New to Blu-ray/DVD: Cinderella, Furious 7, & Closer to the Moon



Editor’s Notes: CinderellaFurious 7, & Closer to the Moon are out on their respective formats September 15th.


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Cinderella (Disney) is a live-action remake of Disney’s 1950 animated classic which, in terms of production values, far outshines its predecessor. The film expands on the traditional story of orphan girl Ella (Lily James, Downton Abbey) who is forced to act as servant to her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters (Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera).  They give her the name Cinderella because she is often smudged with cinders from cleaning the fireplaces. Though Ella is sweet and tries her best to get along, she is constantly put down and treated badly, yet in typical Disney fashion, keeps her spirits up and remains optimistic. When the prince (Richard Madden) holds a ball, he opens it to all eligible young women of the kingdom — nobility and commoners alike — hoping to find a suitable partner for marriage. With the help of her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), Cinderella is outfitted in a beautiful dress and provided with a sparkling coach and horses in order to attend the ball.

The movie is refreshingly politically incorrect, as Cinderella is literally swept off her feet by the dashing prince. This Cinderella is not a feminist or female-empowered young woman. Ms. James adheres to the traditional story and makes a lovely Cinderella. She is all innocence and purity, and she sells these with no trace of irony. Computer generated magic is utilized sparingly, mostly in cutaways to Cinderella’s mouse friends and the impressive changing of a pumpkin and assorted animals into the coach, driver, and footmen. Ms. Blanchett is appropriately sinister as the stepmother, taking her place in the pantheon of Disney villains.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include the theatrical short Frozen Fever, over 12 minutes of footage not seen in theaters, and 4 behind-the-scenes making-of featurettes. A digital HD copy is also enclosed in this 2-disc set.

Furious 7

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.37.30 AMFurious 7 (Universal) continues the successful franchise formula with over-the-top car stunts — the film’s raison d’être. The plot involves villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) determined to destroy the gang of car thieves led by Domin Toretto (Vin Diesel). Shaw is the older brother of Owen, who was defeated and disfigured by Dom and crew in Fast & Furious 6, and is now out for revenge. A highly trained assassin, Deckard Shaw is a seemingly unstoppable force intent on one thing only: the annihilation of Dom and his men.  A mysterious government agent known as “Mr. Nobody” (Kurt Russell) approaches Dom offering him a chance to get to Shaw in exchange for the retrieval of an advanced piece of espionage technology and the rescue of its creator.

This mission sets the stage for a global manhunt with cars doing things Detroit never intended, all for bigger and better thrills. Most of what occurs is pure action, with little attention to science or probability. This is the kind of movie you can’t analyze too seriously; it’s meant to be enjoyed purely on a visceral level. In that department, Furious 7 delivers. This is the movie Paul Walker was filming when he died in an off-the-set car accident. The production shut down for several months while the writers and director James Wan tried to figure out how to complete the film without its star. Walker’s brothers were hired as acting doubles and CGI images of Walker were superimposed. Because of Walker’s untimely death, the film has a certain sadness underlying the vehicular mayhem.

Bonus features on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Extended Edition Combo Pack include deleted scenes, music video, and several making-of featurettes.

Closer to the Moon

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.41.30 AMCloser to the Moon (MPI Home Video) is a fictionalized story about an actual incident in Romanian history. In 1959 Bucharest, five high-ranking disillusioned Jewish members of the Communist Party staged a bank heist that baffled the repressive regime, left the public in an uproar, and embarrassed the police state. Having been captured, arrested and sentenced to death, the unusual gang is given one last punishment before facing execution: reenact the robbery for the benefit of a Communist propaganda film.

Director Nae Caranfil expands on these facts by adding a touch of black comedy, imagining that the gang confused onlookers by pretending they were shooting an action movie. Filmed in Romania and structured in chapters, the movie is strongest when it flashes back to show the gang, including Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as leader Max and Vera Farming (Bates Motel, Up in the Air) as the sole woman, Alice, methodically orchestrating the robbery as a suicide mission. The planning is filmed and edited in Hollywood fashion, with details outlined, each participant assigned a role, and a step-by-step plan of escape devised.

Having embraced communism as a means of defeating the Nazis, the five gang members are horrified by the direction it has taken even though they hold prominent positions themselves. Despite a tacked-on romantic subplot between Alice and gang member Virgil (Harry Lloyd), the reenactments are very funny, as the gang assumes exaggerated gangster poses. Despite a fascinating premise, the film has difficulty finding its identity. It juggles stylistic approaches, including caper flick, romance, dark comedy, and docudrama, never settling into a consistent tone.

The only bonus extra on the DVD release is a theatrical trailer.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.