New on DVD: ‘Beastly,’ ‘Sucker Punch,’ and More

Posted on June 27, 2011 at 8:00 am

Beastly This modern-day version of Beauty and the Beast is surprisingly appealing. In an era of bullies and mean girls, “Gossip Girls” and “Pretty Little Liars,” it’s nice to have such a tenderhearted fairy tale.

Sucker Punch Girls in thigh-hi stockings and tiny spangled miniskirts take on steam-powered corpses, WWI bi-planes, samurai robots, and an angry dragon, along with a series of odiously predatory men in the latest film from Zack Snyder. His versions of “300? and “Watchmen” overwhelmed the storylines with striking, provocative visuals. Here, he solves that problem by pretty much not having any storyline at all. He literally and metaphorically cuts to the chase. It’s not so much punch, a bit more sucker.

Season of the Witch.  This is sword-and-sorcery film named after a Donovan song that features a joke swiped from “Jaws” — a priest looks balefully up at a looming demon and actually says, “We’re going to need more holy water.” It is a hopeless mish-mash that feels like they were making it up as they went along. It’s also dull.

The Eagle The classic book for kid by Rosemary Sutcliff is an epic story, lavishly filmed, but empty at the core. Without a reason to care about the quest, it does not matter how skillfully the battle scenes are filmed.

Unknown There are some good chases through Berlin and even twistier plot developments even if the end is kind of silly in this story of a man on the way to an academic conference who wakes up after an accident with amnesia and finds that someone else has taken over his life.  Worth seeing for one scene between veterans Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella.

Barney’s Version Paul Giamatti makes us understand and even forgive a man who leaves his own wedding reception (second marriage) to run after a woman he has just met (Rosamund Pike), who will be the great love of his life.  Based on the last novel by the great Canadian author Mordecai Richler, this is a sprawling, episodic story of a man who is not always likable but the performances by Giamatti, Pike, and Dustin Hoffman has his policeman father over the decades are magnificent.

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New on DVD/Blu-Ray

Season of the Witch

Posted on January 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

This is sword-and-sorcery film named after a Donovan song that features a joke swiped from “Jaws” — a priest looks balefully up at a looming demon and actually says, “We’re going to need more holy water.” It is a hopeless mish-mash that feels like they were making it up as they went along. It’s also dull.

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play Crusades-era knights and best bros named Behman and Felson who like to engage in jocular banter as they mow down infidels. When the commanding priest sends them to kill unarmed civilians, telling them they are not allowed to question him because he speaks for God, they go AWOL. They come to a town afflicted by the black plague. The Cardinal (a pustulous Christopher Lee) orders them to deliver the witch they believe responsible for the pestilence to a distant abbey, where there is a book with the necessary incantation to defeat her powers.

 

And so, there is a journey, hauling the accused witch in an iron cage, guided by a swindler who says he knows the way and accompanied by a priest and an alter boy who wants to be a knight. They encounter a rickety bridge, demon wolves, and some beautiful Hungarian scenery while the girl in the cage (Claire Foy) runs mind games on them and we check our watches to see how much more before it’s all over.

 

 

The production design by Uli Hanisch and the cinematography by Amir M. Mokri are stunning. Sadly, the vapidity of the script overcomes their atmospheric effect.

 

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