Blu-rays of the Week
Geostorm (Warner Bros)
Dean Devlin’s disaster extravaganza has nefarious bad guys creating a series of targeted—and massive—global storms that destroy whole cities and even specific places like the hockey arena where the current president accepts his renomination at the Democratic National Convention. It’s as silly as it sounds, with lots of CGI-heavy climate events that look threatening but aren’t very dramatic; how often can we watch poor innocent saps being incinerated or swallowed up by nasty weather? The best thing about this clichéd apocalypse flick is the presence of two Aussies (Gerard Butler and the always criminally underused Abbie Cornish) and an Englishman (Jim Sturgess) as America’s heroes. It all looks eye-catching on Blu; extras are three making-of featurettes.
Gangster Land (Cinedigm)
A by-the-numbers gangster flick featuring Al Capone that really doesn’t do much with him as either an historical character or a prime antagonist, director Timothy Woodward Jr.’s derivative drama depicts crooked cops and gangsters populating Prohibition-era Chicago in blunt black and white. The cast—which comprises some decent and recognizable performers such as Jason Patric and Jamie-Lynn Sigler—definitely “looks” the period, but there’s little here that’s recommendable. The hi-def transfer is excellent.
Red Trees (Cohen Media)
In this deeply personal documentary, director Marina Willer chronicles her own family’s status as refugees during World War II, especially through the memories of her father, who lived through a time of horror as his family was among the very few who were able to escape from Prague in then-Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation. At a scant 80 minutes, Willer’s film is tightly focused if visually impressionistic, and she allows her father his own voice—which is heard through the mellifluous tones British actor Tim Piggott-Smith (who died last April). The film looks fine on Blu; lone extra is a brief Willer interview.
DVDs of the Week
In Her Name (Icarus)
Daniel Auteuil gives his usual intense portrayal as Andre Bamberski, a divorced father who spends 30 years trying to get justice for his teenage daughter’s death at the hands of his ex’s German husband (who’s also a doctor). This true tale is handled with sympathy by director Vincent Garenq, who manages to encompass three decades of missteps, frustrations and explosive courtroom dramatics in 90 minutes. Alongside Auteuil’s Andre are the equally compelling Sebastian Koch (doctor), Marie-Josee Croze (ex-wife) and Emma Besson (unfortunate daughter).
In Search of Fellini (Ambi Films/Samuel Goldwyn)
In this unabashedly sentimental story co-written by Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson’s voice), a sheltered young Ohio woman decides to travel to Italy to meet the great Italian director, whose work she inadvertently discovers by walking into a screening of La Strada. Despite cringingly melodramatic moments from the script and director Taron Lexton, this remains highly watchable thanks to an utterly winning performance by Ksenia Solo, who makes us believe in and even root for the ultimate fish out of water. There’s also welcome support from Maria Bello as the terminally ill mom and Mary Lynn Rajskub as the mom’s impossibly loyal friend. Extras are director/writer commentary and making-of featurette.