Movies Without Pity

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

by Ethan Alter March 18, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Elsa lets it all go on Blu-ray.

The Disney Renaissance that began with Tangled burst into full bloom with Frozen, the biggest hit in the Mouse House's history and the third-highest grossing movie of 2013. Nominally yet another spin on the traditional Disney Princess tale, the film makes some small, but significant changes to the formula starting with the fact that the story is anchored by two princesses -- Elsa (Idina Menzel), forced by a childhood accident to hide her secret ice powers from the world, and her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), who sets off on a grand adventure to aid her sibling after the latter's abilities finally come bursting through. Though the plotting is slack at time, relying on all the conventional hallmarks of a Disney cartoon are all present here -- among them, the goofy sidekick, the handsome, boring love interest and the non-speaking animal companions -- the relationship between the sisters is unique for the studio in the way it remains at the center throughout -- ahead of any traditional heteronormative romance -- becoming particularly important in the final act. But let's not overlook the real reason Frozen became a phenomenon: that much-covered power ballad "Let It Go," which just nabbed an Oscar for Best Original Song, with the movie proper taking Best Animated Feature. It's a mixed blessing for Menzel, though: on the one hand, she'll no longer have to field requests to sing "Defying Gravity." At the same time, now she's going to be stuck belting "Let It Go" for the next few years… until the inevitable Frozen 2 comes along.
Extras: Four deleted scenes, three making-of featurettes, the delightful Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse! and three (count 'em three!) "Let It Go" music videos.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see our picks for Disney's least cool cartoon heroines

American Hustle
After years in the Hollywood wilderness, David O. Russell has pulled off a hat trick with his past three movies, all of which scored multiple Oscar nominations in the acting categories as well as for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. But where The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook both took home statues, American Hustle went away with bupkus at this year's ceremony, felled by the likes of 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and The Great Gatsby, where LeoDio's fashionable suits beat out Amy Adams's plunging necklines. That's a shame, because there are certainly things about this '70s con man romp that are Oscar-worthy, starting with Adams's transformative star turn as a woman with a checkered past who uses the con game as a way to, literally, reinvent herself. The rest of the heavy-hitting cast, which includes Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and J.Law, are equally on-point and single-handedly carry the movie whenever Russell's "Plot? What plot?" approach to narrative gums up the proceedings. Taking a script that probably played more like Argo in its original version, the writer/director instead films it as a series of rambunctious, loosely connected scene studies. It's a liberating style for the actors, but a little frustrating for those of us watching the shenanigans unfold at home.
Extras: Deleted and extended scenes and a making-of featurette.
Click here to read our original review

Saving Mr. Banks
Since "movies about movies" have won Best Picture for the past two years running (The Artist and Argo), it stood to reason that many Oscar prognosticators picked this making-of Mary Poppins feature as a major awards player before the season kicked off. But then people actually saw the film and… well, suddenly it went from sure-fire favorite to also-ran. In the end, the movie was almost completely shut out, with even its stars -- Emma Thompson as Mary's creator P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as ol' Walt Disney himself -- going unrecognized. Considering the caliber of the actors that were nominated, it's hard to argue that these two were overlooked, but they are the only reason to see the movie, which unsuccessfully tries to mix a diverting behind-the-scenes storyline (which, it should be noted, makes some significant changes to the actual making-of account of Mary Poppins) with repetitive biopic-style flashbacks that explore the author's childhood in Australia and troubled relationship with her alcoholic dad (Colin Farrell). Here's a tip: chapter-skip through the Young Travers scenes and stick to the sequences where Thompson stalks about the frame, chewing out all the cowering Disney employees. Now that's entertainment.
Extras: Three deleted scenes and two making-of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Kill Your Darlings
Daniel Radcliffe grows up in a big way with Kill Your Darlings, a '40s-set "Before They Were Stars" account of some of the leading lights of the Beat Generation. The former Harry Potter plays future Howl author, Allen Ginsberg, who turns up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the doorstep of Columbia University in 1944 and quickly falls in with a fast-living group of fellow students led by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who prizes late-night trips to the Village over late-night study sessions. Through Carr, Ginsberg meets such soon-to-be-towering figures as Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and also discovers the personal costs that comes with their lifestyle, including a thwarted romance with Lucien and the death of his crush object's obsessive mentor (Michael C. Hall). Radcliffe gamely attacks his part, but the movie is a stiff -- a flat-footed origin story that ends just as the characters' lives are really just getting started. Still, it's good to know that, even if Harry Potter has run its course, The Boy Who Lived's movie career is far from over.
Extras: A commentary track with Radcliffe and his co-stars, separate Q&A's with the actors, red carpet footage from the film's Toronto Film Festival premiere and deleted scenes.
Click here to read our original review

Also on DVD:
Even buried under old age make-up, Idris Elba does typically excellent work embodying Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which otherwise falls prey to the traditional biopic problem of trying to squeeze too much of the subject's life into too limited a runtime. Based on the box office returns, Joel Kinnaman probably won't be suiting up as Robocop again, but fortunately he's got the Swedish Easy Money franchise to fall back on, which continues with the sequel Easy Money: Hard to Kill. Samuel L. Jackson's crazy person menaces Dominic Cooper's upstanding D.A. in the generic thriller Reasonable Doubt. Shout! Factory's horror movie imprint unleashes a high-def version of another cult classic, 1982's T&A-filled slash-a-thon Slumber Party Massacre. More horror is on display in the Mexican missing-kids chiller Here Comes the Devil. The childhood favorite The Black Stallion debuts a Blu-ray edition, as does Mysterious Skin, Gregg Araki's piercing, disturbing drama that gave Joseph Gordon-Levitt his big career comeback. Finally, Criterion celebrates the impending launch of Star Wars Episode VII by releasing the movie that inspired George Lucas, Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress in Blu-ray, and dusts off Errol Morris's long-unavailable Stephen Hawking profile, A Brief History of Time.




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