New on DVD

2013-09-26T00:00:00Z New on DVDBy The Washington Post Arizona Daily Star
September 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

“Iron Man 3” (PG-13, 129 minutes, Disney): This action film seems designed less as an art object or visual entertainment than a full-body assault on the senses. A frantic, occasionally funny, finally enervating barrage of special effects, explosive set pieces, sardonic one-liners and notional human emotions, this branch of the Marvel franchise tree feels brittle and over-extended enough to snap off entirely. From its anxious protagonist and the battered metal sheaths he dons to save the world to the clattering, fiery mayhem that ensues with metronomic predictability, “Iron Man 3” is less a movie than a final war whoop let loose before utter exhaustion sets in. Which isn’t to say that this installment doesn’t have its moments. Taking the reins from series director Jon Favreau, Shane Black has enlisted a fine ensemble to bring a beloved chapter of Tony Stark’s saga to life, including a crafty Ben Kingsley as villain-du-jour the Mandarin. “Iron Man 3” ends with a tone of finality that feels like a well-earned respite.

“Unfinished Song” (PG-13. 93 minutes, The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay): Paul Andrew Williams, the British writer-director of “Unfinished Song,” uses every cheap trick at his disposal to elicit emotions from the audience, including cancer, a strained father-son relationship and a choir serenading a dying woman with “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” while standing in the rain. But thank the two leads, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, for making them work. The formidably talented duo inject so much humanity into their characters that all of the other overly sentimental elements seem utterly reasonable. Stamp plays Arthur, a salty bloke who has little patience for anything except his wife and granddaughter. He assumes the worst from people, especially his son, James (Christopher Eccleston). Arthur appears to ask James for favors with the express purpose of lecturing the divorced dad over what the old spitfire will certainly deem mediocre results. Yet when it comes to his dying wife, Marion (Redgrave), Arthur is loving, if not overly demonstrative. They have a playful rapport that feels natural. The importance of the pair’s chemistry can’t be overstated. If Arthur was an angry, one-note Scrooge, it would be impossible to care about his fate. Even with the tiniest of gestures, Stamp never misses an opportunity to show that Arthur is capable of love, which makes him sympathetic even when he’s at his worst (which is a lot).

“Room 237” (unrated, 102 minutes, IFC Films): Rodney Ascher’s documentary about the 1980 Stanley Kubrick horror film “The Shining” and five obsessive viewers with elaborate ideas about its hidden meanings belongs to a post-modern wave of film consumption, wherein spectators short-circuit conventional criticism and take the wheel of cultural discourse themselves. History professor Geoffrey Cocks notices the typewriter Jack Nicholson’s character uses and deduces that “The Shining” is Kubrick’s cri de coeur about the Holocaust. Artist John Fell Ryan specializes in screening “The Shining” backwards and forwards simultaneously to elicit buried synchronicities. It would be insufferable had Ascher not made the brilliant decision to stage “Room 237” as a montage of Kubrick’s own films to illustrate what his subjects are saying off-camera. What might have been tiresome conspiracy fodder becomes an homage to a cinematic master. You don’t have to buy into outlandish notions to find the meditations intriguing. “Room 237” turns out to be about how we process history, human evil and our own mortality.

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