Review: New on DVD for February 5 Special

Posted Feb 5, 2013 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include a genre-changing musical; a tragic love story; a childhood fantasy come true; a chronicle of a disturbing cover-up; mass political corruption; and a humorous depiction of adultery.
Alliance Films
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
A Star is Born (Blu-ray)
Set in the reckless world of big-time rock ‘n’ roll, this is the tale of talented young singer Esther Hoffman (Barbara Streisand) and superstar rocker John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson).
This is a love story that everyone hopes will work, but is doomed to fail. At first glance, Esther and John don’t seem at all compatible. He’s a drunk and a troublemaker, while she’s responsible and respectful. His antics upset and scare her repeatedly, but she can’t seem to resist his charm. He’s persistent in his pursuit, sweeping Esther off her feet on several occasions and showing he can be a better man – for brief periods. Kristofferson is a total rock star, shirt open, destroying the stage and living the “high” life. Streisand’s musical talent tends to overshadow her acting, though she does deliver some key moments in the picture. There are a few too many musical performances, unnecessarily extending the length of the film (which is already a little too long anyway).
Special features include: commentary by Streisand; deleted and alternate scenes; wardrobe tests with optional commentary; wardrobe tests with commentary by Streisand; and a 40-page book. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Entertainment One
Alex Cross (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Alex Cross follows the young homicide detective/psychologist (Tyler Perry), from the worldwide best-selling novels by James Patterson, as he meets his match in a serial killer (Matthew Fox). The two face off in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, but when the mission gets personal, Cross is pushed to the edge of his moral and psychological limits in this taut and exciting action thriller.
With the number of crime and mystery shows on television, a movie in the same vein should be a step above – or at least equal to – what viewers have already seen. Cross' profiling abilities are a little beyond believable as he walks across a room assessing the killer's mental state. The narrative makes leaps in the story so quickly, it feels incomplete and full of holes with some things just occurring out of convenience for the plot: Cross must become a vigilante, therefore the criminal must be a vindictive psychopath. The most interesting performance is provided by his partner, played by Edward Burns, because his character actually has a personality. (Side note: why are the women always pregnant in these situations?)
Special features include: commentary by director Rob Cohen; deleted scenes; and a featurette. (Entertainment One)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Cabaret (Blu-ray)
Inside the Kit Kat Club of 1931 Berlin, starry-eyed singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) and an impish emcee (Joel Grey) sound the clarion call to decadent fun, while outside a certain political party grows into a brutal force.
There's a featurette about how this film changed musicals – but even if it didn't change the genre, it would at least change people's opinions of the once sing-song affair. Minnelli is a bundle of energy, speaking a mile a minute and rarely saying anything important. She dominates every scene and conversation because she has the largest (loudest) personality. But her songs win audiences over because she knows how to work a stage. And the filmmakers did an impeccable job of capturing the musical numbers, bringing the stage to life on screen; none of the effect of being at a live show is lost. Though the story centres on this lonely actress and her relationships with characters played by Michael York and Helmut Griem, there's also the subplot about the Nazi Party's rise in Germany and the changing landscape that is reflected in some of the Cabaret's acts. The haunting closing shot indicates the group's "subversive" material will be its doom sooner than later.
Special features include: commentary by Stephen Tropiano; “Cabaret: The Musical the Changed Musicals”; vintage featurettes, “Cabaret: A Legend in the Making” and “The Recreation of an Era”; and a 40-page book. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Flight (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) miraculously lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe. But even as he’s being hailed for his heroic efforts, questions arise as to who or what was really at fault.
This is one of those true stories that can cause a viewer to simultaneously trust and fear for their safety. The former because it's the pilot's quick thinking that saves hundreds of lives; the latter because of the cover-up that follows since he was in no condition to fly when he took his place in the cockpit. Portraying the horrifying crash in the first act of the film dedicates the remainder to the investigation and Whip's unraveling. The focus of the film is not the crash, but the pilot. After waking up in the hospital, Whip goes through a series of emotions that are mirrored in his vices; from quitting cold turkey to falling down drunk in the bathroom, from having faith in God to alienating everyone that cares for him. Washington put on a few extra pounds for this picture, appearing fittingly haggard and out of shape throughout the movie. The only element missing is an epilogue that provides closure to the narrative.
Special features include: “Origins of Flight”; a making-of featurette; “Anatomy of a Plane Crash”; and “Q&A Highlights.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Green Lantern the Animated Series: Rise of the Red Lanterns – Season One, Part One (DVD)
Earth’s Green Lantern Hal Jordan is used to being in dangerous situations, but he’s never faced anything like this. Set at the farthest reaches of deep space on the Guardian Frontier, Hal must face down an invasion from the Red Lantern Corps, powered by pure rage. The evil Red Lanterns have sworn to destroy the Green Lantern Corps and everything for which they stand. Dispatched with his friend and former drill sergeant – the gruff, hulking alien Kilowog – on the experimental spacecraft The Interceptor, Hal is soon joined by an all-new group of heroes on a mission to protect Guardian Space and the Green Lantern Corps.
Hal Jordon is an all-around hero that is a little reminiscent of Tom Cruise's Maverick: a good pilot, charming, courageous and disobedient when there are lives in danger. He takes his duty as protector seriously, consistently asking his team members to trust him before he does something seemingly stupid but effective. The Red Lanterns are a formidable enemy, though the defection of one of their fighters keeps things interesting on the Green side. However, at the end of the thirteenth episode, it appears disputes are resolved so it's curious that this is only "part one" of the season.
Special features include: “Green Lantern: The Animated Series vol. 1 #0” digital comic. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
BBC Home Entertainment
House of Cards Trilogy (Blu-ray)
The Emmy-winning original BBC adaptation of Michael Dobbs’ bestselling novels by screenwriter Andrew Davies is fully remastered. It’s a tale of greed, corruption and burning ambition. At its heart is Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson), a black-hearted villain with a smiling face, who shares with the viewers his estranged humour and innermost thoughts to destroy each of his political rivals. One by one his opponents tumble, until at last there is just one wild card left in the pack.
Urquhart is a real piece of work. Beginning with the first episode, viewers may feel disoriented or take some time to acquaint themselves with the storyline – time not provided by the narrative. Audiences are thrown right into the happenings at Parliament and forced to catch up as Urquhart quickly describes the current state of affairs. After years of loyalty and confidences, he is finally ready to take what he believes he deserves. But succeeding in his scheme only creates more secrets that create more trouble. Urquhart's manipulating never stops once it's begun, highlighting his intelligence, ambition and vindictive nature. This is a complex political drama that rewards viewers with excellent acting and intricate deceptions.
Special features include commentary by Ian Richardson and Andrew Davies; an interview with Davies; and a tour of Parliament featurette. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Disney Home Entertainment
Peter Pan (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Wendy and her brothers embark on fantastic adventures with the hero of their bedtime stories: Peter Pan. With faith, trust and Tinker Bell’s pixie dust, Peter teaches them how to fly and leads them to the “second star to the right” and beyond to Neverland.
Disney's version of Wendy's trip to Neverland may not be entirely reflective of the book on which it's based, but it is still a fantastical adventure that remains entertaining 60 years after its original release. The remastered picture is stunning, updating all the vibrant images beyond their original glory. The stalking crocodile that ticks incessantly because he swallowed an alarm clock is a signature Disney creation. And Captain Hook's comical reaction to its approach never gets tired. As an adult watching the film, you are sure to notice some inconsistencies or surprising actions, but these don't even remotely mar the experience. Though Tinker Bell wasn't as wholly likeable as memory recalled.
Special features include: commentary by Roy Disney; introduction by Diane Disney Miller; deleted scenes and songs; a making-of featurette; “Growing up with Nine Old Men”; “Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale”; Disney Intermission; Disney View; Disney Song Selections; and music videos. (Disney Home Entertainment)
Alliance Films
The Players (a.k.a. Les Infidèles) (DVD)
This film explores the triumphs and failures of male infidelity in all its desperate, absurd and wildly funny forms. From a sales conference hotel in the suburbs to a sex addiction clinic, from a swish Parisian nightclub to the glitzy meat market of Las Vegas, they (Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche) launch themselves into the age old pursuit. Every timeworn excuse is proffered; every trick in the book is played. The quest to get laid is on.
This is a brilliant look at infidelity from a man's perspective through a series of vignettes. It starts with two of the worst husbands, working together to lie to one wife before going out to pick up girls. It then revisits these characters in the last segment during an enlightening trip to Vegas that is far from the typical Hollywood adventure. In between, Dujardin and Lellouche portray numerous other characters as they cheat or suffer the consequences of their actions. The Cheaters Anonymous group, featuring all the various unfaithful men exposed in the narrative, is comically absurd as they attempt to defend and/or kick the habit. Incredibly entertaining, audiences are given far more than they could have expected.
There are no special features. (Alliance Films)