DVD reviews: 'Dark Shadows,' 'People Like Us'
“Dark Shadows” (2012, PG-13, 113 min., $28.98). The latest collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton has to be the worst. It all started out as a bad idea, adapting a feature-length film from a forgettable TV show from the late 1960s. There's only so much magic to be mined here, as Depp — the highlight of the motion picture, along with some fantastic cinematography — labors through a poor screenplay that lacks a precise direction and a consistent flow of comedy. The film tells the tale of Barnabas Collins (Depp), a vampire who is back from an imprisonment for revenge on a witch (Eve Green) who had done him and his family wrong. The vampire finds his family in dire straits because of the witch's curse, and he tries to return them to prominence in their small New England town. The witch, though, won't make it easy for the Collins family, and Barnabas has to find a way to destroy his nemesis for good. Michelle Pfeiffer, Helene Bonham Carter, Jonny Lee Miller and Chloe Grace Moretz also star. The best buy for consumers is a combo pack that holds Blu-ray and standard DVD copies of “Dark Shadows.” The package is loaded with extras, including a large group of featurettes that explore just about every area of the film. A single standard DVD is available, but it carries little in the way of special features. 2 Stars.
“Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection” (2012, NR, $159.98). Universal Pictures has delivered one of the finest collections of 2012 with this nine-disc set that includes some of the greatest trailblazers of the horror genre. Those pictures are “Dracula” (Bela Lugosi, 1931); “Frankenstein” (Boris Karloff, 1931); “The Mummy” (Karloff, 1932); “The Invisible Man” (Claude Rains, 1933); “Bride of Frankenstein” (Colin Clive, 1935); “The Wolf Man” (Lon Chaney Jr., 1941); “Phantom of the Opera” (Susanna Foster, 1943) and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (Julie Adams, 1954). In addition to beautiful transfers to Blu-ray for each feature film, there are enough special features to take genre fans through next Halloween. One of the greatest inclusions is commentary from film historians for each picture. Playing out like a history lesson, these commentaries shed much light on these masterpieces, giving info on everything from production to the actors working in the films. Each flick also includes featurettes that explore different aspects of the film. One shining example is a bio extra on Lugosi, the star of “Dracula.” The standout of this package, though, is the great transfer from Universal Studios. The audio and video are immaculate, and this is the best these groundbreaking movies have ever looked on your TV. 4 Stars.
“People Like Us” (2012, PG-13, 114 min., $29.99). “People Like Us” is a tear-jerker perfect for those melodrama fans waiting for the next movie from Nicholas Sparks. It tells the tale of a guy named Sam (Chris Pine), struggling in his professional and personal lives, returning home to California for the funeral of a father he never really loved. Upon arriving, life gets worse for Sam, as he fights with his girlfriend (Olivia Wilde), mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her employer. Trying to find his way out, Sam discovers his late father had another family, and the news consumes him. He has a sister (Elizabeth Banks) and nephew (Michael Hall D'Addario), and throws himself into their life. The only problem is, his two new relatives have no idea of his motives. Written and directed by Alex Kurtzman, “People Like Us” is sappy and plenty predictable, not to mention a bit too long, but it houses two fine performances — Pine and Banks — and it is a well-written work that has an adult feel. The film is out in a Blu-ray combo pack and standard DVD. The special features here are simply OK, so it doesn't pay to buy the combo pack. Commentary, a single featurette and a few other bits and pieces are in the package, but that's about all. 2 Stars.
“Sound of My Voice” (2012, R, 85 min., $29.98). Brit Marling, star of the fascinating 2011 science-fiction film “Another Earth,” plays a cult leader in this psychological thriller directed by Zal Batmanglij. Two filmmakers (Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius) set out to expose the cult leader, but, instead, find much danger.
“Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” (2011, R, 96 min., $24.98). Bruce Beresford directs this dramedy about a struggling mother who takes her two kids to stay with her hippie mother while facing marriage troubles. Catherine Keener, Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Olsen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan fill out a very talented cast.
“General Education” (2012, PG-13, 94 min., $24.98). A young cast — led by Chris Sheffield and Maiara Walsh — leads the way in director Tom Morris' film about a student forced into summer school after failing a science class. If he doesn't get through, he could lose his scholarship to college. Janeane Garofalo also stars.
“Iron Sky” (2012, R, 93 min., $19.98). Nazis in outer space? Who would've thought that was possible. Well, that's the storyline for this B movie about a secret Nazi space program — which took shape in the final moments of World War II — coming back to take over the world.
“We Are the Hartmans” (2011, NR, 84 min., $24.99). Starring Richard Chamberlain, this independent comedy from filmmaker Laura Newman has a small town rising up to keep a local hangout from being taken over by a large corporation. The residents stage a rebellion that leads to a fundraiser to save Hartman's Rock Club.
“The Lady” (2011, R, 132 min., $24.98). Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis star in Luc Besson's picture about Aung San Suu Kyi, the woman at the core of Burma's democratic movement. The film details Sue Kyi's fight, through imprisonment and long separations from her husband, against Burma's dangerous regime.
“Funkytown” (2011, R, 132 min., $24.95). Daniel Roby's film takes viewers back to 1976 and the disco era, as a group of movers and shakers — Patrick Huard, Justin Chatwin and Paul Doucet star — look for their paths to the promised land in a time of excess and glitter in Montreal.
“Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” (2011, R, 122 min., $19.99). A big winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards, this action-packed adventure story from Hark Tsui stars Jet Li in a motion picture about a group of marauders looking to resurrect a fabled lost city, buried in the desert.
“Whittle — The Jet Pioneer” (2010, NR, 71 min., $24.98). Nicholas Jones' feature-length documentary focuses on Sir Frank Whittle, the aviator and engineer who invented the jet engine. One of the most influential Brits of the 20th century, Whittle was a giant in aviation.
“Hypothermia” (2010, NR, 72 min., $24.98). Michael Rooker stands out in this icy horror film from James Felix McKenney about two families arriving at their favorite winter getaway, only to become prey for a terrifying underwater creature. The two families have to work together to survive a creature that's hunting them.
“Chained” (2012, R, 94 min., $26.98). Vincent D'Onofrio, Gina Phillips and Conor Leslie take lead roles in this rough picture written and directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch. The horror film has a psychopathic cab driver kidnapping a young boy and trying to make him his unwilling protégée.
“Note To Self” (2012, NR, 100 min., $14.98). Christian Keyes wrote the screenplay and holds the lead role in a film directed by Trey Haley about a young man coming into his own. The college student might have plenty of game on the basketball court, but he's yet to find his way on the road to true love.
“Hungry for Change” (2012, NR, 89 min., $29.95). Those looking to cut weight could take a few tips away from this documentary that offers new lessons on basic health and nutrition and some surprising statistics from health experts and those who have been able to find success in transforming their figures.
“Andrew Breitbart Presents: Occupy Unmasked” (2012, NR, 75 min., $26.98). Conservative filmmaker Andrew Breitbart takes viewers inside the Occupy Wall Street movements around the country, exposing some of the violence and acts of intimidation occurring within the different groups of activists.
“Yoga is: A Transformational Journey” (2012, PG, 64 min., $19.98). Celebrities such as Russell Simmons, Christy Turlington-Burns and Sharon Gannon are some of the interviews presented in this documentary from Suzanne Bryant about the positive effects of the deeper practice of yoga.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Cinderella” (voices from Ilene Woods and James MacDonald, 1950, G, 74 min., $39.99)
“Pet Sematary” (Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby, 1989, R, 103 min., $19.99)
“The French Connection” (Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, 1971, R, 104 min., $24.99)
“Wall Street” (Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, 1987, R, 125 min., $24.99)
TV ON DVD
“Downton Abbey: Seasons One and Two” (Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern, five discs, 16 episodes, $59.99)
“Portlandia: Season Two” (Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, two discs, 10 episodes, $19.95)
“Hart of Dixie: The Complete First Season” (Rachel Bilson and Jaime King, five discs, 22 episodes, $59.98)
“Magic City: The Complete First Season” (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Danny Huston, three discs, eight episodes, $44.98)
“90210: The Fourth Season” (Shenae Grimes and Tristan Wilds, six discs, 24 episodes, $47.99)
“David Blaine: Decade of Magic” (magic presentation, two discs, three television specials, $24.99)
“Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season, Volume One” (Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, five discs, 18 episodes, $42.99)
“Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season, Volume Two” (Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, four discs, 16 episodes, $42.99)
“Adventure Time: Jake vs. Me-Mow!” (animated series, one disc, 16 episodes, $24.98)
“American Horror Story: The Complete First Season” (Connie Britton and Jessica Lange, four discs, 12 episodes, $49.98)