Cinematical's Spin-ematical: New on DVD and Blu-ray for 04/20: 'Avatar,' 'Crazy Heart,' 'The Lovely Bones'

Three films that are, in my opinion, fatally flawed, yet all worth seeing for certain redeeming features.

Avatar
I saw this first in 2-D, intending to glory in the 3-D experience after the crowds died down, and felt so deflated that I never went back. James Cameron's film may be a great technical achievement, but the script, much like Titanic, pounds home the obvious with no subtlety or tact, eliciting little empathy for the one-dimensional characters. But worth seeing for the splendid visuals. Rent it. (Out on Thursday, 04/22.)

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Crazy Heart
Jeffrey Bridges' outstanding performance makes it my pick of the week. He wears his character -- a washed-up singer -- like a beat-up pair of loafers. The story follows predictable beats: last-chance romance with a younger woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal), reconciliation with a former protege (Colin Farrell), resuscitation of a dead career. Yet Bridges rises above it all with grace and honesty. Rent it.

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The Lovely Bones
An admirable failure from Peter Jackson. Truth be told, Alice Sebold's novel would have been more effective without Jackson. As I wrote before: "Jackson is so in love with the material and the premise that he can't resist expanding upon its themes, conflating them with his own ideas on grief, mortality, and the rich fantasy life of teenage girls. The film veers uneasily between entrancing poetry and wrongheaded melodrama, stopping along the way for left-field slapstick and old school cheap thrills." Frustrating, yes, but still a fascinating experience. Rent it.

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After the jump: Indies on DVD, new Blu-rays to buy, and Collector's Corner for classics!



'Summer Hours' (The Criterion Collection)Summer Hours
Juliette Binoche leads the cast of Olivier Assayas' family drama, as three adult siblings decide what to do with the French country estate that will be their inheritance. Jeffrey M. Anderson wrote: "Like [Eric] Rohmer, Assayas stages many dialogue scenes in which characters intellectually try to justify their actions, but the more they talk, the less gets solved. ... The final result is unexpectedly, gloriously moving."

The home video version from the Criterion Collection includes an interview with Assayas, a making-of documentary, another doc that examines the film's approach to art, and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones. In regard to the Blu-ray edition, Gary W. Tooze of DVD Beaver comments: "I'm very happy to have this work looking and sounding so immaculate with the interesting and informative extra features."

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Also out: The Young Victoria, 44 Inch Chest, 35 Shots of Rum, Mammoth, Ex Drummer, K-20: Fiend with Twenty Faces, Old Partner.



'Minority Report' on Blu-rayMinority Report
Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg's breathless sci-fi thriller is surprisingly dark and -- shudder! -- almost grimy, unexpected elements in a Spielberg blockbuster. The premise is that murder can be predicted by unerring psychics. That entitles the police force to arrest people before the most heinous crimes can be committed.

Tom Cruise is a member of the "Pre-Crime" unit who is accused of murder in advance. Naturally enough, he tries to prove his innocence, leading to many opportunities for him to run, run, and run some more, which he does so well in action movies. Substance is sacrificed too often to style, but it's a good, thoughtful ride. Cruise leads a strong cast that includes Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Peter Stormare, Timothy Blake Nelson, and Samantha Morton.

The Blu-ray sports "practically flawless" picture quality, with a second disc filled with "high quality extras," according to Blu-ray.com. "Very highly recommended."

Also out: Fist of Legend, The Basketball Diaries, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever.



'Battleship Potemkin' Battleship Potemkin
Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent picture is, at least on first viewing, more to be admired than relished for its entertainment value. It's the kind of film that is obviously important, but feels like a chore, a classic to be checked off a list.

Writing in 1998, Roger Ebert observed: "If today it seems more like a technically brilliant but simplistic 'cartoon' ... that may be because it has worn out its element of surprise." His essay recalls an outdoor screening that provoked "a sense, a stirring, of the buried power it still contains, awaiting a call."

The new Blu-ray edition from Kino is "the definitive edition of the Eisenstein classic," declares DVD Beaver. No new extras have been produced.

Also out: The White Buffalo, from 1977, directed by veteran craftsman J. Lee Thompson. Our own Scott Weinberg described it as "a bona-fide curio for fans of semi-forgotten cinema. It's an odd mixture of adventure, western, and horror in which Wild Bill Hicock (Charles Bronson) and Crazy Horse (Will Sampson) match wits with, yep, a large buffalo. "