DVD reviews: 'Frozen,' 'American Hustle' and 'Saving Mr. Banks'
“Frozen” (2013, PG, 102 min., $29.99) Disney isn't short on classics, but it's been awhile since the world that Walt built added a classic to the canon. “Frozen,” a winner of two Academy Awards, will be enjoyed for years to come. The animated feature carries a wonderful story that's highlighted by well-drawn characters and remarkable music. It hits all the right notes, and should score well with adults and children alike. Featuring voice work from Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk and Idina Menzel, the picture takes place in the world of Arendelle, a kingdom where Elsa (Menzel), who has the power to generate ice, is set to become queen. When the public becomes aware of her power, she's shunned and Arendelle is cast into a deep winter. It's up to Elsa's sister Anna (Bell) to bring her sister back to defrost their homeland. It won't be easy, as Elsa is set on remaining away from those who pushed her aside. Blu-rays and standard DVDs carry some excellent special features, including a thorough making-of featurette, as well as a look at Disney's journey to making “Frozen.” Deleted scenes, a few music videos that coincide with music from the film and a Mickey Mouse short also are on board as extras. 3.5 Stars.
“American Hustle” (2013, R, 138 min., $30.99) Director David O. Russell has been on a roll of sorts, making acclaimed movies, one after another. His latest, “American Hustle,” picked up plenty of praise, including 10 Oscar nominations. The film takes some of its storyline from the Abscam FBI sting operation from the 1970s and ‘80s, but a lot of it is fictionalized. The sting was set up to catch politicians taking bribes, and it nabbed a handful. Abscam serves as more of a backdrop here, as the pic's more of a character study of those interesting players involved. “American Hustle” features some of the best performances of the year from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The actors boost a picture that's got some problems in the storyline department. It's an energetic film that puts more emphasis on atmosphere than it does plot, and that's a problem. Blu-ray and standard DVDs carry a few special features, including a group of deleted scenes and a featurette that looks a the work that went into the production of the film. The making-of extra includes some fascinating stuff, including interviews with members of the cast and crew. 2.5 Stars.
“Saving Mr. Banks” (2013, PG-13, 125 min., $29.99) The iconic “Mary Poppins” was released in 1964 by Walt Disney, and it racked up universal acclaim. Adapted from a 1934 novel of the same name by P.L. Travers, the film underwent a long journey to the silver screen. That long journey was due to Travers, who made it awfully difficult for Walt Disney to adapt her book into a film. Director John Lee Hancock's picture explores the relationship between Travers (Emma Thompson) and Disney (Tom Hanks), who worked for more than 20 years to get the writer to sign away the rights for the story. While dealing with the Disney struggle, the picture also does a fine job of offering a character study of Travers, and the reasons behind her hesitance to offer “Mary Poppins” to the big screen. Hancock offers an interesting tale that provides a lot of insight on the story, and it's put together well with flashbacks from Travers' upbringing. The film is further lifted by fine performances from Thompson and Hanks. Standard DVDs and Blu-ray packages offer deleted scenes and a featurette that explores the Disney Studios lot during the time of the making of “Mary Poppins.” 3 Stars.
“Kill Your Darlings” (2013, R, 104 min., $35.99) A talented cast suits up for a thriller directed by John Krokidas about the early days of the some of the Beat Generation's best, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and a murder that involves a friend. Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Foster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen and Michael C. Hall star.
“Here Comes the Devil” (2012, NR, 98 min., $26.98) Adrian Garcia Bogliano wrote and directed this dark picture about a mother and father who lose track of their son and daughter, only to find them the next day. The parents notice a change in their children immediately and, based on a local legend, realize a sinister presence in their home.
“The Patience Stone” (2012, R, 102 min., $30.99) Atiq Rahimi co-wrote and directed this moving drama that's based on his novel of the same name. The film follows a young woman in a war-torn country watching her injured and comatose husband. Tired of the suffering, she lets out all of her secrets to the silent husband, and things change for the better.
“Easy Money: Hard to Kill” (2012, NR, 99 min., $29.95) A follow-up to the 2010 hit “Easy Money,” this one moves forward with JW (Joel Kinnaman) paying the price for crimes committed in the first film. Working to get back on an honest path, he soon realizes that going straight isn't easy once one has stepped into the world of crime.
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (2013, PG-13, 141 min., $29.98) The latest biopic to follow the footsteps of Nelson Mandela has British actor Idris Elba playing the late South African president, and it's based on a 1995 autobiographical book. This one charts Mandela's early days, as well as his imprisonment and his peaceful rise to power.
“Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol. 1” (2013, NR, 85 min., $19.98) Legendary B-movie director Lloyd Kaufman returns as a director for this film that finds a young couple up against a band of Cretins — formerly the glee club — in an attempt to save the day for Tromaville High School. Catherine Corcoran and Asta Paredes are in lead roles.
“Reasonable Doubt” (2013, R, 91 min., $19.98) Samuel L. Jackson and Dominic Cooper square off in a suspense-filled thriller about an up-and-coming district attorney who's involved in a fatal hit and run. When another man is charged, the DA puts his best effort in at throwing the case, but soon realizes he might have made a mistake.
“Swerve” (2011, R, 86 min., $24.98) No, this isn't another dance movie. Jason Clarke, David Lyons and Emma Booth star in a thriller about a man who decides to pull over and help a beautiful woman in distress after a car crash. It turns out to be an unlucky move for the good samaritan, as he finds himself in a bad spot.
“Commitment” (2013, NR, 113 min., $24.98) In order to save his sister's life, a young North Korean man is forced to defect to South Korea and become a spy for his homeland. When the teen gets mixed up in another ordeal, his cover is blown, and the South and North Korean governments make an effort to get rid of the spy quickly.
“Contracted” (2013, NR, 78 min., $24.98) A young woman (Najarra Townsend) finds trouble after a one-night stand with a stranger (Simon Barrett) that leaves her feeling sick. It's not an STD, though, as the woman's condition deteriorates fast. She soon finds out she's the host of something much more sinister, and it could hurt those around her.
“The Wrath of Vajra” (2013, NR, 115 min., $24.98) Beginning in the 1930s in Japan, a young boy and his brother are recruited by a death cult formed by the Imperial Army. When the boy is forced to kill his brother, he makes an oath for revenge. He bides his time until he gets a chance as an adult, and begins to hatch his vengeful plan.
“Almost Sharkproof” (2012, NR, 90 min., $14.93) Jon Lovitz, Cameron Van Hoy and Michael Drayer lead the way in a comedy about two broke buddies who come up with the idea for shark-proof wetsuits. In order to get their plan off the ground, the boys head to a local loan shark. Unfortunately, a beautiful woman throws their plan off track.
“FLU” (2013, NR, 122 min., $26.98) Kim Sung-soo wrote and directed this thriller that unfolds in the Seoul suburb of Bundang, where a human trafficker has just died from a mysterious virus. Soon after, deaths begin popping up all over, and medics work to find a cure. As the fatalities rise, a cure is within sight, but there's not much time.
“The Little Rascals Save the Day” (2014, PG, 93 min., $22.98) A modern version of “Our Gang” is out on video, as Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla, Petey and the Dog hit the streets in this family film from Alex Zamm. This adventure has the gang trying to earn enough money to save Grandma's Bakery from a shady businessman.
“Iron Sky: Director's Cut” (2012, NR, 93 min., $29.98)
“The Horror at 37,000 Feet” (1973, NR, 73 min., $19.99)
TV ON DVD
“Flashpoint: The Final Season” (three discs, 13 episodes, $42.99)
“Monsters: The Complete Series” (nine discs, 72 episodes, $99.98)