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DVDs In Brief: April 11, 2012


DVD round-up

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Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (Weinstein Company), but the fact that the film also won Best Makeup puts an asterisk on her victory: Her performance is more impersonation than acting, and the people who troweled Thatcher onto her face got just as much credit. The frustrating part is that the film contains nothing notable but her impersonation and the makeup job: It’s a shapeless, disconnected series of historical events that lack insight into Thatcher as a person or a politician, and the film only becomes interesting when it invents an isolated, crazed present-day life for her…

Put the kids to bed: Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty (IFC) isn’t some updating of the Disney classic, but one of last year’s boldest provocations, starring Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning as a low-wage worker at an agency that provides beautiful, partially nude women to serve gourmet meals to wealthy old men. The stakes are raised when she’s asked to take a pill that will knock her out for eight hours and allow clients to do anything they want with her—just so long as there’s no vaginal penetration or evident bruises or scars on her body. Leigh intends a feminist slant on masculine desire, but the film gathers little forward momentum… 

For Into The Abyss (IFC), his fascinating disquisition on the death penalty, director Werner Herzog shows little interest in retrying the case in question, a multiple murder in small-town Texas that left one of the perpetrators on Death Row. And Herzog doesn’t try to hide his own perspective, either: He’s staunchly against the death penalty, and upfront with his subjects about it. Nevertheless, the film deals with the issue fairly and thoroughly, with a equal time given to the victims’ families and wrenching conversations with the government employees who have to carry out the sentence… 

The shockingly bad science-fiction thriller The Darkest Hour (Summit) pits a bored and overqualified Emile Hirsch and some equally forgettable allies against a plague of energy-based alien invaders who resemble migratory clouds of gold dust. The Darkest Hour tries to glean scares from laughably unthreatening tinsel with attitude—static cling with a body count—and fails miserably and predictably in the process…

Done in the style of a Peter Morgan political chamber piece like The Queen or Frost/Nixon, but with a shot of Aaron Sorkin banter, The Conquest (Music Box) tells the story of Nicolas Sarkozy’s surprising and aggressive ascendancy to power in 2007. Though the film generated plenty of pre-release controversy in France, where Sarkozy’s disapproval rating had ballooned to 70 percent, it turns out to be a disappointingly mild and toothless portrait of a man who’s anything but…