Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
THE PAST (Artificial Eye). A husband (Ali Mosaffa) and wife (Berenice Bejo), long separated, meet after a four year absence in order to divorce. Her lover (Tahar Rahim) has already moved into their suburban home. The lover’s wife is in a coma. The divorce has a devastating effect on them and their three children. The story and characterisation are interestingly complex. The multi-faceted domestic drama is always totally convincing and emotionally involving. The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, working in France for the first time, is as impressive here as he was in his previous film, the much admired A Separation.
THE MONUMENTS MEN (20th Century Fox). Is any work of art worth dying for? Art experts think it is and attempt during the last months of the World War 2 to find the masterpieces, which the Nazis have looted and hid in salt mines. Hitler has given orders for them to be destroyed. The story is badly told and there is a surprising and disappointing lack of excitement and humour. The cast is headed by George Clooney (who also directs), Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett. The actors are wasted; none of them is believable. John Frankenheimer told a similar story so much better in 1964 in a film about the French Resistance, called The Train.
FAMILY GUY Season 13 (20th Century Fox). This satire on American culture is one the funniest cartoons on American television. Once you start watching the series, it is all too easy to become addicted; but be warned, this DVD is the uncensored version so there is an exceptional amount of sexual innuendo. Some people will also be offended by the way the story of the Nativity of Christ is told. I love the brainy, talking dog, voiced by the creator of the series, Seth McFarlane, who also created and voiced the talking teddy bear in the film, Ted.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (Walt Disney). The major surprise in this 1959 version is that Beauty and the whole court do not have to wait a 100 years to wake up! The Prince kisses her the very same day she was put to sleep. Another innovation is that he gets kidnapped by the wicked fairy. The good fairies (a homely middle-aged trio) rescue him and the cartoon suddenly comes to life in his battle with the forest and a fiery dragon. There is some fine art work. A serious weakness is that Beauty has so very little screen time; and when she is on, the animation is so banal.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 4 (20th Century Fox). Many people prefer to wait until a whole series is on DVD and to be able to watch more than one episode at a time. If you have already seen the first three seasons you will know what to expect. If you haven’t you may be confused by this dysfunctional family and what is going on. The writing and the performances are sophisticated and witty; so, with time, the production’s very distinctive style may well grow on you; on the other hand, it may not. The narrator’s ironic running commentary is, however, a definite plus.