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Published: Thursday, 2/28/2013

DVD REVIEWS

‘Breaking Dawn Part 2,’ ‘The Master’ lead the pack this week

BY RICH HELDENFELS
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, experiences the changes in her body as she becomes a vampire in the final 'Twilight' film 'Breaking Dawn — Part 2.' Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, experiences the changes in her body as she becomes a vampire in the final 'Twilight' film 'Breaking Dawn — Part 2.'
SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT/ANDREW COOPER Enlarge

As has been mentioned here in the past, while most DVD and Blu-ray titles are released on Tuesday, there are the occasional big-event titles that opt for a different day. Get ready for another one.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 (Summit, $30.98 DVD, $39,99 Blu-ray) will be released on Saturday with some retailers opening just after midnight for fans of the film series based on the books by Stephenie Meyer. At the same time, Summit will release an extended version of Breaking Dawn — Part 1 ($22.98 DVD, $29,99 Blu-ray/ digital combo), with eight minutes of footage added to the theatrical release.

While the Twilight movies have never been critical favorites, Breaking Dawn — Part 2 received a relatively favorable reception, not least because Kristen Stewart brought new energy to a role in which she had often appeared sluggish, and the movie as a whole had a liveliness lacking in Breaking Dawn — Part 1. The climactic battle in the film was effective (and had a nice surprise). And brooding leading man Robert Pattinson — like Stewart — appeared to enjoy himself, knowing as he did that he was ending his association with the films and his character.

On the other hand, there are clunky parts and some very graphic violence, including beheadings, burnt bodies, and severed limbs. (In contrast, the sex is quite discreet.) But, as I said after attending a screening filled with screaming Twihards, seeing the film is a social act, and fans will gather round the DVD and Blu-ray as eagerly as they did in theaters.

Extras on Part 2 include a seven-part documentary about the making of the film, a Green Day music video, audio commentary by director Bill Condon and a digital copy.

As for the extended Part 1, the changes in the film begin with a different opening scene. In a commentary on the previous Part 1 release, Condon noted that the scene had been cut, and anticipated it being added to a longer version down the road. The new edition also includes the theatrical version, still with those Condon comments, as well as a new Condon commentary on the extended edition, where he talks more about the restored opening (and is very happy about the restoration generally). I am less thrilled, since I thought the movie too long and slow in its original incarnation.

But the extended Part 1 is clearly aimed at hard-core “Twilight” fans who bought the previous release, since aside from the old commentary, it has omitted all the extras from the previous set. It does add a digital copy.

Very much worth your attention this week is The Master (Anchor Bay, $29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray/ DVD/ digital combo). The movie about a World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) brought into the orbit of a cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) was at least partly inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but it is less about the cult than about the relationship between the two men, and what draws us in our search for answers and comfort in life. Phoenix, Hoffman, and Amy Adams (as Hoffman’s wife) were all nominated for Oscars, and deservedly so; Phoenix is riveting as he uncompromisingly reveals the troubles in his character, and Adams seizes control of the screen in a couple of her scenes.

Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed the film. As with previous efforts (including Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, and Magnolia), he tells stories in his own way, expecting the audience to trust him. The Master is less than perfect — Anderson tends at times to love stretching out scenes to the audience-breaking point — but there are moments that I am still thinking about long after the first time I watched them.

Extras include deleted scenes, a short behind-the-scenes piece and Let There Be Light, director John Huston’s documentary about traumatized war veterans.

Also on the Oscar side: How to Survive a Plague (IFC, $24.98 DVD), which arrived Tuesday, was nominated for best documentary feature. It concerns activists who, at the rise of AIDS, pushed for improved treatment of the disease; as Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly put it, they “fused the fervor of revolutionaries, the tenacity of trial lawyers, and the rage of the dispossessed to change the very shape of the epidemic.”

Turning to TV, consider The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Acorn, seven episodes, $49.99 DVD), the ‘70s adaptation of Muriel Sparks’ book, with Geraldine McEwan as an unconventional teacher in a girls school in Scotland. Those of you suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal may even want to pair it with the big-screen Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, for which Downton’s Maggie Smith won her first Oscar.

Down the video road

The controversial, Oscar-nominated (and excellent) Zero Dark Thirty will be on DVD and Blu-ray on March 19. Cloud Atlas, the time-leaping epic starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, hits both formats on May 14. The first season of A&E series Longmire will be on DVD on May 28. HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn, with Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on April 2.



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