[15 May 2012]
Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
The coming DVD and Blu-ray releases include quite a few noteworthy movies, although not always for good reason. Let’s run through?some …
“We Were Here” (Docurama, $29.95 on standard DVD) is an excellent and much praised documentary by David Weissman, about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, as seen by people who were there. It begins on a note of hope, as the gay community grows in San Francisco, but quickly turns dark and despairing as news begins to spread about a “gay cancer” — and people start dying at an alarming rate.
If those early moments are not enough to grab your heart, check one of the extras: a series of public-service announcements about the emotional effect AIDS was having on people who had lost not one or two but all of their friends. The DVD includes a filmmaker interview. The documentary will also be shown on PBS’ Independent Lens series in June.
Glenn Close scored her sixth Academy Award nomination, her third as a lead actress, for “Albert Nobbs” (Lionsgate, $27.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray), in which she plays a woman who passes herself off as a man to work in a hotel in 19th-century Ireland. Close had played Nobbs onstage, and the film was a pet project that she co-produced and co-wrote. She’s good, too. The movie itself is a bit of a slog, although its contemplation of class and gender may appeal to the “Downton Abbey” crowd. Extras include deleted scenes and an audio commentary by Close and director Rodrigo Garcia.
By the way, with the arrival of “Albert Nobbs,” you can now find all of the most recent best-actress Oscar nominees on video: Close; the winner, Meryl Streep, in “The Iron Lady”; Viola Davis in “The Help” (who should have won); Rooney Mara in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; and Michelle Williams in “My Week With Marilyn.”
There was a lot of Oscar talk around Woody Harrelson’s performance in “Rampart” (Millennium, $29.99 on DVD or Blu-ray) and it was deserved. He did not get nominated; the film was little seen in theaters, and his chances were reportedly hurt more when DVDs sent to Oscar voters turned out to be technically flawed. But Harrelson is fine as a renegade cop with a shambles of a personal life, and the script was co-written by novelist James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential”).
I have been a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum detective novels (“One for the Money, Two for the Dough” and so on), which manage to be funny and reasonably good mysteries. So it seemed like good news that “One for the Money” was being made into a movie, which will be on video Tuesday (Lionsgate, $29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray).
Then it turned out that Katherine Heigl was playing Plum. This was a classic case of miscasting (and not the only one in the film) that proved to be unbearable in its attempts at humor, witty banter and romance. In fact, the Rotten Tomatoes website indicated only 2 percent of the reviews for the film were positive — and I am impressed by any reviewer who managed to sit through this.
Also of note this week on the movie side: fantasy thriller “Chronicle” (Fox, $29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray), about high school students discovering they have special powers, and Liam Neeson fighting wolves in “The Grey” (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 in a Blu-ray/DVD combo). Fans of rough justice may want to check out the “Walking Tall” trilogy set (Shout! Factory, $24.97 DVD, $39.97 Blu-ray), three films based on the exploits of lawman Buford Pusser; the first film, with Joe Don Baker, had some raw power, while the others — with Bo Svenson as Pusser — are far less impressive.
From TV, you can find the first season of the AMC series “Hell on Wheels” (Entertainment One, 10 episodes, $39.98 DVD, $44.98 Blu-ray); the second season is due later this year. And fans of the Canadian police drama “Flashpoint,” currently airing on Ion, can catch up on the fourth season in a 13-episode set from CBS/Paramount ($42.99 on standard DVD); the fifth season, currently in production, will be the last. “The War,” the acclaimed Ken Burns series about World War II, will be available in an excellent Blu-ray rendition (PBS/Paramount, seven episodes, $129.99).