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New Releases: 'Compliance' tells weird true story with able cast

Also reviewed: 'Frankenweenie,' 'Game Change,' 'Samsara.'

January 05, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Ann Dowd in "Compliance."
Ann Dowd in "Compliance." (Magnolia Pictures )

Compliance

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 8

Craig Zobel's film dramatizes that bizarre news story from a few years back about a restaurant manager who forced an employee to strip on the orders of a man impersonating a policeman. Dreama Walker plays the luckless cashier, who by the end of the night is coerced into doing naked jumping jacks in a stockroom (and worse) because her boss (played by the remarkable Ann Dowd) tells her that a cop has accused her of stealing. The even tone of "Compliance" makes the film's more extreme moments hard to believe, even though nearly all of what the movie depicts actually happened. The cast is so terrific that they turn a movie that takes place almost entirely in one dingy room into rich theater. Zobel expounds more on the theme of the film in a commentary track on the DVD and Blu-ray, which also include featurettes.

Frankenweenie

Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99/$49.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 8

In the early '80s, while Tim Burton was working in Walt Disney's animation department, he directed the live-action short "Frankenweenie," about an odd little boy who uses electricity to reanimate his dead dog. Nearly 30 years later, he's revived "Frankenweenie" as a stop-motion feature film. The movie's combination of the macabre and the heartfelt is what made Burton seem like an original when his career began. The relationship between the hero and his deceased pet remains moving, and the story still works, especially for those too young to know Burton-fatigue (but old enough to handle some light horror). The DVD and Blu-ray add the short film, plus featurettes.

Game Change

HBO, $19.97; Blu-ray, $24.99

Based on Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's book of the same name, this HBO movie takes a look back at the tumultuous, historic 2008 U.S. presidential campaign and what happened when the trailing Republican side tried to energize its base by tapping charismatic Alaska governor and self-proclaimed "hockey mom" Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee. Julianne Moore plays Palin, who becomes increasingly hard to manage by campaign strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) and would-be president John McCain (Ed Harris) as she begins to leverage her popularity against their efforts to get her to prepare for the job. "Game Change" is an entertaining film, though it's mostly recounting facts that are widely known and doing so without much insight into the convictions of these politicians. The featurettes on the DVD and Blu-ray focus more on the actual history.

Samsara

MPI, $27.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 8

The creators of the 1992 art house hit "Baraka" return with another visually stunning, globe-hopping "meditation" meant to take viewers on a non-psychedelic mind-trip. The model for these films is Godfrey Reggio's "Koyaanisqatsi," which is still the best of this "string together a bunch of related images of nature and technology and set it to a dreamy score" movies; but "Samsara" director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson also take time to do their project right, capturing amazing natural and human phenomena with the highest-quality cameras, and then cutting the scenes together into a smooth-flowing journey around the planet, exploring spiritual connectivity.

And …

Dredd

Lionsgate, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 8

Enlightened: The Complete First Season

HBO, $39.98; Blu-ray, $49.99

Hit & Run

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 8

House at the End of the Street

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

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 8

Smash: Season One

Universal, $59.98

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