Pickings are slim on new-release DVD shelves

G.W. Clift

By A Contributor

In the spring, folks go outside. If they are going to buy things, they buy Easter clothes. So Hollywood puts relatively few recent general release titles out on home viewing media. What would be the point?

Consequently, when you go looking to rent a new movie this month, you’ll find Stephen Spielberg’s sentimental epic “Warhorse” and the crime movie “Contraband” with Marky Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, two really cool customers. But really not many other films.

Probably most people who like movies will like “We Bought a Zoo,” last Christmas season’s Cameron Crowe movie, and it will soon be out on d.v.d. It stars Matt Damon as a widower with two children who quits his job and dumps all his resources into the revitalization of a private zoo. This is his attempt to get over the family tragedy, and it runs parallel to his son’s risking everything on a romance with a girl played by one of the Fannings.

Scarlett Johanson and Patrick Fugit (star of Crowe’s “Almost Famous”) play zoo employees, and Thomas Haden Church (from “Sideways”) and Peter Riegert (of “Animal House” and “Local Hero”) play dad’s advisors. Crowe manages to keep this from being too bland, but it will offend no one. Except people who think zoos are just wrong.

Action movie fans will soon have a chance to own their own copy of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” which is the best of the MI movies, despite the absence of Ving Rhames during most of the action.

The littlest samurai, Tom Cruz, is back as the leader of a four man squad chasing a Swedish terrorist who wants to use satellites to direct ICBMs against their owners. Director Brad Byrd keeps things hopping to the point that viewers are never confused or skeptical, and the action can be spectacular. Simon Pegg is delightful as the team’s tech specialist.

“The Darkest Hour,” with Emile Hisch, shares Moscow settings and the Swedish villain idea with “Ghost Protocol.” But “DH” is a horror movie about Americans trying to survive an attack by outer space guys. It’s cheap fun.

Better is the Oscar-winning “The Artist,” a dialog-free re-make of “A Star is Born.” Writer and director Michel Hazanavicius uses a couple of likable French actors in his leads. But this is a Hollywood story, set in and celebrating early Hollywood studio days, and the supporting cast is all recognizable American and British talent.

Some recent DVD releases might be worth your attention. Michelle Williams is terrific as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn,” a bit of hagiographic revisionist history concerning the celebrity actress’s visit to England in the early 1960s to make a movie with Olivier. “Toast,” a similar memoir, this time of a guy who went on to be a writer about food, gives Helena Bonham Carter a chance to show some range, playing a working-class, middle-aged woman engaged in a culinary battle for the heart of a middle-class man.

The best recommendation for viewers who like acting, though, is “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” a recent cinematic version of the famous le Carre spy novel. Gary Oldham plays George Smiley, recently turned out of the British spy service and now suddenly invited back to find a highly-placed traitor. With John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds,...heck, Mark Strong deserved an award for his turn, and he’s on the second page of the cast list.

And, of course, “Iron Lady” is out this month on DVD. Here’s a movie about Margaret Thatcher with Meryl Streep in the lead. I haven’t seen the film. But I’d wager there’s some acting going on in it.

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