DVD reviews: Age before beauty

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A wandering young woman (Aida Folch) comes into the life of a retired sculptor (Jean Rochefort) in “The Artist and the Model,” set in World War II France.
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Elderly sculptor, young muse find connection in French film

This week, we begin in rural France:

The Artist and the Model

3 1/2 stars

Not rated, 101 minutes.

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

An impressive assemblage of talent graces this French-language release by Fernando Trueba, the prolific director of the 1992 Oscar-winning Belle Epoque. Trueba helms a story co-written by him and legendary 81-year-old screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, one-time collaborator with some of the world’s most renowned directors.

Eighty-three-year-old Jean Rochefort, whose imdb.com entry lists 156 appearances, stars as Marc Cros, a world-famous sculptor who has taken refuge during World War II far from the clamor, somewhere in France near the Spanish border. One day, his wife (1960s icon Claudia Cardinale) brings home a seemingly lost, wandering waif, Merce (Aida Folch), to model for her husband.

From there, artist and model gradually warm to each other, with a test to their growing relationship when Merce hides a soldier from the occupying Nazis. Trueba gracefully conveys the gradual melding of aged cynicism with youthful exuberance.

The DVD includes a five-minute interview with Trueba.

*

Haunter (3 stars) This clever horror flick shows traces of an odd assortment of predecessors, including The Others, The Truman Show and several others.

Director Vincenzo Natali introduces us to Lisa (Abigail Breslin), a 15-year-old who seems to go through the same rituals every day with her parents, much like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. She can’t leave her house and is thwarted whenever she tries. But one day, she begins hearing voices and having visions. What she discovers explains her dilemma but puts her in a seemingly untenable position.

Natali dips into some of the standard tropes of the genre but overall milks Lisa’s unknown for the requisite frights. With Peter Outerbridge and Michelle Nolden, and Stephen McHattie as a strange interlocutor.

Not rated, 97 minutes. The DVD includes a 21-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette along with a complete hour-long storyboard rundown.

*

The Counselor (2 1/2 stars) Despite an all-star array of talent both in front of and behind the camera of this handsome production, the result is a pretentious, often sluggish, action-thriller.

A good director, Ridley Scott, and a well-respected novelist-turned-screenwriter, Cormac McCarthy, fail to breathe life into the story of a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who wants to dabble in the illegal drug business but quickly finds himself in over his head with Mexican cartels and colorfully vicious hit men.

The recipe crumbles mainly because virtually every character seems to be having an existential crisis, enabling them to sit around and talk incessantly between the rare spurts of nasty violence.

Brad Pitt plays a snaky go-between who warns against the counselor’s involvement. With Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and an against-type Cameron Diaz.

Rated R, 117 minutes. The DVD, in all formats and various combo packs, includes an unrated extended cut of the film along with the theatrical version. Plus: about eight minutes of deleted scenes and the “Truth of the Situation: Making The Counselor,” a feature that lets director Scott comment on the ongoing film.

*

Diana (2 stars) This muddled and mawkish biopic concentrates on the last two years or so of Princess Diana’s life, from 1995 to 1997. Naomi Watts seems helpless in trying to play the tragic figure, as Oliver Hirschbiegel directs from Stephen Jeffreys’ script, “inspired” by Kate Snell’s book Diana: Her Last Love.

The focus stays mainly on Diana’s relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). Little rings true, with the result being a feeling of voyeurism.

Rated PG-13, 113 minutes. The DVD includes four cast and crew interviews.

*

Hindenburg: The Last Flight (3 stars) This two-part Encore miniseries takes the doomed last flight of the airship Hindenburg and conjures up a fanciful story filled with intrigue and romance.

A group of nasty Nazis boards the ship as it leaves Germany along with Merten Kroger (Maximilian Simonischek), the ship’s designing engineer. Before boarding, Kroger kills a man who attacked him, but not before learning that a bomb has been planted on board. Now mistakenly wanted for murder, Kroger enters the ship and hides during the voyage, while simultaneously trying to romance the daughter (Lauren Lee Smith) of a rich American (Stacy Keach).

The film’s adequate computer imaging renders picturesque portraits of the floating airship. Oh, the humanity. Not rated, 191 minutes.

*

Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney’s celebrated children’s book serves as the source for seven animated episodes in this collection that features Little Nutbrown Hare and his forest friends Field Mouse, Little Grey Squirrel, Little White Owl, Little Redwood Fox and others.

The group takes off through the woods and fields for various adventures, while learning the importance of friendship and other growing lessons. Not rated, 80 minutes.

*

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

Sherlock: Season Three Although relatively short with only three episodes, this third season ranked at the top of any seasonal viewing in England, as millions of viewers tuned in to see how Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) made it out alive after his seeming death at the end of season two.

In this quick go-round, Holmes appears to occupy himself more with the pending marriage of Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) than with solving mysterious crimes. But that thought proves elusive as this well-plotted series links itself through the three episodes, “The Empty Hearse,” “The Sign of Three” and “His Last Vow.” The entertaining trio, all based loosely on Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, incorporate Watson’s wedding as well as his new bride, Mary (Amanda Abbington).

Those uninitiated to the series will find a modern-day Holmes, completely connected technically and electronically, all conveyed in on-screen dazzle, such as innovative screen wipes, information displays, and rapid dissolves and quick cuts.

Not rated, 270 minutes. The two-disc collection also holds the 14-minute featurette “The Fall,” which examines the second-season finale, “The Reichenbach Fall,” and its aftermath. Plus: a 17-minute featurette on “The Legacy of Sherlock Holmes” and a 14-minute “making of” featurette, “Shooting Sherlock.”

*

Also available Tuesday on DVD: Afternoon Delight, Battle of the Damned, Don’t Pass Me By, Laughing to the Bank, Hellbenders, On the Job.


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