Tuesday, June 18 2013, 10:55 AM MDT
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for January 29, 2013
(KUTV) It’s a busy week for DVD and Blu-ray releases that includes everything from the high drama of “Downton Abbey: Season 3” to the scares of “Paranormal Activity 4,” the laughs of “Hotel Transylvania” and on to the action lunacy of “Seven Psychopaths.”
Warner Bros. is celebrating its 90th anniversary and this week they’ve released two massive box sets. The DVD set contains 100 films (everything from “The Jazz Singer” to “The Wizard of Oz” to “Seven” and on to “The Notebook”). Blu-ray fanatics will have to settle for the 50 film collection, which is still rather impressive set. Both collections include two documentaries that explore the history of Warner Bros. and offer a behind-the-scenes look at their massive studio lot.
Annimation fans also have quite a few options this week including “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2” the English-language release of Michel Ocelot’s “Tales of the Night,” DreamWorks’ Valentine’s Day inspired “Madly Madagascar” and Scholastic’s “Stone Soup…and Other Stories from the Asian Tradition.”
Horror fans will also want to check out the Blu-ray debut of 1932’s “White Zombie,” the acclaimed Irish thriller “Citadel” and “The Awakening” starring Rebecca Hall.
Television addicts can also add the second season of the BBC’s “Misfits” (a British mix of “Heroes” and the film “Chronicle”) and the first season of Cinemax’s late-night series “Femme Fatales.”
There’s also “Out in the Open,” a documentary that hopes to help dismiss some of the more negative stereotypes associated with the gay community.
Here’s a this week’s reviews broken down by genre.
Documentary: Out in the Open
Family: Madly Madagascar, Stone Soup, Tales of the Night
Horror: Citadel, Paranormal Activity 4
Television: Femme Fatales
Out in the Open (DVD)
“Out in the Open” is comprised of interviews with allies of the LGBTQ, both gay and straight, and is intended as a conversation starter. It’s the sort of film that hopes to debunks stereotypes and raze prejudice. The interviews themselves are quite good. They seem honest and heartfelt, but they’re also undercut by a sarcastic narration. The film begins with a fake newsreel that lampoons the various stereotypes associated with the gay community. It’s clearly intended as an indication of how far society has come, because no one could possibly still believe in any of these stereotypes, right? The problem is that people do hold on to these beliefs and if “Out in the Open” wants to have a chance of reaching those people (which seems to be the point of the documentary) mocking them is probably not the best way to go about it. I know that director Matthew Smith is being playful, rather than spiteful, but the tone doesn’t match the rest of the film’s message of building understanding between people regardless of their sexual orientation.
Madly Madagascar (DVD)
This Valentine’s Day-themed special takes place between the second and third films and finds Alex lamenting that he won’t be getting many valentines in Africa while Marty chases after an female Okapi, Melman wants to get Gloria the perfect present, the penguins are up to no good and King Julien looks to capitalize on a bottle of “love potion number 9” that magically fell from heaven. It’s a lot to fit into 20 minutes, but “Madly Madagascar” does a nice job of balancing and weaving together the stories to make it all work. DreamWorks has also included two non-“Madagascar” shorts “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” and “First Flight.”
Stone Soup… and other stories from the Asian Tradition (DVD)
This Scholastic story collection includes Jon J. Muth’s version of the classic folk tale “Stone Soup” as well as “The Five Chinese Brothers,” “Lon Po Po” and “The Stonecutter.” Prior to watching this collection I was only aware of Marcia Brown’s version of “Stone Soup.” Muth’s version finds a group of monks, rather than soldiers, that trick a village into helping them cook a feast after the villagers initially refuse to lend them any aid. “Lon Po Po,” my favorite story in this collection, is Ed Young’s twist on the classic
Red-Riding Hood story. Both “The Five Chinese Brothers” and “The Stonecutter” are based on Chinese folk tales. I love Asian culture and while these stories have been watered down a little during their translation into children’s stories I enjoyed this collection and I’m sure you and your children will as well.
Tales of the Night (DVD and Blu-ray Combo)
“Tales of the Night” is a feature film from French director Michel Ocelot (“Kirikou and the Sorceress”). It is comprised of six short films (five are taken from the French television series “Dragons and Princesses”) that take audiences around the world in fairytale inspired adventures. For this release the audio has been rerecorded for English audiences (a wise choice considering a large part of the film’s audience will be children). The animation style is quite different in that it presents the main characters as silhouettes set against brightly colored backdrops. It’s an unusual and simplistic look, but it works well within the structure of the film. “Tales of the Night” is an interesting and entertaining film that will appeal to children and adults with overactive imaginations.
Citadel (DVD and Blu-ray)
“Citadel” a tense thriller about Tommy, a young father, who becomes intensely agoraphobic after witnessing a group of children attack and fatally injure his wife. Caught in a constant state of paranoia Tommy becomes convinced that the children that killed his wife are now after his child.
Director/writer Ciaran Foy’s debut feature shows a lot of promise, particularly when it comes to art design and tone, but the film unravels its second half when Tommy teams with an unconventional priest (which is rather conventional for a horror film) and the genre clichés take over the narrative. It’s still a decent film that will appeal to fans of psychological horror.
Paranormal Activity 4 (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
After a pair of prequels “Paranormal Activity 4” serves as a proper sequel that takes five years after Katie disappeared with Hunter. The majority of the film’s focus shifts to Alex, a beautiful teenager, Ben, her best friend, and Robbie, the strange little boy who recently moved in next door.
While I enjoyed the first two films in the series the last two entries have been less impressive. This film is a little more grounded than “Paranormal Activity 3,” but it doesn’t really introduce anything new beyond incorporating newer technology like internet video chatting and the Xbox’s Kinect. The film certainly looks more polished than the previous entries, but in this case that’s not necessarily a positive thing. Also, the film’s all-too-obvious connection with the previous films suggests that the next installment, which is due in October, might benefit if they started a completely new storyline. If you enjoyed the previous films “Paranormal Activity 4” is worth a rental, but not a blind buy.
Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season (DVD)
“Femme Fatales” is an anthology series from Cinemax that features “sexy and dangerous women” who are forced to use “survival instincts” to outwit their male counterparts. Apparently the series was created by the minds behind “Femme Fatales Magazine,” which essentially was a haven for fans of B-movie babes and scream queens. Unlike the magazine the television series pulls its influences more from the noir genre rather than sci-fi and horror, but there is a bit of “The Twilight Zone” thrown in here and there. Not that this series is about the plot; it’s all about a formula that insists that the women get naked and the men get killed. It’s trashy television, which is exactly what the producers were going for.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcast Group)