battling a band of gorilla pirates who have kidnapped Prince Vladimir and the Duchess.
This is definitely an unconventional version of the classic tale, which also takes some liberties because of the unusual backdrop. Rather than a victim of her stepmother, Cinderella is a symbol of strength in her town reminiscent of female Western hero Calamity Jane. The core elements of the story are still present, but there are many changes to accommodate the gambling and pirates; thus the connection between this film and the Grimm fairy tale is pretty loose. Nonetheless, it’s entertaining and the furry characters are charming (the good ones anyway). And her stepsisters are two of the most ridiculous creatures ever portrayed. The violence is also minimal, save for a train robbery and barroom brawls.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Curious George Swings into Spring (DVD)
George and his best friend, Hundley, explore all the wonders of the season together— including blooming flowers, baby animals and canoe rides. But when Hundley loses his way, George takes to the skies to find his pal, in a wild adventure that ends with a very fun surprise.
A measure that should be built into children's entertainment is not only if it maintains the interest of its target audience, but if it keeps the adults in the room entertained as well. This new adventure from Curious George passes with flying colors – literally. The animators were not afraid of the color palette. Taking advantage of the spring theme, the bright flowers, butterflies and kites leap off the screen. Younger kids will be absorbed in the lovely pictures, while older ones will enjoy the many aspects of spring explored in the story - and the many mishaps George and Hundley incur.
There are no special features. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Doctor Who: The Ark in Space (DVD)
The TARDIS lands on a space station orbiting the earth in the distant future. It’s seemingly deserted, but the Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah Jane and Harry soon discover that they are not alone. Thousands of humans – the only survivors of the human race – are in cryogenic sleep, and while they’ve slept their ark has been invaded. A parasitic insect race – the Wirrn – have taken control and threaten the very future of mankind.
Special features include: commentary with actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and producer Philip Hinchcliffe; featurettes; and a movie version of the story. (BBC Home Entertainment)
BBC Home Entertainment
Doctor Who: The Aztecs (DVD)
The TARDIS materializes inside an Aztec tomb. Outside it, the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions soon discover that Mexico in the 15th century is a bloodthirsty and dangerous place. And with Barbara mistaken for a reincarnation of an ancient high priest called Yetaxa, the history teacher thinks that she can put an end to the barbaric human sacrifices once and for all.
Special features include: commentary with actors William Russell, Carole Ann Ford and producer Verity Lambert; and featurettes. (BBC Home Entertainment)
The First Time (DVD)
Dave (Dylan O’Brien) is an incurable romantic in love with the hottest girl in school, Jane (Victoria Justice). Unfortunately, she only thinks of him as a friend – without benefits. Through a chance encounter, Dave meets Aubrey (Britt Robertson), an alluring girl from a nearby school, which sparks a flame that soon becomes a red-hot romance filled with all the angst, missteps and awkwardness of a first time love.
Special features not available. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Grave Encounters 2 (Blu-ray)
In 2011, found footage horror film Grave Encounters about a ghost hunting TV crew being haunted to their apparent deaths in an abandoned mental institute became an Internet and festival sensation. A year later Alex (Richard Harmon) is contacted by blogger ‘Death Awaits 666’, who sends him a link that appears to show that Grave Encounters’ lead actor, Sean Rogerson, is alive and trapped in the building that was the setting for the film. Death Awaits 666 tells Alex that the mental institution from the film is only a few hours’ drive from his campus. Armed with borrowed video equipment, Alex and his friends drive to the building to meet the mysterious blogger. Though once there, they quickly realize that Death Awaits 666 is not a person but the building itself. They are relentlessly attacked by the ghosts of former patients and must use their knowledge of the first film to try and find a way to escape.
The film opens with real YouTube reviews of the first film in which fans praise it for being scary and critics blast it for not being scary enough. The first half of the picture alternates between the student film project and amateur detective work. It’s invested in introducing and establishing the characters before putting them in danger. The actual ghostly aspect of the film is hit and miss. The slow build to their first encounter works well as it is a good contrast from the quiet nothing to the hard-hitting paranormal aggression. The physical manifestations created practically work especially well with "skinny man" being effectively disturbing as he chases the crew through the maze of corridors. However, as the story goes on, it becomes less creepy and more difficult in which to be submersed. Conversely, the introduction of a new character in the final act lends little to the story as filmmakers could have gotten to the same conclusion somewhat faster using slightly different devices.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Fox Home Entertainment
Hitchcock (Blu-ray)
Plagued by both a reckless ego and nagging self-doubt, Hollywood legend Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) becomes obsessed with a grisly murder story that the studios won’t back. Determined, he risks his reputation, his home and even the love of his wife Alma (Helen Mirren), as he sets out to make the film. Ultimately, Hitch wins Alma over, and the two collaborate to create an enduring masterpiece – Psycho.
This is less a story about the director than it is about the woman behind the man. The picture shows Alma's influence was in everything. Never getting the credit she deserved, Alma simply smiled and watched the world fawn over her husband's brilliance. While this is an interesting insight into the life of a famous director, it's not really the reason to watch a film called "Hitchcock." It would have been fascinating to get a better idea of his process or his battles with the Hays Office over censorship. Instead the film demonstrates his bad eating habits and his relentless preoccupation with the women he casted in his pictures. Hopkins tries to capture the essence of the late filmmaker, adopting his mannerisms, posture and speech patterns. With the help of prosthetics he even looks the part; but at times there's still too much Hopkins that shines through.
Special features include: commentary with director Sacha Gervasi and writer Stephen Rebello; deleted scenes; “Becoming the Master: From Hopkins to Hitchcock”; “Obsessed with Hitchcock”; Gervasi's -behind-the-scenes cellphone footage; “Hitchcock Cell Phone PSA”; “The Story” featurette; “The Cast” featurette; “Danny Elfman Maestro”; “Hitch and Alma”; “Remembering Hitchcock”; and theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Disney Home Enterainment
The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Quasimodo, a deformed bellringer, must assert his independence from Frollo, a vicious government minister, in order to help his friend Esmeralda, a gypsy dancing girl.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame II: Now that Frollo is gone, Quasimodo rings the bell with the help of his new friend, Esmeralda and Phoebus' son, Zephyr. But when Quasi stops by a travelling circus owned by a greedy, evil magician Sarousch, he falls for Madellaine, Sarouch's assistant.
These films have more music than the typical Disney movie, with a song reminiscent of another Disney hit, “Part of your World.” The first film is also quite a bit darker than the average family animation. Frollo’s vendetta against the gypsies is reprehensible and his attempt to exterminate them is appalling. Then suddenly the mood is lightened by talking gargoyles. The straight-to-video release does not maintain the animation quality of the first film, but the story is its equivalent. Now that Quasi is no longer in hiding, the focus shifts to finding him a partner since Esmeralda is off the market. Though it never utters the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” that is clearly the lesson of Quasimodo.
Special features include: commentary; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes with Jennifer Love Hewitt; multi-language reel – “A Guy Like You”; and “A Gargoyle’s Life.” (Disney Home Entertainment)
Fox Home Entertainment
Life of Pi (Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet)
Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) is a young man on a fateful voyage who, after a spectacular disaster, is marooned on a lifeboat with the only other survivor, a fearsome 450lb Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery, Pi and his majestic companion make an amazing and unexpected connection.
The purpose of this story is to assess a man’s belief in God. But that is only a small part of this magnificent tale. The unbelievable account is matched by fantastic imagery. From the initial storm to the smack of glowing jellyfish to the cannibal island, this picture never fails to be stunning. Sharma is exceptional as the shipwrecked Pi, while Irrfan Khan’s adult voiceover narrative is filled with emotion that fuels the film. It was difficult to imagine a visual adaptation of such an incredible tale, but director Ang Lee manages to get it right. Winner of four Academy Awards, including best cinematography and director, watching this picture is an unforgettable experience that will resonate long after the credits.
Special features include: “Remarkable Vision”; “Epic Journey”; “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright”; stills gallery; and storyboards. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Disney Home Entertainment
Mulan and Mulan II (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Mulan: To save her father from death in the army, Mulan, a Chinese maiden, secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China's greatest heroes in the process.
Mulan II: While preparing for their wedding, Captain Shang and Mulan are suddenly sent off on a secret mission. Meanwhile, Mushu gets bad news that leads him to meddle in their relationship; and a surprise attack by Mongolians doesn't help either.
Mulan was one of Disney's first true "girl power" princesses. While most are either a damsel in distress or a young woman in love, she is neither. Mulan is brave, with strong values she is willing to fight to defend. Unlike the other girls her age, she goes to the Matchmaker because it pleases her family - not because she's eager to marry. She's somewhat of a modern young woman. In the second film, she unites both schools of thought by accepting Shang's proposal while remaining one of the Emperor's warriors. But the first film's theme burns bright as Mulan stands against a trio of arranged marriages, once again disobeying the patriarchal order. The humor is generally provided by Eddie Murphy's Mushu, Mulan's guardian dragon, though he can be too over-the-top; particularly in the sequel.
Special features include: commentary; 11 deleted scenes; 15 backstage featurettes; six music videos, featuring Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, 98ᵒ and Jackie Chan.
VVS Films
Playing for Keeps (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Charming, down‐on‐his-luck former soccer star George, (Gerard Butler), returns home to put his life back together. Looking for a way to rebuild his relationship with his son, he gets roped into coaching the boy's soccer team. But his attempts to finally become an "adult" are met with hilarious challenges from the attractive "soccer moms" who pursue him at every turn.
There are two stories playing out within the narrative – one is about a father trying to reconnect with his son, and the other features poor female stereotypes throwing themselves at a handsome athlete. The first is touching and humorous as George tries to spend more quality time with his son and win back his ex-wife (Jessica Biel). In the meantime, he also tries unsuccessfully to fend off the advances of several soccer moms. Unfortunately, each is a terrible representation of a type that interrupts the narrative every time they enter the screen. Butler charms everyone with his Scottish accent, soccer skills and overall good nature. Judy Greer is always exceptional as the over-the-top neurotic mom, even though her tactics were out of place. Uma Thurman, on the other hand, is only irritating in her desperation. Most of the film is predictable, but it’s a relatively entertaining (forgettable) piece of fluff.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; and “Creating an All-Star Team.” (VVS Films)
Ripper Street (DVD)
Haunted by the failure to catch London’s most evil killer, Jack the Ripper, Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) now heads up the notorious H Division – the toughest police district in London’s East End. Charged with keeping order in the blood-stained streets of Whitechapel, Reid and his men find themselves fighting to uphold justice and the rule of law; but always in the background lurks the fear of the Ripper – is he back for another reign of terror? As imitators emerge and feral gangs terrorize, Reid and his team are further drawn into the criminal underbelly of Victorian London; and their vigilance must be swift to stop those that threaten the calm of the city.
Special features include: three “Inside Looks” from the cast and production team; character profiles; “London Calling: Whitechapel,” a tour of modern Whitechapel; and “Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect,” can modern forensic science finally solve the case of Jack the Ripper? (BBC Home Entertainment)
Rise of the Guardians (Blu-ray)
When the evil Pitch threatens to take over the world, it’s up to the legendary guardians – Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Sandman – to protect the hopes and dreams of children everywhere.
Special features include: commentary with director Peter Ramsey and producers Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein; “The Man Behind the Guardians,” with author William Joyce to bring his novels to life; “Dreamers and Believers”; “Sandy’s Dream Guide,” Sandman helps interpret your dreams in this interactive guide; “Behind the Magic,” with four featurettes; “Jack Frost Snowball Showdown”; and “Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy.” (DreamWorks Animation)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Samson and Delilah (DVD)
Samson (Victor Mature) is the fabled strongman whose strength is dependent on the length of his hair. The film chronicles his incredible feats, including his battle with a lion, his single-handed assault on a thousand Philistine soldiers, his struggle with a giant, and finally the spectacular climax in which he pulls down the pagan temple. But it is Delilah’s (Hedy Lamarr) quest for revenge and ability to bring down even the mighty Samson that drive this powerful story.
It's not surprising that more than 70 years after its release, Cecil B. DeMille's classic tale is still a theatrical masterpiece. The detailed restoration makes the film as vibrant as the day it was shot. The story itself is timeless, and the performances are brilliant. This picture is an example of what grand productions used to be. The practical effects, including the real lion, give it a captivating quality CGI cannot achieve. Mature's Samson is flawless. He's charming and masculine, but also naive and eventually vulnerable. Though Delilah's behavior is atrocious, Lemarr does not portray her as inherently wicked; mischievous yes, but not wholly evil.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Smashed (Blu-ray)
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and alcohol – especially the latter. When Kateʼs drinking leads her to dangerous places and her job as a school teacher is put in jeopardy, she decides to join AA and get sober. With the help of her friend and sponsor Jenny (Octavia Spencer), and the vice principal at her school, the awkward, but well-intentioned Mr. Davies (Nick Offerman), Kate takes steps toward improving her health and life. Sobriety isn’t as easy as Kate had anticipated. Her new lifestyle forces her to confront a troubling relationship with her mother, as well as the necessity of facing the lies she’s told her employer. She also must question whether or not her relationship with Charlie is built on love or is just a boozy diversion from adulthood.
More often than not, films portray the devastating effect of addiction on the addict and/or the people around them. In a co-dependent relationship, the picture is very different. The audience can see the negative consequences of their behaviour, but together they just see the “good times.” It’s only extreme failures in judgement with larger repercussions that finally pushes Kate to seek help. Charlie, on the other hand, is a constant reminder of what life used to be. Winstead’s portrayal of Kate’s various states of alcoholism and sobriety are exceptionally genuine. Her last speech at AA is spoken with just the right balance of happiness and sadness to affect audiences on and off the screen.
Special features include: commentary with director James Ponsoldt and actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead; deleted scenes; a making-of featurette; and Toronto International Film Festival red carpet and Q&A. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Suicide Shop (DVD)
Imagine a shop that for generations has sold all the accoutrements of the perfect suicide. This family business prospers in all its bleak misery, until the day it encounters true joie de vivre in the shape of the owners' younger son, Alan. What will become of The Suicide Shop in the face of Alan's relentless good cheer, optimism and determination to make the customers smile?
Special features not available. (Entertainment One)
TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends – Natalie Wood (DVD)
Splendor in the Grass (1961): Deanie (Wood) is a teenager eager to do right in her 1920s Kansas town, but the emotions she shares with boyfriend Bud (Warren Beatty) are too strong.
Gypsy (1962): Louise (Wood) is a wallflower who blossoms into sophisticated stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.
Sex and the Single Girl (1964): Snoopy magazine editor Bob Weston (Tony Curtis) and “Sexy and the Single Girl” author Helen Gurley Brown (Wood) square off in a will-she/won’t-she breezy battle of the sexes.
Inside Daisy Clover (1965): Daisy Clover (Wood) is a star at 15 – but in the 1930s, “star treatment” can mean anything from being discovered to being discarded.
There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends – Sidney Poitier (DVD)
Blackboard Jungle (1955): Racial and sexual tensions, violence, gangs and apathy – all hot-button issues in schools today – were tackled in this film. Glenn Ford plays an idealistic inner-city teacher and Poitier gives a star-making performance as a teen misfit.
Edge of the City (1957): Two labourers (Poitier and John Cassavetes) face corruption on the New York waterfront and bond across society’s black/white divide.
Something of Value (1957): In colonial Kenya, former childhood playmates Peter (Rock Hudson) and Kimani (Poitier) have maintained a deep, if unlikely, friendship. But with the bloody Mau Mau uprising, the men discover that even the strongest bond may not be stronger than the cry for freedom.
A Patch of Blue (1965): Selina (Elizabeth Hartman) is blind and white. Helping her see the world anew is kindly Gordon Ralfe (Poitier), who is black, though Selina doesn’t know it.
There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Alliance Films
This Must be the Place (DVD)
Cheyenne (Sean Penn), a retired rock star living off his royalties in Dublin, returns to New York City to find the man responsible for a humiliation suffered by his recently deceased father during the Holocaust.
This is somewhat of a confusing tale of discovery. After his father dies, Cheyenne visits numerous people while trying to complete his father's last wishes. Afraid of all forms of mass transportation, each leg of the trip is a feat. Walking with his wheeled luggage, only Cheyenne knows his path. The calls to his wife become shorter the longer he is absent, but the worry in her voice does not seem to influence him. It's not until he finds the Nazi war criminal his father sought that the purpose of his indirect journey becomes clear.
There are no special features. (Alliance Films)
Fox Home Entertainment
Willow (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
When young Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) finds an abandoned baby girl, he learns she is destined to end the reign of the wicked Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). In order to protect the child, Willow must team up with a rogue swordsman (Val Kilmer) and overcome the forces of darkness in the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
Special features include: deleted scenes with director Ron Howard; “An Unlikely Hero,” personal diary of Warwick Davis; “The Making of an Adventure,” with an all new introduction from Howard; “From Morf to Morphing,” with an all new introduction from Dennis Muren; matte paintings; and Easter egg. (Fox Home Entertainment)
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