DVD Picks: 127 Hours, Love and Other Drugs, Bambi

March 17, 2011

Pick of the Week

127 Hours

Thriller-drama; rated R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: Trapped by a falling boulder, rock climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) survives for five days – recording his ordeal on a handheld camera and eventually using a dull knife to amputate his own arm.

The Lowdown: The film for which the term “harrowing” was apparently invented, “127 Hours” is hard on the stomach, for obvious reasons. But director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) works some weird miracles here in terms of filmmaking creativity.

As Aron’s mental and physical condition deteriorates, Boyle departs from the straight narrative with sequences of Aron’s hallucinations and dreams of family and friends. The movie then enters a kind of timeless space, and Franco delivers a performance that seems to tap into some universal life force. “There is no force more powerful than the will to live,” the film’s tagline informs us. Franco – robbed of the Best Actor Oscar last week, IMHO – will make you believe.

The Extras: A must-listen commentary track with director Boyle; deleted scenes; Blu-ray adds two mini-docs on Franco and Boyle’s collaboration and the real-life details of Ralston’s ordeal

The Bottom Line: Most assuredly one of last year’s best films, “127 Hours” is a marvel of storytelling verve.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: Careful with that amputation scene – several audience members feinted straight away during the film’s theatrical release.

Love and Other Drugs

Comedy-drama; strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: Pharmaceutical sales rep Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) falls for terminally ill hipster babe Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) during Big Pharma’s go-go 1990s heyday.

The Lowdown: Director Edward Zwick (“Glory”) seems to have two movies on his hands with this uneven comedy-drama, based on a nonfiction book about a freewheeling pharmaceutical rep. The funniest and most interesting material concerns drug companies and their 1990s hard sell of miracle pills like Zolofit and Viagra.

The movie’s other movie, as it were, is the love story between Jamie and Maggie. The film’s infamous sex scenes between Hathaway and Gyllenhaal don’t disappoint, but all the naked fun is rather brutally undercut by the half-baked dying-girl melodrama.

The Extras: Extended and deleted scenes; four mini-docs on the characters and production details

The Bottom Line: You’ll come for the sex scenes, but you’ll stay for the later sex scenes!

Double Secret Bonus Tip: “Love” makes the case that, between them, Hathaway and Gyllenhaal may have the dreamiest four eyes in show business.


Bambi: Diamond Edition

Classic animation; rated G; also available on Blu-ray

The Gist: Forest fawn Bambi joins with pals Thumper and Flower to learn about loyalty, love and the circle of life.

The Lowdown: The latest in Disney’s “Diamond Edition” series of DVD/Blu-ray re-issues, “Bambi” remains one of the crowning achievements of classic animation. Watching it again for the first time since I was in grade school – this time with my own kids in attendance – I was astounded at how beautifully it’s all put together.

The music and sound elements in particular struck me this go-around. The film earned three Academy Award nominations in 1942: Best Sound, Best Song (for “Love Is a Song”) and Original Music Score. Head’s up, though – the famous sequence concerning the death of Bambi’s mom is as heavy as it ever was. Tears were shed, and it wasn’t the kids crying, either.

The Extras: Deleted scenes and songs; several interactive features for both kids (forest facts) and grown-ups (making-of docs); the 1937 Disney short “The Old Mill.”

The Bottom Line: Another generous Disney reissue package from the vaults.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: The single-disc DVD edition comes out April 19.


Quick Picks: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson headlines the derivative action thriller “Faster,” an OK rental pick for fans of the man, the genre, or muscle cars.

Also New This Week: The musical “Burlesque” with Christina Aguilera and Cher; the faith-based surfer doc “Walking on Water” and TV-on-DVD season collections from “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and UK procedural drama “Murder Investigation Team.”

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