There's a wide variety of films hitting 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, "The Dark Knight Rises," would be a triumph. But it comes in the wake of his nearly perfect "The Dark Knight." By comparison, this last film falls short, from plot to villain to those wonderful toys.
-- "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Grade B+: 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 that it's difficult to tell the existences apart.
-- "Men in Black 3," Grade C-: 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.
Will Smith gives his best effort, but the dark and offbeat humor that made the first two films a success has faded away over the decade. The best the screenwriters have to offer is a few variations on jokes from past movies.
There are a few good special effects, but overall, the movie is uninspired.
-- "Sparkle," Grade C+: 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.
Even with their efforts, though, the movie proves all that glitters is not solid gold.
-- "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. Outside the two stars, the film has some problems. There are places and people introduced that never fully pay off.
-- "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.
With a little more TLC, the film might have grown into a story as strong as an oak and as sentimental as a weeping willow. It just never gets past being little more than a chestnut of an idea.
Also new on DVD Tuesday:
-- "2012 World Series Champion Season in Review: San Francisco Giants": A look at the team's winning season.
-- "Raising Hope: The Complete Second Season": FOX comedy about an offbeat family.
-- "Power Rangers Super Samurai: The Complete Season": Includes 20 episodes.
-- "Eastbound & Down: The Complete Third Season": Danny McBride stars in the HBO series.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.