New DVD and Blu-Ray Releases 09/24/13

 Please Note: To order any of the following films click on the poster.

There’s a different tone to Iron Man 3, presumably because of a new director, Shane Black, taking over the directorial duties from Jon Favreau.  There was always a light touch to the fast-paced dialog in the first two films, but here there’s what feels like a comic free-for-all throughout, as if Robert Downey Jr. has been given free reign to ad-lib at will, and if it’s funny it’s kept in. The final dazzling set piece is the climax by the docks as quay-side cranes that lift containers on and off the container ships fall apart, collapse and crash, a result of a battle between both hero and villain in Iron Man suits, and it’s here that the film falters.  Yes, it’s spectacular, and yes, it’s delivering the action that superhero fans have been waiting for, but it also resembles Transformers in the worst way; there’s never any sense of involvement or even danger – it’s metal crunching metal, and it goes on and on for way too long.   The strengths of the film are the human touches, which is why the lengthy twenty minute climactic battle with little human element seems so empty.  The continuing relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts (such a great name) is fun to watch develop further, plus there’s a nice turn from Britain’s Rebecca Hall as a botanist with dubious intentions and another pitch-perfect American accent.  Available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D.

After its Arizona premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival, not to mention its initial premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the independent film The Kings of Summer received a warm reception, and with good reason; it’s a warm-hearted coming-of-age story that is funny, eccentric, and above all, hugely likable.  The trick to enjoying a film as unconventional in its storytelling as The Kings of Summer is to know as little about its plot and its various conflicts as possible and just let everything unfold before you.  The film’s offbeat rhythm is born of independent filmmaking but its widescreen, well structured cinematography is rooted in conventional cinema that helps ground the eccentric proceedings.  Originally titled Toy’s House, The Kings of Summer is the story of three boys – two friends and one genuinely oddball character – who, for different reasons, escape the confines of their suburban homes and build a house in the woods where they spend the summer.  It’s the little film that could.  Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

In Fill the Void we catch a glimpse into something most of us rarely see; life among the Haredi Jewish community, considered to be the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, and it’s both fascinating and frustrating. The fascination comes from being able to observe a world of staunch tradition that may feel alien to many.  The frustration comes from observing the film’s central character, young Shira and the dilemma she faces, a dilemma that would not be an issue in our progressive world, but within the world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism where an unrelenting devotion to traditions and ideologies is rigidly maintained, it is everything.  Even though young women in the world of Fill the Void are taught to accept and embrace the culture of arranged marriages, surprisingly they do have the right to refuse.  What young Shira decides to do is the center of the story – it ultimately becomes a matter of will she or won’t she – but in truth the outcome is of no major surprise.  What’s important is the observation and the tone of this delicate and intimate drama.  It may be frustrating but the film ultimately earns our respect.  Available on DVD. 

This is where the hat of a reviewer is removed and geeky fandom takes over.  Dr. Who is a British TV show of a time-traveler that began life in 1963 and was a must-see every Saturday on BBC.  The re-vamped version that began in the mid-eighties is even better.  Instead of a six episode story, each episode is now a self contained adventure, though there is often a secondary arc of a plot that has its revelations in the final adventure each series.  What makes this particular DVD release special is that it incorporates not only the changing of the doctor’s time-traveling assistant from the hugely popular Karen Gillan from Scotland to the bubbly and likable Jenna-Louise Coleman from London, it’s also the last complete series to star Matt Smith as the doctor.  Almost all of these stories were previously released in separate editions, but this is the first time all of series seven has been available in one box, including the terrific Christmas special The Snowman.  The box is packed with extras including commentaries, interviews, featurettes, and a look at Dr. Who at San Diego’s Comic-Con.   My favorite TV show… ever!  And it still is.  Available on both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

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