Movies Without Pity
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Grow old (and die) with the Oscar-winning foreign film, Amour.

To the shock of absolutely no one, Michael Haneke's Amour completed its sweep of the Foreign Language film trophies last awards cycle by winning the Oscar along with all the other major awards. And as boring as consensus can sometimes be, in this case that epic string of victories is completely justified. Powered by a pair of exceptional performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Oscar-nominee Emmanuelle Riva (who lost out to Jennifer Lawrence), Amour depicts the final months in the long, fruitful marriage of Georges and Anne, two retired octogenarians who find themselves staring mortality directly in the face following Anne's stroke. And if you're expecting a last-minute reprieve for this couple, you clearly have never seen a Haneke film before. But Amour isn't an oppressive forced march towards death; rather, it's a rigorously made, emotionally resonant portrait of what it means to love someone as long as you both shall live. (Not for nothing, but it's also one of Haneke's warmest and most humane films.) Oscar got it right in this particular case. Now about that Argo choice…
Extras: A making-of featurette and standalone interview with Haneke.

Scary Movie 5
Days before This is the End brought the apocalypse to the multiplex, that movie's co-star Craig Robinson popped up in another end-of-the-world spoof made with even less money and boasting far fewer laughs. Rapture-Palooza casts Robinson as the Antichrist himself, who descends to Earth to rule over those unfortunately souls who were Left Behind, souls like bitter young lovers Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley). Eager to shake up the new status quo, Lindsey uses the Antichrist's beyond-blatant attraction to her (which mostly manifests itself in lots of off-color commentary about her rack) in order to stage an assassination attempt that predictably goes horribly awry. The same could be said of the movie. The unasked for spoof sequel Scary Movie V is slightly better than Rapture-Palooza if only because the thought of Lindsay Lohan willingly sleeping with Charlie Sheen inspires a mild chuckle for, like, a minute. Otherwise, this mixture of musty pop culture gags, which riffs on such dated movies as Paranormal Activity, Black Swan and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, feels about as fresh as the recent return of the Scream franchise, which is to say, not at all.
Extras: Rapture-Palooza offers a commentary track anchored by Robinson and wasted co-stars Rob Corddry and Rob Huebel, a gag reel, deleted scenes and a featurette. Scary Movie V comes with alternate and extended scenes.

Killing Season
Once upon a time (most likely the mid-'90s following their separate Quentin Tarantino revivals), the first-time-ever team-up of Robert De Niro and John Travolta might inspire some cursory interest in the movie going public. But so much water -- not to mention, so many bad movies -- have passed under the bridge since then that Killing Season could only muster an ultra-brief theatrical release prior to its ultimate destination as a bargain-bin DVD purchase. Travolta is hilariously miscast as a Serbian veteran of the brutal war in Bosnia, who tracks the U.S. soldier (De Niro) that put a bullet in his back and left him for dead all those years ago down to his remote cabin in the woods and promptly goes all "Most Dangerous Game" on the old man's ass, hunting him with his trusty bow-and-arrow. The first twenty minutes, during which an unsuspecting De Niro bonds with a tourist-in-disguise Travolta, actually isn't all that bad provided you make allowances for the erstwhile Vincent Vega's terrible Euro-accent. But once the "action" begins, the movie gets real stupid, real quick, with Roger Ebert's old Fallacy of the Talking Killer rule getting a major workout and director Mark Steven Johnson (he of Daredevil infamy) displaying little aptitude for the kind of First Blood-style rough-and-tumble choreography the movie is clearly aiming for. We know that both Vincent Vega and Louis Gara are officially dead, but maybe Tarantino could write some kind of assassins-from-the-afterlife adventure for them since that sounds far more satisfying (and logical) than anything that happens in Killing Season.
Extras: A lone making-of featurette.

Peter Pan: Return to Neverland
Blue Sky's attempts to launch another animated franchise to match their Ice Age blockbusters fell short yet again as the pint-sized, backyard Avatar fantasy adventure Epic underperformed at the box office as Memorial Day with audiences (even amongst the family demo) apparently preferring the comical hijinks of Fast & Furious 6. Amanda Seyfried heads up a star-powered vocal cast (Josh Hutcherson, Aziz Ansari and Queen Beyoncé herself are among the personalities lending their pipes to the proceedings) as a teenage girl who is subjected to the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" treatment, and winds up in a nearby forest where two groups of magical creatures are in the midst of a full-on war. Though the title promises an epic adventure, the film itself feels way to small-scale and familiar. Look for Ice Age V: You'll Be Watching These Movies Until the Next Ice Age any day now. In other dubious animated achievements, Disney's 2002 sequel Peter Pan: Return to Never Land follows its more celebrated predecessor onto Blu-ray. Fast-forwarding to World War II, Return finds Wendy's daughter, Jane, making the trip to Never Land courtesy of Captain Hook, which brings Peter to the rescue. The best thing you can say about Return to Never Land? It makes Hook look like a genuine classic (as opposed to a guilty pleasure) by comparison.
Extras: Epic includes five featurettes, a multi-part making-of documentary and a coloring and storybook builder app for mobile phones. Return to Never Land

Also on DVD:
Wasted in the Tom Cruise-led sci-fi wanna-be blockbuster Oblivion, British actress Andrea Riseborough finds a much better vehicle for her talents with Shadow Dancer, a low-key, but compelling drama set in Troubles-afflicted Ireland. A novelist purposefully moves into a haunted house in pursuit of material in the low-budget chiller An American Ghost Story. Left stranded by a blizzard, a group of intoxicated college students try to maintain their sanity in Drinking Games. Officially endorsed by Walmart, the coming-of-age summer camp flick Standing Up charts the friendship between a misfit boy and girl. It's like Moonrise Kingdom minus all the classical music and clever wit. Fans of Red Widow and True Blood can celebrity their unlikely shared interests with the cop flick Evidence, which stars Radha Mitchell and Stephen Moyer. And finally, Shout! continues its cult horror movie line with the double-bill release of early '80s schlock flicks, X-Ray/Schizoid.




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