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DVDs In Brief: December 21, 2011


DVD round-up

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Woody Allen scored the biggest hit of his career with Midnight In Paris (Sony), a sleeper that debuted in May and hung around for the entire summer, where its moony vision of the City Of Light provided a different sort of escapism. It’s charming to a point—that point being whenever it returns to the present day from the inviting world of Paris’ Golden Age of the 1920s—but critics seemed to be grading on a curve. Encounters with iconic figures like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway are thinly sketched, and the film’s self-proclaimed “minor insight” is minor indeed…

One of the great surprises of 2011, Warrior (Lionsgate) isn’t averse to sports-movie clichés, but it invigorates them with passion and sincerity, and plays every big moment to the hilt. The story of two brothers—one a middle-class family man (Joel Edgerton) struggling to make ends meet, the other a troubled war veteran (Tom Hardy)—who enter the same winner-takes-all Mixed Martial Arts tournament, Warrior takes its time credibly establishing their estrangement and their tortured relationship with their alcoholic father (a great Nick Nolte). Then, with stakes carefully raised, the film charges into a grand emotional payoff… 

No fiction film about the current financial crisis—certainly not Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel—has tackled the meltdown with the nuance and level-headedness of Margin Call (Roadside Attractions), a behind-the-scenes drama about the collapse of a Bear Stearns/Lehman Brothers-type investment firm. Faced with figures that suggest a fiscal apocalypse of Fail Safe proportions, the assorted brainiacs at the firm try to figure out what’s best for them, what’s best for the company, and what’s best for the world at large. As the man in the middle of this moral crisis, Kevin Spacey has rarely been better…

Producer Luc Besson has been making the same two or three movies over and over again for the last decade, and Colombiana (Sony) represents the latest in a line of disposable, high-calorie/low-nutrition entertainments in the mold of his 1990 hit Le Femme Nikita. The femme this time around is the reedy Zoe Saldana, sexily seeking revenge for her parents’ murder by becoming a professional assassin and making the man responsible her most desired hit… 

Morgan Freeman lends his air of beatific authority to Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.), a fact-based crowd-pleaser about the unlikely friendship that develops between a little boy and a dolphin that has lost its tail and with it much of its directional ability. There isn’t much separating this from something you might see on Animal Planet, but that didn’t keep this heartstrings-tugger from becoming a minor hit at the box office all the same…