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New Releases: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is extraordinary

Also: 'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,' 'Brazil,' and 'The Dark Knight Rises.'

December 01, 2012|By Noel Murray
  • Actress Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy on the set of "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
Actress Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy on the set of "Beasts of the… (Jess Pinkham / Fox Searchlight )

Beasts of the Southern Wild

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 4

Part gritty social realism and part fevered post-apocalyptic fantasy, Benh Zeitlin's film is undoubtedly something extraordinary. The grade-school-aged Quvenzhané Wallis stars as Hushpuppy, a girl who lives with her oft-absent father in a water-bound region of Louisiana populated by a mix of people who work the land and teach their kids about the coming floods and the giant, hairy boar-type creatures who will arrive in their wake. The film isn't about poverty or Hurricane Katrina; it takes place in an abstracted world, which Zeitlin explores mainly to show how it hardens his heroine. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" can seem aimless at times, but Wallis serves as an excellent guide, affirming the movie's notion that the most important task that we undertake is to leave a mark for future generations. The DVD and Blu-ray tack on an earlier Zeitlin short film, plus deleted scenes and featurettes.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

MPI, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 4

Documentarian Alison Klayman spent years following dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, watching him work and listening to him talk about his aesthetic philosophy and his disgust with government corruption. Then Ai Weiwei was arrested, and disappeared for months, before returning to public life as a quieter, more shaken man. The story of the arrest is told in this powerful documentary, but only after Klayman delivers a full biography, taking Ai Weiwei's measure as an artist as well as an activist. It's a fine record of a person and a situation that too few people know. The DVD and Blu-ray add additional footage.

Brazil

Criterion Blu-ray, $49.95

It was nearly 30 years ago that Monty Python's Terry Gilliam made the leap from talented oddball to certified visionary with this sci-fi comedy about a romantic bureaucrat who gets ground up in the system. Now the film is available on Blu-ray from Criterion in a spiffy-looking two-disc edition that adds a Gilliam commentary, multiple looks back at the troubles Gilliam had getting the movie released, and the complete, radically shortened version that the studio intended to put out. As a whole, the package is a fascinating examination of the state of art and commerce in Hollywood in the early '80s. Plus, the movie itself is still a wow: funny, moving and full of the kind of crazy imagery that only Gilliam could conceive.

The Dark Knight Rises

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 4

Writer-director Christopher Nolan completes his weighty, gloomy Batman trilogy, which sees the Caped Crusader (played again by Christian Bale) dealing with a super-strong anarchist-terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy). As always, Nolan delivers a superhero movie with tense, believable action sequences and a strong philosophical core, having to do with the importance of symbolic figures to advance an ideology. The only major problem with "The Dark Knight Rises" is that it doesn't do anything that its predecessor "The Dark Knight" didn't do better, but this is still a powerhouse movie, made with peerless skill — and one that'll be remembered. The DVD and Blu-ray will help in that regard, thanks to hours of behind-the-scenes material.

And…

Alps

Kino Lorber, $29.95

Hope Springs

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD Dec. 4

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 4

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Kino Blu-ray, $24.95

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