New on DVD & Blu-ray: July 9-15

Posted on July 9, 2013
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THIS WEEK’S TOP RELEASES:

Sometimes it’s best not to expect anything in a movie — avoid the reviews, skip the trailers, nix the pundits. Thankfully, that’s what I did with “Spring Breakers” and I’m pretty happy I did. I’m not a fan of director Harmony Korine’s much-touted “Gummo,” but this phantasmagoria of a movie knocked me out. It’s perverse, wild, crazy and a heck of a lot of fun; it’s kind of a “Disney Girls Gone Wild” meets “Set It Off” and “Thelma and Louise” via “Enter the Void” and “El Topo.” Korine takes four female stars with fairly clean filmic and TV reputations, throws them into the booze and dope bonging world of spring break in Florida, mixes in a nasty, silver-toothed pimp gangster, shakes the ingredients with a heavy dose of disjointed, hallucinatory camera work, and comes up with a sex-infused bad girl epic that harks back to the photo for Spring Breakers bad girl and “women-in-prison” exploitation films of the 1950s and 60s, but with a 21st century mentality. The plot: Brit (Ashley Benson of “Pretty Little Liars”), Faith (Selena Gomez, singer and star of the “Wizards of Waverly Place” and dating Justin Bieber), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens of the “High School Musicals”) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, the director’s wife) are college friends who don’t have the money to cut loose for spring break so they hold up a restaurant with baseball bats and squirt guns. They steal a car, head out to Florida, get arrested during a motel party, and get bailed out by Alien (James Franco in an incredible performance), an infamous local thug, rapper, drug pusher and arms dealer, who takes them under his wing and introduces them to a seedy world that they could never have imagined — but one that, finally, they can embrace. Be forewarned: there’s a lot of boobs and butts, booze and drugs, violence and nasty behavior, highlighted by some glorious cinematic moments. Events repeat themselves from different camera perspectives, there’s bizarre, almost psychedelic shots and scenes, and the bravura hold-up scene, shot in one take, seen from the front of the getaway car as it circles the restaurant being robbed — all set to a propulsive electronic dance music, rap and hip-hop score. Bonus features include a very incisive three-part behind-the-scenes documentary, “Breaking It Down: Behind Spring Breakers”; a featurette on real-life spring break partying in Panama City Beach; and a surprising featurette on the film’s ATL Twins (Franco’s bad-ass sidekicks in the movie), silver-toothed Sidney and Thurman Sewell, assistants to a personal injury attorney in Atlanta and inveterate skateboaders and media darlings.

Tina Fey knows how to take chances — witness her gigs on “SNL” and “30 Rock” — but her choices in movie roles are pretty mainstream (take “Date Night,” for example — please). “Admissions” is a middle-of-the-road light comedy in which she plays a straight-laced Princeton University admissions officer who reconnects with a former college classmate, a free-spirited teacher (Paul Rudd) at an alternative high school who persuades her to bend the rules for one of his very bright students. It’s a by-the-book comedy with uninspired set-ups and gags and bogus plotlines (the student just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption). There’s a lot of talent wasted here, including director Paul Weitz and co-stars Michael Sheen, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Reuben and Wallace Shawn. DVD and Blu-ray extras include “Early Admission With Tina Fey & Paul Rudd.”

If you’re a fan of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga” novels and movies, you might like this adaptation of her 2008 novel “The Host,” a rip-off of countless sci-fi stories about an alien presence that takes over the bodies and minds of human hosts (exemplified by John W. Campbell Jr.’s “Who Goes There?” sci-fi short story — made into “The Thing” — and innumerable “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” remakes and clones). Like the “Twilight Saga” films, there’s more talk than action, but unlike that series, the characters are a heck of a lot less engaging. The plot: In the near future, the Earth has been invaded by an unseen enemy with humans becoming hosts for the invaders; one human, however, gives the invading “soul” a lot of trouble and refuses to relinquish possession of her mind. It’s trite, slow and boring. Stars Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Frances Fisher, Jake Abel, Max Irons and William Hurt — none of whom can save this outing. DVD and Blu-ray bonuses include deleted scenes, a “Bringing The Host to Life” behind-the-scenes featurette, and commentary with Meyer, screenwriter-director Andrew Niccol, and producer Nick Wechsler.

Also due this week: “Dead Man Down” and “Tyler Perry’s Temptation,” both of which were unavailable for review.

DVD COLLECTIBLES:

There’s a trio of interesting collectible releases this week, headed up by “The Life of Oharu” (1952 — Japan) from The Criterion Collection. A peerless chronicler of the soul who specialized in supremely emotional, visually exquisite films about the circumstances of women in Japanese society throughout its history, Kenji Mizoguchi had already been directing movies for decades when he made “The Life of Oharu” in 1952. But this epic portrait of an inexorable fall from photo for Rouben Mamoulian's action-romance Blood and Sand grace, starring the incredibly talented Kinuyo Tanaka as an imperial lady-in-waiting who gradually descends to street prostitution, was the movie that gained its director international attention, ushering in a new golden period for him. In Japanese with English subtitles. New high-definition digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition. Next there’s the Blu-ray debut of Rouben Mamoulian’s action-romance “Blood and Sand” (1941), starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, J. Carrol Naish and John Carradine. In this Academy Award-winning classic, Juan Gallardo (Power) returns home to claim the hand of his childhood love and continue his rise toward becoming Spain’s greatest matador. But when he catches the eye of a beautiful seductress (Hayworth), Juan will learn that the battles that matter most are fought outside the ring. From Fox. And from Shout! Factory comes the Blu-ray debut of “Cohen & Tate” (1988), starring Roy Scheider, Adam Baldwin and Harley Cross. Two mismatched hitmen kidnap a 9-year-old boy — an eyewitness to a recent mob rub-out — and endeavor to deliver him to Houston where he’ll be eliminated. Extras include commentary with writer-director Eric Red.

Check out other new July 9-July 15 DVD releases at OnVideo.

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