National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Home Video Picks & Passes 02.23.14

BY Steven D. Greydanus

Film Critic

Feb. 23-March 8, 2014 Issue | Posted 2/14/14 at 3:12 PM


All is Lost (2013) — PICK
Ender’s Game (2013) — PICK
The Jungle Book (1967) — PICK


New on home video, J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost is the purest, most elemental of 2013’s harrowing survival stories. It’s a tale of a lone protagonist in a crippled vessel in a fathomless void, far from help — here, a yacht in the Indian Ocean.

All Is Lost strips the scenario to its most minimal: one unnamed man (Robert Redford) on a ship against the elements, with virtually no dialogue or audience hand-holding.

The outcome is a riveting study in human inadequacy: an educated, capable, confident man of privilege who doesn’t panic, doesn’t do anything obviously stupid (though he apparently makes rookie mistakes) — and slowly comes to grips with the reality that his best isn’t enough. Over his story hangs his enigmatic opening voice-over: an apology, written on a message in a bottle. What is he sorry for? To whom?

The movie opens and closes with two key moments of contact. The first spells disaster; the second I won’t spoil. Haunting and powerful.

Ender’s Game, the long-anticipated adaptation of the acclaimed sci-fi classic by Orson Scott Card, captures maybe half of the novel’s complex, challenging moral themes around means and ends, intention and consequences, empathy and ruthlessness. It’s far from the classic Card fans hoped for, but it’s a watchable, honorable little film. Worth catching once.

Finally, Disney’s last animated film overseen by Walt himself gets a new two-disc "Diamond Edition" with Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy. The Jungle Book is among the best post-war Disney efforts, despite being more Disneyfied and further from its source material than, say, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or One Hundred and One Dalmatians. (That was deliberate: Disney felt, reasonably, that Kipling’s tone was too dark and serious for children and actually kept the source material out of his team’s hands.) What a great soundtrack.


Caveat Spectator: All Is Lost: Constant tension and some frightening, intense disaster peril; a brief string of very understandable obscenity. Teens and up. Ender’s Game: Scenes of menace, disturbing violence and psychological pressure involving children; an obscenity and limited crass language; some disturbing video-game imagery. Older teens and up. The Jungle Book: Animated menace and action. Fine family viewing.