New in Home Entertainment – May 17, 2011

New in Home Entertainment

May 17, 2011

Mao’s Last Dancer
Rated PG for  a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray (Exclusively at Target until the end of July)

If you blinked, you probably missed this little Australian Indie based on the true story of a Chinese ballet dancer and his time in Houston during the early eighties.  Li Cunxin (Chi Cao) started out as a poor peasant only to end up representing Beijing as a ballet dancer.  Upon a cultural exchange with the Houston Ballet, Li became world famous, especially after he defected in order to stay.  While the film does have its problems, including some subpar acting and many situations where they showed a modern Houston while wanting you to believe it was 1981, it is also an amazing story with two big stars: The Dancing and The City of Houston.  First off, the dancing is remarkable and overall much stronger than what we saw earlier this year with Black Swan.  I think the part of the film I enjoyed the most was seeing how well Houston was represented.  Houston is portrayed as a Mecca of the arts and since it was filmed in our great city, it was thrilling that a group of Australian filmmakers would show Houston is such a great light.  And while I wasn’t hot on some of the acting and scene direction, I must give props to Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) who did a terrific job portraying Houston Ballet Artistic Director Ben Stevenson.  I wish I (and many of the other critics around the country) could have seen this film in time to vote last year, as he would have easily been a contender for Best Supporting Actor.  B+

Diablolique: The Criterion Collection
Not Rated
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While the word shocked is relative compared to today, in 1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s film about the wife and mistress of a cruel headmaster plotting revenge shocked the world and paved the way for many of the great psychological thrillers and horror films of the 60s and even today.  56 years later, the classic French film is getting the Criterion treatment with a new digital restoration and tons of great special features.  It’s hard not to like an old film such as this, which looks less dated than you would think, and it’s one of only a few classic movies from this time period to grace the IMDB Top 250 (currently ranked 182).  A

The Rite
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material, violence, frightening images, and language including sexual references
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Going along with the old priest/new priest routine, Anthony Hopkins is the old exorcist, well-practiced in the art of removing demons, while Colin O’Donoghue is the young seminary student who has lost his faith.  The film starts out pretty creepy, but loses momentum when it is obvious that there is something demonic going on and the young priest is still in disbelief.  Also, the fact that it is PG-13 when it should definitely be R doesn’t help the film in the least.  Finally, the studio’s insistence that there be a hot young women thrown in the mix creates a hollywood factory feel rather than a true taste of horror.  That being said, Hopkins is great and tries to hold things together.  The forces fighting against him are simply too strong.  C

The Other Woman

Rated R for sexual content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

If you are under the impression that Natalie Portman is in half of the films out right now, you aren’t far off.  Since 2009 she has made 10 films and many of them are just now seeing the light of day.  This little Indie stars Portman as a home wrecker after she has wrecked the home.  When her child from her stolen husband dies shortly after birth, she must learn to cope with the loss, her strained relationship with her new family, as well as a hidden secret.  The film itself has a movie-of-the-week look and feel driven by one of the worst musical soundtracks you could put in a film.  The acting isn’t half bad and there are many great emotionally impactful scenes but it’s as if the cast really cared about the picture even though the production team either didn’t care or was incapable of presenting the material in a palatable format.  Either way, the movie is not only a bit depressing, but bland as well.  C-