New to DVD: 'The Hunter' 'God Bless America' 'Rocko's Modern Life' 'Joe + Bell' and 'The Casserole Club'


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' The Hunter'

An ecological thriller about a professional animal killer and loner who discovers a newfound sense of stewardship for the planet, "The Hunter" is a mystery with a message.

Martin (Willem Dafoe) is an elite hunter who has been hired by a mysterious firm to bag the last remaining example of a Tasmanian tiger. Martin's efforts to track the animal are hampered by radical environmentalists, or "greenies." A more interesting subplot involves Martin's relationship with Lucy (Frances O'Connor) -- a greenie in whose remote Tasmanian house he has set up camp -- and her two children (Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock).

Australian television director Daniel Nettheim tells both stories well, braiding them together into a single thread with a firm hand and evocative visual style. The forests of Tasmania are brought to gorgeous life in a few moments of believably executed CGI. But the film's neatest trick is convincing us of Martin's transformation from hard-boiled mercenary to almost-family man. Mr. Dafoe carries off both extremes of Martin's character with aplomb and psychological depth. At the core of the movie is the message that the real lonely hunter is the heart.

Contains obscenity, violence and images of animal carcasses. DVD extras: making-of featurette, deleted scenes; HDNet's "A Look at 'The Hunter' " and commentary.

-- The Washington Post

' God Bless America'

The antihero of "God Bless America" -- a potato-faced sad sack who goes on a killing spree when the crassness of contemporary society is too much to bear -- seems to be a stand-in for writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait.

Frank (Joel Murray) shoots anyone who annoys him: reality TV stars, people who talk during movies, right-wing blowhards, drivers who take up two parking spaces. Fortunately, the movie presents the scenes as Frank's fantasy.

"God Bless America" is a belabored exercise in wish fulfillment that imagines what it would be like if you could murder everyone who "deserves" to die. That's a potent vicarious thrill, but it's hard to sustain that one joke over the course of a feature film.

Contains obscenity and violence. Extras: Commentary and interviews with Mr. Goldthwait, Mr. Murray and Tara Lynne Barr (Roxy); outtakes/bloopers; "God Bless TV" television spoofs; behind the scenes featurette; HDNet's "A Look at 'God Bless America' "; music video.

-- Washington Post

' Rocko's Modern Life: Season Three''

The 13 episodes include Rocko, Spunky, Heffer and Filburt getting involved with a murder investigation involving the Bigheads.

This is a wonderful animated series that's fun for children and funny to adults. Finding that balance is tough, and when a product comes along that balances the halves so well, it should not be missed.

Series creator Joe Murray provides a commentary track for the episodes that originally aired on Nickelodeon. The series also includes marvelous voice work by Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny and Doug Lawrence.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

' Joe + Belle''

The dark comedy from writer/director Veronica Kedar starts with great promise when two women accidentally kill someone and struggle to get rid of the body.

The two women -- Joe (Kedar), a drug dealer, and Belle (Sivan Levy), a suicidal mental patient -- are different but share enough similar angst that they make a compelling pair. Their relationship slowly grows through the trials of their own making.

Ms. Kedar just doesn't have a good handle on how to end the movie. What starts out as a very smart "meet cute" turns into a series of mismatched moments that meander to the end.

-- Bentley

' The Casserole Club'

A weekly get together in '60s suburbia to compare recipes turns into a sexual foray sparked by booze and drugs. Each member of the group brings their own secrets to the event which play out as they play around.

Everything about this film is clunky from the choppy way it was filmed to the acting. Even the attempts to portray the rabid sexuality of the time comes across like a love making Mad Libs.

The only saving grace is former Backstreet Boys member Kevin Richardson. His performance as a twisted and broken member of the dinner-and-debauchery group is the only one that shows any acting skills. Too bad he's surrounded by the march of the wooden players.

-- Bentley

ALSO THIS WEEK:

• "Mac & Devin Go To High School": Are you ready for Wiz Khalifa as the high school valedictorian? That's his part in this direct-to-DVD comedy that stars Snoop Dogg, Mike Epps ("Next Friday"), Andy Milonakis, Affion Crocket and Mystikal, as well as a cameo by pop group Far East Movement.

Khalifa plays Devin Overstreet, who's struggling to write his graduation speech due to a lack of life experiences. Snoop is Mac Johnson, a 15-year senior and ladies man who is smitten by the school's new substitute chemistry teacher. He needs academic help to graduate, Devin needs experience, so they set out to help each other get it.

The movie features the Snoop/Wiz hit "Young, Wild and Free," along with music by Bruno Mars, Curren$y, Juicy J and Mike Posner. Blu-Ray ($24.99), DVD ($19.98).

• "Barbarella": The Jane Fonda sci-fi space romp is now available on Blu-ray.

• "An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars": A young girl's dream to be a world class gymnast is jeopardized.

• "The Forger": Homeless teen is lured into world of high dollar art forgery.

• "Dynasty: The Sixth Season, Volume One & Volume Two": John Forsythe stars in the prime-time soap opera.

• "Mannix: The Seventh Season": Mike Connors plays the gritty private investigator who makes his own rules.

• "The Women of SNL": Collection of comedy skits featuring many of the female performers from the NBC show.

• "The Streets of San Francisco: Season 3, Volume 1 and Volume 2": The '70s TV police drama stars Michael Douglas.

• "George Gently, Series 4": Inspector George Gently (Martin Shaw) is featured in two mysteries based on the novels by Alan Hunter.

• "Battle Force": The elite fighting unit First Special Service Force is formed in 1942.

• "Midsomer Murders, Set 20: Four mysteries featuring detective chief inspector Tom Barnaby.

-- PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

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