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Elvis

SHOUT FACTORY

MOVIE B+

SPECIAL FEATURES B

DVD GEEK FACTOR 7.5

(OUT OF 10)

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After an extremely long wait, John Carpenter's excellent 1979 Elvis Presley biopic has finally made it to DVD. Carpenter, fresh off his Halloween success, landed the prestigious gig and put Kurt Russell in the title role for what still stands as the best movie ever made about the King.

Russell nails the Presley looks and mannerisms, from Elvis' high school days straight through his triumphant Vegas return in 1969. While he doesn't provide singing vocals, he sure looks like he does, due to some damn fine lip-synching. Country singer Ronnie McDowell sang many Elvis tracks for the movie, and it's uncanny how much McDowell sounds like Elvis.

This film (which was made for TV) was broadcast just two years after Elvis checked out, so it's understandable that it's a somewhat whitewashed treatment of Presley. There's no drug use, no overeating and no philandering. Yes, Presley does shoot out a television and break a lamp, but for the most part, the film focuses on the safe stuff, like Presley's relationship with his mom (played by Shelley Winters).

The film is at its best when Russell is onstage recreating Presley's dance frenzy. He and Carpenter get everything right, and wind up putting together a nice tribute to the legend. I suppose a film that followed Elvis through his bloated, drug-addled, dying days would've been interesting, but this film didn't want to go there ... and it didn't need to.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A nice commentary with McDowell and Elvis cousin Edie Hand. There's also an archival documentary about the making of the movie, including old interviews with Russell and Carpenter.


The Princess and the Frog (Blu-ray)

DISNEY

MOVIE B-

SPECIAL FEATURES A-

BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 6.75

(OUT OF 10)

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This return to old-school Disney animation wasn't on the same level as Beauty and the Beast or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it's good all the same. The film is set in New Orleans and featured some decent tunes to go with the nice drawings; Disney has done a lot worse.

When Tiana kisses a frog prince, she falls under a spell and winds up becoming a frog herself. This leads her on a quest to not be a frog anymore. OK, so it's not the greatest of plots, but it does introduce a big alligator that surely sold a lot of stuffed animals this past Christmas.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is one of those DVD combo packs, in which you get the Blu-ray, the standard DVD and a digital copy. There are commentaries, features about the return to old-school animation, deleted scenes and much more.


Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (Blu-ray)

LIONSGATE

MOVIE B+

SPECIAL FEATURES B

BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 7.25

(OUT OF 10)

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Now that the DVD and Blu-ray are out, I get to say it again: Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe are both amazing in this harrowing yet touching look at the life of an overweight, illiterate and sexually abused inner-city girl. Mo'Nique took home an Oscar, and Sidibe (as the title character) got a nomination for pulling off some of the most stunning and horrifying scenes of 2009.

The movie is a brutal experience, but director Lee Daniels and the performers make it uplifting in the end. Paula Patton is exceptional as a teacher trying to get Precious on the right path, and an unrecognizable Mariah Carey has a couple of great scenes as a counselor trying to help out Precious—including a frightening showdown with Mo'Nique's monstrous mother character.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary, a deleted scene, making-of docs and a look at Sidibe's audition.


An Education (Blu-ray)

SONY

MOVIE B+

SPECIAL FEATURES B

BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 7

(OUT OF 10)

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Out of those who got nominated for a Best Actress Oscar this year, Carey Mulligan was the most deserving of the award. (Sandra Bullock's acceptance speech was awesome, but Mulligan out-acted her, for sure.) She is superb as Jenny, a hard-working suburban London high school girl who gets some real-world lessons after an older man (Peter Sarsgaard) picks her up during a rainstorm.

Jenny and her anxious father, Jack (Alfred Molina), have always had a plan for her to attend Oxford, but everything changes when David, a man twice Jenny's age, comes along. Jenny goes from studying Latin to weekend trips in Paris; she eventually gets engaged, with the happy support of her father. Of course, something is bound to go wrong.

While Mulligan got her Oscar nomination, Molina was ignored for his excellent work. Sarsgaard is good as well, although he seems to struggle with his accent a bit at times. Olivia Williams and Emma Thompson are typically great in supporting roles.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary with the director, Mulligan and Sarsgaard. You also get some deleted scenes and a making-of doc.

More by Bob Grimm

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