This week we begin on Krypton:
Man of Steel
Rated PG-13, 143 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray and in various download formats.
Superman returns, but this time as a man searching for roots and identity. Director Zach Snyder’s (300) new take on the familiar superhero tale, this time starring Henry Cavill, actually improves the story.
This time around, old nemesis General Zod (Michael Shannon) searches for the Man of Steel. Originally, Zod was a foe of Superman’s father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), on Krypton.
Snyder paces his film admirably, leading to the eventual showdown only after a few hours of loud, high-tech sequences, mostly enjoyable in a guilty way. In the impressive supporting cast, Amy Adams makes a plausible Lois Lane, and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play the Kents, the proud parents. With Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne, Chris Meloni, Richard Schiff and Antje Traue.
The DVD, in all formats and combo packs, offers several featurettes but incorporates them into the movie with a simultaneous, satisfying experience. With this option, as the film progresses, split screens appear with a member of cast or crew there to explain or point out something invariably interesting.
Intolerance This renowned 1916 silent film from pioneer filmmaker D.W. Griffith, comes in a new 2K restoration. On high-definition Blu-ray for the first time, the film defies a star system rating. This genuine screen classic broke ground with its intricate editing, creative photography (by Griffith cameraman Billy Bitzer), and its narrative reach, alternating among four different story lines.
Griffith uses the iconic figure of a mother, deemed “The Eternal Motherhood,” rocking a cradle as his base as he then flips among stories about Jesus and the Pharisees, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Huguenots in 16th-century France, and the conquest of Babylon by Persia.
The disc also includes Carl Davis’ original complementary musical score. Griffith made cinema history while also providing a training ground for several future directors: Victor Fleming (Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz), Tod Browning (Freaks, Dracula), Sidney Franklin (The Good Earth, Private Lives) and the incredibly prolific Allan Dwan, who had more than 400 directing credits.
Not rated, 197 minutes. The two-disc set also includes two excellent documentaries, the 63-minute The Fall of Babylon and the comprehensive 100-minute Mother and the Law. It also contains a 16-page booklet with two essays, an additional interview and a brief “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
2 Guns (3 stars) Two big-name stars and a clever plot enliven this action-thriller about two low-level criminals (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) who scheme to rob a bank of $3 million hidden in a safety deposit box by a Mexican drug lord (James Edward Olmos).
When they succeed and discover over $40 million, they find themselves chased by Naval Intelligence, the CIA, the drug cartel and a spurned woman (Paula Patton). But first, the pair learns each other’s true identity, a plot spoiler best saved for the fast-moving work from director Baltasar Kormakur, with script from Blake Masters based on Steven Grant’s comic book.
Rated R, 109 minutes. The DVD includes commentary, eight deleted and extended scenes, and a four-part, 30-minute “making of” featurette. The Blu-ray holds additional supplements.
As Cool as I Am (2.5 stars) Claire Danes heads the bill as Lainee Diamond, but it is Sarah Bolger, playing her daughter, Lucy, who takes the most screen time in this family melodrama.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy seems to be bright and liked by her classmates, particularly by her best friend, Kenny (Thomas Mann), who wants to be more than a friend. Eventually, Lucy, intentionally or not, becomes more and more like her mother as Lainee takes to a promiscuous lifestyle when her husband, Chuck (James Marsden), leaves town on one of his frequent trips.
Director Max Mayer, from Virginia Spragg’s screenplay based on Pete Fromm’s book, seems to have a lot to say, spreading attention around on various crises and relationships. He also brings up and then drops such hot topics as child abuse and rape, leaving us to question what exactly is the film’s main concern.
Rated R, 92 minutes. The DVD includes a four-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
Passion (2 stars) Brian De Palma remakes Alain Corneau’s excellent 2010 French film Love Crime, and the result is a crime.
The veteran director turns out a lurid, borderline camp version of the story of a corporate backstabber, Christine (Rachel McAdams), who mistreats and abuses Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), a woman who works for her. Isabelle has her revenge with an intricately plotted, oft-implausible murder scheme.
In the interim, De Palma mixes in unsuitable split frames and garish colors to make a borderline goofy movie more entertaining. In other words, De Palma turns it into a De Palma film.
Rated R, 102 minutes. The DVD includes interviews with Rapace, De Palma and McAdams.
Ambushed (2.5 stars) A drug deal goes awry in this action-thriller film starring Dolph Lundgren, Vinnie Jones and Randy Couture. Gianni Capaldi and Daniel Bonjour play, respectively, Los Angeles drug dealers Eddie and Frank. They try to pull off a swindle and find themselves tracked by a mob boss, a cop and a federal agent. Giorgio Serafini directed from a script by Agustin.
Rated R, 97 minutes. The DVD includes a “behind-the-scenes featurette.
Guess How Much I Love You: Hidden Treasure From the Disney Junior series comes this animated feature based on Sam McBratney’s children’s book about Little Nutbrown Hare and his father, Big Nutbrown Hare. The young rabbit (oops, hare) plays in the grass and fields with his friends, while his father gives sage advice on a variety of subjects. Not rated, 80 minutes.
Finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
Silk: Series One This compelling BBC series follows a group of high-minded, deadly serious lawyers at a small law firm as they fight for their clients while advancing their careers.
The firm’s two leading advocates, Martha (Maxine Peake) and Clive (Rupert Penry-Jones), defend a series of dodgy clients in each of the six episodes. They also strive to become a member of the prestigious Queen's Counsel, that is, “taking the silk.” Complicating matters further: an unwanted pregnancy, an interoffice romance involving Clive and a woman (Natalie Dormer) who’s the daughter of a sitting judge, and an office manager suspected of embezzling money, which sets off a possible mutiny among the ranks. It’s a smooth blend of intrigue, romance and suspense.
Not rated, 300 minutes. Two discs. The set also includes a “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas With Carol Returning for viewing is this holiday-themed program taken from The Carol Burnett Show that originally aired in 1977. All the Burnett regulars appear — Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence — and even Alan Alda pops up. Bonus sketches include appearances from comedy legends Sid Caesar and Jonathan Winters. Not rated, 115 minutes.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Blackfish, Message, Turbo.