DVD Corner: “Milk” DVD, Blu-ray

Posted March 06, 2009, at 6:55 p.m.

“Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997” Blu-ray: The Dark Knight continues his resurgence, which began last July with the release of Christopher Nolan’s outstanding movie “The Dark Knight,” and which now extends with this new high-definition anthology from Warner. The set includes four films — Tim Burton’s 1989 movie “Batman” and 1992’s “Batman Returns,” each with Michael Keaton behind the cape, and Joel Schumacher’s weaker entries, which include 1995’s “Batman Forever,” with Val Kilmer as Batman, and 1997’s “Batman & Robin,” with poor George Clooney featured as the Dark Knight in the dimmest, most chaotic film in the franchise. In the wake of Nolan’s “Batman Begins” and the aforementioned “Knight,” all of these versions take a less timely, more cartoonish look at Gotham. Still, moments are to be treasured — Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as The Penguin. Few, however, will behold the massive piece of frozen woodenness that is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze with anything but their own coolness. The set includes nine music videos, 18 hours of profiles, documentaries and featurettes, as well as commentaries by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Grade: B-

“Rachel Getting Married” DVD: The film really isn’t about Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) at all. It’s about her screwed-up sister Kym (Anne Hathaway in a sharp, Academy Award-nominated performance), a smoky troublemaker on leave from a rehab facility who has been on drugs and booze for so much of her life she unfortunately claimed another life along the way. It drives the emotions in a movie happy to unleash them at any point, which is often. This is, after all, a film about the complications that come when a clash of cultures collide in a home so broken the foundation shakes the moment Kym steps inside. Everyone tries to make it work, at least initially, but before long, Kym’s loose mouth and shattered self-esteem are testing the waters to see just where she stands with her family. To do so, she picks fights, drops bombs, sleeps with the best man. She needles Rachel and others, scratching at wounds so deep, they’ll never heal, and she isn’t really surprised to realize that she’s the one doing most of the bleeding. That’s pretty much how it has been for Kym. There’s a side of her that craves those familiar lows, while another side no longer wants any part of them. It’s her struggle to get to that healthy part of herself that “Rachel Getting Married” is about. Rated R. Grade: B-

“Let the Right One In”: The comparisons between Catherine Hardwicke’s “Twilight” and Tom Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” come so easily it would be an oversight not to compare them for a specific reason — one movie courts an American sensibility driven by box-office greed, the other a foreign sensibility driven by artistry and the quest to tell a story well. Guess which is the better movie? That would be “Let the Right One In,” a quiet, more intense vampire thriller from Sweden that features a similar storyline, though one that goes deeper and darker than “Twilight” ever could imagine. It’s the story of a pale, bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), and how his budding relationship with a pale, 12-year-old vampire girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson) leads each to a dangerous precipice. Unlike Bella from “Twilight,” who would happily die for her stud vamp if it meant spending an eternity marveling at his fright wig and killer cheekbones, Oskar has more substance. He comes to love Eli, but in spite of suffering a cruel life that also includes divorced parents (just as it does with Bella), he doesn’t want to end it. From the start, there is a wariness between them that draws you into the movie, which is set in the snowy chills of winter (Hoyte Van Hoytema’s stark cinematography is one of the movie’s chief pleasures). Each child is lonely. Each needs a friend. Given that Oskar is on the cusp of adolescence — and all that entails — his conflicted feelings for Eli are charged with a sexual undercurrent he doesn’t understand. But she does. Eli might exist within a 12-year-old’s body, but she has been 12 for some time now. So, as they grow closer, she becomes his protector, feasting gruesomely when she must (the poor thing never remembers to wipe her bloody mouth), but remaining as true to Oskar as he is to her. Unlike “Twilight,” suspense and spareness are the motivators here, not violence. That isn’t to suggest that the movie isn’t violent — it is, sometimes wickedly so — but those moments are few. Alfredson understands the power of subtlety. He knows precisely the right moment to shock, but more important, he does so in ways that you’ve never seen on a movie screen. Rated R. Grade: A-

“Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997” Blu-ray: The Dark Knight continues his resurgence, which began last July with the release of Christopher Nolan’s outstanding movie “The Dark Knight,” and which now extends with this new high-definition anthology from Warner. The set includes four films — Tim Burton’s 1989 movie “Batman” and 1992’s “Batman Returns,” each with Michael Keaton behind the cape, and Joel Schumacher’s weaker entries, which include 1995’s “Batman Forever,” with Val Kilmer as Batman, and 1997’s “Batman & Robin,” with poor George Clooney featured as the Dark Knight in the dimmest, most chaotic film in the franchise. In the wake of Nolan’s “Batman Begins” and the aforementioned “Knight,” all of these versions take a less timely, more cartoonish look at Gotham. Still, moments are to be treasured — Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as The Penguin. Few, however, will behold the massive piece of frozen woodenness that is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze with anything but their own coolness. The set includes nine music videos, 18 hours of profiles, documentaries and featurettes, as well as commentaries by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Grade: B-

“Milk” DVD, Blu-ray: From Gus Van Sant, the terrific, Academy Award-winning real-life story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), who left New York City when he decided in his early 40s that a change was due and he wanted to make something more of his life. The year was 1972 and, along with his boyfriend Scott Smith (James Franco), Milk moved to San Francisco, where it was becoming known that in the Castro District of that city gay men and women were relocating and opening up shop in what had been a depressed Irish Catholic neighborhood. Seeing an opportunity, Harvey and Scott opened Castro Camera and attempted to become members of the business scene. Because they refused to conceal their sexuality, they were shut out, but not undone. Realizing there always is strength in numbers, Milk became politically organized. What he wanted was equality for all. What he saw in the Castro District was the chance to promote that and to set an example for the rest of the state, perhaps even the country. He ran for the city’s board of supervisors, which he eventually won to become the country’s first openly gay elected official. No small task, that, particularly in the wake of California’s Proposition 6, a measure that was sweeping the country in an effort to fire all homosexual teachers and their supporters. Chief juice-shucker and born-again Christian Anita Bryant was spearheading that effort — which was akin to a witch hunt — and people were listening. Milk was one of them. He decided to gather those closest to him, such as Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch, wonderful) and Ann Rosenberg (Alison Pill), to fight her. As a result, Milk became a target. For those who don’t know Milk’s history, read no farther — just see the movie and understand the reason Sean Penn won the Academy Award for Best Actor. His performance is raw, exciting, sexual, introspective, provocative and spot-on. For those who do know Milk’s story, they already know the terrible fate that befell him and Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber) when their colleague Dan White (James Brolin), also a city supervisor, gunned each down in City Hall in 1978, not long after Milk’s efforts to defeat Proposition 6 in California were successful. Why did White murder Milk and Moscone? On one level, because he resented their influence and power. On another level, for the same reason Charlie Howard was murdered in Bangor on July 7, 1984, when Shawn Mabry, Daniel Ness and Jim Baines chased him, harassed him and threw him over the State Street Bridge into Kenduskeag Stream, where he drowned. Or for the very reason Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in Wyoming (he died later at Poudre Valley Hospital in Colorado). Milk was openly gay; Moscone, a heterosexual, was a sympathizer. And so hatred, left unchallenged by the majority, was allowed to thrive, fester and funnel their way. On a deeper level, the movie suggests that White himself, a married man with a child, was a closeted homosexual. So, you have to wonder — did White snuff that which he couldn’t face in himself? Rated R. Grade: A

“Rachel Getting Married” DVD: The film really isn’t about Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) at all. It’s about her screwed-up sister Kym (Anne Hathaway in a sharp, Academy Award-nominated performance), a smoky troublemaker on leave from a rehab facility who has been on drugs and booze for so much of her life she unfortunately claimed another life along the way. It drives the emotions in a movie happy to unleash them at any point, which is often. This is, after all, a film about the complications that come when a clash of cultures collide in a home so broken the foundation shakes the moment Kym steps inside. Everyone tries to make it work, at least initially, but before long, Kym’s loose mouth and shattered self-esteem are testing the waters to see just where she stands with her family. To do so, she picks fights, drops bombs, sleeps with the best man. She needles Rachel and others, scratching at wounds so deep, they’ll never heal, and she isn’t really surprised to realize that she’s the one doing most of the bleeding. That’s pretty much how it has been for Kym. There’s a side of her that craves those familiar lows, while another side no longer wants any part of them. It’s her struggle to get to that healthy part of herself that “Rachel Getting Married” is about. Rated R. Grade: B-

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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