National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks 01.16.2011

BY Steven D. Greydanus

Register Film Critic

January 16-29, 2011 Issue | Posted 1/7/11 at 2:00 PM

 

Devil (2010)

Easy A (2010)

Salt (2010)

Gone With the Wind (1939)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

If you like action movies but found Inception too mind-bending, Predators too gory and stupid, and Knight and Day just kind of lame, then Salt may be for you. Harking back to Cold War paranoia, Salt’s secret weapon is its star: Angelina Jolie, one of a very few superstars of either sex with the panache to make material like this engaging just by being in it.

Philip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger) delivers the goods, shooting action scenes with welcome clarity in this age of visual incoherence. Once you start asking questions, though, plot holes and absurdities pile up like a multivehicle collision. Salt is tasty in moderation, but you wouldn’t want it to be a big part of your diet.

Tipping the other way are a couple of intriguing, but ultimately misguided, new films. Devil, “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan,” is a PG-13 paranormal thriller about five people trapped in an elevator, one of whom may be the devil in human form.

Folk Catholicism provides the trappings as a superstitious Latino connects the dots from a suicide to the victims’ crimes to bread landing butter side down (I’m so not kidding). There’s an Agatha Christie twist and a stab at a redemptive ending. But the mythology gets bogged down in way too much detail, the story meanders, and the redemptive ending is unconvincing. Skip it.

Then there’s Easy A, a smartly written high-school comedy that borrows a page, or at least a character, from The Scarlet Letter. Ostensibly a cautionary tale about how rumors can mushroom and the importance of discretion and protecting your privacy, the farcical tale concerns a high-school virgin who acquires a reputation for looseness and winds up consenting to imaginary trysts with boys who need the social capital of conquest.

There are some intriguing moral points here, but they’re more than outweighed by the negatives, from the heroine’s super-enlightened parents, with their easy-breezy acceptance of absolutely anything, to a satiric broadside of judgmental, kitschy Christians that makes Saved! look like a Billy Graham production. I give it an easy D.

New editions of older films include a couple of keepers. Two of the most enduring films of 1939 — often cited as Hollywood’s greatest year — have new Blu-ray releases: the Vatican-list film The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. (Other great 1939 films include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, Love Affair, Ninotchka and Wuthering Heights.)

Content advisory: Salt: Pervasive intense action violence; a brief but nasty scene of torture and degradation; repeated profanity and a possible f-bomb. Mature viewing. Gone With the Wind: Battlefield violence; romantic complications; some stereotypical depictions of blacks. Teens and up. The Wizard of Oz: Some scary and menacing scenes that may be frightening to very young or very sensitive children.