DVD Corner: “Mamma Mia! The Movie” DVD, Blu-ray

Meryl Streep stars in &quotMamma Mia!," newly available for home viewing.
Meryl Streep stars in "Mamma Mia!," newly available for home viewing.
Posted Dec. 12, 2008, at 6:05 p.m.

“Death Proof” Blu-ray: Since the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriquez double-feature “Grindhouse” stumbled at the box office (it shouldn’t have — it was a fine pairing of two good films), each movie receives its own separate Blu-ray release. First up is Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” and while a debate will ignite about whose film is better, there’s no question that Tarantino’s film is decidedly the more mellow and self-indulgent. Tarantino goes for the slow burn, with his movie, a female revenge fantasy, finding Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike out to slaughter women with the help of his deathproof car. The movie’s highlight is its cast, which includes Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell and Rose McGowan. Especially thrilling is the film’s final car chase, a terrific throwback to the days when computer-generated imagery wasn’t the crutch on which Hollywood hinged its action. Rated R. Grade: B+

“Gunsmoke: Second Season, Vol. 2”: In Dodge City, Kan., where smoking guns and shootouts are the order of the day, U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness, superb) is up to his arms in the chaos brimming along the new frontier. This second volume of the show’s second season appeared during the 1957 television season. It isn’t as dark as what came before it, but within it, you nevertheless can see its influence reflected in other television shows, from “The Big Valley” straight up through “Deadwood.” The series is an appealing throwback, with Dennis Weaver as Dillon’s sidekick, Chester, and Amanda Blake as the formidable Miss Kitty, owner of the lively Longbranch Saloon. Blake is very good here — she’s tough and she’s pretty — but once you’ve seen Joan Crawford’s saloonkeeper in the camp classic “Johnny Guitar” (add it to your Netflix queue), all others come second. Grade: B+

“The Heartbreak Kid” Blu-ray: A bland remake of Elaine May’s 1972 comedy of the same name. Ben Stiller is Eddie, a San Francisco businessman who, at 40, is feeling pressure from his father (Jerry Stiller) and best friend (Rob Corddry) to tie the knot. When he meets Lila (Malin Akerman), he strikes up a relationship that quickly leads to marriage. Too quickly. On their honeymoon in Mexico, Lila begins to irritate Eddie, making him question his decision to marry her — she likes to sing in the car, of all things, and her interest in sex makes Eddie feel uneasy. So, when Lila gets a nasty sunburn and must stay in their hotel room to heal, it allows Eddie to wander the hotel grounds and fall in love with Miranda (Michelle Monaghan). And so begins a series of manufactured misunderstandings, with Eddie deceiving Lila, Miranda and Miranda’s family so he can spend more time with Miranda. Nice guy? Not on your life, and while the movie initially tries to fool you into thinking otherwise, its last scene tells a different tale. Rated R. Grade: C+

“Into the Wild” Blu-ray: But at what cost? From Sean Penn, who wrote and directed the movie from Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book, “Into the Wild” is a first-rate account of a story that, depending on your perspective, did or didn’t end so well for Christopher Johnson McCandless (a terrific Emile Hirsch). Some will recall that McCandless was the young man from a wealthy Virginia family who in 1990 gave up his life savings and disappeared into a more challenging world — the wild. Penn’s film follows McCandless’ two-year journey into himself by way of the outside world, which was driven by the need to escape his controlling, bickering parents (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) even though in doing so, it also meant leaving behind his beloved younger sister, Carine (Jenna Malone). It’s she who narrates the story, filling in key background information about her brother while Penn weaves back and forward through time in an effort to understand why McCandless did what he did. What makes the movie so emotionally rich are the people McCandless meets along the way, all of whom offer kindness, insight, clarity and debate. The acting is strong and memorable, with Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart and especially the Academy Award-nominated Hal Holbrook shaking the movie alive with its mournful undercurrent. Rated R. Grade: A

“Mamma Mia! The Movie” DVD, Blu-ray: You could spend all week eating bacon at a pig farm and still find more ham in Phyllida Lloyd’s musical, “Mamma Mia!,” an irrepressible, unstoppable kaleidoscope of karaoke camp gone berserk that features a cast happily mainlining the more popular offerings in ABBA’s songbook. And what a songbook. Meryl Streep is Donna, a former hippie who now toils in the hotel trade on a beautiful Greek island, where her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to marry Sky (Dominic Cooper). Since Sophie never has met her father but wants him to walk her down the aisle, she finds within the heated pages of her mother’s diary the three men (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth) who could be that man and invites them all to the wedding. The problem is that these men don’t know what Sophie is up to, and neither does Donna, who now must face her past — and all it could mean to her present. The rest of the plot is a whirlwind, with ABBA’s songs telling much of the story. While it’s true that the film’s chronology never adds up, it’s best not to question it or the other moments of failed logic. This is a messy, shoot-for-the-moon-or-bust movie, with everyone so determined to deliver a good time, they successfully go to great lengths to do just that. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“Planet Terror” Blu-ray: Slams audiences back to the 1970s and slaps them hard with a fun, authentic, full-on homage of the grindhouse genre. The movie is designed for those who want to rock on schlock. From Robert Rodriguez, this hugely entertaining zombie horror thriller is set in a small Texas nowhere, where a virus quickly is turning the town into the flesh-eating undead. Freddie Rodriguez and Rose McGowan are El Wray and Cherry Darling, former lovers (he’s a gunslinger, she’s a go-go dancer, together they’re magic) who reunite just as the world is falling apart. The latter proves especially true for Cherry, who loses a leg midway through, only to find herself fitted with the most unusual of prosthetics — a loaded machine gun, which limber Cherry uses not only to walk, but also to mow down the undead in devastating balloons of blood. Bruce Willis and Stacey Ferguson are featured in fevered cameos, with Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton and Quentin Tarantino himself all gamely wading through the entrails. Rated R. Grade: A-

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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