DVD reviews: 'The Host,' 'Spring Breakers' and 'The Gatekeepers'
“The Host” (2013, PG-13, 125 min., $29.98) Even though it hasn't captured the same attention as the “Twilight” franchise, “The Host” has much in common. The film's adapted from a book from Stephenie Meyer, the same author who penned that popular aforementioned tale of vampires and werewolves. Also, “The Host” is geared toward the young adult demographic. Even though it possesses a first-rate cast — Saoirse Ronan, William Hurt and Diane Kruger are in lead roles — “The Host” isn't able to take advantage of its star power, and viewers are left with a confusing storyline with too many holes. Director Andrew Niccol doesn't do himself any favors with a clunky script that aches for a shred of interesting dialogue. Best described as a cross between science fiction and romance, “The Host” is about Earth after an alien attack. The aliens have put themselves inside the bodies of humans, using them as hosts. Most have been turned, but there are a few holdouts. One is Melanie (Ronan). The aliens try to extract info from the strong-willed young woman, but she won't go easily. When she escapes, Melanie has to gain the trust of her human friends all over again. A making-of featurette is the best of the extras. Deleted scenes and commentary also make their way on to standard DVD and Blu-ray sets. 1.5 Stars.
“Spring Breakers” (2013, R, 92 min., $21.98) For viewers who have never seen a Harmony Korine movie, it's an unforgettable experience. The original filmmaker delivers one of the more memorable pictures of 2013 with “Spring Breakers,” a well-shot crime thriller about a group of wild college gals experiencing a different type of spring break. Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) want nothing more than to go to Florida for spring break. They rob and steal their way down to St. Petersburg before running into trouble at a party. When a dangerous drug lord named Alien (James Franco) bails them out, they're at his disposal. Suddenly, a life of crime doesn't seem so fun. Korine delivers a solid film, putting out a head-spinning storyline that's played out by a remarkable cast. Franco leads the way, giving viewers an alien character that's headed for cult status. A three-part, making-of documentary kicks off a good collection of special features. Additional featurettes, deleted scenes and commentary are also available. All of the extras are available across standard DVD and Blu-ray platforms. 3 Stars.
“The Gatekeepers” (2012, PG-13, 101 min., $30.99) Israel's secret service agency — the Shin Bet — is the focus of this forthcoming documentary from filmmaker Dror Moreh. Nominated for an Academy Award in the documentary field earlier this year, “The Gatekeepers” gathers six former heads of the Shin Bet, and the discussions revolve around Israel's tumultuous relationship with Palestine. It's been an incredibly tough road for the Middle East neighbors, as ongoing battles have resulted in thousands of deaths. Moreh not only touches on the history between Palestine and Israel, but the split-second decision making that these Shin Bet heads have had to make. Some decisions resulted in flawless missions, while others escalated already dangerous situations. Moreh's film is incredibly interesting, and gives outsiders an insider's guide to this embattled relationship. The viewer will also realize the effect the top Shin Bet position has had on these men. It's a job that definitely has the potential to leave a lasting mark on any psyche. Extras are OK, as commentary and an interview with the filmmaker are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray. 3 Stars.
“56 Up” (2012, NR, 144 min., $29.95) This documentary film series started in 1964 with “Seven Up,” as director Michael Apted interviewed 14 children from diverse backgrounds all over England. He'd return every seven years for updates. Now, those kids are in their 50s, and they're at the center of this wonderfully original piece of work.
“Dead Man Down” (2013, R, 118 min., $26.99) Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Noomi Rapace and Dominic Cooper lead an all-star cast in director Niels Arden Oplev's thriller about a professional hit man and the victim of a terrible crime drawn together through an intense chemistry that leads them to plan out revenge on a dangerous criminal.
“Admission” (2013, PG-13, 107 min., $29.98) Comedy veterans Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in this laugher from filmmaker Paul Weitz about a straight-laced admissions counselor (Fey) from Princeton University who makes a surprising discovery during a recruiting visit to an alternative high school. Michael Sheen and Lily Tomlin also star.
“The Power of Few” (2013, R, 96 min., $19.97) Leone Marucci wrote and directed this picture — set in New Orleans — about five different characters who are tied to the efforts of a smuggling ring trying to steal a priceless artifact. A top-notch cast includes Christian Slater, Moon Bloodgood, Christopher Walken, Anthony Anderson and Nicky Whelan.
“My Best Enemy” (2011, NR, 109 min., $24.98) Once upon a time they were friends, but World War II greatly changes the relationship between Victor (Moritz Bleibtrau) and Rudi (Georg Friedrich) in this German thriller. Rudi, a Nazi officer, is tasked with taking a wealthy painting from Victor, a Jew that will hold onto the art as long as he possibly can.
“Would You Rather” (2012, NR, 93 min., $24.98) A young woman desperate to help her ailing brother after the tragic death of their parents is drawn into a deadly game by a millionaire who promises to help if she shows up his mansion. Iris (Brittany Snow) is lured into a fatal proposition in which cash is only paid out to the winner of a sadistic parlor game.
“Combat Girls” (2011, NR, 100 min., $29.95) Two young girls from vastly different backgrounds find themselves in deep in the Neo-Nazi youth movement in this searing picture written and directed by David Wnendt. When one of the girls decides she wants to leave the group, it will take the loyalty of the other to help her make a clean getaway.
TV ON DVD
— “Portlandia: Season Three” (Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, two discs, 10 episodes, $19.95)
— “Warehouse 13: Season Four” (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly, five discs, 20 episodes, $49.98)
— “Unforgettable: The First Season” (Poppy Montgomery and Dylan Walsh, six discs, 22 episodes, $61.99)
— “How the West Was Won: The Complete first Season” (James Arness and Eva Marie Saint, two discs, three segments, $19.98)
— “Bonanza: The Official Sixth Season, Volume One” (five discs, 18 episodes, $46.99) and “Volume 2” (four discs, 16 episodes, $46.99)
— “Dynasty: The Seventh Season, Volume One” (four discs, 16 episodes, $39.99) and “Volume Two” (three discs, 12 episodes, $39.99)