The biggest film of all time (both in cost and in box office return) is making its way to home video in a decidedly "lite" version. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing James Cameron's 'Avatar' on Thursday, April 22 -- to celebrate earth Day -- in bare bones DVD and Blu-ray editions. Never fear: Fox and Cameron are working on new editions of the film with bonus material, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and deleted and extended scenes -- most likely with a fourth-quarter release in mind. If the DVD marketing for the 'Lord of the Rings' films is any indication, be prepared for an abundance of 'Avatar' editions and versions. While you wait for Thursday to roll around, check out Jeff Bridges' Oscar-winning performance in 'Crazy Heart' and the out-of-this-world story line of 'The Lovely Bones,' both available Tuesday. 'Avatar' (Releasing Thursday, April 22)
What It's About: Director James Cameron's earth-shaking, technologically groundbreaking depiction (in spectacular 3D no less) of life, death, war and redemption on a world somewhere in space, sometime in the future (2154), is a moral tale par excellence. A crippled ex-Marine joins an elite force of mercenaries on the moon Pandora to help clear away the indigenous population (the Na'vi) to make way for a strip-mining operation. His job: become an Avatar -- a human being in a genetically-cloned Na'vi body -- to infiltrate the natives. But as he learns to love the people he has come to destroy, he faces a dilemma: Does he support the troops or does he turn traitor and go with his heart?
It's Kinda Like: Reviewers have likened it to 'Pocahontas,' 'Dances Like Wolves,' and even 'FernGully,' but we prefer to think of it in more classic literary terms: the moral values of 'The Last of the Mohicans' meets the technology of 'Star Wars'
What We Say: James Cameron did his homework. Not only does he hit every right note in the action-thriller-sci-fi-fantasy nexus but he brings into play so many theological, historical, social, political, economic and anthropological themes that the mind boggles. Let's see: there's the Hebrews vs. the Philistines, David vs. Goliath, capitalism vs. agrarianism, cowboys vs. Indians, spiritualism vs. materialism, the Celtic Tuatha De Danaan, colonialism, pantheism, animism, shamanism -- you name it, Cameron appropriated it and threw it into his film. But isn't that what great filmmaking -- and mythmaking -- is all about? As one writer so aptly put it, "'Avatar' does the same things traditional mythologies do: it begs, borrows, and steals from a variety of longstanding human stories, puts them through the grinder, and comes up with something new." And you know what else? Aside from some corny dialogue, it's a darn good five-star movie with some of the most spectacular special effects and battle sequences ever put on film. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
Get 'Avatar' on DVD at Target.com
What It's About: Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who's had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. Spiraling near the bottom, he meets and falls for a young journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and her love helps get him back on track. He begins writing songs and performing concerts again, but the road to redemption is still strewn with roadblocks, and he has to learn one more time just how tough life can be on one man's crazy heart.
It's Kinda Like: 'Payday' meets 'Honeysuckle Rose'
What We Say: Though 'Crazy Heart' drives a predictable country road, the performances and music are so superb that you almost forget the melodramatic plot points that tug at your heartstrings. There's drunkenness, lost chances, new starts, unrequited love -- everything you'd expect in this country and western song of a story brought to the big screen. Bridges takes the character of Bad Blake, crawls into his skin and makes it his own. No wonder he won an Oscar for Best Actor. | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
'The Lovely Bones'
What It's About: An adaptation of the Alice Sebold best-selling novel, 'The Lovely Bones' tells the story of a murdered 14-year-old girl, Susie Salmon, who continues to observe her family from a beautiful in-between world. Although detached from the world she once knew, Susie witnesses the impact of her loss on her loved ones, while her killer skillfully covers his tracks and prepares to murder again.
It's Kinda Like: 'Ghost' meets 'Silence of the Lambs'
What We Say: Director Peter Jackson tried hard here to return to his pre-'Lord of the Rings' days by taking on Sebold's sweeping coming of age story (told from heaven) about family, love, loss and growth. Unfortunately, aside from one sequence near the end of the film, the production is flat and uneventful, the characters uninvolving. Jackson fans would be better served by picking up copies of 'Braindead' (aka 'Dead Alive'), one of the goriest and most brutally funny horror films of all time, or his frightening 'Heavenly Creatures.' | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
On Blu-ray this week:
Steven Spielberg's 2002 take on Philip K. Dick's short story is a straight-ahead sci-fi thriller (with tasteful but never-the-less impressive special effects) that gets fine performances out of Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell, with the added bonus of a very evil Max Von Sydow. The disc is loaded with bonus features not available on the standard DVDs.
'Vivre sa vie' (My Life to Live)
Director Jean-Luc Godard's 1962 breathtaking (and for its time incredibly innovative) look at the life of a Parisian woman. Godard played with camera angles, and mixed music, titles, and dialogue to generally blow the lens off modern film. Stars his wife-at-the-time Anna Karina, whom he filmed lovingly in gorgeous black and white.
Other New April 20 DVD Releases:
'The Young Victoria'
'Cloud 9 '
'44 Inch Chest'
Check out other new April 20 DVD releases at OnVideo.