Home Video Picks & Passes 05.03.15

Gravity (2013) — PICK
Interstellar (2014) — PASS
Into the Woods (2014) — PICK


Now on home video, Into the Woods, Rob Marshall’s screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s postmodern fairy-tale mash-up musical, isn’t an entirely successful take on the fairy-tale genre, and the whole is less than the sum of the parts — but the parts themselves are pretty consistently engaging, and the grown-up deconstruction of fairy tales is vastly more satisfying than junk like Maleficent or Alice in Wonderland.

The story weaves together the stories of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lila Crawford) and Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone) with an overarching tale of a baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) who have been cursed by a witch (Meryl Streep). Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen are on hand as a pair of princes pursuing Cinderella and Rapunzel.

Also new on home video is Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. For me, it was a disappointment; your mileage may vary. Set in a near future in which Earth has been blighted by an unspecified environmental disaster, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut named Coop selected for a secret NASA project to travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity. Coop leaves behind two young children, who, due to the relativistic effects of wormhole travel and black-hole gravity, will grow into adulthood and could die of old age before he returns. Interstellar flirts with suggestions of higher purpose and cosmic intelligence, straining toward 2001-style transcendence before settling for a Twilight Zone-ish revelation that, to me, is far from satisfying.

I prefer the spiritual suggestiveness of Alfonso Cuarón’s less ambitious crowd-pleaser Gravity, newly available in a special-edition Blu-ray coinciding with the home-video debut of Interstellar. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity isn’t as brainy or as rigorously researched as Nolan’s hard sci-fi film, with a more Hollywoodish survival story in space that isn’t really science fiction and doesn’t even get out of low-Earth orbit.

But Cuarón is a talented visual stylist and makes the sphere of the Earth more transcendent than Nolan’s wormholes and black holes. And Gravity’s themes of death, the soul, survival and prayer, though not exactly treated with depth, seem to me more human than the attempted humanistic uplift of Interstellar.


Caveat Spectator: Gravity: Much intense peril and some brief graphic, disturbing images; some strong language; a sequence in which the heroine strips to modest underthings (close-fitting tank top and shorts). Interstellar: Some violence and peril; limited profanity and some crude language. Into the Woods: Some innuendo and suggestive content; some scary images and disturbing themes. All three teens and up.