DVD Picks: Megamind, Leaving, See What I’m Saying

March 17, 2011

Pick of the Week

Megamind

Animated comedy; rated PG for action and some language; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: Yet another animated send-up of comic book heroes and villains, “Megamind” brings the funny for both kids and adults.

The Lowdown: For my kids’ entertainment dollar – and I spend quite a lot of them – “Megamind” was the best animated comedy of last year, just ahead of “How To Train Your Dragon.” Similar in premise to the second runner-up, “Despicable Me,” “Megamind” concerns the fate of a cartoon supervillain turned hero.

Evil genius Megamind, voiced by Will Ferrell, is the archnemesis of Metro Man (Brad Pitt) and the designated bad guy of Metro City. But when Megamind finally vanquishes his foe, he discovers that being a supervillain is no fun unless you have a superhero to plot against.

Ferrell and Tina Fey, as TV reporter and perpetual kidnapping victim Roxanne Ritchie, provide a running comedic banter that keeps the movie genuinely funny for adults. As the extras reveal, Fey and Ferrell recorded and improvised their scenes together, which almost never happens in voiceover work. Meanwhile, the ace animation team provides lively action scenes and elaborate head bonks for the shorter set.

Extras: The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack features filmmaker’s commentary track; about a dozen interactive mini-docs, picture-in-picture elements and interviews; a trivia track; deleted scenes and the all-new animated short “The Button of Doom.”

The Bottom Line: To some degree, all animated comedies aim to appeal to kids and parents both; “Megamind” manages to play to each crowd surprisingly well.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: Freeze-framing reveals that Megamind’s Dehydration gun has several other settings, including Demoralize, Deregulate and Decoupage.

Leaving

Drama; unrated (equivalent to an R rating for sex, nudity and some violence)

The Gist: Weary of her bourgeois life and emotionally chilly husband, forty-something Suzanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) embarks on a reckless and possibly deadly affair with the Spanish handyman.

The Lowdown: Titled “Partir” in the original French, “Leaving” plays like a Gallic Lifetime movie-of-the-week, upgraded with beautiful cinematography and a lovely lead performance by Kristin Scott Thomas.

Lest that sound like damning with faint praise … well, it kind of is, I guess. Thomas and director Catherine Corsini work like crazy to class up the joint, but the script is riddled with old cliches and poor choices. Suzanne’s actions, by the end of the story, are neither plausible nor conscionable.

But it sure is fun to watch Thomas tear up the place trying to provide us with somebody to root for. Thomas has been making the best movies of her career out of France for a while now – check out the great 2006 thriller “Tell No One” for a nice double-feature bill.

The Extras: In French with English subtitles; a single theatrical trailer.

The Bottom Line: A wobbly but lusty drama redeemed by fine acting.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: Thomas was nominated for Best Actress for the role at the 2009 Cesar Awards, France’s version of the Oscars.

 

See What I’m Saying

Documentary; unrated (safe for kids)

The Gist: A fascinating documentary about the challenges of four deaf entertainers – an actor, a comic, a singer and a hard rock drummer.

The Lowdown: “See What I’m Saying” is a pretty amazing piece of work. The four performers profiled each have specific stories, and the film fascinates as human drama even as it educates about deaf entertainers and deaf culture in general .

The comic CJ Jones, for instance, is hugely popular in the deaf community, but struggles constantly to cross over to hearing audiences. The partially deaf singer TL Forsberg – who must hold notes by muscle memory – finds herself rejected by both the deaf and the hearing world.

Filmmaker Hilari Scarl uses clever techniques to immerse the viewer in the stories. In one New York city street sequence, she replicates on the sound track what it’s like to have the hearing of actor Robert DeMayo – a nearby jackhammer registers as a dull thumping, for instance. DeMayo goes on to explain how he compensates with superior visual sense, pointing out impossible-to-spot details all around. “Deaf people,” he says, “have no trouble with ‘Where’s Waldo’ books.

Interesting note: The film is presented with “open captioning” – including onscreen subtitles translating sign language for hearing viewers.

The Extras: About an hour’s worth of additional performances, deleted scenes, interviews and bloopers.

The Bottom Line: “See What I’m Saying” enlightens and entertains, while avoiding any preachiness or melodrama.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: Drummer Bob Hiltermann’s rock band? “Beethoven’s Nightmare.”

 

Quick Picks

  • Director Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) made his first big splash with the thriller “Memento,” starring Guy Pierce as a man unable to create new memories. Out this week in a new 10th anniversary Blu-ray edition, the package includes a director’s commentary track and a couple mini-docs that break down the film’s inventive reverse-chronology structure.
  • For the discerning ironist, “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” is the latest so-bad-it’s-good cult film to make the rounds. A dirt cheap knockoff of Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” the film features special effects so bad they’re hallucinogenic, and actually had a decent run in midnight movie theaters last year.
  • Even if you watch it for all the wrong reasons, the lesbian seduction drama “Room in Rome,” starring Elena Anaya (“Sex and Lucia”) and Natasha Yarovenko (Diary of a Nymphomaniac”), will surprise you with its gorgeous cinematography and lingering European melancholy.

Also New This Week: “A Film Unfinished,” regarding archival Nazi propaganda films; indie horror flicks “Psych: 9” and “Stag Night” from Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Underground series; and TV-on-DVD season collections from “Nurse Jackie,” “Weeds,” “Huge,” “The Guild” and the improbably awesome “Ice Road Truckers.”

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