Beasts of the Southern Wild
In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the world by a sprawling levee, six year-old Hushpuppy exists on the brink of orphanhood. Her mother long gone, and her father Wink a wildman on a perpetual spree, Hushpuppy is left to her own devices on an isolated compound filled with semi-feral animals. She perceives the natural world to be a fragile web of living, breathing, squirting things, in which the entire universe depends on everything fitting together just right.So when a hundred year storm raises the waters around her town, her daddy is suddenly stricken with illness, and fierce pre-historic creatures awaken from their frozen graves to come charging across the planet, Hushpuppy sees the natural order of everything she holds dear collapsing around her. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive an unstoppable catastrophe of epic proportions. The devastated landscape of the Louisiana bayou becomes a primordial world in the eyes of 6-year-old Hushpuppy (the fierce and magnetic Quvenzhané Wallis). Hushpuppy's father Wink (Dwight Henry), emotionally unstable and increasingly ill, fights to maintain their ramshackle home, along with the rest of the precarious community of the area known as the Bathtub--but a Katrina-esque storm leaves the Bathtub flooded, driving Wink to desperate lengths. Faced with the loss of everything she knows, Hushpuppy decides her only hope is to find her mother, but her only clue is a winking light in the distance. Beasts of the Southern Wild tells its story entirely from the 6-year-old girl's perspective; the actions and emotions of adults take on a mythic scope, as does the damaged environment in which she lives. The movie is dense and rich, often as obscure and murky as the overgrown bayou itself, sometimes off-putting and enticing at the same time. Wallis, her performance brimming with feral energy and a wounded soul, carries the movie with more star power than most adults could muster. The dialogue is thick with intriguing metaphors and the images resist being easily interpreted into a conventional plot, but the story gradually emerges, rising to a potent end. Viewers who take the time to sink into its mysteries will be rewarded. --Bret Fetzer
The Big Bang Theory: Season 5
In the television series, The Big Bang Theory, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) are both brilliant physicists working at CalTech in Pasadena, California. They are colleagues, best friends, and roommates, although in all capacities their relationship is always tested primarily by Sheldon's regimented, deeply eccentric, and non-conventional ways. They are also friends with their CalTech colleagues mechanical engineer Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and astrophysicist Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). The foursome spend their time working on their individual work projects, playing video games, watching science-fiction movies, or reading comic books. As they are self-professed nerds, all have little or no luck with popular women. When Penny, a pretty woman and an aspiring actress originally from Omaha, moves into the apartment across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon's, Leonard has another aspiration in life, namely to get Penny (Kaley Cuoco) to be his girlfriend. The Big Bang Theory: Season 5 is available on DVD in a 3 disc box set. The fifth season of The Big Bang Theory settles into a solid, enjoyable groove. The original quintet of four nerds and a pretty girl has been complemented by two nerd girls, creating a dynamic social world that retains all the social awkwardness needed for comic effect. Much of the season revolves around relationships: Howard (Simon Helberg) is engaged to Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), though that bond is tested by everything from Howard getting commissioned to be an astronaut to online revelations of Howard's former sleaziness; Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) start dating again, this time as "Leonard & Penny 2.0," promising to treat problems as bugs that can be reported and fixed; and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) formalize their relationship with--what else?--a contract, though a dissatisfied Amy later decides to make Sheldon a better boyfriend through sneaky behavior modification. But some of the most delightful bits come from Raj (Kunal Nayyar), the show's remaining singleton, whose ambiguous sexuality flavors everything he says. Nayyar's performance grows increasingly charming, as does Bialik's; in addition to her grappling with Sheldon's impermeable narcissism, the strange undercurrent of lust in Amy's friendship with Penny stirs up comic anxiety. And of course Sheldon never fails to delight as, among other things, he lets all his decisions be determined by a roll of the dice; treats Leonard as "Schrödinger's Friend"; and embraces chaos in his life by playing bongos in the middle of the night and wearing Tuesday pajamas on Thursday night. All in all, though season five feels less surprising than previous seasons, the quality of the writing and performances remains high. The extras on The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fifth Season are unremarkable, except for a featurette about the series' director and designers, which shows a different side of net...
Les Miserables: The 25th Anniversary Concert [Blu-ray]
Experience the event of a lifetime with this spectacular 25th anniversary celebration of one of the most popular musicals ever written, Les Misérables. Honoring 25 years of this incredible show, this momentous film captures the excitement of two magnificent sold-out performances that were watched live around the world. With a phenomenal all-star cast, including pop star Nick Jonas (Jonas Brothers), Tony® Award winner Lea Salonga (the voice of Disney’s Mulan and Princess Jasmine), and over 500 additional artists and musicians, revel in the songs of the unforgettable characters as they struggle for redemption and revolution.
Les Miserables in Concert - 25th Anniversary
Experience the event of a lifetime with this spectacular 25th anniversary celebration of one of the most popular musicals ever written, Les Misérables. Honoring 25 years of this incredible show, this momentous film captures the excitement of two magnificent sold-out performances that were watched live around the world. With a phenomenal all-star cast, including pop star Nick Jonas (Jonas Brothers), Tony® Award winner Lea Salonga (the voice of Disney’s Mulan and Princess Jasmine), and over 500 additional artists and musicians, revel in the songs of the unforgettable characters as they struggle for redemption and revolution. Fifteen years after the historic 10th anniversary concert, the international musical sensation Les Misérables returned for a 25th anniversary concert at London's O2 Arena in October 2010. Like the previous concert, it presents an all-star cast, this time taken from two different 2010 London productions as well as the original 1985 cast. The singers stand at microphones wearing costumes, backed by a huge chorus and three video screens showing some action that can't be represented on stage, though the stage is transformed into a set for some key scenes, such as in the Thénardiers' bar and at the barricade. And as it has for 25 years, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's score vividly captures the passion of Victor Hugo's epic tale of post-Revolutionary France, combining tear-jerking ballads ("I Dreamed a Dream," "Bring Him Home") and rousing anthems ("Do You Hear the People Sing"). The cast is nearly all excellent, including Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, Norm Lewis as Javert, Matt Lucas as Thénardier, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thénardier (reprising her role from 1995), and Katie Hall as Cosette. Teen pop star Nick Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) seems to have been cast as Marius for box-office appeal, however. Though he has the right look and hits the right notes, his voice is weak compared to the rest of the cast and throughout the show he seems to wear the same look of earnest worry, eyes fixed on the horizon as if reading a teleprompter. After playing Eponine in the 1995 concert, Lea Salonga is now Fantine, and while she sings well, the part really calls for more vocal power. Comparing the 1995 concert and 2010, the newer one has superior audio and video, but the earlier one has the stronger cast top to bottom, anchored by many of the legendary performers who helped make Les Mis the sensation it still is today. In acknowledgment of that, after the final scene of the 2010 concert ends, many of the original cast members enter the stage for a thrilling encore. "Bring Him Home" unites original Valjean Colm Wilkinson with John Owen-Jones, Simon Bowman, and Alfi Boe, then Michael Ball, Frances Ruffelle, Alun Armstrong, and others join the cast for "One Day More." (It's hard not to be moved when Ball looks around the stage and sings his line, "My place is here, I fight with you.") Producer Cameron Mackintosh and authors B...
A Clockwork Orange [Blu-ray]
Clockwork Orange, A: Special Edition (BD)]]> Stanley Kubrick's striking visual interpretation of Anthony Burgess's famous novel is a masterpiece. Malcolm McDowell delivers a clever, tongue-in-cheek performance as Alex, the leader of a quartet of droogs, a vicious group of young hoodlums who spend their nights stealing cars, fighting rival gangs, breaking into people's homes, and raping women. While other directors would simply exploit the violent elements of such a film without subtext, Kubrick maintains Burgess's dark, satirical social commentary. We watch Alex transform from a free-roaming miscreant into a convict used in a government experiment that attempts to reform criminals through an unorthodox new medical treatment. The catch, of course, is that this therapy may be nothing better than a quick cure-all for a society plagued by rampant crime. A Clockwork Orange works on many levels--visual, social, political, and sexual--and is one of the few films that hold up under repeated viewings. Kubrick not only presents colorfully arresting images, he also stylizes the film by utilizing classical music (and Wendy Carlos's electronic classical work) to underscore the violent scenes, which even today are disturbing in their display of sheer nihilism. Ironically, many fans of the film have missed that point, sadly being entertained by its brutality rather than being repulsed by it. --Bryan Reesman
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