Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DVDs In Brief: May 23, 2012

A.V. Club Staff

Like so many of the films coming out of Japan’s vaunted Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor TotoroSpirited Away, et al.) The Secret World Of Arrietty (Buena Vista) is fundamentally about the joy of life, and the necessity of bright, cheerful determination against all odds. And like so many other Ghibli projects, that message comes via gorgeously lush, detail-intensive animation and a spunky protagonist, in this case a tiny girl living with her family in a hidden alcove below a human home, at least until they’re catastrophically discovered…


A romantic comedy for our Orwellian surveillance state, This Means War (Fox) thinks it’s cute that two CIA operatives, played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, use the full resources of the organization to spy on Reese Witherspoon, the woman they’re competing to seduce. Even actors as charismatic as Pine and Hardy have trouble keeping that premise from being irredeemably creepy…

The failure of the George Lucas-produced Red Tails (CBS/Paramount) is disappointing on two levels: Lucas fought for years to get his tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen produced through the studio system, but claimed Hollywood balked at a black cast with no major white roles, so he financed it himself. The film’s middling reception has the ugly side effect of proving the studio suits right while itself not creating an aerial adventure worthy of the Airmen’s heroism…

With the Harry Potter movies finally coming to an end, Daniel Radcliffe now faces an especially difficult transition from a child actor to a credible adult, made worse by his widespread recognition for playing one character. Wisely playing against expectation, Radcliffe plays a lawyer who travels to a haunted village in The Woman In Black (CBS/Paramount), a mediocre horror movie that nonetheless puts him in the esteemed company of character actors like Ciarán Hinds and Janet McTeer and under the banner of Britain’s legendary Hammer Films label. He’ll do better next time…

Anyone expecting Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (Entertainment One) to be a savage takedown of the now 90-year-old, still ebullient entertainer is both a complete fool and wrong, but director Dori Berinstein’s documentary profile could stand a little tension. Pinned loosely to Channing’s preparation for the Kennedy Center Honors salute to composer Jerry Herman, the film runs through her life and work while evoking a show business that no longer exists.


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