Picks of the Week
‘The Dark Knight Rises’
(PG-13, 164 minutes, Warner Home Video): Christopher Nolan has made a completely satisfying movie, one steeped enough in self-contained mythology to reward hard-core fans while giving less invested viewers a rousing, adroitly executed piece of popcorn entertainment. Resisting the siren call of 3-D, Nolan opts for Imax, whose bold detail and boxy framing are just right for this big-shouldered production.
The film starts off with a nervy piece of midair showmanship in which the movie’s villain, a terrorist thug named Bane, hijacks a CIA plane. Bane makes almost immediately for Gotham City, where Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been living in wounded seclusion for the past eight years, since he took the rap for killing a city hero.
Of course, there’s a buried truth glancingly referred to in a weary speech delivered by police commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), who is attending a charity event on the grounds of Wayne Manor. Also in attendance: a mysterious brunette named Selina Kyle, who is played by Anne Hathaway and who proves to be the breakout star.
“The Dark Knight Rises” ends on a self-important note that would be insufferable if Nolan and Bale hadn’t so clearly earned it.
Contains intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and profanity.
DVD extras: “The Journey of Bruce Wayne” featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: “The Batmobile Documentary,” a 14-part behind-the-scenes documentary, featurettes “A Girl’s Gotta Eat” and “Shadows & Light in Large Format,” “Reflections: The End of a Legend.” Also available on “The Dark Knight Trilogy.”
(PG-13, 99 minutes, Sony Home Entertainment): Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years and now, in their 60s, they sleep in separate bedrooms. In an effort to recharge the marriage, Kay arranges a visit to a famous therapist named Dr. Feld (Steve Carell).
“Hope Springs” is funny mostly thanks to Jones, who plays Arnold with a pitch-perfect dose of bemusement, discomfort and long-simmering rage. But if Jones provides most of the comedy, he also embodies its most wrenching core. Streep is just as alert, although it’s possible to wish that her sweet, naive character had just one more layer. Carell delivers the most sensitive performance of his career, a blessedly un-mugging turn.
If a quibble is to be had, it would be that it finds resolution in a too-swift, too-pat third act, which seems entirely out of keeping with its ethos of communicating honestly, no matter how difficult. Then again, this is a movie fully aware that just showing up is often more important than even the most cathartic conversation.
Contains mature thematic content involving sexuality.
DVD extras: Commentary with director David Frankel, gag reel, an alternate takes gallery, “Inside the Perfect Marriage” featurette with Streep and Jones. Also, on Blu-ray : four other featurettes, including a making-of and “The Doctor Is In: Steve Carell on Dr. Feld.”
‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’
(PG-13, 92 minutes, Fox): This alternately scrappy and uplifting story of a young Louisiana girl on a fearless journey to save herself and preserve her fragile bayou community has lush, imaginative visuals, a fable-like story reminiscent of great literature and one of the most memorable protagonists – and debut performances – to grace the big screen in a long time.
As the invincible, pint-size heroine named Hushpuppy, newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis just may be the best reason to watch. As the film opens, Hushpuppy is living with her father (Dwight Henry) in a water-logged community of misfits, drunks and swamp-dwellers. When a Katrina-like storm approaches, her father suffers a breakdown, forcing Hushpuppy to take matters into her own hands.
Director Benh Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar have strived to create a new visual language and storytelling style, one that rests somewhere between realism and mytho-poetics. But with its mannered verbal rhetoric and production design of studied eccentricity, “Beasts” plays into the cult of authenticity that plagues so many admiring but patronizing portraits of rural America.
Contains thematic material, including child imperilment, some disturbing images, profanity and brief sensuality. Extras: making-of featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: deleted scenes, auditions (featuring Wallis and Henry), and “Glory at Sea,” “Music” and “The Aurochs” featurettes. WashingtonPost