Films in various genres hit DVD this week, just in time for holiday shopping.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, GRADE B: Batman returns to save Gotham City after Bane unleashes his destruction.
Christopher Nolan is a victim of his own success. Under other circumstances, his latest venture into the dark and gritty world of the comic-book hero Batman would be a triumph. But it comes in the wake of his nearly perfect The Dark Knight. By comparison, this falls short, from plot to villain to those wonderful toys.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, GRADE B-PLUS: The 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), live a spare existence, with almost all modern contrivances wiped from their lives.
Director Benh Zeitlin layers this hard reality with a fantastic story of the Aurochs, prehistoric beasts that escape their ice prisons to charge the small community. Real or not, these creatures personify the world Hushpuppy must face. Zeitlin creates a world that exists in both the real and surreal, where each foot is so deeply planted it's difficult to tell the existences apart.
MEN IN BLACK 3, GRADE C-MINUS: It's been a decade since the last Men in Black, and time has not been good to the franchise. The latest film lacks energy and is cinematically wrinkled by a plot that includes the always tricky twist of time travel.
SPARKLE, GRADE C-PLUS: The remake of the 1976 film starring Irene Cara is like a great song with a bad chorus. Just when it looks like it's settling into a smooth groove, it hits a sour note. Sparkle doesn't, but it does have some flashy moments – especially from Jordin Sparks and Mike Epps.
HOPE SPRINGS, GRADE B: The film is a return to the classic romance. Seasoned actors Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep play a long-married couple who have reached apathetic levels. Arnold (Jones) is content to live an uneventful life; Kay (Streep) longs to rekindle the romance and enrolls the couple in a clinic offered by Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) in the New England hamlet of Great Hope Springs.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN, GRADE C: A couple's dreams of having a child come true because of some garden magic. This family film is rooted in good intentions and positive messages. Sadly, the idea was not nurtured by director Peter Hedges, who co-wrote the script, and the story wilted.