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DVDs In Brief: September 19, 2012 


DVD round-up

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Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s relentlessly clever horror-comedy Cabin In The Woods (Lionsgate) comments on a decade of mechanized gore movies like Saw and Final Destination, where young people were helplessly ground up in the gears of death. It’s also the odd film that plants its big reveal in the earlygoing, so the less specific said about it, the better. Suffice to say, Whedon and Goddard pick apart the genre with more knowing wit than anything since the original Scream, and offer the biggest rewards to horror fans that can spot all the tropes…

The sleepytime charms of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox), which sends an all-star cast of retirement-age British stars to India, are slight but tangible. While largely avoiding easy jokes—or at least the easiest jokes—of stuffy Brits getting lost in the sub-continent, it wrings some real pathos out of their mild epiphanies and late-in-life attempts to find happiness. Come for Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and others. Stay for the scenery. Then settle in for a nice nap on the couch…

What happened to Rob Reiner? At this point, his career can be graphed on the curve, starting at the top with This Is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, The Princess Bride, and When Harry Met Sally… and sliding down, down, down to a pair of family-friendly duds, Flipped and The Magic Of Belle Isle (Magnolia). Morgan Freeman stars as an author who struggles with alcoholism until moving to the lovely Belle Isle, where a pretty neighbor (Virginia Madsen) and her family set him on the right path. “I lost all my good words long ago,” Freeman says at one point. Ditto Reiner… 

During the tour when Katy Perry: Part Of Me (Paramount) was photographed, pop diva Perry announced her divorce from comedian Russell Brand, a moment that results in the film’s only bit of drama. Will she go onstage in São Paulo, Brazil that night or will the emotional fallout be too much for her? Her decision isn’t much of a surprise—the show must go on, after all—but it’s the one time when the film, which purports to go behind-the-scenes, gets something from Perry that approximates human feeling. Otherwise, it’s just another synthetic concert movie… 

The invention of the vibrator in the 1880s evinces titters-a-plenty from Hysteria (Sony), a broad period comedy that makes joke after joke about the scandalized response and leaves it at that. Director Tanya Wexler views this potentially fascinating historical footnote from a 21st-century vantage, and misses the opportunity to more incisively chronicle the mood of the times…