DVD & Blu-ray

DVD — Latest

Amazing Spider-Man 2, The (2014)

B+ | *** | +2| Teens & Up

The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s biggest liability is that it follows The Amazing Spider-Man. This sequel is so much better than its predecessor that I’ve gone from being merely disappointed with the 2012 reboot to being downright angry about it. Read more >

God’s Not Dead [video] (2014)

D | Teens & Up

I took two minutes to talk about this one, and still got in less than half of what bothered me about it. Read more >

Noah (2014)

B+ | ***½ | +2-2| Teens & Up*

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah pays its source material a rare compliment: It takes Genesis seriously as a landmark of world literature and ancient moral reflection, and a worthy source of artistic inspiration in our day. Read more >

DVD — Recent

Black Nativity (2013)

B+ | Kids & Up*

Of the 2013 Christmas season’s trio of religiously inflected Christmas movies, this one just might be the most deserving of your time. Read more >

Erin Brockovich [Blu-ray] (2000)

B | *** | +2-2| Adults

Watching Erin take on corporate ruthlessness and professional apathy, I often felt that while I couldn’t always condone her choice of words, I appreciated the spirit behind them — not to mention the effect they had on her hapless victims. This movie makes you feel that one person really can make a difference; especially since it’s based on a true story. Read more >

Ernest & Celestine (2014)

A- | Kids & Up

I can’t imagine the soul who could watch this movie without smiling.  Read more >

Frozen (2013)

C+ | **½ | +1-1| Kids & Up

Frozen may be the most tragic fairy tale in the Disney canon, which is saying something. Read more >

Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The (2013)

C | **½ | -2| Teens & Up

Now, two installments into the epically epic trilogification of Tolkien’s slender fairy tale for children, it seems Jackson and company have only one abiding goal: to keep one-upping themselves with ever more preposterous action sequences, nastier violence and more inappropriate humor. Read more >

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

B+ | *** | +0| Kids & Up*

“Vikings versus dragons” is definitely one of the cooler premises for a computer-animated tale to come along in a while. Differentiate the dragons into half a dozen distinct species, each with unique traits, from the roly-poly Gronkle to the two-headed Hideous Zippleback and the stealthy, jet-black Night Fury, and it’s even cooler — especially if the dragons are ordinary beasties rather than anthropomorphized talking monsters.  Read more >

Jungle Book 2, The [Blu-ray/DVD] (2003)

C | ** | +1| Kids & Up

The voices are different, but the story is the same. Read more >

LEGO Movie, The (2014)

B+ | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

Here is something I didn’t see coming: The freshest, most unique animated family film from any Hollywood studio in well over a year is … based on a line of brightly colored plastic construction blocks and assorted accessories. I’m not kidding! Read more >

Noah (2014)

B+ | ***½ | +2-2| Teens & Up*

Noah is available on home video in a number of different editions, each with different bonus features. My review copy of the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Video edition includes a trio of extras comprising an hour-long making-of featurette in three 20-minute chapters.  Read more >

Once [Blu-ray] (2007)

A- | *** | +1-1| Teens & Up*

At once delicate and gritty, wistful and deeply satisfying, John Carney’s Once is a intimate little film that, like a favorite song, you would rather play for someone than try to describe. Read more >

Pickpocket [Blu-ray] (1959)

B+ | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

Does Michel want to be caught? Does he taunt the inspector because he feels untouchable, or is there another reason? As always, Bresson examines actions but offers little attention to motives, an approach that here seems to suggest that Michel’s choices may be a mystery even to himself, his threadbare theorizing only rationalization. Read more >

Rio [Blu-ray] (2011)

B+ | ***½ | +1-2| Kids & Up*

From the arches of the Carioca Aqueduct to Sugarloaf Mountain, from the flamboyant costumes of the samba schools to the sundrenched beaches of Guanabara Bay, Rio is as colorful a look at a faraway world as kids are likely to get without reading subtitles. Read more >

Sabrina [Blu-ray] (1954)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

The Billy Wilder classic, starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, comes to Region 1 Blu-ray.  Read more >

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

B+ | *** | +1| Teens & Up

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. That’s almost enough to sell the picture by itself, isn’t it? Who but Hanks can one imagine in the role? Read more >

Son of God (2014)

B- | Teens & Up

After ten years, Jesus is back on the big screen. Was it worth the wait? Son of God: my “Reel Faith” review. Read more >

Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete Series, The [Blu-ray]

At last, a proper release for the entire “Spectacular Spider-Man” series is available, in a four-disc Blu-ray set. There are no new bonus features or commentaries, but it’s nice to have the whole set in one box. Bizarrely, you still can’t buy season 2 as such on DVD.  Read more >

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron [Blu-ray] (2002)

D+ | ** | -1| Kids & Up

A strangely grim indoctrination into the politics of victimization, Spirit apparently expects kids to slog willingly through scene after scene of this stuff, not because it’s all such fun to watch, but because the filmmakers are so sure it’s Good For You. Read more >

X-Men Origins: Wolverine [Blu-ray] (2009)

C+ | **½ | +0| Teens & Up

If you’re a fan of the material, you’ll want to see it. There are some decent action scenes, and an inevitable, tragic climax. There are also things that make no sense. It’s not bad, really. What it’s most conspicuously lacking is any sense of surprise, of revelation, of creative boldness.  Read more >

X-Men [Blu-ray] (2000)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up*

This is a world in which characters are not larger-than-life cardboard cutouts, but human beings with affecting problems, motives, conflicts, and interests; in which opposing ideas are at least as important as clashing super-powers or martial-arts moves; in which super-powers and special abilities are more than mere arbitrary plot shortcuts or empty pretexts for colorful special effects, but are treated thoughtfully as serious story elements with logical consequences in immediate events and also wider social implications. Read more >

X-Men: First Class (2011)

A- | ***½ | +1-2| Teens & Up*

Despite missteps, X‑Men: First Class succeeds in doing in some measure for the X‑Men what J. J. Abrams did for Star Trek two years ago: Not only does it bring new energy to a tired franchise, it reinvents a familiar cast of characters in unexpected ways, laying the foundations for the defining relationships and conflicts of later chapters, while telling a ripping story into the bargain. Read more >

X2: X-Men United [Blu-ray] (2003)

A- | ***½ | +1-2| Teens & Up*

Where other super-hero movies, like James Bond movies, take place in a static universe in which nothing really changes and the essential mythology remains the same, X2 is set in a world in flux. The plot is part of an ongoing story-arc reaching back to X-Men and building toward a future X3.  Read more >

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