DVD reviews: 'Lawless,' 'Men in Black 3' and 'ParaNorman'

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

“Lawless” (2012, R, 116 min., $29.98). There's a lot to like about “Lawless,” a backwoods' look at prohibition directed by John Hillcoat. Decent performances — Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke, to be exact — and some excellent cinematography boost the gritty pic, adapted from Matt Bondurant's 2008 novel “The Wettest County in the World,” but they're not enough to mask the many problems. The film's strongest moments come with violence, as “Lawless” really struggles to tell an interesting tale when the guns aren't drawn. It has the pieces of a fine drama, but doesn't use them properly, and that's why it drags. The movie follows the Bondurant brothers, a successful clan of rural Virginia moonshine makers in the 1930s. The brothers have a good business, and they're not out to make problems. However, when Charlie Rakes (played over the top by Guy Pearce), a crazy special deputy, arrives to put the brothers out of business, it begins a war that will shake up all of Franklin County, Va. Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowski and Gary Oldman also star. “Lawless” has some good extras, including two fantastic-looking featurettes that explore the true story behind the subject for the film and an in-depth look at Franklin County. Also included are deleted scenes, commentary and a music video. 2 Stars.

“Men in Black 3” (2012, PG-13, 106 min., $30.99). Some franchises are better left untouched. “Men in Black 3” further damages the rep of one of the more entertaining pictures from the 1990s. Wasting the talents of Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson, filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld's picture lacks the engaging sense of humor found in the previous two films. The only positive is Brolin, who's a worthy addition to the cast as a young K. Other than that, this is one science fiction picture worth skipping. The picture picks up with Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones) still working in alien control when Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement), an old nemesis of K, busts out of jail. Boris is looking for revenge on K and control of Earth. To stop him, J will have to go back in time, and that means getting to work with a young K in the 1960s. Together, they form a plan to combat Boris and save the day. More importantly, J is able to get a better understanding of his grizzled partner. With Blu-ray packages, there are plenty of special features to be had. One specific featurette that's worth checking out is “The Evolution of Cool: MIB 1960s vs. Today.” Other featurettes explore special effects, scene investigations and plenty of interviews with cast and crew. Also look for a gag reel. 2 Stars.

“ParaNorman” (2012, PG, 92 min., $29.98). It's best to head into “ParaNorman” without high expectations. While it's advertised as coming from the makers of “Coraline,” it's not nearly as good. The family-friendly “ParaNorman” holds terrific animation and it's certainly not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, but it's formulaic and largely forgettable. The picture follows a misunderstood kid named Norman who is able to see ghosts, and even speak to them. When a curse descends upon the town Norman lives in, he turns out to be the only person who can stop it. Norman uses his paranormal skills to speak with a witch who has a history with the town, and it might just make him a hero. Voices are from Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Jeff Garlin, Leslie Mann and Tucker Albrizzi. Special features are about the same on Blu-ray and standard DVD packages. A behind-the-scenes featurette is fun, exploring some of the secrets used in the world of animation. Finally, commentary from filmmakers Sam Fell and Chris Butler is worth checking out, as they touch on some of the motion picture's major issues, including major messages in “ParaNorman,” and storyline. 2 Stars.

“Sparkle” (2012, PG-13, 116 min., $30.99). Best known as Whitney Houston's last film, “Sparkle” is a musical drama about a young performer (Jordin Sparks) who forms a successful singing trio with her sisters. Derek Luke, Mike Epps, CeeLo Green and Omari Hardwick also star in director Salim Akil's picture.

“The Apparition” (2012, PG-13, 82 min., $28.98). Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan and Tom Felton star in this horror pic about a young couple experiencing a haunting presence in their house. They turn to a supernatural expert, as the force continues feed off their fears and grow stronger.

“The Day” (2012, R, 87 min., $26.98). A post-apocalyptic future is on the menu for this thriller that finds five survivors — armed with guns, axes and machetes — working through the back roads in an effort to stay alive. Director Douglas Aarniokoski's picture stars Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Cory Hardict and Dominic Monaghan.

“Step Up Revolution” (2012, PG-13, 99 min., $29.95). Once again, dancing takes center stage in the fourth film of the popular “Step Up” franchise. The film has two dancers rallying their neighbors in a Miami neighborhood that has been tabbed for a planned commercial development.


• “Hot in Cleveland: Season Three” (Valerie Bertinelli and Betty White, three discs, 23 episodes, $29.99)

• “Perry Mason: The Eighth Season, Volume One” (Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale, four discs, 15 episodes, $54.99)

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