June 19, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 19 April 2012 23:00
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie new or classic to help families choose what to watch. This week our family movie critic takes a look at some recent releases on DVD that you may have missed in the theaters.
The economics of the movie business motivate studios to release films on DVD within months, perhaps weeks, of theatrical release. While popular films may delay home viewing, others that yield disappointing box-office results search for wider audiences on DVD. Check out these new offerings.
War Horse: Spielberg Journeys to the Past
No one knows his way around a movie camera better than Steven Spielberg. For more than 40 years, his magical view of the world has yielded some of the most popular, and most acclaimed, films in our memories.
But the acclaimed director hit a snag late last year with his movie adaptation of War Horse. While the film did manage to land several Oscar nominations, it failed to attract wide audiences even after a massive marketing campaign. To some, the film seemed old fashioned; to others it looked too perfectly packaged at a time when realistic cinema is increasingly popular.
War Horse deserves a second chance. Spielberg beautifully recreates the look and feel of the 1950s and 1960s movie epics. The visuals are wide, the characters are accessible and the moral is clear. While some may view the performances as stilted, they are played in the broad manner of those big films. Sometimes I consider War Horse the best film of 1959; everything it does reminds me of those days. And I think Spielberg did that on purpose.
The Iron Lady: Streep at Her Best
Finally, after years of happily applauding her competitors, the incredible Meryl Streep landed her third Oscar for a breathtaking portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. While Streep’s many fans could breathe a sigh of relief, the film failed to benefit from the "Oscar bump" that most winning movies experience.
The Iron Lady deserves the opportunity, on DVD, to find its audience. Spending time with this marvelous actress, in a rich role she invests with all her skill and instinct, is like observing a master class in screen acting. She plays every moment to perfection. Streep creates a multi-layered portrayal of a legendary woman trying to understand the difference she made as she attempts to get through her daily routine.
Perhaps film audiences expected a standard biopic approach to Thatcher’s life. While we see enough glimpses of political success to appreciate the accomplishments, The Iron Lady is a story of a woman fighting the demons of dementia. That she once ruled a major part of the world is no longer relevant. This woman is simply trying to get control of today. And that challenge as perfectly performed by Streep makes The Iron Lady a must-see.
My Week With Marilyn: A Glimpse of Monroe
Actresses playing real people were popular last year, including this Oscar-nominated work from actress Michelle Williams. While The Iron Lady lets us see into the soul of a great leader, My Week With Marilyn teases us with a peak at what’s inside this legendary actress.
Told through the eyes of a young production assistant on a Monroe film set, My Week With Marilyn promises to reveal the self-destructive demons that plagued Marilyn’s life and work. We see the behavior we expect: the long delays on the set, the reliance on the entourage, the challenges of relationships. But we never see into why this captivating woman found it so difficult to see herself. We learn less about Monroe than we do about the motivations of a young man who sees the actress as his ticket to status.
What’s frustrating is how good the film could have been. Williams’ performance is better than the film deserves; she captures the physical presence that Marilyn naturally conveyed as she suggests the work the actress could accomplish. Williams is held back in portraying the depths of Monroe by a pedestrian script that only wants to tease. The film emerges as a National Enquirer view of a legend who deserves much more.
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