Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jan. 15 Blu-ray/DVD releases

Farewell, My Queen 

This sumptuous French film delivers a far more authentic take on the final days of Marie Antoinette than what Sofia Coppola delivered in her 2006 take on the material. Diane Kruger shows the youthful monarch quickly evolve from a sheltered, near-oblivious untouchable to a marked woman whose life and institution are crumbling at her feet. Lea Seydoux plays a member of the court whom Antoinette invites into her inner circle, becoming privy of her sexual relationship with a duchess (Virginie Ledoyen). A plot unfolds that tests the Seydoux's character's loyalty, leading to an excruciating finale. A making-of featurette and filmmaker interview round out the disc.

Hannah and Her Sisters Blu-ray

Woody Allen's 1986 relationship dramedy rounds up Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Dianne West and Barbara Hershey for a wince-inducing tapestry of failed marriage, sibling rivalry and midlife discontent. Allen's talent for witty screenwriting and note-perfect observational touch are in full force, and his stunning cast never fails to mesmerize. The disc lacks extras.

Life's Too Short

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant continue to keep pumping out offbeat HBO comedy series, this time taking a mokumentary angle in which famed little person Warwick Davis (Willow) plays a pathetic, desperate-for-attention version of his real-life self. Consistently funny and bittersweet, the narrative allows Davis to do some excellently insightful work, providing a peek into something that seems like genuine perspectives on fading stardom and social double standards. The DVD set is light on extras.

Taken 2 

Liam Neeson reprises his role as a former CIA agent who rescued his daughter from a kidnapping. Now he tangles with the dad of one of the scumbags he killed in the 2008 film, seizing his wife and holding her captive in Turkey. While Neeson is as intense as ever, proving himself time and again to be a reliable action star, the story feels tired and worn-out. The proceedings don't flow with the raw urgency of the first film, taking on the forced tone of a Die Hard sequel. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack includes a bonus unrated cut, deleted and extended scenes, alternate ending and a smattering of background featurettes.

To Rome with Love 

Woody Allen, who writes, directs and appears in this madcap, Rome-set comedy of interrelated characters, is still a capable filmmaker, but his comic touch isn't what it used to be. It's still fun to see him round up a gang of acolyte megastars and do his thing though. As always, Allen's cast is staggering. Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alison Pill, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz and Alec Baldwin all show up, with Allen playing a retired opera director who longs to make a comeback, and Eisenberg as Allen's younger, neurotic surrogate, who juggles romances with Gerwig and Page. The jokes are hit and miss, but overall the movie is a marginally enjoyable romp. A background featurette takes a rare peek into Allen's filmmaking process, and cast interviews pepper the extras.

Screeners were provided by the studios for review.

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