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DVDs In Brief: May 26, 2010

Director John Hillcoat put Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road onscreen with all the bleak style he brought to The Proposition, yet critics and audiences still balked. The Road (Sony) is faithful, loving, and beautifully shot, but it lacks the elegiac effect of McCarthy’s prose, and substitutes a dreary, dragging misery for McCarthy’s page-turning brevity. And in a way, the screen brings viewers even closer to McCarthy’s ragged, starving father and son as they die by painful, grubby inches…

Speaking of McCarthy, don’t-call-him-a-romance-novelist Nicholas Sparks dubbed McCarthy’s Blood Meridian “the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written.” He’s wrong, but Blood Meridian has remained unadapted while Hollywood has been plenty busy churning out adaptations of Sparks’ own overwrought, melodramatic novels. Dear John (Sony) is slightly more tolerable than the Sparks/Miley Cyrus collaboration The Last Song, in large part due to the chemistry between stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried—and decidedly not due to Sparks’ usual machinations.

The first season of HBO’s True Blood had plenty of pulp raunch, but much of it was undercut by the way creator Alan Ball attempted to freight the supernatural goings-on in a backwater Louisiana town with social significance. True Blood: Season Two (HBO) more firmly embraces the trashy Southern gothic of Charlaine Harris’ novels, and it gives plenty of screen time over to juicy villains likes the ones played by Michelle Forbes and Alexander Skarsgård…

Hong Kong martial-arts maestro Tsui Hark proved his mettle in the past with Once Upon A Time In China and Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain, but he’s been losing the battle with coherence lately. Released to festivals five years ago, his Seven Swords (Dragon Dynasty) doesn’t sound terribly complicated, story-wise: Emperor bans martial arts and offers a cash bounty for the heads of those who practice it. Bad guys use this decree as an excuse to lop the heads off villagers indiscriminately. Seven good guys with special swords fight the bad guys. Sounds simple, right? Then why is it two and a half hours of WTF?