DVD Reviews

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This American Journey
Cinema Libre Studio
On DVD: 10.22.13

Inspired by their love for America, British actor Paul Blackthorne (Lipstick Jungle, Arrow) and Australian photographer Mister Basquali take a drive across the United States. During their journey, they chat with random people, finding out if America is still the country that they fell in love with after two wars and a near economic collapse. This film can be broken into three sections, lightly addressing the broad issues of class, race and faith. The duo chats with a diverse array of folks, including shop owners, Ronald McDonald and a cowboy preacher. In their discussions, they manage to extract a sense of optimism from their interviewees while still receiving brutal honesty about America’s problems (giving a sense that the American spirit is still there, just with a bit of mud on it). Certainly it is interesting to hear the diverse opinions offered, though the film comes across as rather simple in its approach and message. This gives the film an amateurish feel, as it was seemingly shot on the fly. This is very much a feel-good documentary that is good for watching just once. After that, I would recommend something with a little depth. –Nick Kuzmack

Austenland
Sony Pictures
On DVD: 02.11

When I first heard the premise of Austenland, I thought I could get on board and maybe even relate to the lead character, Jane (played by Keri Russell). I too, enjoy the works of Jane Austen. In my personal life, I am surrounded by live action role players (LARPers: you have maybe seen them at Liberty Park on Saturday mornings). While I have no interest in role playing a fictional character, the idea of a trip to a Jane Austen theme park sounds like a great place for hopeless romantics and literary aficionados and has the makings of an entertaining movie. The idea is good, but the execution is half-hearted. Austenland is a romantic comedy—you could guess by looking at the supporting cast (Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie and Jane Seymour). It strives to be farcical and is full to the bonnet with cheese, and as a romantic comedy, it’s quite predictable. If only Jane Austen was around to add her classic wit to the script. I won’t lie, though, I put on my jammies, sat down with a bottle of wine and some popcorn, shut my brain off and had a wonderful, girly time. –Rebecca Frost

Dallas: The Complete Second Season
Warner Home Video
On DVD: 02.11

Twenty-one years after the original Dallas finale, TNT aired a follow-up series by the same name. It even employs characters from the original television show and their kin, making it an enjoyable show for viewers who watched decades ago. I may not have seen the original, but being pop-culturally aware has helped me realize that, oh, that’s the J.R. of “Who Shot J.R.?” fame. Sure, it’s soapy enough that I feel like I need to take a second shower, but the drama is captivating. The DVD set of Dallas is especially J.R.-centric, with features focusing on Larry Hagman, the actor who brought the character of J.R. to life, and how he impacted others on the show. This season two set is a great addition to those who are particularly nostalgic to the original show. –Rebecca Frost