Film review: 'America, America' among latest DVD releases

Published: Saturday, Feb. 12 2011 4:00 p.m. MST

Leading these movies that are new to DVD is Elia Kazan's 1963 black-and-white epic "America America," which is well worth checking out, as is the new Blu-ray edition of "Thelma & Louise." The newer films here? Not so much.

"America America" (Warner, 1963, b/w, $19.97).

Based on the life of Kazan's uncle, this is a straightforward, character-driven story of a young man's burning desire to leave his oppressive Turkish homeland for the land of the free, America.

The nearly three-hour film begins in the late 19th century as young Stavros (wonderfully played by Stathis Giallelis in his only movie role) is given the meager family fortune to travel to Constantinople, where he will work for his uncle. But along the way, he loses the money, which displeases his uncle, and he soon finds himself on the streets. Eventually, a near-tragedy forces him to return in shame to his uncle's home, and he is given the opportunity to marry a young woman from a wealthy family. But all Stavros wants is to try and find a way to go to America.

To say his goal is foiled repeatedly is to understate, and it's all too complicated to detail here, but suffice to say, the film is completely engrossing, entrancing filmmaking of the first order. And the conclusion is wonderfully realized.

Extras: widescreen, audio commentary, trailers

"Thelma

& Louise" (MGM/Blu-ray, 1991; R for violence, language, sex, brief nudity, drugs; $19.99). Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are an inspired team in this still terrific feminist yarn, which also boosted the career of Brad Pitt, who stands out in a small role. And the stunning scenery of southern Utah has never looked more vibrant than in this Blu-ray transfer. The film is set in four other states, but it's all Utah, folks.

Extras: widescreen, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentaries, featurette, storyboards, music video, trailers

"You Again" (Touchstone/Blu-ray, 2010, PG, two discs, $39.99).

A fine cast is squandered in this shrill, unfunny comedy, which, sadly, marks yet another big-screen failure for the talented Kristen Bell, who has the lead role as a successful young woman heading home for her brother's wedding. On the flight, she discovers he is marrying the prom queen who terrorized her during high school. Worse, the girl's mother (Sigourney Weaver) did the same thing to Bell's mother (Jamie Lee Curtis). Also here are Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber and Betty White.

Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, webisode of "Funny or Die," trailers (also on single-disc DVD, $29.99)

"Life As We Know It" (Warner/Blu-ray, 2010, PG-13, two discs, $35.99).

Like Bell, Katherine Heigl has made one bad sleazy romantic comedy after another, and this one doesn't reverse the trend. Heigl and Josh Duhamel experience a disastrous date, decide they hate each other, then find they are both named guardians for a baby whose parents have died. They take up residence in the same house to raise her, and hilarity ensues. We wish.

Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, trailers (also on single disc DVD, $28.98).

"The Romantics" (Paramount, 2010, PG-13, $19.99).

Duhamel also shows up in this one, set to marry Anna Paquin as their college pals gather for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding the next day. You'll be forgiven if "Rachel Getting Married" comes to mind from time to time. The college grads prove to be spoiled rich kids who drink too much, while the maid of honor (Katie Holmes) and Duhamel rekindle old feelings. Paquin seems miscast, and though things start off well, ultimately it all collapses under the weight of over-familiarity and lack of wit. Candice Bergen, Elijah Wood and Adam Brody co-star.

Extras: widescreen, featurette, trailers

"I Do (But I Don't)" (Lifetime, 2004, $14.95).

Denise Richards still isn't much of an actress, but I found this small-screen comedy easier to take than those above. She's a wedding planner who falls for a firefighting hunk (Dean Cain). But wait, isn't he the groom in her next wedding? This one brings "My Best Friend's Wedding" to mind.

Extras: full frame, trailers

"How I Married My High School Crush" (Lifetime, 2007, $14.95).

Katie Sackhoff is a 17-year-old in high school in love with a guy who doesn't know she exists. All it takes is a solar eclipse and a wish to send her to the future and their wedding day, which isn't what she expects. Pretty weak.

Extras: full frame, trailers

"Repo Chick" (Industrial, 2009, $24.95).

Wacky but not funny 25-years-later follow-up (sort of) to "Repo Man" by the same filmmaker, Alex Cox, who uses cartoons, toys and cheesy effects to bolster the story of a Paris Hilton-ish rich girl who is disinherited and becomes the title character, with several punk pals in tow, only to become embroiled in a terrorist plot. Rosanna Arquette and Karen Black show up in supporting roles.

Extras: widescreen, featurette, trailer

"High Lane" (IFC, 2009, $19.98).

This horror film is in the don't-go-in-there genre that includes such films as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Wrong Turn" and "The Hills Have Eyes," among many others. In this case, a group of young, attractive hikers vacation in Croatia, where they find themselves stalked by a killer.

Extras: widescreen, trailer

e-mail: hicks@desnews.com

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