DVD Corner

Posted Oct. 02, 2009, at 5:23 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Blu-ray: Resistance is futile, and there are plenty of reasons. Beyond the film’s gorgeous high-definition restoration, which includes digital enhancements to the film’s audio that brings it up to 7.1 sound (the best available), you’ve never seen or heard “Snow White” like this. Similar to last week’s release of the 70th anniversary edition of “The Wizard of Oz,” Disney follows Warner by taking one of its most beloved and influential films — the first full-length animated feature — and gives it the makeover it deserves. Beyond revisiting the movie itself, which will be enough for most, this three-disc set comes peppered with extras, including music videos, documentaries, a look at Disney through the decades, audio commentary and a sneak peek at Disney’s “The Princess and The Frog.” The set also takes advantage of BD-Live, which taps into your Internet connection and allows fans of the movie to play exclusive games. All of this is fine and good, but the movie? Beyond great. Rated G. Grade A.

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Blu-ray: Its appeal remains universal, whether you’re a young person just coming to it or an adult who grew up on it. Retained in this endearing 1966 cartoon classic based on Dr. Seuss’ 1957 book are the lyricism of its language, the richness of its story, the gentleness and sly humor with which it was told, and, more importantly, the enormous heart it wears on its sleeve. Seuss created the Whos and Whoville to illustrate what Christmas should mean to lesser mortals. Unlike Ron Howard’s 2000 live-action debauchery, in which the Whos were cruelly (some might say accurately) meant to reflect our greed and commercialism, here they are sweet, decent beings existing peacefully in Seuss’ Whovillian utopia — until the Grinch comes in to destroy it. And that’s when the importance of lifting one’s voice, no matter how small, rings through. At only 26 minutes, this short cartoon is a testament to how every minute and every frame counts. Not rated. Grade: A

“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” Blu-ray: Newly released on Blu-ray is 1970’s “Horton Hears a Who,” which neatly captures the bizarre quirkiness Seuss created in this timeless book from 1954. Seuss might have created that book as a reaction to McCarthyism (it’s true!), but its strengths nevertheless exist in its rich imagination, which director Chuck Jones, working from Seuss’ script, captured beautifully. Unrated. Grade: A

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Fifth Season”: Mary on a tear. The fifth season of Moore’s iconic show finds Mary Richards returning with her backbone a bit firmer than in the previous four seasons. She’s more combative here, more alive, with her added pluck giving the season zip. Helping to that end are the number than numb Georgette (Georgie Engel), the meddling Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), and the evil Sue Ann (Betty White). As with the best comedic series, what the show does so well is to weave moments of genuine drama within the laughs. Some shows in this excellent season stand among the best of the series, such as “An Affair to Forget” and “Menage-a-Phyllis.” A stripped-down collection with no extras, but the 24 episodes prove enough. Grade: B+

“The Number 23” Blu-ray: Well, it all can’t be good, and leave it to Joel Schumacher to paint the walls black and bring down the week. The movie wants to scare you, but forget it — the film is an incomprehensible joke. Jim Carrey is dogcatcher Walter Sparrow, who becomes obsessed by the number 23 after his wife, Aggie (Virginia Madsen), buys him a book about a detective, Fingerling, who sees the number as a curse. Not surprisingly, Walter starts to do the same, likely because weird things start to happen to him and particularly since he and Fingerling have so much in common. Carrey, after all, plays Fingerling in heavily stylized flashbacks, with a tawdry Madsen in a black wig to play Fabrizia, the girlfriend Fingerling murders. As Walter succumbs to the encroaching madness, questions about whether Aggie will suffer the same fate as Fabrizia are put on the fast track when Walter starts dreaming about stabbing her to death. As a concerned Aggie herself notes to the increasingly freaked-out Walter: “You’ve concerned yourself with minutiae and you’ve drawn wild conclusions from them!” The film follows suit, with Schumacher manufacturing every conceivable connection to the number 23. Rated R. Grade: D

“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” Blu-ray: Dark chocolate. Now on Blu-ray disc, this original 1971 version of the film has a few ideas about children, none pleasant, most of which hit the mark. It suggests that there are things sweeter than a child, particularly if you’re dealing with a bratty child, a spoiled child, a greedy child, or an overbearing, overachieving, gum-chewing monster of a child. The film is designed to bring out the very worst qualities of children. In the meantime, it also highlights the very worst qualities of their parents, whose responsibility it is to rein in their little darlings lest they become pure forces of evil. The idea here is that if you’re going to make a social satire about kids and their parents, it’s likely best to do so in a world where temptation, pitfalls and danger prevail. Once the groundwork is laid, stand back and let the mayhem ensue. Includes a terrific performance from Gene Wilder as Wonka, a fine one by Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket, and also all those who played the Oompa-Loompas, a genial bunch who have a way with sugar — and a nifty gift for channeling Busby Berkeley in grand musical numbers. Rated PG-13. Grade: A

Also on DVD and Blu-ray disc:

The fourth season of “Bones” is available on DVD and Blu-ray disc, with FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and forensic anthropologist and novelist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) again teaming up to solve their share of grisly crimes. Since a whiff of the “CSI” and “Murder, She Wrote” franchises hangs over the production, the writers rely on the wry humor and the chemistry between the leads to set the series apart. They succeed. Other recommended television titles include the plucky first season of “Ally McBeal” with Calista Flockhart and “Nip/Tuck: Season Five, Vol. 2,” a savage little television show about two plastic surgeons in which nothing appears tired, particularly the writing. On Blu-ray, skip the risible “Year One,” the bum romantic comedy “My Life in Ruins” and the bland “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Instead, turn to Jodie Foster in the surprisingly moving science-fiction drama “Contact”; two fantasy films in “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth”; Kenneth Branagh in front of the lens (and behind it) in “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”; and Sam Mendes’ quirky drama “Away We Go.” Also on Blu-ray are the three movies collected in “The Hannibal Lecter Collection” — the excellent “Maneater” and “Silence of the Lambs,” as well as the weaker “Hannibal.” That last film isn’t without its pleasures — it’s just that the dish it offers is rather cheap, one that would be better served with a box of Merlot and a plate of refried beans than more famous epicurean fare from “Lambs.”

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

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