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by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: THE TREE OF LIFE

(Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Terrence Malick’s latest film — only the fifth in his almost 40-year career as a director — is a visually stunning, emotionally absorbing, almost indescribable conglomeration of imagery and ideas. Both ambitious and heady, the film drifts through birth, life, loss, childhood, death and the human condition, conveyed in arresting imagery (Emmanuel Lubzecki’s exquisite cinematography is a surefire Oscar contender) that brings a sense of wonder to every aspect.

At the heart of the film is the relationship between father (Brad Pitt, also one of the film’s producers) and sons (Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan, all newcomers and all refreshingly natural), particularly between Dad and the oldest son, Jack (McCracken), who develops a simmering anger toward the big-hearted but sometimes hard-nosed patriarch. Jessica Chastain, as the mother, is an idealized character and depicted as such throughout the film.

Sean Penn plays the adult Jack, who reflects back on the past and who clearly carries with him some heavy emotional baggage from his childhood. Although Malick is able to avoid pretentiousness, the film’s languid pacing (a Malick trademark, at least according to his detractors) does ramble a bit. In a recent interview, Penn complained that much of his work had been truncated in the editing, and there’s validity to his point of view given how little he has to do (although he is excellent in doing it). Nevertheless, this beautiful film is probably the best and most realized of Malick’s career. Rated PG-13.

30 MINUTES OR LESS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Jesse Eisenberg toplines this flimsy farce as a pizza-delivery boy who is strapped down with explosives by a pair of bumbling criminals (Nick Swardson and UNCSA grad Danny McBride) who want him to rob a bank. It almost seems as if the filmmakers simply left the onscreen performers to their own improvisational devices, figuring that would be funny enough. Unfortunately it’s not. Rated R.

ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART I (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Ayn Rand’s 1957 best-seller about a future society teetering on the verge of economic collapse becomes a talky, obtuse melodrama with art-deco trappings, as well as dialogue and performances straight out of a primetime soap opera — and not a particularly good one, at that. The cast appears understandably confused: Taylor Schilling, Matthew Marsden, Grant Bowler, Michael Lerner, Jon Polito, Graham Beckel, Christina Pickles and Michael O’Keefe. The next installment is supposedly in pre-production. Rated PG-13.

BAMBI II (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): It took 64 years for Disney to fashion a sequel to the animated 1942 classic, which continues the adventures of the young fawn (as voiced by Alexander Gould). The DVD retails for $29.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99. Rated G.

BLUE VELVET (MGM Home Entertainment/ Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The Blu-ray debut ($24.99 retail) of the 25thanniversary special edition of David Lynch’s 1986 classic about (very) weird goings-on in a seemingly bucolic town, as seen through the eyes of young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan). With this, Lynch (who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Director) solidified his status as a Master of Weird. A great cast includes Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern,

George Dickerson and an unforgettable Dennis Hopper. Some people don’t think this movie is funny, but I do. The date I took to see it back in ’86 didn’t quite see it that way, however. Rated R.

“BONANZA”: THE OFFICIAL SECOND SEASON, VOLUME TWO (CBS DVD/ Paramount Home Entertainment): Life on the Ponderosa Ranch continues for Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his sons (Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts), in the remaining 16 episodes from the 1960-’61 season of the long-running, award-winning NBC Western series. This DVD boxed set retails for $42.99.

“CASTLE”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Nathan Fillion returns as the title character, mystery novelist and amateur sleuth Richard Castle, cracking cases alongside New York detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), in all 24 episodes from the 2010-’11 season of the award-winning ABC mystery series, which earned three Emmy nominations. The five- DVD boxed set retails for $45.99.

“CATDOG”: SEASON 1 — PART 1 (Shout! Factory): This two-DVD collection ($19.93 retail) includes the first 10 episodes from the premiere 1998 season of the popular Nickelodeon animated series depicting the misadventures of a conjoined cat and dog.

“CELTIC ANGELS AT CHRISTMAS” (New Video): The title tells all in this concert documentary ($14.95 retail) featuring the talents of Gillian Boucher, Stephanie Hardy, Kenda MacGillivray, Sabra MacGillivray, Maggie MacInnes and Patricia Murray.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Jason Momoa muscles his way through the title role of this bombastic adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s adventure stories. Noisy and silly in equal measure,

despite incessant bloodshed. Stumbling around in support are Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman, while an unbilled Morgan Freeman (smart!) narrates. The original Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan wasn’t great, but is a masterpiece in comparison. Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.95 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($37.99 retail), or a 3-D DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail). Rated R.

“DENNIS THE MENACE”: SEASON THREE (Shout! Factory): Jay North returns as the mischievous title character in all 38 episodes from the 1961-’62 season of the popular CBS situation comedy. The unexpected death of actor Joseph Kearns forced the network to bring Gale Gordon aboard as Mr. Wilson’s (equally irascible) brother. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.93.

“ELMO’S SHAPE ADVENTURE” (Sesame Workshop/Warner Home Video): The popular Muppet (as portrayed by Kevin Clash) joins “Saturday Night Live” veteran Andy Samberg in this celebration of different shapes. Education’s always easier when entertaining, as “Sesame Street” has proved for the better part of four decades. This DVD retails for $14.98.

LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The Rolling Stones’ 1981 North American concert tour is the focus of Hal Ashby’s 1982 rock documentary. An absolute must for Stones fans, but much of the film feels like a fawning ode to Mick Jagger, often at the expense of the other band members. Reportedly, Ashby partied harder than anyone in the band. It shows. Rated PG.

NFL GREEN BAY PACKERS: ROAD TO XLV (NFL Films/Vivendi Entertainment): A selfexplanatory four-DVD collector’s edition ($39.93 retail) including all four network

broadcasts of the Packers’ playoff victories, culminating in a 31-25 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

“PERRY MASON”: THE SIXTH SEASON, VOLUME TWO (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): A four-DVD boxed set ($54.99 retail) of the remaining 14 episodes from the 1962-’63 season of the long-running, award-winning CBS legal drama based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s best-selling stories, starring Raymond Burr in the title role.

“PLANET EARTH” (BBC Worldwide): Sir David Attenborough hosts this 11-part BBC documentary series exploring our world. Seven Emmy nominations with four wins, including Outstanding Nonfiction Series. The “Special Edition” DVD retails for $59.98 and the Blu-ray for $79.98. The “Limited Collector’s Edition” DVD retails for $79.98 and the Blu-ray for $99.98.

“UFC: RIO” (UFC/Anchor Bay Entertainment): A special two-DVD edition ($19.98 retail) of the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight championship bout, held in Rio de Janeiro, between Anderson Silva and Yushin Okami, as well as several undercard bouts including Shogun Rua vs. Forrest Griffin and Minotauro Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub.

“ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS:

ULTIMATE KNOCKOUTS 9” (UFC/Anchor Bay Entertainment): The title tells all in this compilation sports documentary about the most powerful punches delivered in Ultimate Fighting Championship lore. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2011, Mark Burger

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