DVD reviews: 'The Dark Knight Rises' and 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
“The Dark Knight Rises” (2012, PG-13, 165 min., $28.98). Standing in as a backdrop, Pittsburgh plays a valuable part in the final installment of director Christopher Nolan's gritty Dark Knight trilogy. The city has the role of Gotham, the stomping grounds for Batman and any evil forces that come his way. In the third outing, the brooding superhero (Christian Bale) is busy, trying to turn back the tide of an unstoppable force named Bane (Tom Hardy). The goal of the terrorist is to tear Gotham down and destroy Batman. Bane initially grabs the upper hand, but heroes don't die easily. Using help from brave police officers (Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a mysterious cat burglar (Anne Hathaway), Batman gets the boost he needs to save Gotham. “The Dark Knight Rises” is far better than most of the comic book movies out these days, but it's the crummiest of the trilogy. Nolan gets great performances from a top-level cast, the action set pieces are fabulous and the settings are authentic, but where the film falters is in the storyline. Like “The Dark Knight,” Nolan gets a bit ambitious trying to fit too much. It's a wonderful movie, but falls short of the gigantic standards Nolan set from the beginning. Those interested in extras, the only way to go is the Blu-ray combo pack that holds lots of great stuff. A featurette on the Batmobile and another exploring every angle of the making of “The Dark Knight Rises” are available, and they're well done, providing plenty of interviews and inside information. 3 Stars.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (2012, PG-13, 94 min., $29.98). Hundreds of movies come out each year, but only a few are remembered fondly. Filmmaker Benh Zeitlin's “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a keeper, and it's undoubtedly one of the best movies of 2012. The emotional masterpiece is a work possessing incredible performances (newcomers Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry) and a storyline brimming with authenticity, high energy and pleasure. Zeitlin's picture should be a frontrunner during awards season. The film follows a group of folks — specifically a father named Wink (Henry) and his young daughter Hushpuppy (Wallis) — living in an isolated bayou community just outside New Orleans. Hushpuppy must get by while dealing with extreme poverty and a father who is stubborn and suffering with health issues. The young girl finds courage to move forward in taking hold of her coming-of-age story. A good making-of featurette is available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD. Deleted scenes, audition tapes with Wallis and Henry and a few additional featurettes are exclusive to Blu-ray packages. 4 Stars.
“Butter” (2012, R, 90 min., $24.98). British filmmaker Jim Field Smith follows up “She's Out of My League” — the 2008 comedy shot and set in Pittsburgh — with “Butter,” a pic that's uneven, but, nonetheless, a step up for the director. “Butter” is at its best, early on, as a dark comedy with lots of guts. Somewhere past the midpoint, though, it gets kind of soft, and falls into the routine of a regular comedy. It's worth a look, though, as Smith gets good work from Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry and Ty Burrell and enough laughs to warrant a watch. When Bob Pickler (Burrell) decides to retire as a world-class butter sculptor, his attention-seeking wife (Garner) does her best to talk him out of it. With no luck, Laura decides to become a butter sculptor herself. The only thing standing in her way is Destiny, a young foster child who's recognized as a phenom in the art of butter sculpting. With an opportunity to get to the Iowa State Fair on the line, Laura will do anything to get the victory, even if it means destroying Destiny. Special features are pretty weak here. Adecent gag reel and a few deleted scenes are the only things available. 2.5 Stars.
“Hope Springs” (2012, PG-13, 100 min., $30.99). A terrific cast, including Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell, leads the way in this romantic comedy about an older couple looking to spice up their marriage. Kay (Streep) tries to get her husband Arnold (Jones) interested in a week of marriage therapy with a renowned expert (Carell).
“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” (2012, PG, 105 min., $29.99). Uplifting, enchanting and suitable for the whole family, this Disney film from director Peter Hedges is about a young couple dreaming of having a child. Then, one day, a boy named Timothy shows up on their doorstep, and it turns out to be a wonderful gift for the couple.
“Hermano” (2010, NR, 97 min., $29.95). This powerful motion picture from director Marcel Rasquin takes a look at the lives of two boys raised as brothers trying to escape their violence-ridden neighborhoods to become professional soccer players. The goals of stardom eventually bring a rift between both boys and their families.
“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” (2012, R, 91 min., $24.98). Known as a globally renowned artist and a leading activist against oppression, Ai Weiwei is the subject of this interesting documentary from journalist and filmmaker Alison Klayman. The film, more or less, explores Weiwei's drive to turn away from the Chinese government.
“World Without End” (2012, NR, 390 min., $65.99). This eight-part miniseries, which made its debut on Reelz, is adapted from a Ken Follett novel. It is a sequel to the book and popular 2010 miniseries “Pillars of Earth.” An English town called Kingsbridge and its inhabitants deal with war and the Black Death outbreak
“Wu Dang” (2012, NR, 94 min., $24.98). Fans of martial arts will find plenty to love in this action-packed motion picture from director Patrick Leung. The film follows an American man bringing his daughter to China to compete in a Kung Fu competition. The real reason for the man's visit, though, is to score a cache of treasure.
“Thunderstruck” (2012, PG, 94 min., $27.95). NBA superstar Kevin Durant makes his big-screen debut in this family picture about a young basketball player with little talent who switches skills with Durant, his hero. The young man becomes the star of his high school team, while Durant suddenly finds himself without his world-class shot.
“Fred 3: Camp Fred” (2012, G, 80 min., $14.98). Lucas Cruikshank is back in his role of Fred Figglehorn in a new adventure that finds the YouTube sensation going away to camp for the summer. Unfortunately, it's the wrong camp, and Fred is forced to deal with his evil camp counselor (Tom Arnold).
“Silent Night” (2012, R, 94 min., $24.98). Described as a loose remake of the 1984 horror classic “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” this picture from Steven C. Miller has a group of cops in a Midwestern town on the lookout for a Santa Claus that's killing its townspeople on Christmas Eve.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Catch Me If You Can” (Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, 2002, PG-13, 141 min., $19.99)
“Finding Nemo” (voices from Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres, 2003, G, 102 min., $39.99)
“Suddenly” (Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden, 1954, NR, 76 min., $19.98)
TV ON DVD
“Eastbound & Down: The Complete Third Season” (Danny McBride and John Hawkes, two discs, seven episodes, $29.98)
“Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Two” (Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton, five discs, 22 episodes, $130.00)
“Mannix: The Final Season” (Mike Connors and Gail Fisher, six discs, 24 episodes, $54.99)
“The Game: The Fifth Season” (Pooch Hall and Tia Mowry-Hardrict, three discs, 22 episodes, $39.99)