Man of Steel (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD) is not a remake of Richard Donner’s Superman films but the inspiration there. Zach Snyder directs this retelling of the origin story, scripted by comic book movie-veteran David S. Goyer, with sturdy, stalwart, and somewhat inexpressive British actor Henry Caville as the adult Superman. The Krypton origin (with Russell Crowe playing his father, Jor-El, sending his baby into space as his planet blows up) and Earth childhood (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play his loving and protective human parents) is here, as is a city-destroying fight with Krypton patriot Zod (Michael Shannon in this version), the villain of Superman 2. That destruction was singled out for being very un-Superman-like (wouldn’t the red and blue boy scout try to lure Zod someplace a little more remote?) and they have a point. This isn’t The Avengers protecting a city and its people from alien invasion. It’s personal, or at least Snyder tries to make it so, since the rest of the film is a somewhat portentous story of self-discovery by a (super)man who discovers he’s not of this earth but an orphan from space with power greater than any mortal man. With great power comes great responsibility, after all. Wait, that was the other guy, wasn’t it?
Another line from a superhero picture, this one a fellow DC Comics revival, springs to mind: “Why so serious?” There’s nothing wrong with taking a serious approach to the superhero genre – it worked for Batman and The X-Men – but Snyder’s solemnity tends to smother the experience. He give us big spectacle and epic damage in a dour world, draining the screen of bright colors and shooting with that ubiquitous shaky-cam, as if that makes everything seem like a news story in an alternate reality (enough with the exaggerated handheld camerawork already!).
Christopher Reeve’s greatest achievement in Superman and sequels was being serious without seeming to take himself too seriously. Cavill doesn’t really register as anything but a symbol and the film fails to surround him with dynamic personalities that could set off his earnestness. Even Michael Shannon gives up his defining twitchy edge as Zod. Amy Adams plays Lois Lane without the scatterbrained energy of Margot Kidder but doesn’t have much personality to replace it with, Laurence Fishburne is Perry White, and Harry Lennix and Christopher Meloni are military officers charged with getting Superman under control.
It arrives on Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D Combo Packs, two-disc DVD and Digital HD, as well as VOD and cable On Demand. All disc editions include the featurettes “Strong Characters, Legendary Roles,” “All-Out Action” and the more kid-oriented “Krypton Decoded,” plus an UltraViolet digital version for download or streaming.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is the interactive “Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel” viewing mode, which plays the film with running audio / video commentary hosted by Snyder and featuring behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, cast and crew interviews and breaks for short featurettes, and “Planet Krypton,” a faux documentary on the legacy of the dead planet.
Cinephiled and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have teamed up to give away five copies of the Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack of Man of Steel to lucky Cinephiled readers. Details on how to enter are here.
David Gordon Green gets back to the basics with Prince Avalanche (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD), a modest, warm-hearted tale of two guys on a rural road crew, painting traffic lines and pounding in roadside posts on winding forest roads in 1988 Central Texas. Paul Rudd is the senior partner in this odd couple, embracing the solitude and peace of the job while professing his commitment to the girl he left behind, and Emile Hirsch is the little brother of his lady love, hired on as a favor even though the boy would rather be partying in the city. It’s a year after forest fires tore through the area and there’s a quality of ghost story to the film, a sense of loss and disconnection that extends to the relationships that get talked about instead of lived. Green combines the comic warmth and buddy film fun of Pineapple Express with the more laconic, musing quality of his early regional indies for a modest short story of a character piece. It’s a pleasant combination and the characters are good company, which turns out to be enough. Features filmmaker commentary, interviews with David Gordon Green, Rudd, and Hirsch, deleted scenes and featurettes.
Barbara (Adopt, Blu-ray, DVD), directed by Christian Petzold, stars Nina Hoss as a doctor from East Berlin who has been banished to a nowhere village in rural East Germany for carrying on an affair with a man from West Germany. You have to piece together the time and place from the details (this is before The Wall came down and the secret police keep up a campaign of harassment on Barbara) and where there’s a rough, stormy beauty to this seaside village, it’s also something of a prison without walls, which is not lost on this inmate. Hoss is all wrapped up anger and emotional distance as Barbara, which the others in the hospital take as urban arrogance except for the teddy bear-ish doctor (Ronald Zehrfeld) who has accepted his exile with something approaching peace. The critique of the GRD culture committed to breaking the spirits of mavericks and rebels and would-be dissidents is secondary to the human story of Barbara’s quiet revolution, a fight against a dehumanizing system that takes a not-unexpected turn that is still so satisfying. German with English subtitles, no supplements.
More notable new releases:
The acclaimed documentary Blackfish (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD) investigates the ordeal of Tilikum, a killer whale in captivity that took the lives of a number of people, to take on the controversy of capturing and training killer whales for marine park shows. The disc features filmmaker commentary and bonus scenes and interviews.
Turbo (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD) is an animated film about a garden snail who gets a shot of speed in a freak accident and decides to enter the Indy 500. The Dreamworks Animation production features the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody makes her directorial debut with Paradise (Image, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital), starring Julianne Hough as a straight-laced Montana girl who goes looking for experience in Las Vegas. Features director commentary and a featurette.
I Declare War (Drafthouse, Blu-ray, DVD) watches a group of kids push a summer game of Capture the Flag over the edge into troubling violence. With filmmaker commentary and a featurette.
The Attack (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD), from Lebanon, follows the journey of an Israeli Palestinian surgeon from Tel Aviv to Palestine to search for answers after his wife is blamed in a suicide bombing. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.
From Spain comes Animals (Artsploitation, DVD, VOD), about a teenage boy whose best friend is an English-speaking teddy bear and whose fantasy world collides with real life when he falls for a new girl. Catalan with English subtitles, with commentary, featurettes, and bonus short films among the supplements.
And on the cult side of new release rack is Grabbers (IFC, DVD), an Irish monster movie set in an island fishing village that pits Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, and Russell Tovey against tentacle creatures from the ocean.
Red 2 (Summit, Digital HD), the sequel to the action comedy about retired government agents (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren) back in action, and Jobs (Universal, Digital HD), starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, are both available as Digital Downloads two weeks before their respective disc debuts.
Available on VOD and Cable On Demand is the American indie The Dynamiter (Film Movement) and the Afghani drama An Afghan Love Story (Film Movement), and on Friday, November 15, Charlie Countryman debuts On Demand the same day it hits theaters.
Frances Ha (Criterion, Blu-ray+DVD Combo)
Dealin’ With Idiots (IFC, DVD)
Ip Man: The Final Fight (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD)
Ambushed (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray Combo, DVD)
Dream On (TLA, DVD)
Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation (Kino Lorber, DVD)
Rising From Ashes (First Run, DVD)
TuTu Much (First Run, DVD)
In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey (First Run, DVD)
The Citizen (Monterey, DVD, Digital)
As Night Falls (Vicious Circle, DVD)