News Column

New on DVD: 'World War Z,' 'Disconnect,' 'The Bling Ring'

September 17, 2013

YellowBrix

This week's DVD picks feature zombies, web worries, faith and the robbery stylings of the rich and infamous.

_"World War Z," Grade B-minus: A United Nations employee (Brad Pitt) travels the world in an effort to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic.

Zombies bad. Brad Pitt good. That's all you need to know about this zombie apocalypse movie. Except for its massive scale and scope, it's similar to the kind of zombie movies made since George A. Romero brought life to the genre in 1968 with "Night of the Living Dead."

Director Marc Forster makes the most of the guns-and-guts direction. The film is at its best when the zombies _ a faster-moving bunch than the typical lumbering variety _ sweep through the streets. Their breech of the walls of Jerusalem using a mountain made of zombies and the battles on the streets of Philadelphia are so explosive and intense in design that the crush of walking corpses will take your breath away.

_"Disconnect," Grade A: Director Henry Alex Rubin's film is a harrowing cautionary tale about the dangers that loom with every computer click. He weaves multiple story lines together with a gripping darkness to show how innocent online activities can have devastating consequences.

Jason Bateman turns in a memorable performance as the father of 10th-grader Ben (Jonah Bobo), whose need to connect in school makes him the perfect patsy for an online prank by some thoughtless fellow students.

_"Bless Me, Ultima," Grade C: This is a coming-of-age story about a young boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II. The film is like the cobbled memories we might have while reflecting on our own lives during a warm summer day. These bits and pieces of retained memories come skipping back with only a tenuous thread to hold them together. Observed in linear form, there is a disconnection and disruption that is too jarring to ignore.

The film lacks consistency in story, acting and design to make it the compelling film version of the book it should have been. It's like walking past a series of paintings that depict important _ and not-so-important _ moments in one person's life. There's power in some images, but from moment to moment they lack energy.

_"The Bling Ring," Grade F: The story of bored California teens who break into the homes of the rich and famous.

The problems keep circling back to director Sofia Coppola, who co-wrote the script with Nancy Jo Sales. Along with a story structure that doesn't work, the movie's pacing makes snails look like they are on speed. "The Bling Ring" story is interesting enough for an eight-minute segment on E!, but it's so stretched for this feature film that the 90-minute length feels 10 times longer.

The film sets a new standard for movie failure. It's such a mess, the teens should get back together and steal all of the copies of the movie. No court in the land would find them guilty.

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Also new on DVD this week:

"Arrow: The Complete First Season": Gritty network series based on the DC Comics hero.

"Behind the Candelabra": Michael Douglas stars in the cable movie about the life of Liberace.

"Fear Files": A look at the creatures that haunt holidays.

"Scenic Route": Two men stranded on an isolated road begin to look at their lives.

"Dalziel & Pascoe: Season 8": Mismatched detectives face another set of puzzling cases.

"Haunted History": History channel series that takes viewers into ghostly events at historic locations.

"Space Junk 3D": Documentary that looks at the expanding ring of debris that threatens the safety of our planet's orbits.

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation _ The Thirteenth Season": Includes featurette on "CSI:NY" crossover.

"Drift": Two brothers in Australia in the 1970s battle killer waves, uptight society and ruthless bikers.

"Aberration": A normal high school student hides a chilling secret.

"Waking the Dead: Season Eight": British series about a team that looks into cold cases.

"Suddenly": Ray Liotta stars in the remake of the 1954 Frank Sinatra film noir classic.

"The Haunting of Helena": A girl and her mother have their dreams turned into nightmares.

"Lionhead": Young man desperately wants to marry his girlfriend against the wishes of her imposing father.

"Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors": The Doctor deals with an Earth facing a new Ice Age.

"Barney: Most Huggable Moments": Barney takes preschoolers on journeys to remind them everyone's special.

"Thomas & Friends: King of the Railway": Introduces four new engines and one new destination on the Island of Sodor.

"Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan": Encounters include the largest insect on Earth.

"Shanghai Calling": New York lawyer ends up in a legal mess that could end his career.

"Breakout": Camping trip takes a dark turn when siblings witness a murder.

"Day of the Dead": George Romero's horror classic on Blu-ray.

"Bates Motel: Season One": Re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock's film into cable TV series.

"War of the Buttons": Tale of two rival groups of kids from neighboring villages.

"Augustine": Portrait of power, desire and madness.

"The Mentalist: The Complete Fifth Season": Simon Baker stars.

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Rick Bentley: rbentley@fresnobee.com

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(c)2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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