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New releases on DVD: 'Life of Pi'

Also reviewed: 'Wuthering Heights,' 'Smashed' and 'This Must Be the Place.'

March 10, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi."
Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi." (20th Century Fox )

Wuthering Heights

Available on VOD beginning March 12

Having dissected class conflict in the U.K. in her acclaimed films "Red Road" and "Fish Tank," director Andrea Arnold now jumps back 200 years to provide a similar take on Emily Brontë's classic. Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" is grubby and elemental, telling the story of a doomed romance between a Yorkshire lady and her adopted brother — depicted as black in the movie, as opposed to Romany in the novel. As filtered through Arnold's sensibility, Brontë's tale is just a rough thread on which to hang impressionistic, dialogue-free scenes of muddy farm-folk, in conflict over what they consider to be their property. In other words: This "Wuthering Heights" isn't for fans of faithful literary adaptations, or for English lit students looking for a way to avoid reading the novel. It's a raw cinematic experience, filled with powerful documentary-style imagery and unspoken commentary on how people from different worlds relate to each other.

Life of Pi

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99/$49.99

Available on VOD beginning March 12

Director Ang Lee and screenwriter David Magee's multi-Oscar-winning adaptation of Yann Martel's bestseller "Life of Pi" is at once a coming-of-age story, a spiritual inquiry and one of the grandest old-fashioned adventure stories the screen has seen in years. Suraj Sharma stars as the title character, an Indian teenager who journeys with his zoo-owning family to Canada, and ends up getting stranded in the middle of the ocean, on a lifeboat occupied by a man-eating tiger. The story mixes true-to-life survivalist detail with wild fantasy, all recontextualized by a closing sequence that challenges viewers to think about what kind of stories they prefer, and why. It's a beautiful, thrilling, thought-provoking movie. The DVD and Blu-ray come with deleted scenes and extensive featurettes.

Smashed

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning March 12

Writer-director James Ponsoldt doesn't do much to reinvent the "bender" movie with his indie drama "Smashed." His characters get ground through the usual mill: suffering public embarrassments, hitting rock bottom, then struggling to get clean and regain the trust of friends, family and co-workers. The big difference is that Ponsoldt and his co-screenwriter Susan Burke have Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul, who play a libertine married couple beginning to realize that they're not just "fun-loving," they may be alcoholics. These lead performances — so in-the-moment, so on-the-edge — are the main reason to see "Smashed," which otherwise hits too many familiar notes. The DVD and Blu-ray add deleted scenes, featurettes and a Winstead/Ponsoldt commentary track.

This Must Be the Place

TWC/Starz/Anchor Bay, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.99

Available on VOD beginning March 12

The very definition of a "not for everyone" film, writer-director Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must Be the Place" stars Sean Penn as a retired rocker — purposefully reminiscent of the Cure's Robert Smith — who travels across the country to confront the ex-Nazi who tormented his late father at Auschwitz. Sound like a strange idea for a movie? Well, it is; and Sorrentino doesn't even try to render it conventionally, instead alternating moody slice-of-life scenes with aggressively stylish interludes (much as in his previous film, the arty, political biopic "Il Divo"). The results are both needlessly pretentious and genuinely original. Viewers who can endure Sorrentino's worst impulses will be rewarded.

And…

Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away

Paramount, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning March 12

Hitchcock

20th Century Fox Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning March 12

Rise of the Guardians

DreamWorks, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99/$54.99

Available on VOD beginning March 12

This Is Not a Film

Palisades Tartan, $19.98

Tristana

E1/Cohen, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.98

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