Blu-ray/DVD Picks & Passes 08.26.12

The Lorax (2012) PASS
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) PICK
A Separation (2011) PICK

One of the best adult dramas of last year and one of the better family films of this year is among the latest crop of home-video releases. 
A Separation, which deservedly won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film, is a stunning Iranian domestic drama about the troubled marriage of a middle-class Iranian couple who separate over conflicts arising from concerns for their teenage daughter and the husband’s senile father.
Simin, the wife (Leila Hatami), desperately wants to take advantage of travel visas to take their daughter abroad; Nader, the husband (Peyman Moaadi), insists he can’t leave his father, who suffers from dementia.
Watching the conflict unfold with hidden anguish is the daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), whose loyalty to both her parents is as heartbreaking as the collision of the couple’s equally understandable motivations.
When Simin moves out, and Nader hires a devout Muslim working-class woman to care for his father, the conflict spirals into unexpected territory, until nearly every major character is pitted in one way or another against the others — yet, extraordinarily, they are all sympathetically portrayed and their motivations all make perfect sense. A Separation is a deeply humane examination of culture, religion, class and morality in a fallen world.
After Of Gods and Men, it’s my favorite film of 2011.
Also new on home video, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is the latest wacky stop-motion animated spoof from the mad geniuses at Aardman Animations, home of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.
Possibly Aardman’s silliest film ever, it’s a loopy exercise in Monty Python-for-kids absurdism, slapping together a not-so-nefarious Pirate Captain angling to win a Pirate of the Year award, a geeky Charles Darwin (yes, Charles Darwin!), an intimidating Queen Victoria, a prestigious science exhibition, an exotic secret dining society, Da Vinci-esque airships and much more. Even the mild British naughtiness comes off as rather wholesome compared to the crass humor of so much lame Hollywood family fare. 
Speaking of which, The Lorax, the sophomore animated film from Illumination Entertainment, falls well short of the studio’s debut, Despicable Me, not to mention the preachy Dr. Seuss environmentalist classic it’s based on. It’s not an atrocity on the scale of The Grinch or The Cat in the Hat, but it botches the spooky mood of the prologue and edginess of the story, with its unsympathetic protagonist. Take a pass.
P.S. Also new on home video is The Hunger Games, too complicated a film for a quick pick-or-pass take. See my full review at

Content Advisory: The Pirates! Band of Misfits: Comic menace and violence; mildly suggestive humor; a crass word or two. Kids and up. A Separation: Some coarse language and obscenity; some frank medical realities, including a character’s incontinence and a miscarriage; tense family scenes. Subtitles. Mature viewing.