Monday, April 15, 2013

This week’s DVD releases

Django Unchained ***** The film doesn't play it safe, so neither will I. Instead, I'll say that it finds writer/director Quentin Tarantino perched improbably but securely on the top of a production that's wildly extravagant, ferociously violent, ludicrously lurid and outrageously entertaining, yet also, remarkably, very much about the pernicious lunacy of racism and, yes, slavery's singular horrors. It also has the pure, almost meaningless excitement which I found sorely lacking in Tarantino's previous film, Inglourious Basterds, with its misfiring spaghetti-Nazi trope and boring plot.

Trashed ***½ If we must talk trash, Jeremy Irons — assisted by a scientist or two and Vangelis's doomy score — is an inspired choice of guide. Soothing and sensitive, his liquid gaze alighting on oozing landfills and belching incinerators, he moves through the film with a tragic dignity that belies his whimsical neckwear and jaunty hats.

Future Weather ***½ Revolving around a quietly spectacular performance by young Perla Haney-Jardine, Future Weather integrates a green message into a striking and emotional drama about intergenerational female conflict.

A Whisper to a Roar ***½ An impressive array of archival news footage, enlightening interviews with activists, politicos, academics and journalists, plus a dispensable Alfred Molina-narrated animated parable, round out this provocative, if at times overly ambitious documentary about the soft dictatorships that constrained five different countries and the peaceful revolutions that sought to expunge them.

Dragon **½ As a whole, it does not quite work, especially at the end, when director Peter Chan tries for a Shakespearean climax of filial rebellion and paternal rage. But at its less grandiose moments, the combination of expressive acting and kinetic action pays off in ways that are likely to satisfy both novices and adepts in martial-arts fandom.

Save the Date **½ The film has the vapid, beige feel of an off-the-peg product made to exploit a niche market rather than a film with something on its mind about what it means to make the jump from youth to adulthood today.

One Day on Earth **½ The film is driven by a we-are-the-world connectedness, but remains a travelogue in search of a defining center. The overall impression is as fleeting as much of the imagery that flashes across the screen.

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