Video Verdict: ‘Predators,’ ‘Oceans,’ ‘Please Give’

A diver takes a swim next to a great white shark in “Disneynature: Oceans.”

This week’s home video releases are all over the map, with important titles ranging from an intimate drama featuring some of today’s best actors to a science-fiction flick that’s all about action.

Predators
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated R for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Depending on how you look at it, “Predators” is either the second or fourth sequel to director John McTiernan’s now-beloved 1987 science-fiction effort, “Predator.” The confusion stems from the fact that the “Predator” franchise has twice crossed over with the “Alien” films.

In this new reading, courtesy of producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal, the creatures from “Alien” are nowhere to be seen, and that’s a good thing. While it would be a mistake to call “Predators” inventive or brainy, it is entertaining throughout, which is more than I can say for the “Alien Vs. Predator” flicks.

The plot sees a group of humans yanked away from their lives and transported to an unknown jungle. This in itself is exciting, as the first image that viewers get is of a tough guy named Royce (Adrien Brody) free falling through the sky. At the last second, his parachute opens landing him in a mysterious jungle.

Soon, Royce realizes that six other humans have gone through a similar experience, and they form a ragtag band that includes a sniper named Isabelle (Alice Braga), a member of a Mexican drug cartel (Danny Trejo), and a physician named Edwin (Topher Grace).

Slowly, the seven humans realize that they have been relocated to an alien game reserve so that the fearsome creatures known as Predators can hunt and kill them. The plotting is simple, but Antal is good with action and the cast is better than normal for this genre. The film loses steam in its less-than-stellar third act, but it should still satisfy fans of both the “Predator” franchise and sci-fi horror films in general.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include motion comics related to the movie and an audio commentary by Rodriguez and Antal.

Disneynature: Oceans
3½ stars
Rated G
Disney
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Anyone who loves nature footage will find it difficult to resist “Oceans,” a spellbinding documentary that explores our planet’s seas with grace and skill. Directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, who also teamed for 2001’s “Winged Migration,” the film features stunning images of everything from dolphins and blue whales to marine iguanas and freshly born sea turtles.

Perrin and Cluzaud spent four years gathering footage for the film, and all five of the world’s oceans are represented on screen. Because the movie weighs in at a breezy 84 minutes, it doesn’t attempt to be an authoritative look at our world, but that’s actually a selling point for anyone planning to watch the film with children. Youngsters have notoriously short attention spans, but “Oceans” packs so much great footage into such a tight package that kids may just find themselves wanting more.

“Oceans” is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, who does a fine job delivering factoids and explaining what’s happening in the images on screen. He also points out important man-made problems that threaten our sea life today. Unfortunately, the film glosses over these topics, making a third act plea for ecological responsibility anemic. Still, “Oceans” offers a surprisingly intimate look at the creatures that populate our seas.

DVD extras include a short about conservation, a number of behind-the-scenes features and a music video with Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato. The Blu-ray release (which also includes a DVD copy of the film) has those extras plus BD-Live functions and filmmaker annotations that can be accessed while watching the movie.

Please Give
3 stars
Rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity
Sony Pictures Classics
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener produced a winning independent drama with 2001’s “Lovely and Amazing,” and she’s gone a long way toward replicating that feat with her latest film, “Please Give.”

The movie focuses on Kate and Alex (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt), a New York City couple who own an antique shop supplied heavily by estates of the recently deceased. Kate feels guilty about the business since she and Alex earn tremendous markups on the pieces they buy from families of the dead. It also doesn’t help that they are waiting for their elderly next-door neighbor, Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), to die so they can buy her apartment and expand their living space.

As the movie progresses, viewers watch as Kate tries to assuage her guilt by handing out money to homeless people and Alex charges forward in a generally carefree manner. The film also offers a glimpse into the lives of Andra’s granddaughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet). Although they’re related, the two are polar opposites, Kate sweet and sincere and Mary selfish and obsessed with tanning.

“Please Give” is well-acted, and the movie poses interesting questions about right, wrong and the role that guilt plays in our lives. Holofcener doesn’t offer easy or obvious answers, which some viewers may find frustrating, but the film is well worth watching, especially since everyone in the cast is outstanding.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a behind-the-scenes feature, outtakes and a question-and-answer session with Holofcener.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Crimson Wing – Mystery of the Flamingos”: “Oceans” isn’t the only nature film getting a home video release from Disneynature this week. With “The Crimson Wing,” the studio offers a close up look at the flamingos that descend on Lake Natron in Tanzania to breed and continue their circle of life.

“Agora”: Historical biopic about Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), a fourth century intellectual whose ideas of science and religion created great controversy. Directed by Alejandro Amenabar.

“Psycho” – 50th Anniversary Edition: Universal is making Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal thriller available for the first time on Blu-ray. This 50th anniversary release has been digitally remastered and includes a 5.1 surround sound mix of the classic soundtrack. There are also a host of bonus features, including newsreel footage, vintage interviews, a look at the making of the famous shower scene and an audio commentary by Stephen Rebello, author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.”

“The Psycho Legacy”: People who can’t get enough “Psycho” may want to dip into this Robert V. Galluzzo documentary about the horror franchise and its place in film history. The movie itself is only 90 minutes long, but Shout! Factory is releasing it as a two-disc set packed with extras.

“Apocalypse Now”: Director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 meditation on the Vietnam War is one of the finest military dramas ever made, and Lionsgate is giving it a Blu-ray debut this week. Fans have two choices when buying the film on Blu-ray. They can purchase a two-film set including both the original movie and the expanded “Apocalypse Now: Redux” or the three-disc Full Disclosure Edition, which includes both movies plus the critically acclaimed making-of documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers’ Apocalypse.” Both Blu-ray releases come packed with other extras as well, including a never-before-seen interview between Coppola and film critic Roger Ebert.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: This horror/comedy rock opera has been a cult favorite for 35 years, and it’s getting its Blu-ray debut this week. The film focuses on a young couple whose car breaks down, forcing them to take shelter in the castle of a sexually ambiguous doctor known as Frank-N-Furter. Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick star.

Baz Luhrmann films on Blu-ray: It’s an excellent week for Blu-ray debuts, as we’re not only getting time-tested classics – “Psycho,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show” – but modern favorites from director Baz Luhrmann. His films “Romeo+Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” are both rolling onto the high-definition format this week, and each has been remastered to assure outstanding image quality.

“Night of the Demons”: Remake of the 1988 cult classic about a group of young people terrorized by hungry demons. Shannon Elizabeth, Edward Furlong, Monica Keena, Diora Baird and Michael Copon star.

“The Six Wives of Henry Lefay”: When Henry (Tim Allen) is presumed dead after a freak skydiving accident, his daughter Barbara (Elisha Cuthbert) gets caught in a battle between his current wife and his exes. Amidst the chaos, Henry shows up alive. Jenna Elfman, Andie MacDowell and Paz Vega also star.

“Shaun the Sheep” – Season One: Forty episodes from the stop-motion animated comedy about a sheep of remarkable intelligence. Produced by the creators of “Wallace & Grommit.”

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Video Verdict: ‘Predators,’ ‘Oceans,’ ‘Please Give’

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