News Column

New on Dvd

November 15, 2013


In stores

MAN OF STEEL (2013, Warner, PG-13, $30) -- Given that director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan are responsible for "Watchmen" and "The Dark Knight" trilogy, respectively, it's no surprise that their Superman reboot is dark, brooding and grandiose. Henry Cavill plays the titular hero without even the hint of a twinkle in his eye. Supes is all business as he sets out to save Earth from the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon). The early scenes of Clark with his adopted mom and dad (Diane Lane, Kevin Costner) are lovely but the rest of the film is a mixed bag. Particularly disappointing is the lack of chemistry between Superman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams). "Man of Steel" is competent but it never soars. Extras: featurettes.

TURBO (2013, DreamWorks, PG, $30) -- In this animated underdog saga, a snail named Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) yearns to compete in the Indianapolis 500. After enduring a freak accident involving nitrous oxide -- don't ask -- our hero becomes a speedster who, with the help of a taco stand owner (Michael Pena), makes his dream a reality. Even though the plot is running on empty, the scenes between Turbo and his pals (Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, Snoop Dog) are joyful and the colors are bright as neon. "Turbo" won't make anyone forget the superior "Cars" but it deserves a place in the winner's circle. Extras: featurettes.

PASSION (2013, E1, R, $25) -- Stylish, suspenseful and witty, Brian DePalma's latest is a corporate thriller, a drama of vengeance and a morality tale all rolled into one. Advertising exec Christine (Rachel McAdams) is used to getting her way but when she steals an idea from underling Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) it kicks off a cat-and- mouse game between the pair that ultimately leads to murder. From the moment DePalma unleashes one of his trademark split-screens, the film begins to feel like a velvety nightmare. Even though "Passion" isn't in the same league as DePalma masterpieces like "Carrie" and "Dressed To Kill," it casts a kinky spell. Extras: featurette.

BARBARA (2012, Kino, PG-13, $30) -- In Christian Petzold's steadily engrossing 1980s-set thriller, German actress Nina Hoss stars as Dr. Barbara Wolff, a prominent East Berlin physician who is being punished for committing an unspecified offense against the government. Transferred to the provinces, she's assigned a dingy flat and followed everywhere by the Stasi. Almost in spite of herself, Barbara becomes involved in the lives of her patients and fellow physicians. Petzold pulls you in slowly with a plot that involves secret assignations and mysterious money drops. But it's Hoss's delicate portrait of a woman in crisis that cuts the deepest and helps turn the film into an indelible wonder. Extras: none.

AS COOL AS I AM (2011, IFC, R, $25) -- One of those rare coming- of-age films with a fresh perspective, this drama centers on a teenager named Lucy (flinty Sarah Bolger) who's far more mature than either her lumberjack dad (James Marsden) or her telemarketer mom (Claire Danes). Still, Lucy has to go through her share of growing pains, most of which involve adjusting to the sudden departure of her best friend (Thomas Mann). All four of the central actors are terrific, and the material, which is based on a novel by Pete Fromm, has the ring of truth about it. "As Cool As I Am" is a small gem. Extras: featurette.

BLACKFISH (2013, Magnolia, PG-13, $27) -- At the heart of this powerful doc is the appalling case of Tilikum, an orca whale who, after years of being held in a tiny tank at SeaWorld, attacked and killed trainer Dawn Brancheau. The 2010 case is a springboard for director Gabriela Cowperthwaite to examine a number of unsettling water park practices, including calf hunts in which young ones are rounded up and captured while their parents are killed, filled with rocks and sent to the bottom of the ocean. Expect an emotional wipeout. Extras: featurettes and Cowperthwaite commentary.

AS I LAY DYING (2013, Millennium, R, $20) -- Writer/director James Franco deserves credit for trying to adapt William Faulkner's classic novel about members of a Mississippi clan (Franco, Logan Marshall-Green, Ahna O'Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson) hauling the body of their matriarch (Beth Grant) back to her hometown for burial. But Franco's constant use of split screens is distracting. And even though the arduous journey is full of incidents (flooded rivers, accidents, injuries, a raging barn fire), the characters respond so stoically that there's surprisingly little drama. Extras: featurette.

INTOLERANCE (1916, Cohen, unrated, $40) -- One of the most influential -- and lavish -- silent epics of all time arrives on Blu- ray in a stunning transfer that bests previous editions from Kino and Image. Directed by D.W. Griffith, "Intolerance" weaves together four separate stories about the fall of Babylon, the death of Christ, the massacre of the Huguenots and the love between two slum dwellers in modern-day America. The tales, which are intercut with surprising fluidity, illustrate the theme of man's inhumanity to man. Boasting a booming score by Carl Davis, this package is a cinephile's dream. Extras: featurettes and two additional films by Griffith.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY EXTENDED EDITION (2012, Warner, PG-13, $35) -- On the eve of the Dec. 13 release of "The Desolation of Smaug," director Peter Jackson added another 13 minutes to the already 169 minute cut of "An Unexpected Journey." This edition, which serves up more dwarf antics as well as additional business with the Great Goblin and Thranduil, is likely to appeal to hardcore fans only. Proceed with caution. Extras: nearly nine hours of new special features including Jackson commentary and docs.

POSSE (1975, Warner Archive, PG, $25) -- In this hidden gem of a Western, released in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Kirk Douglas stars as a small-town marshal looking to earn himself a senate seat by capturing an infamous train robber (Bruce Dern). Not only is the Douglas-directed film an action-packed cat-and-mouse thriller but it also manages to blur the fine line between heroes and villains. Dern is a dirty, rotten scoundrel but, in many ways, he's more honorable than the hypocritical Douglas. One of Quentin Tarantino's favorite oaters, "Posse" still packs a wallop. Extras: none.

DEXTER: THE COMPLETE FINAL SEASON (2013, Paramount, unrated, $56) -- Unlike "Breaking Bad," this series didn't go out on top. There was some suspense involving Dex's (Michael C. Hall) relationship with Dr. Vogel (the great Charlotte Rampling) but, overall, many of the characters flatlined long before the series finale. And that finale? Not one of TV's best, to put it mildly. One of the highlights of the show's last season was the always-reliable Hall, who managed to bring a bruised and twisted humanity to a character who could have easily tipped into absurdity long ago. Extras: featurettes.

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: ABSOLUTELY ALL OF IT (1992-2012, BBC, unrated, $159) -- No series captured the excesses of the '90s better than this satirical sitcom about two trend-obsessed, vodka-swilling fashion victims (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley) steamrolling through life without a care in the world for anyone but themselves. Included in the 10-disc set are all five seasons as well as the specials that aired after the show went off the air. It's absolutely brilliant, all of it. Extras: outtakes, commentaries, featurettes and the 2012 Comic Relief show.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: JFK (2013, PBS, unrated, $30) -- Did you know that because of Addison's disease President Kennedy was in almost constant pain? That's just one of many fascinating details unearthed for this comprehensive, 240-minute look at JFK and his presidency. While the emphasis is on key events like the Bay of Pigs, the civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam, director Susan Bellows offers new insights into JFK's complicated private life, including his relationships with wife Jackie and brother Bobby. Extras: none.

NAKED CITY: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1958-1963, Image, unrated, $180) -- Available for the first time in its entirety, this gritty, influential series is unique for putting a human face on crime. On tap are 39 of the half-hour episodes as well as 99 of the hourlong shows. In addition to showcasing fine work by guest stars like Christopher Walken, Gene Hackman, Diane Ladd, Robert Redford, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Dustin Hoffman, the shot-on-location series is an amazing time capsule of New York City in the '50s and '60s. Extras: none.

-- Amy Longsdorf



Tuesday -- "Paranoia," "Planes," "The To Do List," "2 Guns," "We're the Millers," "The World's End."

Nov. 22 -- "Parkland."

Nov. 26 -- "Breaking Bad: The Complete Series," "Getaway," "The Grand-master," "Jobs," "Red 2."

Dec. 3 -- "Matilda," "The Smurfs 2."

Dec. 10 -- "Despicable Me 2," "Fast & Furious 6."

-- Caitlin Callons

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