DVD reviews: 'Gravity,' 'Nebraska' and 'Blue is the Warmest Color'
“Gravity” (2013, PG-13, 91 min., $28.98) The advances in cinema continue to astound viewers, and filmmakers are always raising the bar. With “Gravity,” director Alfonso Cuaron effectively blew us away. Cuaron's flick, which he wrote with his son, Jonas, is a gripping thriller set in outer space. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, “Gravity” finds four astronauts on a routine mission in space. When their shuttle is destroyed in a disastrous series of events, Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Lt. Matt Kowalski (Clooney) are left floating out into the darkness with not much chance of survival. It will take tremendous wherewithal if the astronauts want to find their way back to Earth. Bullock is tremendous here, as is the work done by the director in making “Gravity” a reality. The story of survival is wonderfully played out, and it puts the viewer through a remarkable experience that won't soon be forgotten. Perhaps that's why Cuaron's “Gravity has been widely regarded as one of the best of 2013. Blu-ray and standard DVDs carry some fine special features, especially in capturing the intense production of the film. Most of the answers are here, in regard to how Cuaron put “Gravity” together. 3.5 Stars.
“Nebraska” (2013, R, 115 min., $29.99) Whether it be “The Descendants” or “Election” or “Sideways,” Alexander Payne is a director who consistently puts out terrific work. With “Nebraska,” the filmmaker has again made a movie that solidly stands as one of the best movies of 2013. Its six Oscar nominations can back that up. Brilliant performances from Bruce Dern, June Squibb and Will Forte as well as cinematography that captures the spirit of the country's Midwest are terrific, but it's the simple story of a father and son on a road trip that grabs the viewer. The picture finds an older man named Woody (Dern) determined to get from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million-dollar marketing prize. His family knows it's a scam, but Woody won't budge. So, his son David (Forte) agrees to drive him. It's a trip that brings Woody and David to a better understanding of each other. Standard DVDs are without any extras, but Blu-ray packages feature an extended making-of featurette that explores the script, characters, locations, working with Payne and putting together the family. No commentary is available. 3.5 Stars.
“Blue is the Warmest Color” (2013, NR, 179 min., $19.95) One of the most-discussed movies of 2013 was Abdellatif Kechiche's “Blue is the Warmest Color.” This romantic coming-of-age drama — based on a graphic novel of the same name — is a wonderfully emotional tale that covers the ups and downs of a young lesbian's relationship with another woman in France. While the film is just under three hours and carries with it some intense sexual sequences, it is above all else a remarkable love story that's played out with incredible performances from Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The 2013 winner of the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Kechiche's film passionately clutches at the heart. The feature follows Adele (Exarchopoulos), a teen who's experiencing a sexual awakening in high school after she falls for Emma (Seydoux), a girl who's a few years older. They begin a relationship that finds them falling in love with each other. Some years later, though, Adele has a misstep, and it causes much heartbreak. Released on to the Criterion Collection, “Blue is the Warmest Color” is without any special features, which is a shame. 3 Stars.
“Thor: The Dark World” (2013, PG-13, 111 min., $29.99) Chris Hemsworth returns to the role of Marvel's Thor in this sequel to the successful 2011 picture. In this latest adventure, Thor faces off against an ancient race set out to control the universe. With help from his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the task turns out to be a great one.
“Narco Cultura” (2013, R, 103 min., $29.95) In this interesting documentary, filmmaker Shaul Schwarz takes a riveting look at narcocorridos, a musical phenomenon that's headed toward the mainstream. Narcocorridos is a genre that pays tribute to the traffickers and drug lords in Mexico, and openly glorifies violence, drugs and money.
“Twice Born” (2012, R, 127 min., $24.98) Starring Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch, director Sergio Castellitto's picture — based on the European bestseller of the same name — follows an Italian professor returning to Sarajevo with her son to show him where she fell in love with his father, a photographer who died in the Balkan war.
“Muscle Shoals” (2013, PG, 111 min., $26.98) Featuring interviews with music legends like Gregg Allman, Bono, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys and Keith Richards, filmmaker Greg Camalier's documentary focuses on the genius of Rick Hall, a genius producer who was responsible for creating the magnetic “Muscles Shoals sound.”
“You Will Be My Son” (2011, R, 102 min., $24.98) Paul (Niels Arestrup) is the domineering proprietor of his prestigious family wine estate, and he has little faith in his son (Lorant Deutsch) to take over the business after he's gone. As a result, his son has lost confidence in his own ability, and it makes for a difficult relationship in the Bordeaux region.
“Mr. Nobody” (2009, R, 155 min., $26.98) Jared Leto, Sarah Polley and Diane Kruger have lead roles in this film written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael. The picture tells the story of a fellow named Nemo Nobody, a 118-year-old man who stands as the last mortal on the planet Earth after the human race has achieved quasi-immortality.
“Lost in Thailand” (2012, NR, 105 min., $24.98) Two rival businessmen hit the road to Bangkok in an attempt to track down their boss and secure a patent on a revolutionary new product. When one of the men gets sidetracked by a happy-go-lucky travel partner, he realizes he's been putting all of his priorities in the wrong place.
“Scarecrow” (2013, NR, 86 min., $14.93) Director Sheldon Wilson's film made its debut on SyFy around Halloween, and it follows a group of teens working on a farm in a small town. The teens are aware of an urban myth that haunts the area, and eventually, they find that there's truth behind the story of a blood-thirsty scarecrow.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“King of the Hill” (Jesse Bradford and Karen Allen, 1993, PG-13, 103 min., $39.95)
“The 300 Spartans” (Richard Egan and Ralph Richardson, 1962, NR, 114 min., $19.99)
TV ON DVD
“Legit: Season 1” (one disc, 13 episodes, $29.98)
“Mama's Family: The Complete Season Three” (four discs, 25 episodes, $29.95)
“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: Season 1” (one disc, 14 episodes, $29.93)