DVD Picks & Passes 10.19.2008

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Chaplin (1992)

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 (2008)

New this week on DVD, The Incredible Hulk isn’t in the same league as Iron Man or The Dark Knight, but it shrewdly manages to cater to two separate fan bases: those who know the Hulk from the comic books, and those who know him from the Bill Bixby TV show.

The effective opening act, with Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) as a fugitive hiding in Brazil, gives both sets of fans a textbook case of what they want. Ultimately, though, the filmmakers can’t sustain the first-act energy. The Incredible Hulk ignores the Jekyll-and-Hyde subtext of the volatile emotions in all of us that can cause us to lose control. It’s diverting but not very memorable entertainment.

Newly released on Blu-ray, Erin Brockovich stars Julia Roberts as the abrasive, inappropriately dressed but fundamentally decent title character, an unemployed single mother who wages a legal battle against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Her style could use work, but her cause is just; she responds to injustice and people in need with action and personal commitment, not just sympathetic clucking. Roberts convincingly plays a character too short-sighted to realize how her wardrobe and vocabulary hurt her in job interviews and on the witness stand, yet she’s sharp enough to sense something amiss in legal records, track down arcane chemical distinctions and memorize details missing from her sketchy notes.

Also new on DVD, Chaplin is an oddity: a movie with a great actor brilliantly playing another great actor, surrounded by top-notch production values and solid supporting performances, but it never quite comes together in a satisfying portrait.

Robert Downey Jr. shines as the silent-era great, playing Chaplin from youth into old age, bringing his immortal role, “the Little Tramp,” to life with verve. A few scenes capture Chaplin’s comic genius (e.g., Chaplin snubbing J. Edgar Hoover at a dinner party with a dancing dinner-roll routine). For the most part, though, Chaplin plods through the great filmmaker’s life, particularly focusing on his womanizing. Not exactly a waste, but I can’t quite recommend it.

All good things must come to an end: This week’s release of the four-disc Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 is the last in the series. Like other later volumes, it combines classic favorites with older, less kid-friendly black-and-white shorts from the 1930s. Serious animation fans will want them all, but there’s also a less pricey, more selective alternative: The two-disc Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection sets; Volume 6 goes on sale this week.

Content advisory: The Incredible Hulk: Much intense comic-book action violence; a brief, abortive bedroom scene (nothing explicit); occasional mild objectionable language. Teens and up. Erin Brockovich: Recurring profanity, obscenity, and vulgarity; a non-marital affair; Julia Roberts in a lot of provocative outfits. Teens and up. Chaplin: Sexual references, brief nudity and occasional obscenity. Mature viewing. Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Much slapstick violence; some historical stereotyping and innuendo. Mostly okay for kids and up.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.