This week we begin with a modern classic:
Schindler’s List — 20th Anniversary Limited Edition
Rated R, 196 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray.
One of cinema’s masterpieces returns in a fully filled edition offered through all outlets and in every form. Director Steven Spielberg has helped restore his masterpiece from the original print negative for a high-definition transfer.
Liam Neeson stars as Oskar Schindler, a German bureaucrat, Nazi and Catholic who risked his own life and fortune to help countless Jews escape the Holocaust by employing them at his factory. Ralph Fiennes plays the psychopathic concentration camp commander Amon Goeth, and Ben Kingsley appears as Schindler’s accountant and confidant.
The film won seven Oscars, including best picture and best director.
The newly remastered DVD includes a documentary on Spielberg’s involvement with the Shoah Foundation, and the 77-minute documentary Voices From the List, featuring interviews with Holocaust survivors as well as archival footage.
The Intouchables (***1/2) As one of the most successful French films ever, this engaging work mixes high drama, treacly personal interaction and raucous comedy. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano wrote and directed, delicately weaving their elements to render an entertaining but not maudlin story about two disparate men who bond while opening up each other’s lives.
Francois Cluzet plays Philippe, who is paralyzed, stuck in a wheelchair and dependent on caretakers. But his wealth enables him to hire an endless array of helpers, which brings him around to hiring Driss (Omar Sy), a rough-edged yet perpetually buoyant African immigrant who always seems up for some kind of scam.
As the two men spend more time together, the more they genuinely respond to each other — not in an expected movie-cute way, but with real friendship and understanding.
Rated R, 112 minutes. The DVD also includes five deleted scenes.
How to Survive a Plague (****) David France directed this moving Oscar-nominated documentary, which is about the AIDS epidemic in general but more specifically about how the activist group ACT UP, and later TAG, mobilized behind the scenes to bring help to its community.
France mixes interviews with the few surviving heroes along with archival footage showing early organizing meetings in Greenwich Village, where dedicated volunteers arranged not only for their signature raucous demonstrations but also for community activism, public relations, and interaction with Congress as well as drug companies.
What results is a much fuller picture of the group and the people behind the scenes who worked toward changing society’s prejudices and practices.
Not rated, 109 minutes. The DVD includes six deleted scenes.
Lay the Favorite (**) An abundance of talent results in a surprisingly flat film, as the usually reliable Stephen Frears (The Grifters, The Queen, High Fidelity and many others) directed from a script from D.V. DeVincentis.
An uncharacteristically crass Rebecca Hall stars as Beth, transplanted from Florida to Las Vegas in hopes of a life better than the one she had as a dancer/stripper. She lands a job as a sort of runner for Dink (Bruce Willis), a professional gambler who needs people to place sports bets for him.
She learns the trade and develops a crush on Dink despite animosity from his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). When trouble arises, Beth falls for a tourist (Joshua Jackson) and then relocates to a Caribbean gambling spa run by a New York shyster, played by reliably over-the-top Vince Vaughn.
No real suspense or tension builds about much of anything, and what passes for romance quickly passes. Frears usually deals with sophisticated fare and well-developed characters, but here his cut-rate material about cut-rate people sinks him.
Rated R, 94 minutes. The DVD includes 11 deleted scenes.
Fast Girls (**1/2) This British import scores points on several fronts but suffers from an overabundance of sports-movie cliches.
Young Shania (Lenora Crichlow) excels in sprint races despite her rough home life and spotty coaching. But she gains a chance to join Britain’s national team when she defeats a rival (Lily James) whose father (Rupert Graves) runs the sport’s governing body.
Shania fails to blend in with her relay team, while the two youngsters end up fighting both on and off the track. Director Regan Hall uses Shania’s yearning for running to accentuate her obvious desire to run away from her roots.
Not rated, 91 minutes. The DVD contains six brief “making of” segments.
Wreck-It Ralph (***1/2) Walt Disney Studios’ Oscar nominee for best animated film features John C. Reilly as the voice of Ralph, a video game villain who departs from the script in an attempt to establish his good-guy credentials.
Along the way, he teams up with some unlikely new characters, including Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman). But his departure causes unintended consequences for the arcade he left behind, setting off a series of adventures. Other notables supplying voices include Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, Alan Tudyk and Ed O’Neill.
Rated PG, 101 minutes. The movie comes in all download and disc formats, 3-D and combo packs. Supplements, which vary, include the five-part featurette “Bit by Bit,” deleted and alternate scenes, video game commercials for Ralph, the recent Oscar-winning animated short “Paperman,” a “Gamer’s Guide” to the film and more.
Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie In this first full-length movie based on the Warhammer 40,000 gaming phenomenon, Terence Stamp, John Hurt, Sean Pertwee and others supply the voices for the animated creations who live in the 41st millennium. A looming battle shapes up for the genetically enhanced Ultramarines, now saviors for the world by default.
Rated R, 77 minutes. The DVD includes a “making of” featurette and several additional featurettes.
Finally, from this week’s TV offerings:
Thorne (***1/2) This two-disc set includes a pair of three-part stories, Sleepyhead and Scaredycat, starring David Morrissey as London detective Tom Thorne.
The excellent productions focus on two separate series of grisly murders, as Thorne and his close associates must uncover hidden clues, all while harboring some secrets of their own. During it all, their supervisor (Eddie Marsan) bears a grudge against Thorne and his associates and aims to bring them down.
The dramas provide seemingly authentic analyses of British police work. Not rated, more than 4 1/2 hours.
H20: Just Add Water — The Complete Season 1 The first season of this popular Australian series, seen on TeenNick, arrives with further seasons to follow.
The series stars three perky 16-year-old girls (played by Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin and Cariba Heine) who become accidentally stranded at sea, only to make their way to a mysterious island with hidden caves and a simmering volcano. But when they finally return home, they learn their biggest secret: They have become mermaids, a secret played mostly for laughs as they struggle to hide their transformation.
Rated TV-Y7, almost 11 hours. The set also includes a 90-minute TV movie based on the first season.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Playing for Keeps, Red Dawn.