DVD Picks & Passes 05.10.2009

New this week on DVD, Stranded is arguably the definitive retelling of the infamous 1972 Uruguayan flight disaster, the story of 16 college rugby players and boosters, survivors of a group of 45, who lived through the aftermath of a plane crash in a snowbound valley somewhere in the Andes, surviving for two and a half months with no special gear or clothing — and virtually nothing to eat.

Filmmakers Gonzalo Arijón and César Charlone are both Uruguayans and childhood friends of several of the survivors. Their retelling blends interview footage with all 16 survivors, as well as family members and others with evocative, effectively wordless re-enactments, real photographs taken before and after the crash, and post-rescue footage.

At last! Long available only on hard-to-find, out-of-print VHS, the 1982 TV movie Ivanhoe — still the best screen version of Sir Walter Scott’s great (but anti-Catholic) tale of chivalry — is finally available on DVD.

Don’t confuse this with the 1952 classic starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. And skip the five-hour 1997 BBC miniseries, which ruins Scott’s story with angry politically correct clichés, brutal violence and crude sexual references.

This version, directed by Douglas Camfield, features Anthony Andrews as Ivanhoe and Olivia Hussey as Rebecca (outshining, alas, Lysette Anthony as Ivanhoe’s love Rowena) in an excellent ensemble cast.

As in Scott’s story, the titular hero, sidelined by injuries, is really a supporting character in a story about King Richard, returning from the Crusades to deal with his treacherous brother John, and Robin Hood’s merry men (marred only by a less-than-holy Friar Tuck).

Also new on DVD, Alexander Sokurov’s Alexandra is a slow, thoughtful, haunting film about a formidable old matron (Russian opera diva Galina Vishnevskaya) accompanying a company of soldiers on a journey by military train and even tank to an outpost on the Chechen front, where she meets her grandson, a captain.

That’s about all that happens. No, really. It’s a film about a grandmother’s pride in a strapping grandson who braids her hair and shows her how to handle an AK-47, an indomitable old woman who wanders imperiously through a maze of barracks she doesn’t quite understand, who connects with another old woman at a local market.

Is it a war film? An anti-war film? Call it a film about humanity on the edge of war, about life in the rubble and haze.

Finally, even if you love Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, avoid How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, now available in a new DVD edition. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

CONTENT ADVISORY: Stranded: Occasional objectionable language; disturbing subject matter; mixed religious musings. Ivanhoe: Stylized violence; intense threat of torture; romantic complications; negative clerical depictions. Might be okay for older kids. Alexandra: Some language and mature references. Subtitles. Might be fine for thoughtful and patient teens.