Cinematical's Spin-ematical: New on DVD and Blu-ray

Whip It

Drew Barrymore directs Ellen Page in a coming-of-age tale set in the rough and tumble world of roller derby. As you might expect for the directorial debut of an actor, nearly eveyone in the cast gets their own moment to shine, which drags down the pacing, but overall this is bright and lively entertainment. Page is terrific as a young woman seeking to break out from a small town, but not certain she wants to leave everyone behind. Rent it.

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Michael Jackson: This is It
Jackson's tragic death converted behind-the-scenes footage into a must-see documentary for millions of his fans as well as the merely curious. "A strange, confusing look into Michael Jackson's world, or at least the version of it that his friends, family, and/or estate wanted us to see," wrote Cinematical's Jenni Miller. Jackson fanatics: Buy it. All others: Skip it.

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Bruce Willis stars as an FBI agent in Jonathan Mostow's adaptation of a comic book in which humans control artificial representations of themselves. Our own Jeffrey M. Anderson opined: "It's more of a thriller than a cautionary tale, and it doesn't go very deep in either direction." Sci-fi fans: Rent it. All others: Skip it.

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Also out: Saw VI, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Give 'Em Hell Malone

After the jump: Indies on DVD, plus more Blu-ray picks and Collector's Corner.

Bright Star
Jane Campion's romantic drama stars Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, and Paul Schneider. "Campion captures all of this in a remarkable understated fashion," observed Jen Yamato in her review for Cinematical. "Like the artists of the Romantic period, she favors naturalism, in both form and emotion."

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Soul Power
Music history comes alive in Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's terrific documentary. The film consists of footage shot in 1974 as final preparations were being made for a music festival in Zaire, intended to accompany the "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, and other notable musicians appear. As I've written previously: "It made me nostalgic for the days when Ali spoke his mind."

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Prom Night in Mississippi
Morgan Freeman offers to pay for an integrated high school prom in his hometown of Charleston, Mississippi. "The change is not that easy," wrote Cinematical's Monika Bartyzel. "Some students quarrel over the idea, white parents insist on still throwing their own white prom, and bigoted ideas continue to face off against more enlightened attitudes. ... it's inspiring, fun, and well worth the 90 minutes."

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Also out: Little Ashes, The Escapist, Frontier of Dawn, Fireball, Pontypool, The Boys Are Back, St. Trinian's.

'Fame' (1980)Fame (1980)
The remake may have landed with a thud, but Alan Parker's original remains a lively musical fantasy. The storyline is pure melodramatic cheese, following a motley crew of gifted, dedicated students at New York's High School for the Performing Arts as they deal with life and love as only actors, musicians, and dancers can do, channeling their passions into their art. Only a couple stand out (Irene Cara, Gene Anthony Ray), while the rest are insufferably self-involved or frustratingly self-effacing, just like high school for the rest of us.

Still, when a crowded cafeteria bursts into a spontaneous performance ("Hot Lunch"), it's pretty freakin' magical, feeling like a dam bursting from the pressure of a roaring flood of hormones and nervous energy. It's raw and ridiculous and riotous. And there are just enough of those moments to inspire a kind of wincing nostalgia for all the performing arts kids, who seemed to crash and burn at a much higher rate than they should have.

The Blu-ray features a "class reunion commentary with branching video highlights" with the participation of director Parker and several of the film's stars, as a four-song CD sampler of the soundtrack.

Atonement | Pride & Prejudice
Joe Wright directs two British period pieces starring Keira Knightley. The former adapts Ian McEwan's novel, in which a young girl (Saoirse Ronan) makes a false accusation, throwing the lives of all around her into chaos. The latter features Knightley in Jane Austen's upper class love story.

Also out: The Toolbox Murders, Highlander: Immortal Edition

Paris, Texas
(The Criterion Collection)
Harry Dean Stanton stars as a drifter seeking ... something. Wim Wenders' quietly magnificent, deliberately-paced film may best be experienced as a mystery, without knowing exactly where it's going, which puts the viewer on par with Stanton's mute character. "Paris, Texas uses the familiar thematic construct of the Western, and updates it with a contemporary setting," observes Rumsey Taylor at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "This revision is acknowledged subtly, as the film is conducted in somber nostalgia."

"You can forget what a poignant film this is until you see it again and it's a true pleasure to own it in such an excellent audio and video transfer with the extensive extras," Gary W. Tooze enthuses at DVD Beaver about the new Blu-ray edition. "Very strongly recommended!" DVD Beaver includes screen shots and comparisons to previously-released DVD editions.

Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero) (The Criterion Collection)
Available on DVD. "Open City is generally considered one of the greatest films ever made," writes Jeffrey M. Anderson for Cinematical, "and Criterion adds it and the other two to an impressive list of Rossellini titles they have released. ... These movies are notable for establishing the 'Italian Neorealism' movement that cropped up just after WWII." Read the rest of Jeff's article for more on the films includes, and other films by Rossellini that are still missing on DVD.