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DVD Releases

By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / February 28, 2010

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Rumpus removal from page to screen

If you’re a parent who read between the lines of some of the glowing first-run reviews of “Where the Wild Things Are’’ (2009), you probably understood that director Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic is awfully challenging viewing for young kids. As Jonze politely asserts in supplements, “I didn’t set out to make a children’s movie.’’ And you may have very well decided, understandably, against spending the 50-odd bucks for a family movie outing that was an iffy entertainment proposition. (Never mind the whimsical good time the trailers were selling with their highlight reels of thoroughly natural newcomer Max Records yelling at those iconic beasties to get rumpusing.) “Wild Things’’ does deserve a look, particularly on DVD, with its lower stakes. Jonze and writing partner Dave Eggers’s expansion on the story isn’t so much whimsical as wistful, a film that empathizes with the emotional confusion of a 9-year-old, and marvels at his unconstrained imagination. When Max and his monsters plan a fort, he notes that it’ll be a fort with an ice cream parlor, a trampoline-bottomed pool, and a detective agency - of course. Max’s melancholy will very likely lose your kids; but now and again, Jonze is also sure to brighten his overcast palette, pep up the score, and stage a dirt-clod fight that’s pretty wild after all. Extras: Blu-ray-only featurettes offer a glimpse of James Gandolfini and others physically acting out their monstrous voice roles. There’s more of Sendak himself in Oscilloscope Laboratories’ piggyback profile disc “Tell Them Anything You Want.’’ (Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99)

COMEDY/DRAMA

COLD SOULS (2009)

Paul Giamatti plays himself (fairly closely?) in writer-director Sophie Barthes’s cerebral/ comedic exercise about how Giamatti’s draining struggles with a staging of “Uncle Vanya’’ lead him to a dubious outfit that extracts and stores the souls of its burdened clientele. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go well, leaving Giamatti hunting around the Russian black market for what he’s lost. First-timer Barthes’s premise is full of trippy absurdity from the Charlie Kaufman school, and Giamatti skillfully alternates between shlubby pensiveness and overwrought neurosis. Still, the Chekhov element can feel like overload in a story that’s already thematically freighted to start with. Extras: deleted scenes. (Fox, $19.98)

DRAMA

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE (2009)

Filmmaker Rebecca Miller, Arthur Miller’s daughter, taps her own literary resume by adapting her novel about a onetime wild child (Robin Wright) reformed by marriage to an older man (Alan Arkin), but set emotionally adrift by retired life. The drama has a fuzzy focus, as we alternate between Pippa’s erratic behavior, flashbacks to the Dexedrine fits of her mom, Maria Bello, and Keanu Reeves’s presence as a just-arrived, Jesus-tattooed kindred spirit. Fortunately, it’s all buoyed by wry moments, such as an out-of-nowhere snippet in which Pippa hands off her life’s “guilt baton.’’ Extras: commentary by Miller and Wright. (Screen Media Films, $27.98; Blu-ray, $29.98)

TELEVISION

ELVIS (1979)

We think of Kurt Russell and John Carpenter’s productive B-movie partnership for the action-adventure stuff: Snake Plissken, “The Thing,’’ “Big Trouble in Little China.’’ But before any of it, there was this three-hour biopic, with Russell doing a solidly laconic impression of the King despite some atrocious TV movie dialogue and bad lip-syncs, and with Shelley Winters hamming it up as Elvis’s mama. As far as old-time rock ’n’ roll portraits go, it’s hardly “Walk the Line,’’ but you’ll appreciate Russell’s read on Elvis as a high-school music misfit worthy of “Glee.’’ Extras: vintage featurette. (Shout! Factory, $19.97)

2012 (2009)

Cheesy-spectacle specialist Roland Emmerich destroys the world again, with ne’er-do-well John Cusack and government scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor among those running from a wildly visualized global cave-in/eruption/tsunami. Ultimately deflating in a way that Emmerich’s “Day After Tomorrow’’ wasn’t. Extras: filmmaker commentary; alternate ending. (Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95)

HUNGER (2008)

Michael Fassbender turns to passive resistance as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in British artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen’s chronicle of Sands’s final weeks. Extras: Interviews with McQueen and Fassbender. (Criterion, $39.95; Blu-ray, $39.95; available now)

GENTLEMEN BRONCOS (2009)

Filmmaking duo Jared and Jerusha Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite,’’ “Nacho Libre’’) feed their kitsch addiction again, this time through teenage wannabe fantasy novelist Michael Angarano (“Will & Grace’’), and the wacky places his bad writing leads. Extras: filmmaker commentary; outtakes. (Fox, $27.98; Blu-ray, $39.99)

WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (2009)

Documentarian Ondi Timoner (“Dig!’’) drew attention at Sundance with her look at dot-com millionaire Josh Harris and how his ahead-of-the-curve experiments in streaming his whole life online ended in mental collapse. Extras: commentaries by Timoner and Harris. (Indiepix, $24.95)

THE EVELYN WAUGH COLLECTION (1988-90)

Waugh’s gift for social critique is celebrated with a set that includes “A Handful of Dust,’’ with Kristin Scott Thomas in an early role, and the war correspondent romp “Scoop.’’ (Acorn Media, $39.99; available now)

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1966)

Among the releases trying to squeeze down the rabbit hole along with Tim Burton: Jonathan Miller’s “Bunuelian’’ BBC adaptation, with Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts. (BBC Video, $14.98)

Titles are in stores Tuesday unless specified.

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