Top 10 Best DVD Movies November 2012
List Price: $29.99
You Save: $14.99 (50%)
Is fate really predetermined, or can people change their destiny? Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) certainly believes that a teenager should have control over her own life. She has little patience with the conservative ideas her mother (Emma Thompson) holds about proper etiquette for girls, and even less tolerance for her kingdom’s traditions regarding the marriage of a princess. An impulsive young woman with impressive archery skills and a no-nonsense attitude, Merida throws her realm into chaos when she disregards the customary procedure for finding a suitor and then disappears into the forest in defiance of her mother’s unbending ways. In the forest, will-o’-the-wisps appear and, since Scottish legend suggests that these unearthly spirits might lead one to his or her destiny, Merida follows them to the house of a strange witch (Julie Walters) who grants her wish to change her mother. The witch’s spell takes a most unexpected form, one that promises to test not only the bond between mother and daughter, but the bonds and bravery of the entire family and kingdom. What eventually becomes clear is that fate lies within, if only one is brave enough to see it. This collaborative Pixar-Disney film features stunning animation, an engaging story, plenty of laughs, effective music, and a one-of-a-kind princess. At times, the film feels almost Ghibli-esque, especially with its floating wisps, frightening creatures, and the stark conflict between the mystical and traditional. Brave is frightening (probably too frightening for those under 10 years), fascinating, and quite compelling.
List Price: $29.99
You Save: $10.03 (33%)
The Tinker fairies are gearing up for a new season. Ever the inquisitive fairy, Tinker Bell can’t resist a quick peek at the world of winter, even though there are strict rules against warm fairies crossing the border into the winter woods. What Tinker Bell doesn’t know is just how dangerous that crossing is for a warm fairy. Her quick visit almost costs her a broken wing, for which there is no known cure. Tinker Bell’s fascination with the strange glow that came over her wings during her winter visit causes her to plot a visit to the Keeper of all fairy knowledge for answers–never mind that he just happens to live right in the middle of the winter woods. What she discovers on her quest will change everything for Tinker Bell, not to mention threaten the entire fairy world and be an unexpected source of new wisdom for the Keeper, Queen Clarion, and the fairies on both sides of the border. As in Disney’s other Tinker Bell adventures, the animated world of Secret of the Wings is absolutely gorgeous, whether you’re watching it in 3-D or not, and Tinker Bell’s quirky mix of curiosity, innocence, and headstrong stubbornness is always entertaining. Lucy Hale, Timothy Dalton, Matt Lanter, and Debby Ryan join the star-studded voice cast as new winter fairies Periwinkle, Lord Milori, Sled, and Spike.
List Price: $30.99
You Save: $16.03 (52%)
The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.
List Price: $29.99
You Save: $10.03 (33%)
Blasphemy? Perhaps. But the best thing about what may be the most rousing and well-crafted superhero movie since The Dark Knight is not the boffo action scenes that culminate in a New York City-destroying finale that rivals Michael Bay’s obliteration of the Chicago skyline in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. No, the real appeal of The Avengers comes from the quiet moments among a group of decidedly unquiet humans, extra-humans, mutants, and demigods. In no particular order those are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), S.H.I.E.L.D. world-government commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and indispensable functionary Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). That’s a superstar lineup both in and out of character, and The Avengers brilliantly integrates the cast of ensemble egos into a story that snaps and crackles–not to mention smashes, trashes, and destroys–at breakneck pace, never sacrificing visual dazzle or hard-earned story dynamics. Writer-director Joss Whedon is no slouch when it comes to being a comic geek and he handles the heavy duty reins with efficient panache. The effects are of course spectacular. They include a monstrous flying aircraft carrier that is home base to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury’s Avenger Initiative; Tony Stark’s gleaming skyscraper in midtown Manhattan; off-world scenes of malignant evil; as well as blindingly apocalyptic fights and the above-mentioned showdown that leaves New York a virtual ruin. Yet it’s the deeply personal conversations and confrontations among the very reluctant team of Avengers that makes the movie pop. Full of humor, snappy dialogue, and little asides that include inside jokes, eye rolls, and personal grudge matches, the script makes these superhumans real beings with sincere passion or feelings of disillusionment. The conviction of the actors as they fully commit to their clever lines gives credibility to what comes off as more than simple banter, even during the more incredible moments among them (of which are many). The plot involves the appearance of Loki, disgraced villain and brother of Thor, who was also a key player in his eponymous movie. Loki has come to Earth to retrieve the Tesseract, a blue-glowing energy cube that is valuable beyond compare to forces good and evil throughout the universe. As Loki, Tom Hiddleston is supremely, yea gloriously appealing as the brilliantly wicked regal charmer who captures minds from S.H.I.E.L.D. and attempts to conquer Earth with the hideous army at his command. To say he is foiled is an understatement. His face-off with the Hulk is one of the giddiest moments in a movie filled with lightheaded mayhem, and is a perfect example of Whedon’s throwaway approach to translating the mythic mystique of the Marvel comics universe. Though at times deadly serious (as deadly serious as an outrageous superhero destructo/fight-fest movie can be, that is), The Avengers is best when it lightens up and lets the fun fly alongside the powerhouse punches. By the way, a single blink-and-you’ll-miss-it powerhouse punch is another moment that makes Hulk the most loveable underdog of a smashing green rage monster ever. That spirit of fun and pure adventure makes The Avengers the greatest kind of escapist Hollywood fantasy $250 million can buy. A blockbuster in the most literal sense.
List Price: $28.98
You Save: $14.02 (48%)
Academy Awardr-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”) unveils the story of Mike (Channing Tatum), an entrepreneur with many talents and loads of charm. Mike spends his days pursuing the American Dream, from roofing houses and detailing cars to designing furniture at his Tampa beach condo. But at night.he’s just magic. The hot headliner in an all-male revue, Magic Mike has been rocking the stage at Club Xquisite for years with his original style and over-the-top dance moves. Magic Mike features the hottest cast of the year: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Cody Horn and Olivia Munn
List Price: $30.98
You Save: $20.99 (68%)
Building on her performance as a take-no-prisoners teenager in Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence portrays heroine Katniss Everdeen in Gary Ross’s action-oriented adaptation of author-screenwriter Suzanne Collins’s young adult bestseller. Set in a dystopian future in which the income gap is greater than ever, 24 underprivileged youth fight to the death every year in a televised spectacle designed to entertain the rich and give the poor enough hope to quell any further unrest–but not too much, warns Panem president Snow (Donald Sutherland), because that would be “dangerous.” Hailing from the same mining town, 16-year-olds Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, The Kids Are All Right) represent District 12 with the help of escort Effie (an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks) and mentor Haymitch (a scene-stealing Woody Harrelson). At first they’re adversaries, but a wary partnership eventually develops, though the rules stipulate that only one contestant can win. For those who haven’t read the book, the conclusion is likely to come as a surprise. Before it arrives, Ross (Pleasantville) depicts a society in which the Haves appear to have stepped out of a Dr. Seuss book and the Have-Nots look like refugees from the WPA photographs of Walker Evans. It’s an odd mix, made odder still by frenetic fight scenes where it’s hard to tell who’s doing what to whom. Fortunately, Lawrence and Hutcherson prove a sympathetic match in this crazy, mixed-up combination of Survivor, Lost, and the collected works of George Orwell.
List Price: $29.98
You Save: $15.02 (50%)
An animated rendition of Dr. Seuss’s classic book about the threat of industrialization to nature, The Lorax opens in Thneedville–a town never depicted in the original book. Thneedville is an artificial place, made primarily from plastic. It sports inflatable trees, fast cars, and air quality so poor that the residents are forced to purchase bottled fresh air. In another new twist to the story, 12-year-old Ted (Zac Efron) discovers that his crush Audrey (Taylor Swift) wants nothing more than to see a long-extinct Truffula Tree, so he sets out to impress her by finding one. Since there are no real trees in Thneedville, Ted acts on the crazy stories of his grandmother (Betty White), venturing beyond the city’s walls into the desolate wasteland to locate a mysterious creature called the Once-ler (Ed Helms). Here the story and animation begin to more closely follow the book. Ted discovers the grumpy recluse, who reluctantly begins to tell him a tale about a once-perfect landscape filled with beautiful Truffula Trees and cute frolicking animals–a landscape now decimated by one greedy young man’s insatiable appetite for profit. The beauty and wonder of the Truffula forest and its creatures are right out of Dr. Seuss’s illustrations. While the forest creatures may not be directly referred to as Brown Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, and Humming-Fish, the cute little bears, funny-looking ducks, and especially charming trio of singing fish are instantly recognizable. They serve, as they do in Dr. Seuss’s book, to add just the right amount of humor and levity to what would otherwise be a pretty heavy-handed message from the Lorax (Danny DeVito) about environmental preservation. Ted’s hormonal instincts to impress Audrey slowly begin to take a back seat to the plight of the lost trees and animals, and the Once-ler’s assertion that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better” rings true by the end of the film. The abundance of original music is a nice and unexpected addition to the story, though why neither Efron nor Swift actually gets to sing is perplexing.
List Price: $30.49
You Save: $12.53 (41%)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 delivers strongly for the rabid fan base who have catapulted the young adult novel series and subsequent movie adaptations to the worldwide phenomenon that it’s become, but it alienates a broader audience with a lack of any real action. Similar to the tone of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the first film of the two-part Twilight conclusion is heavy on romance, love, and turmoil but light on fight scenes and gruesome battles. The movie doesn’t waste any time getting to the goods and opens with Bella and Edward’s much-hyped wedding scene. It works–the vows are efficient and first-time franchise director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) moves the party along quickly and amusingly with a well-edited toast scene and some surprisingly moving moments between Bella and her father, cast standout Billy Burke. The honeymoon plays as a slightly awkward soft-focus made-for-TV movie, with a lot of long moments spent staring in the mirror and some love scenes that feel at once overly intimate and completely passionless. It’s a relief when Bella retches on a bite of chicken she’s cooked herself and quickly concludes she’s pregnant with a potentially demonic baby. From bliss to horror, the Cullens return to Forks, where Bella spends the second half of the movie wasting away and Edward and Jacob are aligned in their anger and frustration over her decision. Throw in some over-the-top scenes with Jacob and his pack–including a strange showdown where the wolves communicate in their canine form by having a passionate nonverbal fight in their minds (a plot point that works much better in print, it’s portrayed in the film via aggressive voice-over)–and the film overshoots intensity and goes straight to silly. The birth scene is horrific, but not as gruesome as in the book, and by the end, Bella has of course survived, though is much altered. The final scene features a delightfully campy Michael Sheen as Volturi leader Aro and makes it clear that the action and fun in Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is ready to start. Fans will just have to wait until Part 2 to get it.
List Price: $45.99
You Save: $31.03 (67%)
The legendary 19th-century battle between two West Virginia clans that came to define the term feud gets a lengthy and frequently dramatic retelling in Hatfields & McCoys, a six-hour miniseries driven by leads Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the warring family patriarchs. Both actors lend considerable gravitas to the sprawling story, which begins with Costner’s Devil Anse Hatfield going AWOL during the Civil War, setting in motion a growing animosity with former friend Randolph McCoy (Paxton) that blossoms into full-blown violence over a property dispute between the families. Bloodshed begets bloodshed, due in part to a series of miscommunications, long-simmering grievances, and acts of outright foolishness, several of which are the work of hot-blooded Hatfield relative Jim Vance (Tom Berenger). What emerges from the final work is a portrait of generational murder as a sort of Biblical virus, with the sins of the fathers wreaking untold havoc on their children, including a pair of young Hatfield-McCoy lovers (Lindsay Pulsipher and Matt Barr) whose romance considerably exacerbates tensions. The latter subplot is probably the sole weak element in the miniseries, detracting from the tragic forward momentum of the familial conflict and solid turns by all concerned, including Powers Boothe as Costner’s sage older brother and Jena Malone and the always-welcome Mare Winningham as women on the McCoy side. A major ratings hit and multiple Emmy nominee for The History Channel, which made its dramatic project debut with the miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys is a compelling historical drama for both Western fans and non-genre followers alike. The DVD includes a modest, electronic press kit-style making-of featurette as well as a music video for the song “I Know These Hills,” sung by Costner and his band, Modern West.
List Price: $29.98
You Save: $10.02 (33%)
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two 12-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore – and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in every which way. Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff, Captain Sharp. Edward Norton is a Khaki Scout troop leader, Scout Master Ward. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the young girl’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban; and introduces Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, the boy and girl.
Copyright David Masters 2012