DVD Picks 09.12.2010

Amish Grace (2010)

The Black Cauldron (1985)

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Prince of Persia: The Sands

of Time (2010)

K-PAX (2001)

New on DVD, the Lifetime TV movie Amish Grace is inspired by the nonfiction book of the same name about the real-life 2006 Amish school shooting in Lancaster County, Pa. The story focuses not on the crime (which isn’t seen on-screen) but on the response of the Amish community, which captured the nation’s attention and was much discussed by a baffled media. Within hours of the shooting, the Amish reached out to the shooter’s widow, assuring her of their forgiveness and their lack of ill will. Dozens of Amish attended the shooter’s burial.

Amid widespread genuflecting, some voices raised uncomfortable questions: Is it healthy or right to forgive so readily without passing through stages of grief and anger? Is forgiveness meaningful without remorse or wish for forgiveness?

Amish Grace offers a fictional account of what must have been a very real struggle with grief and anger. Bereaved mother Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) already wrestles with Amish mores over the “shunning” of her sister, who married an “English” man. How can they offer forgiveness to a murderer, yet ask family members to cut one another off? For Ida, forgiving the killer is like betraying her daughter — yet a powerful third-act revelation suggests this is the opposite of the truth.

Ida’s husband, Gideon (Matt Letscher), stoically insists that God demands forgiveness and the alternative only punishes themselves. Amish Grace gradually finds a thoughtful balance between Ida and Gideon, sympathetically cross-examining both points of view. It’s a commendable celebration of a Gospel mandate more often honored with lip service than with actual commitment.

Also new on DVD, the video-game based action movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is sort of The Mummy meets Aladdin by way of Tomb Raider — but barely makes an impression, like footprints in the sand during a sandstorm. It’s not painful to watch, nor much fun. It’s just there. It’s about as close to a non-movie as you can get for $150 million.

New on Blu-ray, Forbidden Planet is a sci-fi classic that looks backward toward Shakespeare and forward toward “Star Trek.” In a way a critique of Enlightenment idealism and an affirmation of human concupiscence, it’s smart, campy fun.

Another sci-fi (sort of) movie new on Blu-ray, K-PAX is an insufferable allegory of pop-psych enlightenment starring Kevin Spacey as a man who is either delusional or a space alien. Either way, he needs a smack.

Another new release to avoid: the 20th anniversary edition of Disney’s The Black Cauldron, loosely based on the first two books of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. The books are terrific; the movie is junk.

Content advisory: Amish Grace: No objectionable content, but obviously the subject matter is traumatic. Might be okay for older kids. Forbidden Planet: Some sci-fi and action violence and menace; mild sensuality. Teens and up.